Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following letter from a reader whom we’ll call “Celia.” Names have been changed.
I have been reading your blog for a few years now and although I have not made myself visible, I have been active reading all the stories and advice you have shared with everyone. Your blog created an awareness within myself of just what I had encountered, and why I felt so traumatised during and after the relationship. There were times I could not bring myself to read some of the stories, as it brought back so much of the trauma I was wanting to suppress.
My relationship was very short, about 6 months in total, but nevertheless, shattered my dreams and faith in some people. My trust was gone. There were also times I wanted to respond to stories, but felt too angry and knew I would not express myself in the correct manner. I was very emotional with high anxiety and depression that turned me into a person I hardly recognised.
Nine years later, I consider myself ‘healed’ (to a large degree), and more aware now of the awful cluster B personality disorders. I am still not the same person I was before I met Brian, and probably never will be. But now I have new skills learned from your site that should serve me well in life.
I have learned to take things slower, turn something/situations upside down and to look very carefully before making decisions. I am more on guard with people now and can sense things better. I have also learned what behaviour is not acceptable to myself, and have put in place better boundaries for myself. I now make no excuses for anyone. If lies and deception are shown, I cut ties immediately. For this, I thank you and other members for sharing their stories and creating an awareness of the nasties in life.
In 2002 I emigrated from South Africa to Australia for work purposes, and stayed in the country, north of Melbourne. I was divorced, and had been since my daughter was two years old. My daughter Laura was 10 years old when we arrived. I was pretty much isolated from my family and friends. Social life was limited because of the isolation.
The first few years were busy working and setting up a new home and buying a car etc. It was just my daughter and I, so we were close and had a good relationship. We both seemed to be adjusting well to our new home. I was working a lot of overtime and my daughter had to spend a lot of time alone, and that led to her becoming insecure within herself. She was being bullied badly at school and developed anxiety and an eating disorder, which then developed into major depression. Laura was receiving regular counselling and support from a psychologist and things appeared to be sorting themselves out for the better.
I had an injury at work and had to have back surgery with a plate inserted as three discs had ruptured. I recovered well but could not return to my current place of work, as I was not able to do any more heavy lifting. I am a Registered nurse, Midwife, and Psychiatric nurse, and at the time was working in a mental health facility, in the inpatient unit. I moved into another field of nursing but was never really happy, as mental health was my preferred area of work.
I was frustrated and depressed as I felt I was just going through the motion of working and paying bills, without actually living life. I began to miss having a relationship with someone that I could share life with. To go to the movies, to go for walks, to chat to, to go out to dinner with … to do simple everyday things with. To be hugged and to hug, to support and be supported … To be part of a loving team.
Four years later
Roll forward to February 2006.
That is when I made the bad decision of joining up with an online dating service, RSVP Australia. My first time ever experience of this type of dating. I had a few responses but one took off quickly (too quickly). His name was Brian. He filled my time with emails and asked for my phone number within a week.
I had to apologise to the other gents as I did not have time to follow up with them, and besides that, I don’t like to lead people on. I have always considered myself to have good morals and to be honest, so did not want to waste other people’s time. I was pretty innocent at this stage and just presumed everyone was honest and up front, doing the right thing by others.
Brian used to phone me twice a day, which I took to mean he really liked me, both my online photos and our chats. He used to phone at random times but his nightly phone call was always around 7 at night, and then he would keep me chatting for an at least an hour, sometimes longer.
I did begin to feel a little ‘tied’ down and frustrated with the length of the calls, as I had chores to do and a child to spend time with. I felt he was monopolising my time, yet at the same time told myself that it showed how keen he was to have a relationship with me. Also thought maybe he was lonely and that made me feel a little guilty at thinking bad thoughts about him. My 6th sense was also telling me he was checking to see if I had another man in my home or not, by doing the nightly and totally random day checks.
Brian asked a LOT of questions about my life and family and I felt myself opening up to him and probably telling him a little too much about myself and my financial situation. I had received a very large cash settlement from my work injury, my home and car were fully paid, and I had no debt, instead a healthy nest of savings. To this day I am so angry at myself for not being more guarded about my situation. He had a way of making me trust him and knowing just what questions to ask to assess whether I was a good target or not.
He told me he had studied and worked as a Pathologist for years, before going into his own business as a ‘Consultant’. I now know this was not true. He had never studied anything in his life. Looking back now, I do think he was trying to create a bond with me by appearing to have “so much in common,” such as both working in the medical field. He “totally” understood my medical knowledge and what I was talking about, as he had also worked in the same field. BALONEY!
He was a consultant yes, but I could never quite understand what work he actually did do. He said he helped people start up and maintain their own companies. Said he had devoted his entire life to helping other people and making lots of money, and that he now wanted someone to share his success with, someone to love and spoil.
Three weeks after first chatting on the phone, he came to visit me. We have a small airport here and the flight is just over an hour from Melbourne. He met my daughter and a few of my friends, who all said he seemed ‘nice’. But the weekend went quickly and he seemed to want to spend it with me and not spend time with my friends. I totally understood this, after all, he had taken the time and effort to visit me.
He brought a DVD with him, Serendipity, which he asked me to play and watch with him. The story is a love story, about fate and destiny meeting your soul mate. He kept saying we were soul mates, destined to meet. I started believing in the fantasy myself and got quite excited at the prospect.
Little did I know he was assessing me, my daughter, and my assets at the time.
What to wear
I remember him asking me what evening wear I had to wear when I moved to Melbourne (the busy social life you know … pfffttt). He lay back on my bed asking me to show him my clothing, one by one. I still don’t know why he did this, but it could have been part of the assessment stage, i.e., were my clothes expensive, or maybe to make me feel insecure and doubt my own taste? Up until then, I had no problems with my taste in clothes and other things, so it never really bothered me then.
He did suggest we go shopping in the mall locally to buy a new dress for dinner that night, which we did. Once again he sat back and watched me parade a variety of dresses. The one he pushed me to buy, as it was so ‘stunning’ was a black mid thigh length one, with black sequins all over. It was lovely but the sequins dug in painfully under the arm area and I did tell him this. Now I know he got a thrill from the pain I was in.
After the night out, I had red raw areas from the constant rubbing of the sequins. He also suggested I buy a pair of high heels to match the dress which I also did (to make him proud of me at that stage). What a fool I was. I hated high heels and always wore flats, boots, the highest being a Lady Di pump.
Asked me to move
Two weeks later, he asked if I would consider moving to Melbourne to live with him. He wanted us to get engaged and be married within the year. He was happy to be a role model for my daughter and supported my desire to look for another job in Melbourne. He advised I put my home up for sale, and move my stuff down to his home while on the market.
I asked a friend of mine if she would mind moving into my home and looking after it while it was up for sale, which she was happy to do for me. I decided to leave my furniture in the house for her to use, and only packed a few boxes to take with me. In hindsight this was a very good decision I made, as it would have been near impossible to do a ‘runner’ with a house of furniture.
We also had a cat, which I told him we loved and could not part with. He indicated to bring our kitty with us, as he loved animals. If he had not wanted our cat to come with us, I would have declined to move to his home, as the cat was family. I think he could sense that.
No one home
We drove down to his home, and arrived at 7 pm at night. He was not there to greet us, but arrived at 9 pm in the dark of night.
The mosquitos were biting us and we had no bathroom available for our needs. The cat also needed to get out of her carry cage ASAP. I had no idea where he was as, he had indicated he would be there to greet us. I should have realised this was just the beginning of bad things to come. My car was loaded to the roof, but he made no attempt to help unload things. I had to do it all myself. In hindsight I should have just driven away back home.
He asked when my other stuff was arriving and I indicated it would be arriving when my home sold as my friend needed some comforts whilst she was doing me a favour looking after my home. He seemed to be peeved by this. He asked me to have a few larger items sent down like my treadmill. I told him we could chat about it over the next few days. Once again, in hindsight, he was trying to trap me down in his home with all my belongings, and make it hard for me to just ‘up and run’.
The next day he pilfered (at least this is what it felt like) through my possessions I had stuffed into my car, saying things like … “this is useless, this can go back in the box, this can go in the shed …” and so on. I asked him why he had even bothered asking me to bring my stuff with me if he did not want the things in his home. I never did get and answer. My boxes were placed in his shed and the door was padlocked so I could not get in. At the time he told me it was to keep my belongings safe.
Understanding and forgiving
Up until then I was a strong, independent woman, and could handle negative people. His behaviour was tolerable up to that stage as I could deal with difficult and demanding people. I put his attitude down to a bachelor status and living on his own for too long. So I was understanding and forgiving. (I’m an idiot).
He had previously told me he had been married once before when he was a ‘pathology student’, but his ex wife had been a pampered child and moved back to her parents a few weeks into their marriage. I felt so sorry for him at the time he told me.
He then asked where my daughter was going to school. It was school break at the time we arrived. I reminded him of the nearby local school he had told me about. It had seemed a great idea to him a few weeks previously. Now he was ‘concerned’ about travel to and from school as there was only one bus … and if she missed it … I would have to drive her to school. He also began to say he travelled a lot for business and would want me to accompany him while he was away. He then mentioned ‘boarding school’ was the only option for her as ‘we’ would be away from home a lot.
He took me to see the headmaster at a boarding school in the city the next week, where he did most of the ‘flirting’ and play acting/chatting. Wore his best suit and kept insinuating how busy and successful he was at his business. I was still infatuated with him at this stage and believed every word he was saying. He even offered to pay the $1000 deposit on her being accepted at the private school.
The school fees were around $45,000 a year, without books, uniforms, and other extras. The majority of my money was tied up in my home and other investments and not easily drawn upon at such short notice. But I did have enough cash on hand to pay for two terms at school, which I did. He assured me that he would cover all other cost for her education if my home took longer to sell than anticipated. It was not a good time to pull out of investments at that stage as the economy was very low and I would have lost a lot of money.
My daughter was excited at the prospect of boarding school and making new friends, which was a relief to me. I was happy for her but so sad at the same time. I missed her already.
The change begins
As soon as the papers were signed and my daughter was moved into boarding school, he began to change into a man I could not understand or recognise.
It started small, but deadly, if I look back now. He would stand on my toes and place his weight down heavily on them. When I would ask why he did that, he would act like nothing had happened.
He would burn my arm with hot things like a hot spoon after stirring a hot drink, or place the kettle against my arm. I told him that it was painful and not to do that again. I then held a hot spoon against his arm to show him how painful it was. He shouted out in pain / indignation ???? and then punched me in the upper arm in retaliation. I then realised he had double standards, and his were the only ones that counted.
Still, I stayed, as I wanted this relationship to work. I had made a few large changes to move in with him, and it was not so easy to just up and go at this stage. I had quit my previous job, put my home on the market, my daughter in boarding school, told my friends and family overseas about this lovely man I had met … maybe I was too embarrassed at that stage to admit I had mucked up badly. I wish I had left at that stage, as the signs were there that he was not a normal person.
Cat must go
A week after my daughter left for boarding school, he told me our cat had to go as she stank. I was very clean with her and her box at all times. But he knew I loved her and wanted to isolate me from everything and everyone I loved. I see that now. (stupid me). He told me to pack her in her carry box and took me to a local shelter and told me to hand her in. I was sobbing and could hardly talk to the ladies at the shelter. I informed them that Brian was the reason I could not keep her, and that she had nowhere else to go. They were very understanding and supportive, but my heart felt broken.
I get so angry with myself when I think of this now. The anger has never gone for being such a fool and allowing a monster to control me. I think he derived so much pleasure from my pain. He was angry at me for telling them that he was the one who did not want her in his home and I paid for this driving back to his home. He had a way of carrying on verbally like a spoilt stuffed piglet, squealing all the way home (an hour’s drive). I think he wanted me to appear to be the bad person all the time, by causing mischief then sitting by innocently while I carried out his orders. (virtual kick up his butt right now)
He was very secretive about the details of his business as he always told me it was all confidential. “It was a legal requirement to keep all things under lock and key”. (sure….okay….I get it).
At the beginning I trusted this was the truth and never asked further questions. His study door was always locked and he frequently vanished behind the closed door, sometimes for the entire day. I am now thinking he was still on dating sites and chatting to other women.
One day I did walk into his study as the door was open, to take him a cup of coffee. While in there, I happened to glance down on the desk and noted a few accounts with bright red stamps, demanding payment. Some of them were a few thousand dollars in value. But once again I just brushed things away, thinking busy businessmen sometimes forgot to pay bills on time. Never once thinking he was wanting my money to pay them as he was not in a healthy financial position as he made himself out to be in.