As I laid in bed with that endless ache in my stomach, and yet another sleepless night, the answer finally became clear… for all those years, I had been the “other woman.” All those around me knew, and now, I knew it, too. As I faced this demeaning conclusion, it felt like I was in some alter-reality or some kind of twisted movie. Sometimes, our mind decides to deny the truth, even though our heart will never lie to us. And my gullibility led me down a three-year fabricated relationship.
Like most women my age, I was skeptical of using an online dating method to meet a man. But, hell, I’m smart, confident, and I was ready… A few months later, I grew disappointed in this pathway to dating and was about to delete my account when I received his message- “Hey, since you made me your ‘favorite,’ I’ll have to take you out for a drink.” I didn’t remember his profile, and I definitely didn’t remember choosing him as my “favorite.” But, there was a level of charisma that compelled me to answer him. A couple days later, I apprehensively showed up to a local restaurant. Standing alone at the bar, I was drawn to a tall, handsome man with dark hair and dressed casually in jeans, yet his sophisticated collared shirt said he was confident, successful, and put time into selecting his attire. I felt the butterflies instantly surface as I approached him with a sincere smile.
He was a gentleman, and he ensured I got home safely on our first date. He called the next day and he kept the conversation short, concise, and made me laugh enough to agree to see him again. The series of dates that followed were filled with a lot of laughing. I felt alive, attractive, and for the first time, hopeful that I had found what modern love feels like after divorce. I actually felt, happy.
My story isn’t about how a love transpired, in fact this is about the fallacy of love. One that resulted in all-consuming agony. As I candidly share these details, I am humiliated. How was it possible to allow someone of this caliber to penetrate their way into my life with such deception?
We synched our schedules based around our child custody arrangements. It was clear from the start that our children were first priority, and I believed our relationship was a close second. Seeing each other once a week was enough for a while. I wanted to break the fear of meeting each other’s children, and begin to move forward and integrate our lives. I felt strong, and ready to begin a new and exciting chapter in my life… And when I expressed these desires, it all changed.
Our homes and families were only minutes apart, yet our worlds were completely separate. His schedule then became fuller- mostly with his frequent “work trips.” We typically met in the late evenings, and after his happy hours and dinners with “clients.” Or after his golf outings at the club, or his personal training sessions. And our time together consisted of “staying-in” because he was too tired from working and playing so hard. I slowly began to wonder why I wasn’t a part of any of these things, or why I didn’t hear from him during these times. So, I rationalized about how we are now busy adults, and perhaps this was how modern love is between two working, single parents making the best of a relationship. After all, I was 40, divorced, completing my doctorate, working, and raising two children. I thought, maybe I shouldn’t expect any more?
We carried on, and a year later, friends of mine confronted me with something they had seen. And although I felt a sharp stabbing pain through my heart, and I finally asked him why I was never invited to his country club; or why I never met a single member of his family, all of whom live nearby. The answers were always the same. He was a private, successful man, and he soothed me with promises, and I believed him that I was the only one… Another year in, I overheard a phone call, and once again felt that heart stabbing pain. This caused me to ask why we didn’t go anywhere in public together, or why I still haven’t met any of his friends, or a single family member. His answers were always convincing. It just wasn’t the right time, and I was being “paranoid.” Another year later, after numerous red flags, and being called “crazy” when asking questions, he cancelled on me last minute, yet again. I’m not sure what was different this time, but, I could no longer permit myself to feel so painfully hidden. I finally “woke up,” and I let the real pain seep its way to my core.
I had evolved through several long stages of what is now, understandable heartache. What followed my version of happiness, quickly grew an emptiness so unimaginably painful. I didn’t understand how I could be so lucky to be where I was in my life, yet feel so incredibly incomplete. After putting the pieces of my life back together after leaving a 10-year marriage, I thought I was too knowledgeable to stand for this. I believed in always doing the right thing, and I worked hard to be the best role model for my children. I couldn’t bear to feel the wall that I worked so hard to rebuild come crumbling down. So, for years I continued to store away his lies, and suppress all my valid emotion. My head became filled with so much confusion, and so much hurt, and I became a version of myself that no one would recognize. As I unraveled through this unresolved connection to him, I developed overall sadness, and such internal rage. The inner turmoil I felt that was killing me slowly had caused me to become mean and aggressive. The slow demise of my self-worth allowed this relationship to continue as long as it did. As these unclear deceptions constructed in my soul, I began to loathe my own existence.
I want to say I stayed because he offered me love, tender affection, and security; or one may think I stayed because he was supportive and gave me lavish gifts. However, none this accurate. The reality is that he provided me with nothing. I want to blame him for his lies and wasting years of my precious lifetime, however, I was the one who made the choice to believe him. I want to blame his arrogance, his narcissism, his limited capacity, but instead, I pity his cowardliness. I stayed because I created a delusion of fantasy that stemmed from fear of facing reality. So, how can one repair this convoluted heartbreak? The answer is simple, although the journey is not. The voice inside of us will never lie. But, this voice cannot be heard unless we assume our “whole self.” Once we can accept truth, and can forgive ourselves, we won’t tolerate those who mistreat us. When we learn to love ourselves, and only then, will we choose those who reciprocate our love, honor, and respect.
This is not the end of my love story. For me, repairing my broken heart means accepting where I am in my life and respecting the path that brought me here. I still have work to do, personal work that I avoided for so long. I know my loving self with feel the right answers and steer me in the right direction. I look forward to this new passage and welcoming the kindness and love that I deserve.