I Fell In Love With Someone Who Doesn’t Exist

Two weeks ago today, I came home from a trip to Germany and lived out my ultimate airport rom-com fantasy. I ran down the ramp and zig-zagged through a crowd of suitcases right into my boyfriend’s arms at Pearson airport. He hugged me with tears in his eyes and told me how much he’d missed me. Then taking my hand, he turned to me and asked me to promise him that’d we be together forever.

I grinned at him, the person I planned to marry one day, and said ‘it’s a fact’. And so we went home together, to the condo we shared with our roommate, Dana. He had just moved in with me, and in fact had been staying at the condo while I was in Germany, to water my plants and feed Dana’s cat. The way I saw it, we had just begun our life together. From then on, wherever he was would be home.

The underlying truth as I discovered approximately 11 hours after my romantic return to Toronto, is that I had fallen in love with a fake person. The person I considered my home doesn’t exist. And the reason I know this is because the person I went to bed with that night woke me up only a few hours later and blurted out that he had cheated on me. In fact, he’d been cheating on me the whole time we were together (with a close friend of his). Unfortunately, that’s not something I found out all at once. A long three days dragged on before I got the entire story out of him. It started with him admitting that it had happened twice, once about a month after we started dating last October, and once while I was in Germany. The first time he was drunk, he said, he barely remembered it. And the second time she had been consoling him about his late cat. I suppose I was meant to believe that was ok because I was in Germany, and therefore unable to console him about the dead cat.

After an exhaustive amount of questioning, I unraveled enough of his lies to know that it hadn’t happened twice. There’d been more like 10 instances of varying infidelity. (Dana and I created a points system for sex, kissing and oral in order to come up with that total). For moral reasons, I can’t discuss all of the details that were finally exposed to me. But I can tell you that I have to tiptoe around my lovely red Ikea carpet, that I’ve been sleeping in Dana’s bed instead of mine and that I have a hard time being in the shower for too long. The deep feeling of betrayal that I feel derives not only from sex, but from a year of being lied to and gaslighted by someone who claimed to care about me. But before we delve any further, I’d like to point out that I’m not the only woman in this story that he took advantage of. I have no hatred for the other girl. She is someone that cared and may care about him very much and while it isn’t for me to decide, I feel that he took advantage of her nearly as much as he did me. In the end, she was very transparent with me and I’m grateful to her for that. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t meet her in a different context.

I reflect on all this now with the clarity of purely justified anger, but the first few days were more confusing than that. When I woke up at 3 in the morning to see the boy I loved hysterically crying, my instinctive reaction was to comfort him, regardless of the subject matter. So even hours into knowing some of the more detrimental details, I couldn’t stop myself from behaving towards him in the same way I always had. We both called in sick to work that first day and spent it consoling each other. It felt to me that if one of us would leave the room for even a minute too long, the illusion of love that we were trying to preserve would shatter instantly. And I wasn’t prepared to lose that love just yet. So we remained attached at the hip for the next 48 hours, even when I discovered more layers to his lies. Those first two days were the most torturous because I was trying so desperately hard to forgive something that I was incapable of forgiving. It wasn’t until late the second night, that I had the confidence to try and create space between us. I asked him to sleep at his sister’s house and within an hour of being alone, was flooded with new clarity. I sent him a long, and may I add, eloquent, breakup text. Unfortunately, I was also drunk and when he read my message in the middle of the night, I couldn’t stop myself from answering his phone call. Once again I was thrown into default mode: comfort the boy I love. I retracted the breakup and tried as hard as I could to calm him down between my own tears. He came over at 8 am the next morning and we fell asleep beside each other. And so commenced the last day that I really loved him. We consoled each other just like the previous days, but I think I knew deep down that I was gearing up to end it. I couldn’t rationalize with that on the surface, but I know it was there somewhere inside of me. The thing is, even though the person that I fell in love with doesn’t exist, I still wanted to say goodbye to him. So I played pretend for one last day.

It’s only been a week since we’ve completely ended contact. I’ve swung between feelings of remorse for the relationship I lost, and intense anger towards the person who cheated on me. Reconciling that those two people are the same is an ongoing process. Even after I officially broke it off, I had a couple low moments where I craved his voice. I’d be doing something mundane like walking to the grocery store and I’d catch myself wondering where he was. Because I never did stuff like that alone. If I ever had free time from work or school, he was there. Which is another reason that I’m grateful for the clarity this situation has given me. I’ve never experienced a breakup that I didn’t blame myself for in some way. I may miss the relationship I thought we shared, but I have no desire for the person who hid behind it. He’s a coward and in many ways, I hate him. Of course, that doesn’t void the feelings I experienced all year long. I loved him deeply and entirely and I’m proud of myself for doing that. But I am seeing for the first time how dependent I was on him, and how limiting that was for me. I struggled to do things for myself. I made him my passion, and my hobby. I was perfectly ready to spend the rest of my life consumed by this person. So thank fucking god, he forced me out.

I’ve written about feeling dependent on romantic relationships before. In fact, you might note a specific blog post I wrote years ago in which I apologized to multiple women in my life for neglecting them in the light of romantic relations (To All The Girls That I’ve Let Down) or another post in which I wrote about my inability to walk away from romantic pursuits (On Quitting Boys (And Taking Back My Heart) Unlearning this priority towards men has taken me years, but this specific experience struck a real chord. For the first time in my years of dating, I don’t feel sad and hopeless over the loss of a boyfriend. I feel strong. I feel some irrational anger towards the general male public, but I feel strong. I have no interest in a relationship right now and I feel committed to my goals. When I was dating this boy, I’d give away multiple shifts in a week just to hang out with him and now I’m working more then I’ve ever worked because I’m determined to make money and live on my own. And I know that I can do that. I trust myself to do that.

So here it is ladies, we don’t need men to lean on. Particularly not the kind that lie and manipulate others to their own advantage. The boy that did this to me, told me that he loved me more than anything in the world. He knew exactly what to tell me to get what he wanted. The boy that did this to me, pit the women in his life against each other because he knew collectively we’d see through him. He lied to his female friends and used their insecurities against them. He lied to me, and the girl he cheated with. He even lied to his mom.

In part this is a warning, because the boy who did this to me will do this to the next girl who falls for him. But mostly it’s a statement of liberation, because he won’t be doing it to me. And with my next click, his true sexist and narcissistic behaviour will be forever eternalized on the internet.

 

 

 

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