As I continue working with relationship coach Lori Ann Davis, whose skills are highlighted on the new show Radical Dating, I had been exploring the idea of learning to trust men to be supportive, present and available. In fact, I had asked for it specifically. In my experience over the years with dating websites I had become adept at sorting out the players from those who genuinely wanted to get to know the woman behind the words on my profile….or so I thought. As a career therapist, I was sure I had seen and heard it all. As an interfaith minister, I have officiated at the weddings couples who met online, so I know that it is possible to meet one’s soulmate/lovemate/sweetie in that vast ocean of possible partners.
A few weeks ago, I received a message from a man who had a profile on one of the better known dating sites. As I read through it, I kept nodding yes, yes, yes, as I checked items off my list of what I was seeking. It was as if he had custom written it for me. Even the values questions were in synch. In short order, we were messaging, texting and speaking daily as we set up a date to meet. The words he used and his ability to articulate, had this professional journalist swooning. He wrote poetry for me and told me he loved my writing. That’s like saying he had me at hello. As we progressed, he began bringing on the heavy artillery (symbolically speaking, since I am a pacifist.) which meant that he was seriously wooing me and talking about the ways that getting to know me was enhancing his life. As the day approached, I became both nervous and excited. What if he really was The One?
What kept nagging at me were a few things. When I initially told my sister about him, her response was, “Oh, hell, no!” She told about a phenom called Catfishing. It is based on a movie and now television show by that name, whereby someone creates a fake online identity to lure unsuspecting people; generally for financial gain. I asked her why she thought he was up to no good. She said that when I mentioned he told me he had been born in India and had lived around the world and said he worked as a contractor, he fit the profile. She said, “Just watch…at the last minute, before you can meet, he’ll say that he has been called out of the country and then say he got robbed or somehow is in need of financial assistance. I put her warning on the back burner, and perhaps was in a bit of denial since I thought I was savvy enough to see through any facade.
On the day of the date, which we had arranged at a restaurant near me, he contacted me at 2 pm, saying that a project he told me he had been working on for his job, had hit a snag and he needed to go into his office to redo some work that he claimed had been lost. I asked if he wanted to reschedule, meet up later than our 5 pm time or have me come closer to where he was. Each time, he repeated that he would come to me at the appointed time. Since I had not heard from him, I assumed all was well. I got dressed, drove the few miles to the place and waited…..and waited….and waited. Fifteen minutes passed and I texted and then called to see if he had gotten lost. I sat in my car and phoned a friend. As he and I were talking, the man called in and said that he was still at his office which was an hour away and that he was sorry that he would have to miss our date. Not one word of apology for not calling in advance to let me know that he wouldn’t be there. I wondered if he would have called if I didn’t. He then asked to meet the next day at the same place. My antennae were twitching as I sensed that history would repeat itself. I asked if he was certain that he would be there. His response was, “Yes, and let me call you back.” The sauve, seemingly reliable guy (since prior to that day, he had been overly attentive and called when he said he would), had flaked. I called other friends to check out my perceptions and to a one (both male and female)they said that he was out of integrity and that I deserved better. Although my female friends were predictably supportive, it was to my male friends that I turned first to meet the request to trust men. One friend mentioned the Catfishing dynamic and said it sounded like it was what was going on here and he never intended to show up. After speaking on the phone, I went over to the home of a platonic male friend and I sobbed as he held me and offered comfort and peppermint tea and a dose of wisdom. Another, who I think of as a pacifist said he wanted to punch him out and yet one more, with his feisty Irish sensibilities, offered to curse him out, since I didn’t. Still others recommended ice cream and champagne, although perhaps not together. Kind of like a weird root beer float.
Later that night, he texted me and said that he had a rough day. The next day he texted a few times as if nothing had happened and then the following morning, he called as he normally did. I wondered if he was clueless about the impact of what he had done or if he was continuing the charade, hoping I would still bite the line. I didn’t respond to the messages or calls. Instead I wrote this letter, to get some sense of closure and to attempt to tweak what conscience he might have to discourage him from doing this to someone else.
I am writing this letter to you to get clear on what happened over the past few weeks. When we connected originally, I was blown away by all of the similarities in worldview (even if differences in lifestyle) and saw some possibility that there could be something solid between us as we got to know each other gradually. In very short order, you sped up the process and while I was moved by your way with words, your enthusiasm for intimacy, your consistent time and attention, it was a bit overwhelming at times. I want all of those things in partnership. I was looking forward to meeting to see what there could be between us. As you know, since you shared about being widowed, there is a desire to be with someone to learn to love again. Based on what I was feeling at the time, I imagined it could be you. I still knew I needed to wait and see. At each step, you said ‘the right thing,’. I found myself mentally checking those things off in my head and thanking you for them. I was eager to meet face to face and you repeatedly expressed the same.
When you told me about your project and included me in the process, I felt glad that you trusted me enough to do so. I was glad to be of support. Then, when I received your text yesterday saying that you needed to get to the office to do the work all over again that you had lost, I offered the option to reschedule, for me to come to you to make it easier and at each step, you reinforced that we would meet at the restaurant at 5 pm. When I didn’t hear from you, I naturally assumed that all was well and we would meet at that time. When you didn’t show, I got concerned, reached out via text and call and it wasn’t until a short time later that you got back to me and explained that you were still at work, an hour away. I know that we all lose track of time, however, it would have been considerate to have called beforehand to let me know that you couldn’t be there and re-negotiate. That’s just understandable relationship dynamics, whether in friendship or partnership. I don’t know about you, but waiting for someone to arrive, only to find that they weren’t on their way and you needed to reach out to them to find out why can feel pretty disappointing. I expressed concern for your wellbeing and asked to reschedule. You offered to meet me at the cafe at 3 pm today. My Spidey sense was twitching and I wondered whether once again, you would not be there. If I am to be honest, I do have to tell you that I felt that you had betrayed my trust. All along, you had kept your word and I valued that.
I had heard about this dynamic called Catfishing and as I did some research, I found myself once again, checking items off a list. This one made me cringe and cry. With the exception of asking for money, what you had told me about yourself fell into place when compared to those who fit the profile. Widowed, from another country, working as an engineer or contractor, unfamiliar with Skype (remember, I had asked to chat that way, so we could see each other before meeting), going deep emotionally too quickly, without even meeting and calling at the last minute to cancel because of a work-related issue.
I attempted to learn more about you via doing a Google search….no social media profile, I couldn’t find anything under your name in the area where you told me you lived. It raised even more concerns. As you know, I am visible and searchable. You seem to be an enigma even though you told me I could ask you anything and as an open book, you would answer.
I am pretty savvy, but this one floored me. Please forgive me if I am totally off base and my wild imagination is running away with me, and we will laugh about this many years later. I felt I had been transparent and vulnerable with you. That is at the core of any healthy relationship and I want that. If indeed this is true and I avoided potential problems down the line, by learning about it now, I ask that you consider that playing with people’s hearts is not a kind thing to do. Not everyone is as aware and resilient as I am. I wonder what might be behind this. What need does it meet for you?
If it is true, I don’t expect to hear from you. I do ask that you search your conscience. Good luck on the project.
The next day he said he had received my email but had been caught up with work. Not a surprise that I have not heard from him since then. Chalk it up to experience.
When I shared my experience on Facebook, I have been amazed at how many people have come forward and said it happened to them too, including women who I think of as intelligent, successful and intuitive. I didn’t make this about me at all. The things he observed about me were true. After an ever so brief bout of feeling rejected and a sense of “WTF? Come on, Universe…who thought this one up?”, I was able to laugh about it. The lingering thought remains, “Did he see me as a real person or simply a ‘mark’ that he could lure into his net for whatever purpose?”
It had me wondering what type of person does this. My clinical mind says it is someone who is not happy with their life and creates a persona that fits who they would like to be. It may be because they like the thrill of the chase or the ability to manipulate others. Perhaps it is because they like making someone feel good, but don’t have the gumption to follow through.
When I spoke with Lori Ann about it in our recent session, she said she didn’t sense his motives were sinister. She reminded me that if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. She too had cautioned me early on to take it slowly and not succumb to the intense courting prior to meeting. She also said that it really was okay to enjoy the feelings that our initial connection brought and that I could have that in a real relationship. She asked me to keep my heart open to the right partner and to only accept the whole package with someone whose actions match their words.
I am grateful to my loving friends, my wonderful coach (who has become a loving friend) and to my own sense of personal dignity and awareness that had me avoid getting snagged.
This post was previously published on huffpost.com and is republished on Medium.
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Lori Ann Davis, radical dating, relationship, dating advice, personal dignity, awareness