What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating


Dirty John is a great new series on Netflix and is definitely fun to binge watch. The story itself, however, shows the dangers of online dating and how it can lead to disastrous results. In this day and age, online dating is of course not taboo and I’m sure nearly all of us have tried Tinder, Bumble or Hinge at least once. After all, we live on the internet 24/7, so is there really anything wrong with meeting your future partner online?

I have several friends who have successful and loving relationships from people they met online. Dirty John, however, shows us the worst case scenario of an online dating relationship gone terribly wrong. The series, starring Eric Bana and Connie Britton, which is based on a true story featured on the famous LA Times Podcast, teaches a lot about online dating and that we need to be safe and protect ourselves as much as possible while on the search for love. Debra Newell, an unassuming single divorcee with older children tries to find love online, and meets, John, a surprisingly impressive and handsome man who she falls head over heels with almost instantly, ignoring all red flags on her desire to be in a relationship.

To Meet An Online Date In A Public Place And Not In Your Home

In this day and age as we are all so used to using our phones for absolutely everything, it is not uncommon to go to a party we saw advertised on Facebook, discuss topics and converse with people we do not know on Twitter and get Instagram likes and DMs from total strangers. Online dating now seems pretty normal, and although it may not be the most romantic way to meet a partner or the most interesting story to tell when you tell your friends on how you both met, it is definitely becoming more and more common.

One thing that I am aware of however that is a number one rule when meeting an online date is to meet in a public place. Before meeting John, Debra Newell was no stranger to online dating and went on a series of unsuccessful swanky dates. Being a very successful businesswoman, she sadly failed to connect to any of her previous suitors and was intrigued when her latest interest John offered to pick her up at her place where they would then walk together to the restaurant. Why this did not start at least a couple of alarm bells ringing, I am not sure, as it is certainly not the norm to meet a date you have never met before directly at your own home. Debra was most definitely naive, finding this suggestion quirky and interesting, much to her daughter’s protests and suspicion when John turns up very underdressed and starts examining the expensive decor of her mother’s property.

This is definitely a hard and fast rule that was definitely reinforced when watching Dirty John. No matter how charming, handsome or impressive your online date may seem, it is never a good idea to meet them at your home. It doesn’t matter if it seems safe or even if you might not be alone at home and accompanied by other people. The fact that they know your address could put you in a dangerous situation in the future and it is most definitely better to meet someone in a public place especially for your first date. This way, you can send your friend or family member an S.O.S message if needed!

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

To Be Aware Of Red Flags – Do Not Completely Ignore Them

In the series, John almost instantly displays some red flags that would probably make anyone do a double take. Debra’s daughter happened to be at home at their first meeting and was extremely suspicious of John when he turned up wearing cargo shorts and trainers to go out in a swanky Newport Beach neighbourhood with her glamorous and very stylish mother. This in itself, however, can be seen to be judgemental. It is true that it is never good to judge a book by its cover, and definitely not by their fashion sense. However, if something makes you feel a little uneasy and suspicious, it can sometimes be your instinct trying to warn you of what might come. We in fact later learn that John turned up in such an outfit because he actually was homeless. He had, in fact, met Debra just a few days after getting out of jail and was living in a trailer on the side of the road. Little did Debra or any of her family know this, however.

The way he walks confidently straight into the house and starts to examine her mother’s very swanky decor, picking up a vase in admiration, made her daughter feel a little uneasy. Of course, Debra was blinded by his Eric Bana good looks, something that I’m sure a lot of us girls have been guilty of at least once or twice! Bad boys can also seem very alluring, so I do understand that Debra may have been a little blinded by her instant attraction to John.

I feel that the series Dirty John teaches us that although it is never good to judge immediately, it is good to keep a tally of the red flags we may see when dating someone new. If there are way too many, as there certainly were with John, it may not be a good idea to brush these off completely. Sometimes red flags are a little bit of intuition altering us to pay a little closer attention.

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

If It Is Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is…

Debra was immediately pretty impressed with John on her first meeting with him. Of course, he was very handsome, in the movie and in real life, and she was instantly charmed by his witty jokes and amazing career history. John casually drops the fact that he is a doctor, and that he worked for Doctors Without Borders in Iraq. Whilst this is certainly impressive and can certainly be true, it may seem a little suspicious if the way that they describe these achievements seem a little too good to be true. I feel very sad to be writing such a negative post on dating, as it is hard enough as it is with all of the hurdles we have out there, and now I’m telling you to judge people too, is it really that impossible to believe that someone can be that amazing? I definitely agree that it is not good to judge, and of course, with dating, you will always have to have an open mind. Maybe next time someone you date seems to have a fantastic, faultless career resume, take it with a tiny pinch of salt and let future dates help you decide if what they are saying about their career history really is true.

In all fairness, I definitely understand Debra and her decision to believe him. Who would not instantly be wooed by a gorgeous, charismatic doctor who… please… dedicated his blood sweat and tears to help the needy in Iraq. Talk about the perfect package! Isn’t this the ultimate kind of dream guy any girl could dream to be with? Of course, I completely understand her. Everyone is guilty of having been swept off by an illusion from time to time! It is, however, important to take everything with a pinch of salt.

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

Not To Move Too Fast With Big Commitments

Debra, being a single mother with grown-up daughters, was ready to find love. She had great success in her career and was hoping to share the rest of her life with someone she loved. John instantly swept her off her feet, providing her with everything she needed. He was protective, caring and appeared to be the perfect match for her. Due to her daughters’¬†concerns, she decided to move out of the home she shared with them and move into a beachside pad with her new beau. This was a particularly quick decision, and one she decided to do despite John’s inability to commit any financial help at all, due to his excuses that he had to send a lot of money to his ex-wife and children. What happened next was definitely something that surprised the entire family, and something she kept secret till much later on. After only 2 months of knowing each other, John accompanied her on a trip to Vegas and whilst on that trip insisted that they get married. Although Debra felt that it was way too soon, his begging eventually led her to give in. This was a particularly hasty decision, which of course Debra did due to her desire to settle down as well as John’s constant begging, that flattered her and made her feel wanted and needed. Sadly, however, it was definitely a decision that she took too quickly without much information on who he really was.

It is definitely something most of our grandmothers and mothers will tell us, warning us not to move too fast when dating someone new, and especially not get married or get tied up too quickly. We are always told to think a little more and get to know the person a little more, which is definitely sound dating advice that applies to everyone. It can definitely seem romantic to move fast and throw your brain into the wind. After all, do we have to spend that much time doubting? It is exhausting! However, Debra’s experience in Dirty John shows us that we definitely need to take time before making big decisions such as moving in with someone or getting married. Like for example, meeting their family or friends.

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

To Try And Get To Know Your Partner’s Family And Friends First Before Big Decisions

This next lesson is a very important one to take on board from Dirty John. John himself did not appear to have any friends or family that he wanted Debra to have anything to do with. He explained it away with excuses saying that his family were terrible people. Somehow, it seemed that absolutely everyone in John’s life was a ‘terrible’ person and therefore Debra should not want to have anything to do with them. He uses the same excuse with his ex-wife, who never met his family and who at their wedding was only accompanied by some of his college friends who barely knew him. Of course, it is definitely hard not to feel sorry for someone who is a victim of a broken home or bad childhood. This can certainly be true in many cases. If however, the person you are newly dating tends to have no one close to them to introduce to you, this could be a bad sign that they may not be particularly good news. In Dirty John, we, of course, learn that John didn’t keep anyone close to him as he was quite literally a psychopath. The only friends who came to his wedding to his first wife were, in fact, the ones to label him with his nickname “Dirty John”. With a nickname like that, it should definitely raise a few red flags.

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

To Familiarise Yourself With Your Partner’s Work

This might seem like a very odd thing to consider when you are dating someone new. Are we really supposed to live as if we are in a crime TV show and that the worst thing may actually be happening to us? Sadly, in Debra’s case, it would have helped her to know that her husband John was not actually a doctor, that he never stepped foot in Iraq and that he actually used to be a nurse. Unfortunately, as we later learn, he was not a nurse anymore, he was forbidden from practising a long time ago, due to being a drug addict and stealing anaesthetic drugs for him to use himself. John, however, kept up the facade of his work by constantly wearing his scrubs, leaving the house during the day, only to sneak back after an hour and spend all day playing video games and taking drugs. Debra only discovers this when she uses the CCTV cameras he installed in the house.

It might seem crazy to doubt your new date as to what they do for work. In most cases, there should be no reason to doubt them at all. If however you never meet any colleagues, hear any normal stories of their workday or never step foot inside their workplace, these could later reveal that your date may not actually be working where they said he was, a ala Dirty John.

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

To Listen To Family And Friends On Their Opinions And Comments

Something that always makes me want to bang my head after the fact, is thinking about the advice and comments my friends and family had given me in hindsight. If only I had listened earlier? When you are in a dating situation where you are really into someone, it can be very hard to have a balanced and objective perspective. Since you really like the person, you can be blinded by your attraction and care for them and will not be able to see the things that the people around you can see. Of course, at times people can be wrong, as they will never really know the person that you are dating as well as you yourself. However, if your friends and family start to voice any concerns or worrying opinions with you, I would hesitate to brush them off completely and perhaps listen to at least a little bit and consider their opinion.

Debra’s daughter in Dirty John has very strong suspicions of John and actually places a tracker on his car. She finds out long before her mother that John did not actually work, although she is afraid to tell her mother about how she found this information out. In the end, family and friends should generally have your best interests at heart and would not hurt to hear them out. You definitely don’t have to listen or follow what they say, however, it is good to consider them and assess their opinions and judge for yourself with a fresh mindset on your next meeting with your date.

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

To Be A Little Wary If They Drop The Love Bomb Quite Early On

Saying the three little words is a powerful thing, and if uttered too quickly, should raise some red flags. In Dirty John, we see that John seems to confess his love for Debra extremely early on, telling her he has fallen wholeheartedly in love with her. Although this is definitely extremely flattering, it is definitely worrying if your new partner starts to tell you these things within the first few months of dating. Love is a verb that although you may feel intense attraction, affection and care for someone, it is not something that you generally should say until you have spent a little more time with the person. John was known for moving fast in general and was a way that he could easily manipulate the countless women in his path with ease. Not to mention, the way his first date with Debra ends disastrously, with him jumping on her bed, and after Debra’s discomfort, him storming out. Saying “I love you” too early on can sadly indicate insecurity on the part of the person who says it, or could be a form of emotional manipulation. I feel that Dirty John warns us to take things slow and be wary if someone is ready to be emotional with you a little too soon. Fingers crossed, however, that none of us have to experience a Dirty John in our lives!

What Watching Dirty John On Netflix Taught Us About Dating

There were certainly many other things to learn about dating from the series Dirty John. Eric Bana plays John excellently, with the perfect amount of manipulation and cool charisma. I definitely felt that his character was frightening yet intriguing at the same time and really do feel for Debra and her family. It is definitely a lesson for all of us to be careful with anyone new we date, whether online or offline. It is important to never ignore our feminine intuition or instincts that we have been blessed with for a reason. Stay safe out there ladies! I am sending you the very best of luck in your dating adventures.

Have you experienced any dating disasters recently? Were there any other dating lessons to be learnt from the series Dirty John? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Annetta Guidotti

I love all things beauty, fashion, entertainment and food. Thank you for reading and joining me on my writing journey!

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