Relationship Advice: How to Avoid Getting Into a Relationship With Someone Like ‘Dirty John’

Couple talking outdoors in a park
Couple talking  | AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

The following is a guest post by Justin Lavelle, chief communications expert at, an online background check platform.

In part two of this post, I’ll continue to tell you about some of the red flags to look out for so you don’t end up with a guy like the one in the Bravo series Dirty John. The term “Dirty John” refers to the true story of a woman named Debra Newell and her relationship with a man she met online, named John Meehan. It started out like any good love story, with lots of initial sparks. However, everything soon turned sour as Debra continuously ignored red flag after red flag.

She and her family soon found out John was not who he seemed to be. He had taken advantage of more than one woman while having several criminal charges against him including gun and drug charges, as well as being a felon and having restraining orders against him. He was labeled “a ticking time bomb, capable of unpredictable violence.” The nickname “Dirty John” had been given to him by classmates.

Here are a few more tips for spotting a “dirty John.”

He seems too good to be true

Couple laughing
Couple laughing| Ivanko_Brnjakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Of course, we all know “that couple” who always gets along and are so adorable you could vomit, but realistically, this situation is rare. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If he is always agreeing with you and/or has the same exact views as you all the time. Take a look into your conversation style. Is he leading and revealing his identity on his own, or his he taking cues from you? Does he always just agree or say “me too” to everything you say? This can be a warning sign of him trying to be the “perfect guy” for you and insert himself in your life for nefarious purposes. Ask questions and allow a back-and-forth flow when trying to get to know a possible new boyfriend. This will most likely help you get a more honest picture of the kind of guy he is.

He always has excuses for unhealthy behavior

arguing couple
Couple arguing | Hybrid Images/iStock/Getty Images

We all have bad habits, and that is normal. What is not normal is when it is willful and constantly justified by ridiculous excuses. Someone who is not willing to grow and is dependent on you to “fix” or “take care” of them is a huge red flag. It is never your responsibility to be a crutch for another person, especially in a romantic relationship. A healthy relationship requires both parties to be growing individually and encouraging each other.

He is highly defensive

This can manifest itself in a few different ways. Usually from you trying to ask normal questions when getting to know someone. However, it will be a bit more severe than a regular person not wanting to talk about something. He could raise his voice, punch something, sulk, or even make you feel in danger. This kind of behavior is unacceptable, and you should distance yourself as soon as possible. Someone who is violently defensive is always going to escalate. It can/will also show up if you catch him in a lie, so be mindful and pay attention to these situations.

He has a criminal record

This will be more than some “dumb teenager mistakes.” Run a background check and if there are violent crimes, charges for thievery, or any restraining orders out for him it is time to seriously reconsider your choice. If you would not prefer to just immediately cut ties, (which is the safest option) and would like to ask him about it, be sure to meet in a public place during the daytime and have a friend nearby and/or on call if things take a turn. Also remember to keep your phone charged if you need to call the police.

He will want to meet too soon or not soon enough

Couple drinking coffee
Couple drinking coffee |

Both of these are red flags because of different reasons. Meeting too quickly can be a sign of wanting to catch you as soon as possible because he sees you as easy prey to get what he wants out of. Not really pushing to meet at all can be to keep the “romantic mystique” alive, and you engaged. It is amazing how attached you can get to someone without even meeting, so be careful that you are not being catfished or taken advantage of by that stranger on the other side of your screen.

Of course, there are good guys out there, and it’s important to keep an open mind as well as open eyes. Some of these on their own can be justified by extenuating circumstances, but when you have more and more issues popping up, it is definitely a sign to get out as soon as possible. Always remember to keep your personal safety at the forefront and do not put yourself in a vulnerable position before you are sure you found a keeper.

Check out part one of this post here.

Justin Lavelle is the chief communications expert at, an online background check platform.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!