Editor’s note: The following story was received from a reader who we’ll call “Violet.”
I knew L when we worked together at a call centre as customer service representatives. He seemed nice, and he had lovely, expressive brown eyes and a gentle nature. I was losing weight at the time, and he asked for my help, so of course I gave him advice and tips. He began to lose weight, and he invited me over to his and his girlfriend, M’s, apartment for dinner and to show him some ‘exercise moves’ (now I think it was mostly an excuse to ogle me). He looked at me very intently, it wasn’t menacing, but I definitely felt like he wanted to do more than just watch me.
At work he would call me over sometimes and tell me that he thought of me as a ‘really good friend.’ I would thank him, but I thought it was a strange thing to say because we didn’t know each other very well. The call centre was a gossip mill, and someone had told me that L and his girlfriend were into threesomes. That’s not my thing, but I don’t judge, and I didn’t think much of it at the time. I also got in touch with an old friend that had known L and M at another call centre. She told me that L had asked her to be in a threesome. She politely declined, but the incident got him fired (he eventually told me this). Again, I didn’t think much about it, but I did think that it was a bit careless to ask a co-worker to have sex with you and your girlfriend, to say the least.
I left work to go back to school, and I would get e-mails from him every so often. I would send a polite reply. Last year, he and his girlfriend moved to my city so she could go to school, and L and I went out for dinner. It was at this time that I realized that he liked me as more than a friend, so I decided to find out what kind of relationship he had with M. He told me it was open, and that M said that he could do whatever he wanted as long as he never left her. That didn’t seem very open to me, but I figured it was an arrangement that worked for them.
Friends with benefits
He said he wanted a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with me. But he would lay on the sweet talk really thick. He would say I was a beautiful white dove with eyes of light, that when he thought about me he didn’t want a cigarette, I was a copy of Eve, I was Aphrodite, I was even an angel. But we still didn’t know each other that well, and his compliments were too dime store romance novel for my taste, although they made me feel good about myself.
I tried to get to know him better. I knew that his father had died, but he didn’t talk about him much, which I found odd, but I chalked it up to masculine reserve (we always find an excuse, don’t we?). He had wanted to be a minister, and had been in a Master’s program, but he gave me a vague answer about why he dropped out. I thought it was strange that someone who desired a religious vocation would be content drifting to various call centre jobs for the past ten years. He also never had any ideas for activities, I always had to make suggestions, and it seemed like he relied on other people for entertainment because he didn’t know how to entertain himself. It was as if he had no inner life.
He would also look at me with such (I thought at the time) longing it was unnerving, but now I think it was also a predatory gaze. At one point the sweet talk was too intense and I told him to tone it down. He seemed so sad after that, he said he was patient, but he said he was patient a lot, and that bothered me. He was always online and he messaged me constantly to see how I was doing. There were red flags waving at me, but I thought he was very sweet and attentive, and he seemed like he desperately needed a friend and some affection. Once I decided I could ignore his lack of ambition and it was only a friends with benefits relationship that wasn’t going to go anywhere anyway, I let him know that I wanted to be intimate with him. That part was very nice (I’ve noticed that other writers on the site mention that the sex is often good). Our sexual relationship lasted for three months.
L seemed to really like me, but he could only see me when M was away, he told me she was seeing her girlfriend on the side (she was bisexual, he said). If it was really open, I wondered, then why can he only see me when she’s somewhere else? The only time L spent the night with me was a weekend M was away. He spent one night at my house, and he didn’t call her, she thought he had died, he told me. The next night, I went to their apartment and L called her while I was there, but he didn’t mention that I was in the apartment with him. He wanted me to sleep with him in their bed.
By this time he had started complaining to me about M, and I was beginning to hate her (I never thought that way about her before, she seemed nice, but very depressed). But I couldn’t sleep in their bed, it seemed like too great a violation of their relationship, so I made an excuse and left. I think that he didn’t want to be alone when M was gone, and any warm body would do. Once we started having sex, L talked to me online less and less, sometimes just sending a ‘check-in’ e-mail. I felt like I was being used, that I was giving him something M couldn’t, because he told me they hadn’t had sex in a long time. That didn’t bother me much until I realized I wanted an actual boyfriend, and it couldn’t be him because he would never leave M, and we weren’t compatible anyway.
At this time I made plans to meet him but he couldn’t because he was in a tight financial spot, so I said we shouldn’t make plans until his money situation improved. (Also, he told me that his sisters gave him some money but had turned him down when he asked for more, he then asked me for $20-$30, which I thought was in bad taste so I said no, my refusal and his lack of money didn’t seem to bother him very much.) He e-mailed me back saying that he agreed we should wait until he had more money, but then he said I was the most important thing in his life and he didn’t want to lose me. At first, I was flattered, but then I really thought about what he said. How could I be the most important thing in his life when he barely talks to me and he’s living with another woman? It defied all logic. If I saw red flags before, I was hearing sirens now, too.
After a lot of deliberation, I sent him an e-mail (we rarely spoke on the phone, which also bothered me, if he liked me so much, wouldn’t he want to talk to me more often?) telling him I wanted an actual boyfriend, I felt like I was being used, and that being with me would not fix the problems he has with M. I was harsh, but I told the truth. I had hoped he would apologize and we could go back to being friends, or at least end on good terms. A few hours later I get an e-mail from M, telling me that they had been together for over ten years (he never told me that), that she loves him (he told me that they were together mostly to split cost of living, and that he thought no one cared about him) and that our friends with benefits relationship never happened, because if it did ‘he would have told me.’
I was devastated. He had lied to me and to the woman he presumably loves and has been with for over a decade. I have tried to piece together what may have happened. From what M wrote, he probably read my e-mail, and he was afraid I would tell M what we did (I never would have told her, he made me think she was a bad person), he most likely told her I had a ‘crazy idea’ that we had had sex, and that I wanted them to break up. He probably made me sound delusional. Maybe he even suggested that she write me an e-mail to ‘set me straight.’ She ended her e-mail with ‘If you want a boyfriend, I suggest you find someone single.’ I never replied to her, but I did send him another e-mail that said I was removing him from my facebook profile and blocking his e-mail. I haven’t contacted him since, and he hasn’t tried to talk to me.
The girlfriend didn’t know
It was at this point that I realized that M had no idea that L had visited me many times at my house. She thinks we only went to dinner once or twice and went for a few walks. I also realized that I thought M was a horrible person based on what L told me. I once went to their apartment and while he was in another room taking a phone call, she showed me family pictures; it seemed like she really loves and cares about L and his family. L once told me he thought M and I were a lot alike. He cited our love for animals, but I think it was really because we’re both nice, decent girls with shaky self-esteem, and he thought he could use me for sex, and he uses M because she gives him some semblance of a normal family life, and does things like cook for him.
I don’t know how much he even liked me, I think he got off on the thrill of deceiving M, and he thought I would be a willing partner because I like to believe I’m a free thinker and being in an open relationship intrigued me. Although I was raw for about a week, and I wondered if he had lied to me about everything (did he really think I was beautiful?), talking to my friends about what happened has helped me a lot. My roommate has since told that me he never liked L, because when they spoke he thought L was subtly trying to bend him to his will, and he reminded him of his ex, who was abusive and had tried to kill him. It was then that I started thinking that L was a psychopath, and I found the Love Fraud website. I’m not sure if L is a total psychopath, but his ability to lie to his long-time girlfriend and using her to hurt me makes me think he has enough of those awful traits to be dangerous.
I realize that I loved L, but actually, I loved a fantasy; a sweet man caught in an open but troubled relationship he felt he couldn’t leave, and he made me feel like I was wonderful for showing him so much affection and understanding. I am getting over the illusion, but I worry about M, who is still trapped in his dreamland. Maybe she really is rotten, and maybe they deserve each other, but I can’t imagine what he’s done to her over the years. I believe he played the ‘wounded bird’ routine with me when it is really M who is abused in the relationship.
I worry he might try to hurt her, or someone else he gets involved with. I want to contact her to tell her my side of the story, but I know she will only think that I’m crazy, and if she questions him, he’ll twist my words around to his benefit. I’m trying hard to let that urge to contact her go. Unfortunately, she will have to figure it out for herself, because psychopaths are good liars, but they’re not that good. His mask will slip eventually. I don’t worry that he will contact me again, as other psychopathic exes on this site have done, because he knows that I can no longer be manipulated. I’m sure he has moved on and doesn’t even think about me.
The funny/sad thing is that I have a degree in psychology, and I specialized in abnormal psychology. I’ve read a great deal of the literature on psychopathy, and one of my professors even worked with Dr. Robert Hare. I was fooled, and I feel foolish. Despite friends who know both L and I telling me it was a bad idea to go out with him, despite knowing he had hit on other girls, I went out with him anyway. L seemed so sincere, but the more I thought about the odd intensity of his words and actions, and how they didn’t match up, something told me it wasn’t right. I could never get those little red flags to stop waving in my head. But I think I had to figure that out for myself.
I consider myself lucky that I was the ‘Other Woman’ and not in M’s position, I couldn’t imagine ten years with him. I hope M finds peace and happiness, and as for L, I don’t think he will ever know what love feels like, because psychopaths are a different species, I don’t think they are completely human. Some people on this website describe them as ‘broken,’ but psychopaths were never functioning to begin with. They can’t change, but we can teach ourselves and others their tricks and avoid them as much as possible, and that’s empowering.
I’m sure that there are other psychopaths who are using the open relationship model to lure partners who could never be with a cheater. An open relationship is a perfect cover for a psychopath; because often, the secondary partner isn’t integrated into their lives like the primary partner is, and their family and friends often don’t know it’s open. L’s family didn’t know, and although I wanted to meet his family and friends and vice versa, I knew I couldn’t as the secondary partner. If I had, maybe I would have figured out something was wrong, sooner.
In hindsight, I should have never have taken L’s word that M was okay with an open relationship, I should have asked her directly (as awkward as that would have been), but I’m sure he would have made an excuse as to why she didn’t want to talk about it. I came out of the ‘relationship’ with L relatively unscathed, and what I have taken away from my experience is: don’t feel bad for trusting people every once in a while. We’ve all trusted people before and it turned out well, and it will again. I’m not jaded, but I’m definitely wiser. I think these lyrics sum up my experience best:
I’m just another john you gypped
another sucker stiffed
A walk on role in the script
to your long, long grift
The love that had me in your grip
was just a long, long grift
‘Long Grift,’ from Hedwig and the Angry Inch