It’s not often in reality TV that you get to have a ‘teachable moment’, but in my opinion as an investigator it’s happening right now on The Real Housewives of Orange County with Vicki Gunvalson and her shady boyfriend Brooks Ayers. Everyone around her believes that he’s a con artist. After all, red flags don’t turn pink. Meanwhile she is equally sure that her instincts are right. I see this as an investigator all the time, and I think it’s down to a fundamental misunderstanding of one of the first rules of detective school: Trust your gut. When clients come to me and say, ‘I trusted my gut and got burned by the so-called love of my life, what happened?’, I empathize. My first boyfriend claimed to work secret missions for the governement (I was 17 and too young to know that this was a Lifetime plotline!) We had seemed so right for each other. What was I doing wrong?
Now I get it. I thought I was trusting my gut, but once the crazy chemistry kicked in, organs further south took over. And a dopamine high is about 12,000 times more powerful than beer goggles.
Vicki is already in deep. But for everyone else, here are a few warning signs that you aren’t going with your ‘gut’:
1) He wants to jump into a relationship at lightning speed. I have nothing against sex on the first date, but if he’s aggressively pursuing a relationship before he really knows you, you have to ask yourself why he’s not being more careful about protecting his own interests. Maybe he has nothing going on? Think about car salesmen on a lot trying to close the deal. Until you become a better human lie detector and establish a baseline of what is ‘normal behavior’, it’s best to take it slowly–especially if the chemistry is super intense.
2) When you ask him a question, he replies with ‘you know you can trust me’ or ‘I’m a good guy’ or ‘I would never hurt you.’ Well, no, you don’t know you can trust him. You’ve known him for two minutes. And Jeffrey Dahmer thinks he has good points too, so ‘good guy’ is subjective. You need to do a dating Dragnet: Just the facts.
3) He/she uses ‘mirroring’. Mirroring is a flirting technique that is also common with con artists: They ‘mirror’ everything that the subject does or says. Literally, they move their head, touch their mouth and cross their arms at the same time that you do, and it makes you feel ‘in sync’. If they agree with EVERYTHING you say, try saying something utterly insane. “Hey, I’m thinking that whole Holocaust thing was just a hoax.” If they agree, they are clearly conning you. Or crazy racists. Either way, you have been warned!
4) Overblown declarations of love. If he sounds like he’s sponsored by Hallmark, it’s not authentic.
5) If you are slightly afraid to ask a question, it’s a sign that you should definitely ask it immediately. That’s your gut!