Having spent the last nine years in a long-term relationship, I found myself unwittingly stepping into the pool of online seduction. It started innocently enough, an online flirtation via Facebook. But little did I know how caught up I would become. Having experienced others attempting to engage me in conversation via Messenger, there was one who captured my attention. Gorgeous, mysterious, living out in the sticks in Montana after having traveled the country for a number of years, he reached out to me one day. Prior to that, our communication was limited to friendly posts on one another’s Facebook status updates.
Our exchanges intensified at an accelerating rate. We flirted, made each other laugh, an online romance was in full swing. It was intense and passionate, the very qualities that had been desperately missing from my past long-term relationship. He would write me prose, send me videos and we both expressed our longing for one another. Each new message from him was greeted with the excitement and anticipation felt by a child waking up to a long-coveted Christmas gift under the tree. Bleary eyed, I would awaken in the early morning hours just to see if he had messaged me, I would light up inside when I saw that he had. Stolen moments at work and during my lunch hour were spent messaging each other. I could feel the reward centers in my brain lighting up like a pinball machine. It was euphoric and intoxicating.
He was due to return to the east coast and we would talk of finally meeting. He told me he was falling in love with me and the feeling was mutual. Once that day came, I dreamed of us having a deepened level of communication with semi-nightly phone calls, plans to visit, running into his arms at the airport. When we discussed meeting finally for the first time, I was bursting with anticipation. That was until I received a late-night text saying he was sick and couldn’t make it. So, I gave him the benefit of the doubt but with each conversation, the promise of us finally being together was dangled in front of me like a carrot, yet I had a sinking feeling that day would never come. I couldn’t help but notice that our level of communication remained stagnant when I was hoping that it would deepen and accelerate. I asked him to call me and he said he would, that he wanted to hear my voice. So, I am messaging him and noticed that although he remained online for hours, my message was not responded to and the expected call never came.
Was he pulling away or messaging anyone else? Questions of that nature were dismissed or met with outright hostility. Articulation of my fears and concerns were met with attacks and accusations, with him accusing me of being interested in someone else. He skillfully twisted my words, questions, and fears in such a way that placed all blame on me; according to him, everything that had gone wrong was my fault. Being convinced that it was, I would apologize. I still clung desperately to the vision of him and our relationship and the promise that I felt it had from the beginning. I would find myself trying to placate him, to win back his affections. Transgressions were greeted with the threat of him ending it, delaying the possibility of meeting until one day, he found a reason to lash out at me during what I thought was a fairly mundane text conversation. And that was when I knew this fantasy I held onto for dear life would never be realized.
What I now realize is that this whole relationship was an illusion. I invested my heart, my desires, and emotions into something that was virtual, something that was not real. I became enmeshed with someone who was basically a stranger. My rational mind knew this but the longings of my heart drowned it out. I deactivated my Facebook account but found myself creeping back into messenger just to see if he sent me a message. I escaped into a fantasy world, my heart captured by a man who would continually keep me at a distance, something I knew could drag on for months. Although my relationship wasn’t real, my heartbreak and sense of loss were all too real.