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"I'd found my forever person in a 'paediatrician'. Until I found out about his other, much younger, girlfriend."

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

‘Easy-going English Paediatrician ‘Mark’’ was his Tinder profile. A picture of him looking content on a sailing boat. He wasn’t conventionally attractive but had a look about him. Like he wasn't your 'typical' kind of fellow. I was right. He wasn’t.

I clicked and we started chatting. My mother is English, and I had spent large parts of my childhood there. I understood his formal language and humour. His quirks reminded me of the British schoolboy cousins I had been raised with. He told me what he looked for in a woman was ‘her brain’. Finally, I may have matched with a man who didn’t ask me for my profile picture in the first two minutes. He sent me sweet drawings and was responsive. He told me ‘he was moving to my city as he was training in neonatology’. I was intrigued. What a calling. I was a single mother and a busy professional. He sounded lovely. My job was fast paced but not so admirable. With his position, I assumed he had integrity and heart.

I met him on a bridge outside a pub. He didn’t look much like his profile picture. He wasn’t what I went for. He wasn’t tall and dark-haired, but I loved his accent and his delight in showing me the magazine he had purchased. A ‘left of field’ read. He was someone who had more to them than beer and football. We had a drink and they served us the best champagne by mistake. An omen. It was a rushed interlude as he had a plane to catch. He was here briefly scoping his new city. We shared a kiss. A definite spark. I wanted to see him again.

At 30, Sophie Cachia's life was turned upside down. Post continues below.


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I dated Mark for two years and at the time I was committed to the idea that I had found my true partner in the world and even though he was odd, I thought I could help him navigate life. I had married very young and left my husband when my youngest was a newborn. My husband was besieged with addiction and mental health problems. I wanted him to seek treatment, but he always denied a problem. In the end, I had fled the marriage, taking the children with me. I had always wondered how I had found it so difficult to find a new partner, when I was told I was smart and attractive. I felt that the usual fellow would not do. I wanted someone with intellect and culture. Men had always liked me but I was ‘picky’. Haunted by the mistakes of the past. I had found it increasingly lonely over the years as I failed to find what I thought I was looking for. For the most part I hadn’t looked. Very early on, I had decided Mark was potentially my person. A man with depth and integrity; integrity being by far the most important characteristic. He played the ‘saving babies’ card so that everyone could see what kind of man he was. He sent me pictures of his patients, all hooked up to machines. ‘My office’ he would text with babies surrounded by equipment and technology. He wanted to impress… and it worked. Upon reflection, he knew how attractive this looked to women. But very early on there were issues.

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We made dates and I also bought tickets for events where he would show up late or not at all. The texts ‘I’m tired’, ‘I fell asleep’, ‘I needed to get a haircut’ would pop up. He often didn’t respond to texts for hours, even days. Then when we did do things - Mark liked nice dinners - I found myself always paying. However, he was strangely tender during sex. The sex was the same but warm. His blue eyes twinkled, and I hung to some of the kind things he said to me. ‘You are really very beautiful’, he'd whisper. In those times I got closeness and connection and was left wanting more. It seemed every time I was close to calling it off, he would come through, always using his long working hours as an excuse for his failings. But suddenly I’d receive a night of attention and time. Simple things like cooking together. Nice wine. We watched left of field comedy. Time together. He seemed obsessed with Trump so we would discuss news. The good presidents of the past. He delighted in Trump’s failings. Conversation relating to world affairs. Books. Intellectual connection.

The first time I visited his small apartment he showed me his wine collection. I could not have missed it as it was all he had in his living room apart from a record player and some old armchairs. He clearly had immense pride in the bottles sitting there in his one room as he excitedly picked a number out to show me and explain their value. Collecting dust. ‘What is he saving it all for?’ I wondered.

As the relationship evolved, I started to notice small things. He would come to dinner and not bring anything. He asked me to pick up doughnuts as a magnanimous gesture for his workplace, after frequently complaining about $4 coffee shouts, but hadn’t repaid me the $100 for the doughnuts. ‘He is generous with my money’, I thought. 

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When we watched television, it was his choice. When we listened to songs, he would skip the songs I put on. I learned about his childhood, but he didn’t seem interested in mine. I was often happy to listen to his stories of his childhood even though they weren’t that remarkable. Thinking I was learning about him I took it all in. We would sit outside as he smoked, and he would talk. I learned he didn’t seem to have any close friends and wasn’t really still in touch with those from his university days. He had a somewhat difficult relationship with his sister and mother, and no relationship with his father, but he loved sailing and would go to Europe to see his mother and stepfather. As a family, sailing had been a big part of his childhood. He felt connected to the experience. He seemed to go to Europe every year. He viewed all things European as far more sophisticated than anything in Australia. He presented himself as a cultured and refined fellow. However, I couldn’t ascertain when he actually did go to the galleries, the symphony, the opera, either in Australia or Europe.  

He talked to me about one day sailing around the world together. ‘Would you do that?’, he asked me. He showed me clips of million-dollar boats on YouTube. I thought he had a vision and a dream. I hadn’t realised that this was pure fantasy. He had no plan for how he could ever afford a two-million-dollar boat. I also realised through these conversations that he had a difficult relationship with women. The women he worked with, mainly nurses, he felt were on a ‘different planet’. He justified it by saying ‘I can’t do small talk. I hate incompetence. They're toxic’. I justified it by saying ‘he is peculiar, a bit short and abrupt in his manner, not a good conversationalist, misunderstood, private.’ I got the sense he would be incredibly loyal if he just found his match. I thought I could teach him generosity of the heart, how to be more amenable to his fellow man, or woman, as the case may be. 

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Because Mark was infrequent and the partial reinforcement became the norm, I craved more. He rarely paid compliments so when he did, I drank it in like I hadn’t been nourished for months. I often wonder now if I had actually spent a significant amount of time with him, whether I would’ve become bored of his shallow interests and self-focus. His vision of himself did not meet the reality. But the answer to that question is one I will never know. If this relationship was to work, I would have to adjust my expectations and accept him as is. Make allowances. One after the other.   

He started making comments about my house. It was a family home in a new suburb. Bedrooms all together on the top floor. He would say ‘I could never stay here with your children; you need a parent's retreat’. He frequently referred to the location, ‘it is awful out here’ (the new estate) in which we lived. He lived in the nicest part of our town in a tiny apartment. To buy a house in that suburb you would need millions of dollars. He talked to me about buying houses together and showed me very luxurious homes. I felt like this was ‘reaching for the stars’. I wouldn’t commit. He then raised the possibility of renting ‘a more suitable house and moving in together’. He showed me pictures of expensive rentals, but it became clear he wasn’t going to do the legwork. I started meeting agents in my lunch hours and attending inspections but there was a niggle of doubt in that I was reluctant to be the only party on the lease. Also, my children barely knew Mark and despite his promises, he wasn’t facilitating a relationship with them. He never seemed to be able to manage his time. I wanted to please him but not at the expense of my children. Not a quick next step.  

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My home was a kids' home. It was clean but with lots of toys and shoes. ‘You need to de-clutter’, he would say. ‘You need a cleaner’. I didn’t mention that his apartment was frequently untidy, and he only had him to look after. It appeared to me he had no recognition of how hard I worked both in the home and at work. All I did in my life was work, cook, wash and fold clothes, clean, exercise and facilitate my children's activities. When I wasn’t at work, I was in the car. I was on my laptop working in the car park at ballet. Writing submissions on the sideline at football. Taking calls during swimming, trying to be present but trying harder to hear the person on the other end of the phone. I ensured the children had healthy food, access to me and life was so busy. I longed for a slower pace of reading, gardening and walking my dogs, with time for me. I longed for an extra pair of hands.

I’d frequently drop food to him at the hospital concerned for the long hours he worked. Initially he appeared appreciative. But then he would comment on my cooking. There were always offhanded remarks like ‘the potatoes are undercooked’ or ‘can you bring me a burger?’ The more he put down my cooking, the more I made mistakes when I cooked. This should have been telling. Around him I was nervous, because he was critical and this fed into my view that I needed to do better. My confidence and my sense of self were diminishing over time. 

I did start to wonder about him. He had worked for 20 years and didn’t have a cent. No furniture, a $2000 car, and a nice wine collection. I asked him about his lack of savings and life plan and he'd say ‘the last girlfriend took everything’. The girlfriend stories emerged after a few wines. It appeared he’d only had a few girlfriends, but all the relationships ended very badly. The last girlfriend had gone through his phone and computer without permission and she had raged at him. She was jealous, suspicious and according to his version 'crazy'. He also talked of a girlfriend he had supported through cancer but even she didn’t like him anymore. I felt perhaps he had been hard done by or slightly taken advantage of. I thought ‘I can take care of him’.   

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It transpired he had moved every two years. He was bullied at every hospital. One night he talked to me about feeling like he suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’. At the time I found his raw vulnerability touching. He clearly knew he had difficulty in workplaces. I did not reflect at the time that he was the opposite to a sufferer of imposter syndrome. He was a white, middle class, heterosexual male, with no attachments. He felt there was reverse discrimination at play. During this time, I realised he had never actually qualified as a paediatrician as he hadn’t finished his training. I decided that with a partner who really believed in him, his path could change, and he could achieve his goals. He was a little lost and I would be his compass. We could navigate life together. I was arrogant to think I knew him so completely differently to everyone else.  

Throughout, his relationship with his phone was guarded, like he had a secret. I never saw it. If we were out and he needed to check something on the internet, he would always reach for mine.  This gave me an unsettled feeling. The only two times I glimpsed his phone were at his apartment and he was receiving WhatsApp calls and messages from a woman named ‘Claire G’.  

I had asked him about ‘Claire G’ the first time I saw her calling and he told me she was an ‘an old friend who lived in France’. 

‘It’s the middle of the night in France?’ I thought to myself. I had felt confused because Mark had no female ‘friends’. As time was marching on it was becoming apparent that he struggled with all women. He had some deeply conservative views and wasn't always respectful. 

For a while, I took a break from seeing him, as I was scared and confused after my surgery for a recent diagnosis of cancer. I had felt troubled that Mark hadn’t managed to see me in the 10 days after the surgery. There were no flowers or a card. I had actually dropped him food to the hospital two days after my surgery. My friends and family had done all the heavy-lifting and he hadn’t even made an appearance. We had had a deep talk. Mark told me the depth of his devotion to me with tears in his eyes, and how he wanted to look after me but I 'didn’t let him’. He continuously turned the tables. Gaslighting. He had desperately wanted to care for me. I was momentarily blinded by his sharing of emotions until ‘Claire G’ started flashing on the coffee table. 

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As I left his apartment I had thought ‘he has never lived in France so how do you have an old friend there. Why is she calling in the middle of the night?’ I knew I didn’t have the complete story and it was likely that his ‘privacy’ may actually be ‘secrecy’. I got into my car and realised I was shaking my head.  

The second time was similar. Six months later I was at his apartment. She called again. I saw the phone. ‘Who is Claire, Mark?’ I had asked. ‘An on and off again relationship I had years ago’, he said. 'An admission of a sexual relationship and a different story to last time’ I thought. Again, I was leaving his apartment. 

I was starting to feel there were so many things about ‘Mark’ that did not add up and I could no longer ignore. I had moved to a new house with him in my ear, cut ties with my ex husband at his behest, changed jobs because of his continuous ‘suggestions’ and he still wasn’t ‘actually’ committing to anything. He had taken four overseas trips in 12 months. We had never gone away for a weekend. There was always a promise.

Mark then left me after the death of my ex-husband to go back to Europe for the second time in 12 months. His grandmother had fallen ill and he was able to get a travel exemption. He had played a starring role at the funeral in front of all my friends, family and colleagues, and then - just up and left. He couldn’t organise a dinner date but had managed to organise the approval, the trip and the quarantine when it was his interests he wished to pursue. He had flown into a pandemic voluntarily but had consistently cancelled dates with me due to COVID. He had taken all his annual leave. 

I had talked at length with my dear friend Lucy who is a psychiatrist. 

‘Why is he not qualified Kate, what has he been doing with his time? His training should’ve taken three years?’ she asked. 

‘Go easy on yourself,' she continued. 'He was clearly so in love with you. I've had difficulty pinpointing what is going on for him... but I think he has clear narcissistic tendencies. He got something from the funeral and the role he played in front of all those people. I am so sorry Kate. You deserve so much better’.  '

I was now less responsive to him. I started to think I had fallen in ‘love’ with a ghost and my future was raising my children, as I had been, on my own. Mark had never managed to really become part of our lives even though my children liked him. I could no longer deny the reality that the relationship actually fell so short of what I wanted for myself.  

My sister gave me the book Fake for Christmas by Stephanie Wood. I had not spoken much about Mark to my family because I didn’t want him judged. I started to read the book over the New Year. I realised Christmas had actually been good because Mark had been quarantined from my expectations. I did not want to admit I'd wasted two years. In that time, I'd aged a decade. I would look in the mirror and the deep lines around my mouth and eyes stood out to my critical eye. The grey hair. The signs of all the stress. Two years ago, I had none of this. I felt I had aged prematurely.

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Mark was texting me almost frantically as the children and I were going away for a holiday for the summer. The time available to see each other was closing. He had decided to move interstate again as things weren’t working out for him. He had hit that two-year mark. ‘Should we look for rentals for him in Brisbane for 2023?’ Lucy had asked me wryly. This was not lost on me. 

I didn’t have the same level of ‘buy-in’. I don’t know when it happened, but it did happen. He had let me down so often, and so cold-heartedly, I had finally started to see clearly and it hurt deeply but I no longer had a choice. He forgot my birthday despite a desire to see me. I realised we had done something special for both of his birthdays, and he had not properly acknowledged either of mine. 

The book my sister gave me drew me in. I recognised the pattern and the similarities but initially stopped short of the con man. ‘Mark didn’t deceive me’ was my thought.  

With a quiet wine I started to think back to the million-dollar houses, the constant references to me earning more money and I would ruefully say to him ‘I already get paid too much for what I do’. I had never reminded him that I earned over double what he did.

I recalled all the subtle and not-so-subtle put downs, and constant references to my mental health whenever I challenged his behaviour. The counsellor who after meeting Mark at our first and only session, rang me the next day and told me, ‘you need to get out of that relationship’.

My story was the same. I was a 40-year-old looking to start afresh. My fear was that I would no longer be relevant and attractive and was losing my opportunity to find special company in this world. I may never know what it felt like to be loved by a partner. I may no longer be desirable.  

I don’t know what made me do it, but the night I finished the book I logged into my Linked In account. I check this perhaps every two months. I saw a dark-haired woman named ‘Claire’ had been searching me. Her picture was not flattering.

I couldn’t sleep. The book was swirling around in my head and I couldn’t really make sense of what I'd experienced with Mark over the two years. I didn’t think too much about my account until the link crystallised in my brain - her last name was similar to what I had seen on Mark’s phone the last time the French ‘friend’ had called him. 

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I grabbed my phone and searched Mark’s Linked In accounts. He had several. They were all fairly bare, with no details and no followings as if he was hiding. Claire was there too as a search reference in all of them. I clicked on her account which told me she was a ‘high school student in France’. My mental calculations told me she was at best about 21. Her Facebook showed she was pretty. Her posts indicated she was very young. Her education unremarkable. I couldn’t tell if she had searched me herself or if he had looked up both of us and that is why she appeared on my account. I am not that tech savvy.  

The penny dropped and I can still hear the metaphorical thud that symbolises that moment. I had asked him if on his recent trip to Europe he had seen ‘Claire’ to which he had replied ‘no’. I decided to message ‘Claire’ who ironically looked quite like a younger version of me. My message said ‘I think we may have a friend in common, apologies if this is not you. This is my phone number. I have been in a relationship with Doctor Mark for two years. Did he see you in September 2020? He told me he didn’t’.  

She rang within the hour. Her English was good but with an accent. ‘Yes', he did. Mark was her boyfriend she told me. And who was I? I apologised and quickly hung up. I had no ill feelings toward Claire, but Claire was simply not old enough ‘to be an old friend’. 

I went to vomit. I thought if I could vomit enough, I could expunge him from me. I had no idea who he was. He had stamped his claim on my family at the service for the children’s father in front of hundreds of our dear friends and family, and then flown into a pandemic to have sex with a 20-year-old. He left me in that dark hour dealing with death and the grief that had paralysed my family, to pursue a woman in France. His desires, his needs. It was always his needs.

I had met a man off the internet with the touch of a button and had loved and poured my energy into him for two years. But I knew nothing about him. According to his version of events, Claire may not have even been legal when he ‘was on and off again’ with her. Or perhaps they've met the previous year. This man didn’t give a damn about me. 

Was this on me? The fears and doubts I had suppressed over and over again. The memory of the restaurant and the waiter who had recognised Mark from a previous dinner. He asked, ‘did you want the same table?’ The waiter thought he recognised me too, that I was the same woman, but I had never been there before. My stupidity that in recognising all of Mark’s flaws I still believed he was honourable and hard working. A baby doctor. A man of integrity. And as we had left the restaurant that night we had run into a friend of my elderly mother’s and I had proudly introduced him, dismissing the waiter as mistaken. No one could be that stupid. But it wasn’t stupidity. He was brazen. Unaccountable. I now know Claire was the tip of the iceberg. Mark would stonewall me and never take responsibility when challenged. Moving from place to place, like he has never been there at all. No footprint. No track record. No past. A drifter. I felt like I had played the starring role in someone else’s illness and now the curtain had come down, the theatre cold and deserted. Just me, shivering.

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I wish I could turn back of the clock. I could’ve swiped left. We simply would’ve gone our separate ways. 

Eventually, I sent him a message to meet. He responded immediately, keen to see me. I thought I would confront him with the truth. Then I realised I had little to say. I didn’t want to see him, and the truth would be lost on a man as narcissistic as this. 

Mark was a predator of the heart. He launched an assault on my life. 

I had experienced heartache in my life, but I had never been deceived by someone close to me over an extended period of time. I was left with the choices that Mark assisted me to make. The choices around my home, my children and my ex-husband. 

I recall a mid-forties girlfriend telling me at one point in the Mark saga, ‘Kate, it is OK to be alone’. She had been in relationship after relationship since she was 20 with tears and tissues in between each failed romance but moving on swiftly to the next. I could not recall her being alone for more than a few months. I had spent seven years alone. I smiled at her weakly not bothering to counter the hypocrisy; that most people who tell you it’s ok to be alone- are not, in fact. alone.  

I sent Mark a picture of ‘Claire’. I then received a text from him saying ‘morning’. If he denied the reality it wasn’t a reality. It was a tactic that had worked for two years. I told him ‘you do not have imposter syndrome. You are an imposter. Your anxiety is in the waiting to be found out’. He weakly denied the rendezvous in France in 2020 but then declined to send me a copy of their communications. 

And then came his last message to me: ‘I wish you the best for the future’.

Despite the absolute train wreck of his creation, the deceit, the duplicity, and all that has transpired, in his own mind he is still simply of the belief that he is nothing more than a gentleman looking for love.

Feature Image: Getty.