I suck at relationships. My last experience in a serious relationship left me fearful of commitment and wary of the opposite gender.
I spent my years in text-everyday non-relationships… until I decided I was sick of it all because they just got me nowhere.
Then last week, I watched The Tinder Swindler.
Cecilie Fjellhøy is a 33-year-old Norwegian working as a senior user experience designer in a MNC. The Netflix documentary opens with her sitting in a dimly lit room. Her eyes brighten up as she talks about love – specifically, her desire for love.
“I think life is about love, because the most happiest times I’ve had is when I’ve been in love. That’s what’s most amazing about love – no matter how many heartbreaks you’ve had, you still go after it.”
At the time of filming, Cecilie had been on Tinder for seven years and had 1,024 matches on the dating app.
“I’m after that all-consuming, the kind of… What you’ve grown up with. The first memories that I have about love is Disney.”
She was consumed, for sure, but definitely not in the way she imagined.
Cecilie does go on to find a prince charming in the form of Simon Leviev, a self-proclaimed heir to a diamond dynasty who eventually leaves her with a debt of over US$200,000 and her life in tatters.
To all the boys I have loved
At many points throughout the documentary, I wanted to scream at Cecilie.
Red flag! The guy is sus! End it now! Run!
As I watched Cecilie throw herself into financial and emotional carnage, I felt myself strangely relating to her experience.
I’ve never been financially scammed by my ex or any of the text-everyday non-boyfriends, thankfully. But there was one thing I shared in common with Cecilie – ignoring all the red flags.
I behaved like a clown to earn myself some brownie points. I was deeply enamoured and fiercely determined to make things work.
Oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin rolled up to the party and left me all giddy. Rational reasoning left the chat.
The red flags waved furiously in the distance. But the fierce fire of the desire to be loved burned away at me.
The senior who texted me every day because he thought I was another girl.
I continued with the charade because I knew that it would all end once he knew he was texting the wrong number. He thought he was in love with his dream girl, and I was in love with the illusion.
The friend who I thought was interested in me but actually wanted to pursue a mutual friend.
He asked me to pick his outfits, hung around me all the time and was deeply invested in my schedule and who I was with. All this just so that he could get closer to that girl. I gullibly went along with all of that because I thought I was being pursued.
The guy who bared his heart to me over text every day for more than two years.
He told me everything about himself, and we often talked till the wee hours of the morning. I would stay up to help him complete his projects and look through his work for him. We felt oddly close virtually, but there was nothing in real life. He would ghost me for a few days, then return like nothing happened. Eventually my patience wore thin, and I decided to ghost him for good.
The man I almost married.
I desperately wanted a happy ending, so I put up with all kinds of abusive comments he made about me, my body and my family. I held it all in because I wanted to hold on to his promise of a married life together. All I got in return was a break-up text on our anniversary.
In my pursuit of a romantic delusion, I have at many points lost my head and my dignity.
Like Cecilie, I definitely felt the hesitation and the doubt. The red flags waved furiously in the distance. But the fierce fire of the desire to be loved burned away at me.
What can I give to be loved? Please like me, I will like you back. Please don’t be in love with someone else.
In the aftermath of my traumatic break-up, I wrote a long text to that man, offering to give in to whatever he wanted, just so that we could go back to before. So that I could be together with someone.
If I was not genuinely loved, then at the very least I was taken. That must mean something, right?
His less-than-cordial reply came three days later and burned through my mobile screen and into the back of my head: Get a grip. This isn’t a divorce.
I was truly swindled. By my own delusion of what love should be, and of my own heart.
I waltzed right into my own failed attempts at relationships blindfolded because I never knew how to tame my longing to be loved.
Will anyone see my longing to be loved?
I consider myself to be an old soul. I will never make the first move because I want to experience the certainty of being pursued and loved by a man. (Disclaimer: I don’t think this applies to everyone.)
And I always relate to the love triangle of Jacob, Leah and Rachel in the Bible.
Jacob was equally blinded by his own desire for Rachel. Swindled by his father-in-law into marrying Leah, Rachel’s sister, Jacob waited 14 years before he could be with Rachel.
Leah is never loved by Jacob – at least not in the same way as Rachel, and not in the way most women would want – even though she bears him children. It’s a very upsetting story, and there is no happy ending for Leah.
Did Leah long to be loved? For sure.
Did she ever find love with the man who was her husband? Sadly, no.
All of us naturally would want to be a Rachel. The woman who was beautiful, pursued and adored by her lover. But most of the time, many of us end up going through what Leah did.
But the Bible says that on separate occasions, God saw and listened to Leah.
When Leah was invisible to her husband, she was seen by God – with all her insecurities, her desires and longings.
What Leah could not find in a man, she found with God. He loved her, He stood by her, He pursued her, He showed up for her.
This is the all-consuming love I truly want.
So back to Cecilie. I didn’t lose a fortune like she did, but there were other things I’ve lost in my pursuit of love. Time. Effort. Dignity. Dreams.
How far will I go for love? If I have to be completely honest, I don’t know if I’m ever able to love someone again after all that I’ve been through.
Maybe it’s the fear that’s speaking. Maybe it’s my self-preservation instincts kicking in. But one thing for sure is that the longing still remains. I don’t disregard it – I still want to be pursued and loved.
According to Netflix, over the course of two years between 2017-2019, Simon Leviev (who is actually Shimon Hayut) had stolen around US$10 million, all from different victims across the globe.
For these victims, it wasn’t just the huge sum of money involved. They were swindled of their love, their trust, their dreams and their hopes.
The documentary closes with Cecilie, back in the same dimly lit room. The interviewer asks if the experience has scarred her for good. Her eyes light up again. She doesn’t back down.
“I’m still looking for love. Always.”
Her reply concerns me slightly. But I can identify and I can relate. And most importantly, I now know better.
- What are some things you have done/lengths you have gone for love?
- What kind of impact has the lack of love (e.g. romantic, familial) had on your life?
- What does the Bible say about the kind of love that God has towards us?