‘My marriage came to an end in 2007. My husband had just lost his mum and I had just lost my dad. The recession had hit and we lost the business we had built together. The marriage just hit the rocks.
There are three sides to every story: mine, his and the story we retell ourselves. From my point of view, we were the perfect couple just six months earlier. Then everything came crumbling down.
I was 39 at the time and had a four-year-old, an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old. As a woman, you feel like your job is to keep the family unit together. I wasn’t in a financial situation to move out so my husband and I continued to share the same bed, only with a barricade of pillows down the middle of it.
It was a horrible time and I couldn’t stop crying. I remember one of the kids saying, ‘Mum, do you cry all the time?’ I wasn’t overweight but I lost two stone and I became really skinny and gangly.
Around six months later, I started online dating and matched with ‘Jason’, an engineer from Cork. He was blond and blue-eyed and Swedish-looking, which is the complete opposite to what I normally go for.
Jason established a bond between us in the first few messages. He told me his wife died of cancer and he had kids the same age as my kids. I told him I loved horses and he said he loved horses too. When I was talking about business, he loved to talk about business. Whatever I talked about, he loved to talk about. I thought it was uncanny the amount of things we had in common.
We messaged each other for about an hour in the morning and evening, sending quick one-liner texts back and forth. He would say things like, ‘I feel there is a connection between us’ and he kept calling me his ‘emerald lass’ because I have green eyes. He said, ‘I keep looking at the picture I have of you and I get drawn in every time I see you’.
Then he’d send another picture and I’d actually feel like he was looking straight at me. He sent one of him with his daughter, with his arms around her, and he looked so caring.
The most sexual it got in that time was when he said, ‘I’d love to lie beside you and hold you’. I believe a lot of online fraudsters go into sexual talk very quickly but he was too cute to go there with me.
About a month after we started messaging, he said, ‘I think I’m falling in love with you’, and I actually felt the same. I almost went so far as to imagine my future with this guy. He had become my anchor.
I remember running up the stairs to have a quick look at the computer to see if he had sent me a message. Even my ex-husband was saying, ‘What are you rushing off to?’.
At this point, Jason said he was based in South Africa for work, but that he’d really like to travel back to Ireland to see me. He said he booked a Radisson Hotel and I asked him why he wouldn’t book a hotel closer to me. He said, ‘I like a nice life’, or something like that, and I thought that was weird.
Considering he wouldn’t have transport, why wouldn’t he book a hotel closer to the person he was coming to see? That was a red flag for me.
A few days later, he said his jeep was hijacked. And even though I was head over heels about this guy, I thought, yeah, sure. Then he said he needed €2,500 for flights. I said, ‘Seriously, are you asking me for €2,500?’ and he said, ‘No, I’m not asking for it, but I can’t come until I raise the money’.
I hadn’t spoken to him on the phone at this point so I walked outside and rang him on the 086 number he gave me. I heard the international dial tone and then, when he answered, I knew immediately he sounded like he was from overseas.
So when I heard his voice, I said, straight off, ‘You’re not from Cork! I know the accent.’ I said to him, ‘don’t lie to me!’
And he actually said, ‘I’m so sorry, this is what I do… but I have fallen for you’. I told him he was lying cheat and that I didn’t want to hear from him again. I felt like a complete fool.
I thought I’d never hear from him again but he rang me the next day and said, ‘Are you OK?’ and ’Is there any way you can make it work with your husband?’
It sounds terrible but I actually believe he was sorry. He had no reason to ring me back the next day. In a way, I think he actually had fallen for me. There was a connection. He was a scam artist but the giggles and laughs we were having together — you couldn’t make those up!
Since then, I’ve started working as a matchmaker and dating coach and I have four clients who had similar experiences: three women who gave the men they fell for between €3,000 and €6,000 and one guy who gave a woman €7,000. He wouldn’t go to the police because he felt so stupid.
I spoke to a headmistress recently who got scammed and you’d look at her and think nobody would mess her around.
It just goes to show that anyone can become vulnerable and get caught out. There are opportunists out there and they know that we’re all looking for love. They know every trick under the sun to reel you in.
I dated for a while after meeting ‘Jason’ and then, two years later, my husband and I got back together. We realised that three things are needed to get a marriage back: affection, attention and appreciation.
I honestly believe everything happens for a reason and I’m now teaching an online course in dating. I really believe my purpose is to help people get over their heartbreak faster. There is always a brighter future out there, when you believe it.”