dating

'My boyfriend said 'I love you' on Valentine's Day. Weeks later, his lies started to unravel.'

There really ought to be some PSAs playing in the weeks leading up to and after Valentine’s Day. We don’t talk about it a whole lot, but this time period is rife with bad choices for plenty of lonely people.

Seven years ago, I ran into a blogger who was working on a new non-profit organisation. When I read his writing and saw the vision of what he was trying to create, I was smitten.

“That’s the kind of man I want to marry,” I thought to myself.

Watch: 10 Practical Gifts for Your Love on Valentine’s Day. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

A week later, and just a few days before Valentine’s Day, he slid into my DMs and told me that he was interested in me. Romantically.

Had it been any other dude online, I never would have responded to his advances. But in my mind, he wasn’t just any guy online. He was somebody whom I was already attracted to before we ever even spoke online.

When I discovered that he was also thinking about me, the whole thing seemed like kismet. Practically everything that happened in that first week felt like we were tragically “meant to be.”

The truth is that he caught me at a really bad, yet, opportune time. I had just lost more than 45kg, and I was lonely. Losing the weight gave me the confidence to finally end my engagement to a fiancé who was wrong for me.

In a weird way, I felt like I was ready to love (I wasn’t), and Valentine’s Day was in the air. I wanted all of the romance and affection that comes with the holiday.

Of course, because the guy was married, I got none of that. Not really. Sure, he left secret messages for me in Facebook posts and blog pieces.

But his supposedly dead marriage was actually alive and kicking. Unbeknownst to me, he was telling his wife what an amazing mother and partner she was, as if nothing was wrong, like he didn’t want a divorce.

And neither me nor his wife knew how many other partners he actually had.

The first time I met him in real life, I spent the entire night before in the airport waiting for him to come and get me.

For a minute as we stood face to face, I felt a surprising twinge of disappointment.

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He wore wrinkled clothes: khakis and a cheap plaid shirt that looked like it was a size too small, not to mention a little too Christmassy. White, red, and green.

His hair was unkempt and a bit greasy. As much as I’m not overly concerned with the physical appearance of a partner, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that he hadn’t made an actual effort for me.

Was this really the same man I’d been falling in love with since Valentine’s Day? Despite all of the phones calls, video chats, and text messages, this person felt like an entirely different stranger.

Maybe I could have put on the brakes, but I didn’t because it felt like I was already in too deep. Instead, I kept waiting for all of the online romance to click with the the real life experience.

It didn’t click.

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We had our first kiss inside of his car in the parking lot of that airport. He noticed my hands were shaking, and I started conditioning myself to feel everything I felt when we were only online, now in real life.

There. I made it click.

In those days, I had a very poor understanding of love. For one thing, I equated love with romance.

And I thought that true love was an indescribable feeling, much like an esoteric emotional high. I also believed that once I found that sort of love, it would be worth giving up everything.

I fully expected to have one of those motion picture romances. The kind where you’re both going your separate ways when all of a sudden one (or both of you) race back to the airport or wherever to confess your undying love.

All based on a feeling. Yup, that was my terrible understanding of love.

It wasn’t what I’d ever admit to believing. But that’s how I felt deep within my core.

Intellectually, I should have been able to see the danger from the start of our relationship. You don’t fall for a dude online who announces his intentions to pursue you on February 11… and then tells you he loves you on February 14.

Who does that?

But I knew it, I was falling in love with him too, even though it was way too fast. On some level, I knew he might not really be who he claimed to be.

Despite my reckless choices to follow our rushed connection, I wasn’t stupid.

I knew that everything could blow up in my face. But I just didn’t want to think that it would.

So, I didn’t.

And I chose to follow my heart.

Oops.

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In case you’ve missed it, bad love can be terribly addictive.

It pushes all of your emotional buttons, presses against every one of your boundaries, and leaves you craving more. One more hit of pleasure, even when it’s heading south.

Bad love is heady. When you’re under its thrall, it doesn’t matter that it’s self-destructive. You make excuses. And it ends up making you say yes to things you never ever dreamed you’d do.

I say this because I’ve been there. My relationship with the blogger was bad from the start, but it felt amazing. I didn’t want to let “true love” slip through my fingers. In fact, I was terrified of losing our connection, so I made a commitment to stick with it when I really should have run away.

I wasn’t stupid, but I was painfully naive. Like a lot of Aspie women, I have a tough time understanding pretence, lies, or manipulation.

So, I bought all of his excuses about getting married too young and being misunderstood. Any time I said it was too much, too hard, or just plain wrong, he’d pull me back in by spinning things all around on me. How I should have known what I was getting into. How I didn’t care how hard everything was for him.

Even when he was being a flat out jerk to me, I took it. I made excuses. I saw love because I wanted to see love. That’s how powerful and addictive a bad relationship can be.

Like far too many toxic relationships that start up around Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t in love with a real person. I fell in love with the persona he put out.

From the first day that I read his writing and thought about marrying a man like that, I was hoodwinked. He wasn’t a man like that. He wasn’t the guy who’d do anything to change the world.

In the beginning, I saw somebody who was driven to do good. Months later, I realised that it had all been an act. It was always an act. He was mostly driven to make himself look good. And to meet other women.

As for the blog and non-profit he was building, he abandoned them within a year of ending our relationship when I got pregnant. Eventually, I realised he wasn’t missing anything without those projects in his life. They served their purpose for him.

So many times, I thought we were deeply connected and on the same page. I thought we had this incredibly special and deep connection that grew from our desire to make the world a better place. I thought that I’d found someone like me who yearned for more out of life.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Valentines day first date
"I couldn’t have been more wrong." Image: Getty
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The truth is that I could have been anyone with a job and a vagina. He never required a deep connection to f*ck anyone. It was just all part of the role he played with me.

It's surprisingly easy to get catfished, especially around holidays like Christmas or Valentine's Day. The most convincing profiles out there are from the folks who put up half-truths.

The truth behind the blogger I fell for was that he wanted somebody around so he didn't have to be alone when he left his wife. It wasn't about me. I wasn't special to him. I was just the landing pad he used when he wanted to jump ship.

Nobody wants to believe that they could fall for that. People read my stories and think, "Wow, I could never be so dumb." But the people who don't think it could ever happen to them are probably the most at risk.

They're at least more at risk than they think.

Most people get catfished to varying degrees at one point or another. Love is always a risk, and we've all had our share of disappointments.

Especially online. Partners who lie about who they are or what they want. Those who use us or cheat.

But as long as we feel an especially deep connection that can't easily be explained, and as long as we are hungry for love, we're at risk. That doesn't make us stupid or bad.

It just makes us human.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby found my writing about toxic relationships a few months back and asked to interview me. Initially, I was nervous. I'm not a relationships expert and I've made a ton of poor choices in love.

But when we finally sat down for the interview last week, Dr. Lisa completely set me at ease. There I was, a frazzled single mum at home, not wearing a stitch of makeup, and recovering from a painful eye infection, talking about how I finally got out of a toxic relationship with my daughter's dad.

Perhaps I should have felt more awkward, but Dr. Lisa gave such incredible insight and she wasn't judgmental in the least. She actually affirmed that I wasn't crazy and that psychologically speaking, my poor choices made sense.

From an evolutionary standpoint, Dr. Lisa says it benefits us as a species to experience such intense emotional pulls in our relationships. It keeps us procreating and forming long-term familial bonds.

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The problem is that we don't always know how to recognise bad love before it burrows itself beneath our skin. And our culture is notorious for encouraging bad love before it begins, often in the form of our collective ideas on romance and fairytales.

Fairytales about love run deep in our culture, and often roam wild around Valentine's Day. Even the most sensible and street smart people find themselves falling for romantic notions like soulmates, love at first sight, and love conquering all.

We carry our ideas about love and romance into our relationships, often without pausing to check that everything we're feeling is on the level.

Falling in love releases a flood of feel-good hormones, which means it’s even harder to let go when we do see a red flag.

It's perfectly human to crave love and when Valentine's Day comes around it's so easy to get swept up in the love we want. It's easy to lose our heads as soon as we think we might be close to getting that love.

Often, the love that we want is quite different from the love that we've got, and we're not always good at reconciling those differences.

It behooves all of us to be extra careful of our hearts, our emotional and mental health, and our ideas about love when Valentine's Day approaches. If we're not too careful, we might find ourselves falling into a toxic and addictive relationship, or simply f*cking up the love we've got with unrealistic expectations. All for the feelings that one day brings.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.

You can read more from Shannon Ashley on Medium, or follow her on Twitter

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