“You can find anything on Craigslist. I found my obsession, my worst nightmare.”

Around Christmastime, he called me up and told me, “I want to meet you tonight.”
Around Christmastime, he called me up and told me, “I want to meet you tonight.”
Image: Charlz Gutiérrez De Piñeres/Unsplash
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This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for over two years. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. Read more here. Names have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.

Lindsay, late 40’s

My husband and I were going through a really rough patch. My mother had just passed away and I felt lost and like my mourning would never end. Ed travels so much for work and he wasn’t even trying to be there for me. I told him many times that I needed more—that I needed him to be there for me—but nothing ever changed. So I detached, emotionally and physically.

Really, I was craving attention—the high that comes from knowing that you’re still wanted and attractive to somebody. I guess you could say my mother’s death pushed me straight into a midlife crisis because I started caring about my looks more, putting a little more makeup on in the morning, taking a little more time with my night routine. And I started working out, too. I lost all that extra weight I’d packed on over 20+ years of marriage and several children.

I decided I was going to post an ad on Craigslist for the sole purpose of having an affair. My ad said that I was looking for somebody—a workout buddy—who wanted to work out with me at my gym. I got hundreds of responses but one, in particular, caught my attention. He sent me a photo of his body, which was—and I’m not exaggerating—spectacular. He was years younger than me, former military, and married with children.

I responded, and I was hooked. He seemed too good to be true. He sent me rapid-fire e-mails with photos of himself (full body, naked) and his face. I started feeling like I was being catfished because I was pushing to meet up, but he kept telling me to be patient. On a whim, I looked up the name he’d given me on Facebook. I never thought that he’d be using his real name—that’s a recipe for disaster, personally and career-wise. But there he was: flesh and blood, with a gorgeous wife. I thought, what the hell does this guy want with me? That she was basically perfect only made me feel better about myself, and it fueled my obsession to finally meet up with him.

We started chatting on video and he showed me his surroundings. Turns out, he was working overseas and would be home in a few weeks. The more obsessed I became with him, the more he backed off. The more I backed off—and I did, a few times—the more interested he seemed to become. It was a cat and mouse game. I finally told him—“listen, this isn’t about sex for me. This is about getting the attention I’m not getting at home. And if you’re unavailable, that just makes everything worse. So please stop texting me. Stop calling me. Just let me move on.” I left it up to him because I was sure I didn’t have the strength to cut him off myself.

The silence would last a day, and then he was back at it. Around Christmastime, he called me up and told me, “I want to meet you tonight.”

We met in his car. He kissed like a cow. He had an extremely large nose, and he smelled weird. And I thought to myself, “God, I’m not attracted to this guy at all.” But I didn’t know how to get out of there. He asked if I wanted to see his privates and I said yes, mostly because I thought that I’d give him oral and then get out of there and never have to see him again. I did it, and then I left. He texted me after, “that was hot.”

I tried to break things off again, but he just kept going with the texts and photos. He seemed at once very insecure and very full of himself. He craved the ego boost, I guess. He told me he’d only had two previous affairs, and that he’d never before posted on Craigslist. And slowly but surely, he started pushing the envelope: he wanted to come over to my place while my husband was away and the kids were at school. I said no.

I met him again, same place as before, same drill. Afterwards, I sent him a text saying that he felt too uninvolved and that it wasn’t working for me. And he never wrote me back.

Days go by with no word. I go back on Craigslist and, sure enough, I see that he’s posted an ad with a photo of his body on it. It was one of the photos he’d sent me. I made a different e-mail account and responded to his ad. And the e-mails and photos that followed, from him, were exactly the same as the first time around. He had a routine—he’d done this before.

I did a little bit of digging and I saw that he’d left a photo tag in one of his photos—it was taken two years ago, in 2016, and the tag had his home address on it. It almost felt like he wanted to get caught. He gave me his real name. I know his home address. I know his employer. I know what his wife and kids look like. It would not be difficult for me to cause problems for him.

I feel stupid. I shared things with him that are very intimate. I feel embarrassed about what I did. He’s talking to other girls—I’m certain of it. For him, this was just another fling. And I’m married with kids. I’m unhappy I’m doing this. My husband and I have talked about separating but that doesn’t excuse what I’m doing. I know I’m still cheating.

Things at home are not fixable. Ed doesn’t want therapy. He’s let himself go and gained a ton of weight. I’m scared to leave. I’m scared of the unknown. How are the kids going to react to a divorce? Can I afford to leave? Ideally, it would end if Ed had enough confidence to get out. I certainly don’t. So I’m back at it on Craigslist. I’m talking to other guys now. It feels good to get all this attention. This could go on indefinitely.