How It Began
I met him in an online game—an online game that specialized in encounters of a slightly more sexual nature. A game where there were hundreds of buildings and hangouts, all called “Dreams.” Each one had a different theme and purpose: some for sex, some for socializing, and some for writing stories. The Dream where I met him was called “The Tavern of Desire” and I entered there, the first time, somewhat shyly. I chose it because the Dream was also labeled “Public Sex.” When he messaged me the first time, I chickened out and logged off—but eventually curiosity got the best of me and I returned.
Frankly, I couldn’t understand a word he said to me. He talked about spirituality and love, healing and redemption, the soul, darkness, and magic. It was poetic and his words penetrated my heart, calling out to every part of me that had ever wanted fantasy to become real. He told me that he felt a darkness in his mind, that at times he felt malicious or clouded, and that he was waiting for someone to save him. He told me that perhaps I would be the one.
Within a few weeks, I had fallen passionately, madly, dangerously in love with him. The first time we had cyber sex, he told me I had touched his soul. He told me that he felt it as if we were truly together. I became obsessed: he needed me and I needed him. I would save him from himself. I could hardly go a few hours without talking to him and I was actually grateful that he didn’t work or go to school because it meant I could spend longer and longer talking to him. I stayed up until 4:00 AM-5:00 AM nightly speaking with him, sometimes via IM and sometimes on the phone.
He began to tell me his stories--he had so many of them. He told me about past lovers: the women who had abandoned him, the women who had changed. Instead of a cause for alarm, I saw beauty and romance in his tales. He told me about flying across the country to visit a married woman in an effort just to spend a single night in her arms. He told me about the woman who had become so “tainted” by the real world that she lost her appeal and disgusted him. He told me he had tried to save her, but that she couldn’t have been saved. He told me about the intelligent young girl he spoke to when he felt that the world was just too evil. “My chapel,” he called her. He told me about the girl he had loved locally and how he had returned to her house to leave her notes to try to redeem himself, but how she always turned him away. He told me how they had all broken him.
All of his stories had unhappy endings, but I knew I would be different. I would save him. I was the one.
Back in the Real World
It might not surprise you to learn that I failed several of my college classes that year. The first semester, my courses were easy and it wasn’t so bad. But the second semester, the classes were much harder and much earlier in the day. It was hard to bring myself to wake up at 8 o’clock in the morning to go to classes where I hardly understood (or cared about) the material when a world of fantasy and eroticism awaited me online. I skipped class so often I actually felt guilty when I managed to return. I worried about what my teachers would think of me or say to me and I began to only attend class for exams. Eventually, I stopped doing even that.
I learned who he was in the real world. He lived in large city in Canada and spoke French—I loved that about him. Although I typically called him by his online name, I learned that he had a real name, too. Sometimes I would call him by it just for the symbolism of it, but even now it feels foreign to my tongue. I found out his address and phone number and sent him a Christmas gift. I found out about his family; his father, who he lived with and who held him to very little responsibility and offered him a great deal of privacy, and his mother, whom he disliked for her intrusions into his life and her concern about his education and (lack of) work. I learned that every year for Thanksgiving, his family met for a wonderful, loud, familiar dinner—just the kind I had always dreamed of. Although I made no immediate plans, I dreamt, for the first time, of bearing someone’s child some day.
I told my mom quite a bit about him and from the beginning, she made it clear that she didn’t like him, but I didn’t care. I told my friends about him and the first time I saw him on webcam, it was because they insisted he appear on video and prove that he was a real person: he sounded too good to be true. Later, I told others about our romance and even when they argued with me that the relationship could only end badly, I convinced them that I would be different. I convinced them that we were in love and that I was “the exception.”
Where It Went Wrong
Eventually, we began to argue. Sometimes, he would become inexplicably frustrated with me and I would stay up until 4:00 AM not talking to him, but trying to work out our differences. Sometimes he would scold me for merely talking about my day when there were more important matters to discuss. I began to cry often. The arguments began to escalate and he began to tell me that he felt more tainted and malicious than ever. Near the end of our relationship, he frequently told me that he hated me and that I had ruined him. I vented my frustrations by walking around campus at 3:00 AM, alone, sobbing to myself. I was grateful that I didn’t have a roommate to explain myself to and ultimately, I blamed myself for everything. He told me that the problem was that I wasn’t open enough, that I wasn’t strong enough, and that I didn’t care enough. He told me that I was broken and hopeless.
I told everyone that everything was perfect. I loved him, after all. It would get better.
I met up with him in person twice: the first time, he flew to my house and the second time, I to his. Because he was resistant both times, I paid both times and never questioned it. It was with him, a stranger from Canada, that I lost my virginity, in my own home. He was never a gentle lover, and frequently left a number of hickeys all over my body—to such an extent that my mother literally began to worry that he was beating me. He wasn’t, of course, but looking back I sometimes wonder if he would have, had we stayed together. He harmed me only once, during an argument, where I couldn’t seem to rectify the situation and instead attempted to curl up next to him on the couch in apology for whatever wrong I had done to him. As he was hugging me, he dragged his nails down my back in frustration, leaving several lightly bleeding scratches in his wake.
Our year-and-a-half long relationship didn’t end with an explosion, but simply faded away. Eventually he grew to hate me so much that he hardly ever spoke to me. Questions about his day or life resulted only in one-word answers and he ceased calling me or speaking on video chat with me. As time passed, he simply began to ignore me and the longer it went on, the less I tried to contact him. He made it clear that we were no longer together.
The Red Flags
My relationship with him was horrible, to say the least. But like many women, I ignored the blaring signs that things would turn out badly. I convinced myself that things would change or improve. At one point, I even convinced myself that if only we could live together, things would be okay. I convinced everyone else in my life the same thing. In an effort to keep others from making the same mistakes that I did… Here are some of the huge red flags that I managed to ignore while we were together. These signs aren’t going to be typical of every bad relationship, but they are definitely things to look out for.
1. He didn’t have a job and he didn’t go to school… And he didn’t care about it. He had absolutely no desire for work or school: it just didn’t suit him. He failed out of college the first time because he didn’t bother doing his homework because it just didn’t seem important to him. He had lost his previous job for similar reasons. He was a man who just didn’t live in the real world: he wasn’t suited for it, in his mind
2. He hated the only person in his life that tried to help him. His mother was the only person around him who had bothered trying to get him into school and he hated her. It wasn’t that she was mean to him: it was that she lived in “the real world.” She socialized, she was polite, she worked—and she cared about her son.
3. I couldn’t understand him. I didn’t understand anything he said because often, the things he said didn’t make sense. He didn’t talk about current topics or religion or television or anything applicable to my daily life: he only spoke of fantasy.
4. Everyone in my life was skeptical of him. This was a huge, huge red flag. By the time you hit your late teenage years and early 20s, most of your friends and family probably have decent judgment. If they don’t like the guy there’s probably a reason.
5. He had a trail of bad relationships and an excuse for every one of them. This was another huge sign that I ignored. Convincing myself that I would be different was one of the worst mistakes of my life, especially when I began to see the same things happening to me that he had described about other relationships.
6. He was afraid of commitment. This was a man that didn’t even want to list me as his girlfriend in an online game, let alone tell people offline that we were dating. Getting him to come to see me was a huge fiasco and he frequently flirted and had sex with other women while we were dating. I put up with all of it like a doormat, even when he flew across the country to see and have sex with a “friend.”
7. He never made me go to bed. While this may not seem like a big deal, it was. The fact that he constantly let me stay up until 5:00 AM and skip all of my classes was a sign of how little he cared about me or my life. While it wasn’t his job to force me to go to bed, during the time we dated, he logged off so that I would sleep twice and rarely bothered asking me how I was feeling or how my school or job were going.
What You Can Do
One of the largest mistakes my friends and family made regarding my relationship with him was that they believed me. I’m an intelligent and convincing person and each time someone began to argue that I was in a toxic relationship, I carefully pointed out everything they were wrong about. I painted wonderful stories of our love and how we were the pinnacle of hope for bad relationships everywhere: we were different. Friend after friend walked away saying; “You know, you’re right—good luck” despite their gut reactions that this guy was bad news. Eventually, my friends stopped pointing out red flags and harassing me about how bad this relationship was. No one ever stopped to question why I was really skipping my classes or why I had really failed so dramatically that semester. No one was around me often enough to notice how often I cried and if they asked me how the relationship was, I told them it was wonderful. Everyone believed me.
There are times when a person seems like they’re in an unhealthy relationship, but really they aren’t. However, if I could go back and do things over, I would have rather my friends and family risked it. They all knew this guy was bad news, but no one wanted to step up and push the issue. No one wanted to forcibly drag me out of that relationship kicking and screaming. Heck, no one even wanted to have the: “This is a problem,” conversation with me.
It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable. You wonder if it’s really your place at all to say something to them and you keep thinking that they’ll be okay. Someone, somewhere, has to step up and speak, though. Someone has to push the issue. If you think something is wrong even when your friend insists everything is perfect, keep asking them about it. Offer to help them and offer to spend more time with them. If you truly believe that there’s something bad going on behind the scenes, find ways to push yourself in to their lives so that you can get a better look at things. Always trust your instincts, because in the end, you could be the person that saves them—they might argue now, but trust me… Later, they’ll thank you.
What Happened To Me?
After our relationship ended I fell in to two other unhealthy, but not mentally abusive online relationships. Both, unfortunately, were with people who were married or engaged and thankfully, neither man lived near me. Although neither lasted long enough that I attempted to go see the person where they lived, one relationship almost got there. After I came close to entering my first polyamorous relationship only to find out that the man and his girlfriend were entertaining other lovers aside from me, I got myself out of the situation. I was then faced with a choice: I had a huge crush on another guy that I had known for a month or two and he had asked me if I wanted to date him. It was the first time anyone had ever asked me that and I said yes and moved on from the trail of awful relationships I left in my wake in order to begin the best one I've ever had.
It took a good relationship to make realize how bad my relationship with the Canadian had been. Having someone who treated me not only normally, but exceedingly well highlighted all of the horrible things that had happened in that relationship. Now, I understand that relationships should never be one-sided. You shouldn't have to struggle to get in contact with the man you love: you don't have to talk to him every waking hour of the day, but he should make an effort to contact you as often as you make an effort to contact him. He should show concern for your world and your life--and he should never tell you that the things you consider important are meaningless. The relationship should be about both of you, about what you can do for each other... Not just about what you can do for him. You should never be the one that always pays because he doesn't want to and when you tell him you're coming to visit, he should be excited, not apprehensive. Sometimes, he should make you go to bed, even if he still wants to talk to you. But most importantly, he should always, always tell you how special you are and that he loves you.
Don't ever let a man you love tell you that he hates you.