This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala started meeting people via Craigslist in 2014 and has been documenting their stories ever since. 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. To share your story with Helena, email her at email@example.com. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.
I met him online a year ago—on an app; he was 34 and I was 19. He told me that he was divorced and had children from his first marriage.
I know this may be hard to believe, but at first, I wanted nothing more than friendship from him. I was lonely. My parents have never been in the picture and I was raised by my grandmother. I don’t have very many close friends. We started talking every day through calls, texts, and Skype. He came to visit me and we had such an amazing time; he met my grandma. It wasn’t awkward at all, like I thought it might be. I felt like I had known him my whole life, and although we hadn’t planned to sleep together, we did. Now, I regret it so much.
A few days later, he left. I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was off. He talked about his ex-wife a lot—too much. One of my friends suggested that maybe he was still married. So I looked his “ex” up on Facebook and, sure enough, her status still said “married.” It made sense: he only called when he wasn’t in the house or when his kids weren’t home. I confronted him and he immediately admitted it. I felt disgusted with myself—that I had slept with someone who was married with children. But he was so convincing: he told me that he had no feelings for her, that they weren’t in love, and that he’d been trying to get a divorce. This was one of many red flags that I chose to overlook: that a man who has been with his wife for over 17 years suddenly doesn’t feel a thing for her anymore.
But I thought he was “the one.” I accepted his explanation. I haven’t forgiven him for lying to me and taking advantage of me when we met. I felt disgusting—sleeping with another woman’s husband. I didn’t care that he said their marriage was basically over. I cared about how she’d feel if she knew. I cared about how it made me the “homewrecker.” But, over time, I let go of it a little. I won’t lie to you.
During his last visit, I made him a cake for his birthday and he met my entire family. They all loved him, and it was a relief. He began talking about being with me as a life partner. I spent a lot of time trying to tell him that if he wanted me he needed to be decent about it. That meant actually going through with the divorce, and telling his family about me. That went on for months, until I delivered an ultimatum: her or me. He served his wife the divorce papers, and I finally felt like he was actually being serious with me. I was excited to start a new life with him.
Over the next few months, we planned for me to move all the way across the country to be with him. That’s what I did, and that’s why I’m here. But ever since I got here, he’s been different. He told me that he’s starting to feel emotionless and that he needs therapy. I felt like our connection was dissipating; I started acting out and going to extremes to get his attention. After he went to therapy—the Thursday after I got here—he came back and told me that he still loves and misses his wife and the family they built together. It doesn’t help that his wife doesn’t want me around the children and is using them as pawns.
I kind of knew that it wouldn’t work out. We sat down to talk about our relationship and he told me that he didn’t love me anymore, didn’t want to be with me, and wanted to keep working on his marriage because “it’s not her fault that I’ve put us through this.”
So here I am: over two thousand miles away from home and all the people I know, crying my eyes out in his apartment while he’s out with his wife and children. The only person I know here has turned his back on me—after I thought that I was moving to start a life with him. I feel so stupid and ashamed.
He told me that he’d help me get back home—that he’d get me the plane ticket. In spite of everything he’s done, I know he’s a good person. This has just been a bad and confusing time for him.