Around this time last year, I was logging back onto Tinder after yet another failed attempt at dating in the big city. I had just matched with this really cute guy, so we were chatting and laughing about how awkward it is to meet someone in person after you’ve only talked to them online. So we agreed to meet up that week, in hopes that we could sit across from each other, praying that the other person isn’t batshit crazy. Pretty freakin’ ironic now, if you ask me.
We agreed on a morning coffee date – and for those who don’t know me, that’s totally my jam. I’m not a night owl by any means and I love the idea of being able to connect over a warm beverage in the midst of cold winter. There’s something kinda romantic about it too. From the minute he walked into the cafe, I smiled, then stood right up and gave him a big hug. We connected immediately, continuing the laughter, chatting about our lives, our families and all of the things we loved to do. Our legs kept brushing up against each other and I couldn’t help but notice how much his photos didn’t even do him one bit of justice. He was absolutely gorgeous and even the sound of his voice made me feel weak in the knees.
He asked if he could drive me home, even though he lived quite close to the cafe. It was winter and I felt like I wanted to spend as much time as possible with this person, so I said yes. On the drive home in his big country-boy truck with camo print seats, fishing gear and old school country music blaring, we laughed some more. At one point, he even reached over and put his hand on my leg, then looked right at me all cute with his big brown eyes and asked if we could see each other again. I remember blushing so hard my face felt hot. And of course, I said yes immediately.
We texted non-stop after that, until he came over to my place the week after. He had been out drinking with friends, so he got dropped off at my house a little tipsy. When he walked in, he kissed me right away and I just couldn’t help myself. I was putty in his hands from that moment on and I fell for him completely. After some of the best sex I’ve ever had in my life, he said something along the lines of “listen, we don’t have to see each other every day or talk all the time, but I’d like to keep doing this.” (insert red flag number one here). I told him that I wasn’t looking for something purely physical and that if I wanted sex, I could just go out and get it. But I wanted something more, something real. I’m not sure if it ever really registered with him, but I kept seeing him regardless. Way to stick to your guns, eh? *facepalm*
Days would go by, and then sometimes even weeks, where I wouldn’t hear from him at all. (insert even more red flags here). Even though I had expressed my interest in something more than a physical relationship, it turned into just that. I caved. Spring came, and then Summer. I would see him off and on, and had resigned myself to the fact that even though my feelings were pretty strong, it was what it was. Some nights, he would say he was coming over and then just wouldn’t show up at all, and then I wouldn’t hear from him until the following week. And yet, I looked the other way. I continued to go on dates with other people without sleeping with anyone else, because no one even came close to comparing to him. Even though, in hindsight, I should never have been thinking that way in the first place.
Every single time we hung out, I fell for him even harder. We would always laugh, talk and truly connect in some way or another. We’d have incredible sex that somehow just kept getting better and better every time. He had me trying new things and opening up like I never have with anyone else. The nights when he would sleep over were the best, because he would hold me the whole time, making me feel safe and waking me up every now and then to just kiss me, or more. Waking up in the morning beside him had me reeling for days. It was obvious that he had me completely wrapped around his finger.
I’d talk about it with my friends and they’d beg me to stop seeing him, because they knew that I deserved better and they saw how much energy it was taking out of me to give so much and only get the smallest piece of him in return. He once told me that he didn’t want to date or be in a relationship with anyone, but maybe one day I could be the one to “convince” him. (Anyone else keeping track of all of those red flags yet??)
He always seemed to just dip his toes in the water with me. He’d say something that kept me hanging on even tighter, but without having to commit too much to me in return. And then one day in the Fall, I was out of town for a friends wedding and we were messaging back and forth. He asked me if I could stop seeing anyone else because he had been seriously considering dating me. We talked all day about how amazing it would be to give this a real shot and I decided to agree, since I didn’t really want to be with anyone else anyways. I was so patient with him, not wanting to push him too hard because I knew this was a big step for him, considering what the last 9 months had been like with him.
From then on, he started to make more of an effort. I explained to my friends and family that I was starting to see the actual possibility of this going somewhere and about how I just needed to see it through. I started to see him every week consistently, during the week days only, and he would continue to talk about us working towards dating each other. Heck, he brought up the possibility of us living together so many times and even the idea of marriage twice. Each time, getting closer and closer, but I continued to not push him – I just let him work through it. I wanted to give him space to do what he needed to do and then when he felt ready, I would be there for him. In the meantime, I wasn’t seeing anyone else and had built up this whole idea of us being together in my head – obviously with his help. Unfortunately, that was my biggest mistake in all of this.
He started to go home on weekends, more frequently during hunting season. I would text him and my messages wouldn’t go through sometimes, or say “delivered” as they do in iMessage. Now, where he’s from, it can get pretty remote – especially if he’s out hunting. So one week when he was back, he asked if I had been texting him on the weekend because he didn’t see anything come through and then proceeded to explain that sometimes the reception is really bad. Now, I’m not naive, but I believed him. Until I figured out that even if his reception was bad, he would still eventually get my messages. He was clearly blocking me when he was going home on weekends… but the question was, “why?”
Around December 21st, I hadn’t heard from him in a week and a half, which was not his style anymore, considering how consistent he had been with me over the past couple of months. But he reached out to apologize and it sparked likely the most intense conversation we ever had about us being together. And then, days later it was the holidays. I sent him a message on December 24th because it was my birthday and I didn’t hear from him. It didn’t go through. Ohhh joy. Sometimes he left me with so little to work with, that I would go looking for something. It didn’t happen often, but in times like these, my gut was finally telling me something was up.
I went onto his Instagram and clicked on the tagged photos of him. On December 24th, there was a photo of him and his family having dinner. Sitting right beside him was a girl I didn’t recognize from any other photos. I clicked on her name and her account was private, but I did see that her and my cousin were friends. Initially, I panicked. But after talking to a friend and getting down off of a ledge, I convinced myself that she was a cousin or a family member and went on with my holidays. But clearly, this was in the back of my mind. On December 26th, like clockwork, he reached out and came over to my place. As usual, we had sex, laid in bed talking about our holidays, ate some Christmas cookies, talked about an ice fishing trip we were planning together, had sex again and then he headed out. Little did I know then, that would be the last time I’d see him.
As it was nearing New Years, he went MIA again. I moved out of the city right at the beginning of January and still didn’t hear from him. Now, the town where I moved is somewhere that he had suggested I go, mostly because he thought I would like it (and he was right), but he also had suggested it because he said he was going to be buying a house just north of it. We talked about how he would be over here quite often and how nice it would be to be able to come home to each other every day. I heard from him a couple of days after I moved into my new place. He made plans with me twice and didn’t show up both times. One time he went radio silent and the other time he actually had an excuse. Either way, I had a really bad feeling and had already expressed it to a few people, without bringing it up to him once.
A friend of mine came up for the second weekend in my new place, to help me paint. We chatted all about how I was feeling and we both agreed that I should reach out to my cousin to see if she could help to clear things up for me. My cousin confirmed that him and the girl in the photo were in fact dating. I explained to her all about how I knew him and she was furious – for me and her friend. Initially, I had asked her not to tell his girlfriend because I didn’t want to get involved in all the drama. I went on with my day and decided that I needed to finally cut him loose, for good. I mean, let’s be honest, I should have done this a long time ago, right? But, easier said than done after completely falling for someone and then wrapping your whole life around them.
A few days later, my cousin reached out to let me know that she didn’t feel that it was right to not tell her friend what was going on. By then, I had had some time to think and completely agreed. I would want to know, if that were me. I mean, heck, I’m glad I found out about what was going on and we weren’t even officially dating. Over the next couple of days, I blocked his number and waited for the other shoe to drop. I told my cousin that if her friend wanted to talk to me, that I would be receptive, as uncomfortable as it all may be for both of us.
In the meantime, I had kept my dating profiles open, even though I wasn’t seeing anyone else. So, I decided to go out on a date with this really great guy. On the night we went out, I came home to a message from my cousin saying that she had told her friend and now her friend wanted to speak to me. She reached out within the hour, so I asked her to call me. What proceeded was a full blown conversation about how she had been official with him since July, that he had told her that he wasn’t with anyone else, and that since she lived out of town, she had been seeing him every weekend. Heck, she was even planning on giving her notice at work so they could get a place together in the city where he works. He was fucking blocking me while he was with her, creating two separate lives with two separate people. I told her everything she wanted to know, while trying to be respectful of her feelings and of how truly severe this was on her end.
The next few days, her and I texted back and forth, going through details and asking each other questions. She was able to see him and meet with his family, in order to confront him and deal with some much bigger issues, about which I was unaware. As far as I know, it’s over between them, he acknowledged most of what happened between us, and he’s getting the help he so desperately needs. One thing I’ve learned is that he has pretty incredible taste in women, we just have awful taste in men. We’re both quite alike and we actually get along really well, which might seem a bit weird, all things considered. But, instead of tearing each other down and blaming each other, we actually helped each other through it, supported each other and even encouraged each other with kind words and unwavering strength.
Even as I’m writing this, the wound still feels pretty darn fresh. The metaphorical body’s still warm, so to speak. It’s been about a week and a half since I found out and my heart is far from still being in one piece. And although I’m trying to put myself in her place, since she was in much deeper than I was, it still hurts me. She got some semblance of closure with him and I never will. I may never see him or speak to him ever again, and I have to be okay with this. I have to be okay with the fact that, although right now I feel somewhat responsible for this mess because I kept letting him get away with it time and time again, ultimately his actions were his actions alone.
So, I’ve decided that I’m accepting an apology that I will never get, for everything he put me through, for the web of lies he carefully weaved for so long, for the way he treated and manipulated me, and for putting me in this awful position in the end. But mostly, if he were sitting right in front of me right now, I would want to thank him. Thank him for showing me that, as toxic as it all was, I can still see the good in someone, love without boundaries and then move on from it with grace and courage. And thank him for showing me what I deserve, because that’s so much fucking better than him.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Catherine Sugrue)