Starting a relationship with someone who's in a bad place
May 31, 2016 5:56 AM   Subscribe

I met someone on OKCupid about a week ago and we really hit it off. We've been chatting on Facebook and Skype for around 6 hours every day which I've never done with anyone before. We've never met in person because she lives about 2 hours away, but things seemed to be heading somewhere serious. She's in a horrible situation right now though. She's from another country and she basically has no money and no income.

She's been living with a friend, but yesterday she told me that her friend wants her to leave in two months and she has nowhere else to go so if she doesn't sort things out by then she'll be homeless. I like her a lot and I'm really worried about her, but I don't think I could handle being in a relationship with someone in that position. It also just feels wrong to me to start a relationship with someone who's not in a stable place. In the back of my mind I also have the suspicion that she might be counting on me for a place to live, which I'm really not in the position to provide. I told her I didn't want to start anything until she's safe and she got upset. Now I'm worried I made things worse. Did I do the right thing?
posted by Chenko to Human Relations (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
are you positive you aren't being lied to by someone who will soon ask you for money? are you sure she is so she says she is?
posted by nadawi at 6:02 AM on May 31, 2016 [72 favorites]

Every alarm bell on earth is ringing. To answer your question, yes, you did the right thing.
posted by bimbam at 6:04 AM on May 31, 2016 [37 favorites]

Oh, that sounds like a catfishing expedition right there. In either case, it's way too soon for you to get involved, and someone in that situation should have priorities other than dating.
posted by xingcat at 6:05 AM on May 31, 2016 [17 favorites]

That was in the back of my mind too but I guess it felt gross to say it. I'd like to think I wouldn't have done something stupid.
posted by Chenko at 6:12 AM on May 31, 2016

Even if she does exist (doubtful), not wanting to support someone you have never met, even emotionally, is perfectly reasonable.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:13 AM on May 31, 2016 [23 favorites]

so, i've had a fair number of intense relationships that began/were wholly contained online in the last 20 years. i've also been at bad times in my life seeking comfort online because it was easier than in person. i saw this so you know i'm not just automatically suspicious because of the online nature of the courtship.

she might be being 100% truthful and it's still a good idea to pull back. this sort of thing : We've been chatting on Facebook and Skype for around 6 hours every day which I've never done with anyone before - it feels really awesome in the moment, intense, like something exciting is happening - however, it can also be a warning sign. sometimes, especially for those of us with mental health struggles, this is a sign that we're being manipulated or are entering into a codependent situation. and even if at another time, another place you guys could have been perfect for each other, it's not that time or place right now. it's best to just move on and let her handle her business.

...but i still think this sound majorly hinky and you need to protect yourself.
posted by nadawi at 6:24 AM on May 31, 2016 [16 favorites]

I'd like to think I wouldn't have done something stupid.

You didn't! Feel good about that. You're listening to your gut. Guts are usually not wrong.
posted by something something at 6:25 AM on May 31, 2016 [7 favorites]

I was the woman in this situation (with a caveat I'll save for the end); life was very touch-and-go for a couple of years, during one of which I was technically homeless, living in hotels.

Here's the caveat: I didn't date, because my life was so unpredictable at the time.

You did the right thing.
posted by MarionnetteFilleDeChaussette at 6:25 AM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

You did the right thing. I was in a relationship that started much the same way. The person had poor boundaries, helping themselves to my money and overstaying their welcome at my apartment. It was a terrible decision at a time when I did not have the experience to recognize red flags. You do, which is awesome. Listen to your gut.
posted by lieber hair at 6:39 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

You were catfished and you are now on a list. If she is working as a group, they will be sending you someone else. Get off of all of those sites for awhile and try to meet people in your community. You did right to pull away.

Even if she is a real person, she isn't someone to start a relationship with. You want someone who has her shit together. It's fine to stick by someone whose life has fallen apart after you've been dating for awhile but not okay to find someone already in the gutter. There is no good end to a beginning like that.
posted by myselfasme at 6:52 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone, I think I needed to hear that. I've had a really weird week.
posted by Chenko at 7:20 AM on May 31, 2016 [14 favorites]

Even if everybody is on the up and up, it would be a horrible way to start a relationship. The beginnings of relationships need space to set boundaries. It would be hard for her to set boundaries, knowing that her room and board depends on your good graces. It would be hard for you to set boundaries while being considerate of her circumstances. And because a lot of relationships don't work out, how would breaking up work? She might want to break up but decide she can't because she doesn't have another place to go--I believe I was in this situation once with a partner, whether he consciously recognized it or not, and it was difficult on both of us. Alternatively, you might want to break up with her but find yourself holding back because it means putting her out on the street.
posted by foxfirefey at 7:26 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

There have been quite a few questions through the years on AskMe which have a similar theme - "I have met someone and I really like them, I'm worried they'll find out that I [am rich/am poor/have an illness/have an ongoing mental health problem/etc]. I mean, they shouldn't need to and the answer is usually "if they're a good egg they won't care", but the reason people ask this stuff is cause they care about what their new person thinks of them, and they don't want to muck things up before they've really begun.

I don't think this person cares enough about that. You've only known her one week and she's already laying a huge amount of emotional burden on you. That's not the act of someone who values you and wants to carefully nurture a budding relationship.

Aside from that, it would be kind to help her look up services in her area which might be able to help her. I think I would try and do this. But only do it if you feel firm in your boundaries, and also be prepared for her not to do anything with that info.
posted by greenish at 7:26 AM on May 31, 2016 [5 favorites]

How refreshing to get to the end of a question like this and see the OP demonstrated excellent common sense and did the right thing! This person was mad because they put in a lot of hours getting you on the hook and then you proved not to be an easy mark. Well done you.

In your future online dating, make your goal be to get off line and into real life as fast as possible. Scammers love online daters willing to linger in cyberspace as it is easier to manipulate online.
posted by cecic at 7:47 AM on May 31, 2016 [15 favorites]

Yup, attaboy!

You did the 100% right thing!

Move on with a clear conscience.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:34 AM on May 31, 2016

It's likely that you've deftly sidestepped a whole world of "upset". I'm feeling happy for you.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:02 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

You missed a bullet. Yay you!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd like to think I wouldn't have done something stupid.

It wouldn't have been stupid, just unfortunate. There are a lot of hustlers out there, and no one can dodge all of them.
posted by praemunire at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Look I'm sure this person seems nice and everything, and I don't want to come off as a callous jerk, but do not touch any of this with a ten foot pole.

Firstly, you've never met. So... you're not in a relationship. This isn't "getting serious". I mean, at this point it's not even serious enough for one of you to drive two hours for.

Secondly, she lives two hours away. Now, if this is "two hours away" in the sense of being opposite ends of the same city and you're relying on inconvenient bus schedules or something, yeah, IDK, maybe it could eventually work? But if not, if you guys live in separate towns 100+ miles away from each other, this is not a relationship, you've never met, you're not realistically going to move to be closer together, this obviously has no future.

Thirdly, not to be mean to this woman I've never met, who might be an honest person telling you the whole truth about her situation, but I just got out of a nasty roommate situation with someone whose entire life MO was to go from person to person peddling a sad-sack story about her life as an abuse-survivor and single mom, in order to leech off of people rather than getting a job. She also used to do EXACTLY what you're describing: get into a long-distance internet relationship with a man with a stable income, reel him in with the sad-sack story, get him to send money, and then go no-contact when he started asking questions. This is literally what she did for a living rather than getting a job. I'm not saying this woman is doing this to you, but unfortunately you can't trust strangers on the internet with sad stories. Even if they otherwise seem nice.

You need to back way off from everything about this situation.

Let her know that when things are a little more stable for her, you're happy to make the trip out there to get coffee/do something date-like. Whatever you do, DO NOT encourage her to come stay overnight at your home. Even if it's having her make the trip to see you and then, hey, what do you know, it's late, maybe she should stay over?
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 AM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes, you made the right decision. One of my close family members met a girl online and they started a long distance relationship. Her MO, like in the example from Sara C. above, was to go from person-to-person with her sad story to parasite off of them. Before I knew this, I let them move in with me. When I had a frank discussion about them needing to pay rent, she shut-down, spread rumors about me, and sad-sacked her way into both of them moving in with our mom two states away. She cheats on my family member constantly, tells lies, complains to whoever listens, and is always looking for the next person to latch on to. Don't waste your energy with people like this.
posted by Marinara at 10:29 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

So you understand where I am coming from: I have a long history of online relationships and I am a currently homeless woman.

There is no way in hell you would get six hours of my time every single day while my life slides into the toilet. Over the course of seven days, that's 42 hours, the equivalent of a full time job. Why is she not spending that time trying to solve her problems? Unless, you know, you look like a solution to her.

Please note that I am assuming a best case scenario of clueless, desperate person who isn't really thinking things through. Scam is absolutely another possibility here.
posted by Michele in California at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you have any kind of a nagging conscience, and still are in touch with her, the ABSOLUTE most I would do is to offer to look the numbers for some local shelters or support services where she lives so she can contact them. That way, if she really is legitimately in trouble, it'll be easier for her to know where to turn (it's hard for someone who is THAT seriously up the creek to do research), so it will still be help; but if she's a scammer, you haven't done anything that will enable her to rip you off.

I don't think there is any reason for you to have a nagging conscience, by the way. I was seeing the red flags halfway through the opening paragraph of this question.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

(it's hard for someone who is THAT seriously up the creek to do research),

If she is spending 6 hours a day on FB and Skype with her new guy, that's 6 hours a day where she is online anyway and could be looking this stuff up herself. Granted, this information can be hard to look up online (something I have first hand experience with), but if you aren't even in the same city as her, presumably you are looking it up online as well. On the other hand, since she is (supposedly) from a foreign country, it may make sense to look some things up for her anyway and/or give her some tips and information on what may be available where she is.

If she is not in a major city and is genuinely facing homelessness and genuinely cannot take care of herself, I would suggest she ask someone (like the person she is staying with who is going to evict her) to drive her to the nearest big city should she actually fail to line up options and actually wind up homeless. Big cities have more in the way of soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, etc and you are just one of the crowd.

If you continue to talk with her, steer the conversation towards problem solving. If she has a cow about that and doesn't want any help trying to figure out how to solve the problems she claims to have, then either she is a scammer or she genuinely is in trouble but was hoping that hooking up with some guy would solve her problem. I knew a woman in downtown San Diego who was only homeless for a few days because she found a guy to take her in. So, yeah, that happens at times. If you are unable and/or unwilling to go that route, then you need to cut her loose so she can start scoping out her next prospect.

You might also consider dropping OK Cupid a line and expressing your concerns that this account may be ...not legitimate.
posted by Michele in California at 1:38 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

This sounds like an online version of the "distressed stranger" scam. To which I myself have fallen victim ... twice. Don't feel bad, but don't feel like you did the wrong thing.
posted by WCityMike at 2:22 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I sent her a message letting her know that I wish her well but I don't want to talk anymore. If she is on the level I don't think there's anything I could do to help her. I think I was really heading in a bad direction there.
posted by Chenko at 2:30 PM on May 31, 2016 [15 favorites]

« Older Automatic Renewal -- What are the laws?   |   Bosch dishwasher beeps at end of cycle, will not... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.