How Not to get Teo'd on Valentine's Day

If you admit that you have ever looked for love, it's a reasonable assumption that you too, have been "Teo'd." All this chatter about being duped by falling for a woman who never existed is causing those of us who have previously tried online dating to share our own personal stories. Manti Te'o isn't the first person to have had the wool pulled over his eyes via modern technology... he shares his hoax woes with many other dupers and probably a few dupees.

Dating nowadays is nothing like it used to be. The ice cream social and sock hops of yester-year have been replaced with chemistry quizzes, compatibility tests, winks, favorites.... and then a ridiculous amount of emails and texting, until maybe you get an actual live voice on the other line. Drinks and coffee are now exchanged for Facetime or Skype, and those forbidden make-out sessions that we all had in 7 Minutes in the Closet have now been reduced to sexting. So it's no wonder that so many people find themselves having "relationships" with fictitious characters posing as a potential life partners.

These "relationship artists" have figured out how to weave their way into our vulnerable hearts; preying on our deep desires to be loved. We open our hearts, our minds and sometimes our bank accounts -- all in an effort to "connect." Are we just naïve, so blinded by the want of a love affair? Or are they just that good?

When I asked friends, "How many of you have been duped by an online dating experience or by someone you've met in the traditional sense?" the responses were both heartbreaking and a little telling about our level of trust towards a stranger. The stories are endless; riddled with broken trust and despair, sprinkled with some humility and occasionally a little bit of humor:

He knew I was getting suspicious about him. Then finally he sent me pictures. I studied and analyzed the pictures. I did this because I was in love with this very handsome guy. I would stare at his picture a lot. So as I looked at the new pictures he sent, it dawned on me that this guy was not real. He had sent me pictures out of a magazine! I was heart broken, literally. I cried because I had fallen in love with a picture out of a magazine. I realized that it was probably an ugly, fat guy on the other end of my emails. I stopped all contact, deleted my email account.

We had days of talking, via email, and had finally made a date to have drinks. I gave him my phone number and within about 20 minutes of that plan; his profile was deleted and he was never to be heard of again.

I met a guy online and we dated for several months before a friend of a friend happened to find out that he was married. Broke my heart and worse of all, I have always had such tremendous guilt over it.

I met a woman on Match who stated she was also in her "early 40s. Her pictures matched the bio, so I replied to her solicitation. When we met, she clearly looked to be in her late 60s. That date couldn't have ended quicker.

We met online. She said she was single and never married. It bothered me a bit that our exchanges were mostly over text and that our phone calls were at odd hours, but I knew how busy she was with work, so I ignored it. But then one night, I was meeting some buddies for a burger after playing ball and there she was. I saw my "girlfriend" sitting at a table with a man and two children; she was a wearing a huge wedding ring and was stroking the arm of the man. My heart raced, I walked over to the table not knowing what I was going to say... we locked eyes, she looked panicked, so I just kept walking. She texted me immediately, saying "I am so sorry I can't see you anymore."

Whether you meet online or in person, the potential for having your heartbroken is the same. We open our hearts with the intention of filling it with hope and love and most of us believe in the "happily ever after fairytale," leaving us wide open for those keen manipulators to infiltrate. We just have to remind ourselves to find a healthy balance between staying open and available, while also paying attention to the sirens going off in our guts.

Happy Valentine's Day!