The Lennay affect

By now, anyone with a news feed knows of the the Manti Te’o/Lennay Kekua hoax, or what is known in the vernacular as catfishing. It is when one is duped in a romantic context, by someone purporting to be someone they are not. Scammers do it all the time, but usually they tip their hand within days or weeks when they ask for money. Catfishers have other, not always clear, motives.

Are they sociopaths? To some degree, as they stretch out what began as a prank or joke. But, as in Te’o’s case, the prank continues and the victim’s emotions are involved. For the more naive or lonely, it doesn’t seem implausible to have strong affection for someone they’ve never met.

Why do catfishers do this? Who knows. Maybe they’re bored. Maybe they know the person, as in Te’o’s situation, and the prankster thought it was a funny practical joke. I have friends who enjoy pranking each other, but I’ve always thought it was immature and mean.

I’ve been catfished, not by a man pretending to be a different person, just pretending to be single, when in fact, he was married. And to make matters worse, I later learned, he was married to a woman I knew but had never met her husband. Did he pretend to be single to get sex? He claims no. He did it to prove to himself he was still attractive to women beyond his wife. He’s now in counseling, which is good because he needs it. (Read the story.)

Are all romantic hoaxers sick? I’d have to say yes, to varying degrees. I think this is true for Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and his cousin who perpetuated what at least one of them must have known was a mean prank for so long. I can understand one person being immature and delighting seeing the news feature a fictitious person for months, but two not having a conscience? It could happen, but less likely. But as this story illustrates, it is possible.

So what’s the lesson for us midlife daters? The key here is nothing earth shattering, but I think it bears stating, since some midlife daters get caught up in “relationships” with people they’ve never met.

  • If you haven’t met him, you’re not in a relationship. He is not your boyfriend.
  • Don’t waste time chatting with someone you’re not going to meet within a month, max. If he does not live nearby, tell him to contact you again when he knows he’s coming to your area, or you already have a reason to be in his area.
  • If ample time goes by (more than a month) and he hasn’t made a plan to meet you, he has no intention of ever doing so, no matter how many times he says he does. Move on.
  • Even if you’ve met someone once or twice, you’re still not in a relationship.
  • If you go to his town, do not stay in his home. You need safety and distance. Close, constant proximity can create the illusion of more connectedness than there is and you can progress physically and emotionally more quickly than you would if you stayed in a hotel. It may feel “right,” but it rarely lasts. Don’t go visit if you can’t afford a hotel.
  • If he asks you to pay for his air fare, hotel, or any other expenses, drop him. If he ever asks you for money for anything, he’s a scammer and is playing the game with many other women, all day long. This is how he supports himself –playing multiple women for money.


Dating After 40Want to know what else to watch for? Get your copy — either ebook or hard copy — of Check Him Out Before Going Out: Head Off Dud Dates.


3 responses to “The Lennay affect”

  1. Lisa Shield Avatar

    Thanks for this thoughtful article. I agree that these people would have to be sociopathic to some degree to be able to pull off something like this. Caring people would have to stop and think how this would affect the other person. As a dating coach, my heart breaks for people who are out there having to deal with all this stuff. I try to help people keep a spiritual perspective and use these experiences to learn and grow, but it is still hard to see good people fall into these traps. Keep posting these informative articles!

  2. John C Avatar
    John C

    Maybe, maybe not. I’ve done some LDR’s.

    The last one progressed from someone I met on Myspace (remember that?) to someone that I became good phone friends with, to someone that was very important, to someone I traveled from the way South to the way Northeast to see. At this point, we were still friends, but not yet in a “relationship”. We became in a relationship during that visit.
    Fast forward, once we actually started living together, it did not work out. I broke up with her over a year ago – but we are still very close friends.
    We do not talk each day, every day – but it seems we do call or text almost every day. As she goes thru some life issues, I support her.

    I was always totally honest with her, and as far as I can tell, she was with me.

    I say that a LDR is ok – but be very, very careful. But, the guy you met at that party that seemed to have good references? Be careful with him (or her) as well.
    Like Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify”.

    No one is looking out for you like you should be looking out for yourself.

    Be careful, be suspicious. If the other person has a problem with it, then they are probably hiding something. Just sayin’.

    My dollars worth. – john

  3. Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.

    Great post. The mention that close proximity “feels right” is dead-on. Too often, we let our feelings guide us and completely ignore the red flags. Humans have a “truth bias” where we want to believe people so bad, that we gauge them as being honest, when in fact they are not. As a result, we overlook the signs and information that are being thrown at us from many different angles. I am always in amazement at how much importance people place on the concept of “trust” in a relationship, yet rarely do they take proactive steps to validate that the person is trustworthy from the beginning, in the dating stages. Instead, “it just feels right” is the choice method of calibration and as a result, more damage can be done in the long run. Nothing like dating someone for 2 months because of how you “felt”, only to find out that the signs were there all along that he /she was married. Professionally, I have spent many years studying deception and am always amazed at how easily we fool ourselves into thinking we have made the right choice when it comes to a dating partner. Most spend time focusing on the wrong cues to assess truthfulness anyway. There are much easier ways to ensure your spending your time with the right person, by just adhering to a bit of common sense. Thank you for a great article, right on point!