This entry is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for nearly 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 and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.
Jim, late 40s
Three years after my divorce and during a particularly bad bout of loneliness, I found myself looking through the personals ads on Craigslist. The subject line—“seeking attention”—caught my eye.
She was in her late twenties, and married. This gave me pause because I didn’t want to get involved in anything messy, but I figured it’d be a one-time deal. So I agreed to meet at her house and within minutes, we became physical. Afterwards, we just talked. We had amazing chemistry. She’s smarter than I am, attractive, passionate, and just…well, better than anyone I’ve ever met before.
We saw each other a few more times after that. It didn’t feel like what we were doing was wrong, but it wasn’t long before mutual romantic feelings started developing. I enjoyed being able to lavish attention and gifts on her, and although I tried to resist being pulled into another relationship, it was clear that we were having an emotional as well as physical affair.
We went on trips together, snuck out to see each other in the middle of the workday, and she faked countless dinners with girlfriends. On one of these trips—I remember it was spring and we were in a cabin by a lake—we had a conversation about our relationship. Something about the look in her eyes and the way she was talking just gave me the gut feeling that she was going to do it.
She messaged me later that week and told me she’d sat down with her husband and told him she was in love with another man. “I’m leaving you,” she told me she’d said, unequivocally.
Her husband’s response was something neither of us expected. He said that he wanted to overcome this—that he wanted to continue working on their marriage. I lost all respect for the guy. I felt like we’d broken out of a shameful affair, only to be caught in a draining love triangle. She called me later that day, crying. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight. On my part, I hoped that she’d told him what she really wanted—and I hoped it was me.
I asked her: “if something awful happened to you, who would you call?” And she said it would be me. But then I thought better of it, and asked again: “well, what if it were him asking you that question?” She said she’d tell him the same, but only because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I thought to myself that we were well beyond that.
I started feeling trapped because I realized that unless she wanted to do something, I was powerless. I couldn’t let go of her. In a blinding emotional frenzy, I emailed her husband. I told him that my world was crashing down around me—that I was so in love with her. He wrote me back and told me that she told him she’d stopped seeing me. She sent me an email a little while later that sounded like a press release. I knew she hadn’t written it, but she broke things off.
I resented her deeply—that she’d allowed him to lock her down—but it was only days before we were at it again. She had to contact me; I couldn’t contact her. Her husband was tracking her by GPS, so we could only meet where she said. I bought her another phone, which enabled her to be deceitful not only towards him, but also me. I handed over all of my power, all my freedom, and all of my self-respect.
Things continue this way. I know that one man is going to walk away with his heart broken, but I have no confidence in my ability to be with anyone but her. This affair has rendered me absolutely spineless. I can’t tell the difference between right and wrong in my own heart and I can’t tell if I’m being dishonest, or if this is just a brutal means to an end. I know that she loves me, but I don’t know how much longer I can continue feeling like a trap door could open up at any minute and plunge me into an emotional abyss.