Here are a few stories that make my toes curl. All are true, though names have been changed to protect their identities:
-Lori met a guy, fell fast and hard in love, and they quickly married. Less than two years later, he’s in jail for molesting her six year old daughter. Turns out, he had prior arrests for sexually assaulting his sister and elder abuse.
-Lisa’s boyfriend served time in prison years prior to their meeting for bribing corporate officials and gaining unfair advantage in the bidding process. He also claimed to have a successful land development business that he turned over to his oldest daughter to manage. She was so good at it that he only needed to check in every several months to see how it was going (and collect big checks that the business was raking in). Turns out, that business doesn’t exist at all.
-Jack married his wife and less than two months later, found out that she had several other ex-husbands and a past that was shocking. He had her removed from his home and filed for divorce days later.
-Tim married a woman who had a tragic past—she was adopted at a young age from an orphanage and immigrated to the United States. She suffered tremendous abuse growing up from her adopted parents, yet managed to overcome tremendous odds and get a master’s degree. Except, turns out, none of that was true. She had quite a history that included fraud and several arrests. When Tim confronted her, she overdosed on so much medication that she had to be rushed to the ER. Except she actually swallowed no pills. She did attempt to clean out his bank account, however, before he managed to protect himself and file for divorce.
-Greg married his wife after he was convinced that she was dying from a rare cancer and needed a man to adopt her son once she died. Turns out, she faked her entire cancer diagnosis and she had done this same thing with an ex-boyfriend.
Frightening stories but they are hardly rare. If I conduct an online search, I can find hundreds of similar examples. So what’s a girl in the dating trenches to do to ensure that she doesn’t fall victim to one of these people? How do we know some awesome guy is who he claims to be?
A few friends and I were chatting about this very question not long ago. Some of the questions we discussed were: When should we do our own due diligence to check out the men we were meeting? How far should we go? Is a simple online check good enough? What about asking around? And at what point in the relationship should the research begin? If you knew a guy you were dating was checking out your background, would that upset you? (Personally, it wouldn’t upset me. That’s why I’m as open an honest as I possibly can be. There really isn’t a whole lot I try to hide.)
On one end of the spectrum is my friend Kat. She typically checks out most men prior to meeting up with them at all. She wants to make sure that the guy is who he says he is. Does he have any arrests? Where does he live? Does he really have the job he says he has? You know, that sort of thing.
And then there’s Angie. She decided that she is just going to trust her date and let time decide. Of course, Angie’s children are all out of the house. I think she’s too much an optimist. There are a lot of awful people out there.
And then there’s me. While I won’t be running background checks on every guy at first date, I will be incredibly watchful if things between the two of us progress. Not only will I do a re-con on the Internet, but if his ex wants to talk to me about him, you’d better believe that I’m going to listen. I don’t care if he tells me that his ex his crazy. (So far, I’ve had a few of mate’s ex’s contact me. The first time it happened, I blew the woman off. Several years later, this woman is a good friend and a very close confidante. Turns out, she wasn’t quite the psycho evil woman she was portrayed to be. I learned the hard way that my guy’s ex is not my enemy—in fact, there’s a good chance she may become my ally.) I’ll watch my new guy carefully and verify when I can. If we have mutual friends or co-workers who know him indirectly, I’ll ask around. I trust my gut instinct much of the time but bad men (and women) can be incredibly manipulative and convincing. Trust is sweet and awesome. But it can also leave one burned badly. I am not gullible.
Is this line of thinking extreme? I think not. I have children. I will do my best to ensure their safety, first and foremost. I won’t bring men that I haven’t vetted out to some degree prior to introducing him to them. That will take time. I am not a fan of bringing my casual dates around my children. He has to show some kind of amazingness and potential staying power before I’ll “go there.” For me, that’s a good solid six months or longer.
Second, I have assets. I’m going to do my best to make sure that a sweet guy doesn’t rob me blind.
Third, I don’t feel like being taken advantage of. No amount of background checks and asking around will ensure that I’ll only find awesome men who have my best interests at heart. Only time and a lot of luck and prayers can make sure that happens. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t do my utmost in protecting what matters most to me.
Background checks? Count me in.