Relationship Lessons We Can All Learn From Dirty John

If you’ve been meaning to watch Dirty John on Netflix and haven’t got round to it, then this post probably isn’t for you, because there will be a few spoilers. ‘Dirty John’ Meehan was a conman who made a habit of primarily deceiving women. The show focuses on how he manages to charm a wealthy interior designer called Debra Newell. Debra falls head over heels for John but it becomes clear from the offset that something wasn’t quite right.

Dirty John is probably the only series on Netflix that I have binge watched. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat, and as a woman who spent far too long in a previous relationship, watching Debra ignore some very obvious signs sent shockwaves through my body. Women (and men) can learn some valuable lessons about red flags in relationships from this series:

Don’t ignore red flags – You may be thinking ‘duh’ but when some women are staring red flags right in the face, something in their subconscious either tells them that they are being ridiculous or that they need to love their partner even more (in the hope that with more love, they will brush off any concerns that they had). Once a red flag appears in a relationship, it won’t go away so you need to leave. In the first episode, Debra and John go on a date that appears to go well. However, when they end up going back to her place and start making out, John automatically assumes that they’ll be intimate and Debra finds him laying on her bed.

This was probably one of the first major red flags we see in the series because Debra didn’t consent to sex, and secondly, when she asked John to stay in the living area, his behaviour changed instantly and he stormed out of the apartment. Someone who genuinely wants to get to know you will not pressure you or ‘throw their toys out of the pram’ when they don’t get their way. John was showing Debra the kind of partner he would potentially be. When you start dating someone, you don’t know who they are at all. It’s only through time that you will really see who you’re dealing with, but what I can say is if any aspect of their behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable, you may want to think twice.

Manipulation is real – For those of you who have watched Dirty John, who remembers when John would snap at Debra and minutes after, she’d take on the role of the sympathetic partner? This is a classic example of manipulation. Any manipulator will have you feeling like you can’t do anything right.      There are mainly two types of manipulators: the ones who see nothing wrong with what they’ve done (when their actions are clearly wrong) and the ones who will make it look like you are in the wrong. Manipulators are irrational and of course, inconsiderate. They gain pleasure out of toying with their partner’s emotions. There’s nothing loving or mutually fulfilling about these kinds of relationships.

This warning sign is more feelings based. Sadly, in time you will start to feel different when you eventually realise that you are always walking on egg shells around your partner, or whoever you’re dating. Manipulators also tend to play the blame game in other areas of their lives – it’s never their fault, it’s always someone else’s, so paying attention to how they talk about others, especially in the early stages of your relationship, could save you from a whole load of heartbreak. I have addressed this topic in a previous post which you can find here. Manipulators are very used to everything running on their own terms, so you’ll never really feel like you are able to be yourself in the relationship.

Put yourself first – Anything that costs you your peace is too expensive – there has never been a truer word spoken. Something I have always wondered is why some women tend to love their men more than they love themselves? This is risky because you can potentially end up neglecting your own needs, and more times than most you’ll be the one picking up the pieces. In the series, Debra was doing many things that she wouldn’t normally do, but she convinced herself that all of her actions were justified because John loved her. If your gut is telling you that you’re doing way too much, then you probably are. Relationships aren’t about one person having their way or winning – they are mutually fulfilling unions which should be centred on love, trust, care and respect.

Never let a relationship come between you and your family – When it comes to family and relationships, things could go either way. Your family could either love or despise your partner, but when your partner’s actions are clearly causing distress to members of your family, it’s time to pay attention. In the show, Debra’s daughters told her on countless occasions how John’s behaviour (and eventually the revelations about his past) made them feel. She made the mistake of brushing off their concerns because (according to her) they seemed to exhibit similar behaviours whenever she had a man in her life.

If the people closest to you aren’t comfortable around your partner, then something is definitely wrong. As a wise man once said, ‘there is no smoke without fire’. What makes family concerns even harder for some women (and even men) is that you may have already programmed your brain into believing your partner is everything you want and more. Once this has happened, it becomes harder to wake up and smell the coffee.

Do your research! – We live in a social media age, so there is absolutely no excuse as to why you shouldn’t look up potential partners. Before you go on a date with someone, check them out online. This is important, firstly, because your safety is paramount and secondly, it’s a solid form of prevention. I’m not saying that someone’s online profiles will tell you exactly who they are BUT it is your opportunity to identify whether there’s anything to be concerned about.

It was clear to see that Debra hadn’t done her research prior to going on all those dates (in the first episode), and she definitely hadn’t looked John up. In the last (or second to last) episode of the series, there’s a scene where John is in his trailer park and trying to arrange dates with women he has met online. One potential date informs him that she did her research and nobody knew of him working as a doctor at any hospital. There’s nothing stalker-ish about looking your date up – do it! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Never give your personal details to someone you are getting to know! – I actually can’t believe I’m saying this in 2019 but if you are someone who looks before you can leap, this point is for you! Being excited is completely normal when you get into a new relationship but you’ve got to be aware of what is happening while protecting yourself. I’m not saying keep them at arms length but respect your space. Someone who genuinely wants to get to know you will not force things. It takes time to build a solid connection. Yes, there are people who have found love quickly but this doesn’t happen to anyone. Romanticising any dating situation and thinking ten steps ahead is a recipe for disaster!

Have you watched Dirty John? If so, what did you think of the series? If not, then what are some of your deal breakers in relationships? I love to hear from you guys so please feel free to leave a comment below.

You can find more of my relationship posts here.

Kel xo

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  • d_analyzt
    April 19, 2019

    this was so helpfull, thanks for sharing

    • itskellesspace
      April 19, 2019

      Thanks for reading the post!

  • Payton
    April 19, 2019

    I haven’t seen the show but I did listen to the podcast. This was such a great take away from Debra’s experience. Great read!

    • itskellesspace
      April 19, 2019

      You should watch it! It’s on Netflix and it’s really good.
      I haven’t listened to the podcast – I will check it out.
      Thanks for reading the post.

  • Sarah Mark
    April 21, 2019

    I haven’t seen this but after reading your post I will need to go and watch it.

    • itskellesspace
      April 21, 2019

      Hi Sarah,
      You will not be disappointed.
      It’s a really good show.

  • Trace
    April 22, 2019

    I haven’t seen Dirty John but I appreciate your thoughts on it and can relate to what you are saying about relationships and getting to know somebody first and doing your homework about a person. I’ve certainly made a few mistakes in my life with men but am glad I finally ended up with a good guy.

    Got to check this show out now–you’ve got me curious!

    Great post!

    Trace x |

    • itskellesspace
      April 25, 2019

      Hi Trace,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Yeah, it’s so important to take time to really know who you’re with.
      I’m glad that you have a good man in your life now.
      If you do check out the show, let me know what you think x

  • Rudiano
    April 23, 2019

    I haven’t watched the series but enjoyed your post! Very well written and sensible.
    And I must say even as a man I have behaved like Debra in the past 🤔

    • itskellesspace
      April 25, 2019

      Thank you Rudiano!
      You should definitely watch the series, it’s very interesting.
      It’s nice to hear that men have moments like this too – it just shows that women aren’t alone when it comes to ignoring red flags.
      Thanks for reading the post!

  • Gemma Newbery
    May 28, 2019

    I’ve not watched the show but I’ve listened to the podcast. It’s crazy to think this all really happened! Nevertheless, great advice! I’m definitely going to watch the show at some point.

    • itskellesspace
      May 28, 2019

      I’ve actually never listened to the podcast, I will check it out.
      I can’t believe it too! I’m glad you liked the post.
      Let me know what you think if you decide to watch the show.

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Relationship Lessons We Can All Learn From Dirty John