I met Joe at a bar. It was the first time I ever went out alone.
I was forcing myself to do new things on my own. Trying to prove to myself I did not need a man beside me to do the things I wanted to do.
After I ordered my drink I started to feel uncomfortable. I noticed a jukebox and thought it would give me some comfort to hear some music I enjoy. So, I went to put in my selections.
When I turned back around I noticed someone sitting in my chair. All my belongings had been pushed to the side. But my drink remained right where I left it. I immediately got angry … wrinkled my nose and stomped over to the stranger in my chair … ”You are in my chair!” I exclaimed in an irritated voice …. he apologized profusely … “Oh…I’m sorry!! This is your chair???”
I wasn’t even looking at him I was so ticked ”¦ I just wanted the safety of my chair back!! “That’s MY drink in front of you too!!”
He apologized again and he said it so sweetly that I felt bad that I had been so rude.
That’s when I touched his arm and finally looked up and said, ”it’s okay … just please pay your bill and let me have my chair back okay?”
It was in that moment I saw his face … so handsome!!! And he looked at me in a way that made me feel like he was looking IN to me.
He introduced himself. We started talking … we talked and talked … about everything … he told me about his brother’s suicide … I told him about my divorce and the horrific betrayal I had experienced …. yet when I told him about my divorce I told him I no longer had anger toward my ex … after all it takes two for a marriage to fall apart right??
That’s what I said … princess of empathy … I also told him I was a nurse … QUEEN of empathy …. Pay Dirt!!!!
When we left the bar he walked me home. We walked arm and arm … it felt like we had known each other forever … I already felt bonded. The night ended with, I swear, the best kiss I had EVER experienced in my life.
Our texting sessions started just moments after he left me that night. And they would quickly get more intense and constant.
(By the way, he would eventually reveal that he stole my seat on purpose as an excuse to talk to me…brilliant hunting skills!!)
But he never asked to see me…which seemed so odd. It was obvious we had a strong connection … why didn’t he ask me out? I thought maybe there was a girlfriend in the picture.
By the way, I forgot to mention, I lived in Pennsylvania and he lived in NY.
Finally I just came out and asked him when he was going to ask me out. I even sent him a picture of me in a pretty dress to remind him of “what he was missing.”
We arranged to meet the next weekend.
That meeting began the whirlwind of the most romantic, passionate intense experience of my life. On date number two, he picked me up and seemed nervous. He kept saying, “I need a drink.”
Finally, I asked him if he was ok and he said “NO!” and pulled over. He stopped the car and looked at me, unblinking… “I have to tell you something …. I’m separated … and I have two kids.”
The news was shocking and disheartening. Especially since I had promised myself I would never date anyone who’s divorce was not finalized AND I would not date anyone with young children … also on my list … I will not date firefighters or hunters …. Joe was all of these things.
It’s amazing how quickly one can abandon their principals when they believe they have met their soul mate.
We proceeded to have our date. I asked lots of questions. The following morning I had more questions and an off feeling in my gut and asked him to meet me at the diner. I had come up with what I thought were brilliant questions that would reveal if he was telling me the truth while also poking at his conscience if he was lying.
I reminded him of the horrible betrayal I had been through. I told him, “Joe, I don’t want to do to another woman what was done to me … only you know the truth ”¦ please don’t do that to me … or to her.”
Then I said to him, “You have gotten to know me over the last couple of months. Tell me, do you think I’m a good person?”
Yes, he said…you’re a great person.”
To which I replied, “Good … I think you are a good person too, Joe, so I’m choosing to believe what you are telling me ”¦ but again, only YOU know the truth. If what you’re telling me is not true, it’s okay. We can still part ways as friends at this point. Just don’t take a good person down a bad road.”
“I would never do that” he said. “I believe in do onto others as you would want them to do onto you.” (Oh, did I forget to mention that I had revealed to him that I was a faithful Christian?”) … He ended with “I understand that this might be hard for you to accept Adelaide … but I know, if you will let me, I will make you happy.”
What followed was a year and a half of intense love bombing and being mirrored. My friends and family weren’t buying it. “They just don’t understand,” I thought. Joe would tell me, “It’s okay Adelaide … they just love you and are looking out for you. I get it. One day I will prove to them who I am and that I’m for real.”
Everything with Joe was intense and passionate and perfect, I thought. He could read me ”¦ it seemed he could anticipate my every desire. I had never felt so loved and adored.
I told him my deepest, darkest secrets. Within months he knew more about me then the man I had been married to for 17 years.
Before Joe, I never believed in the notion of a soul mate. Thought it was romantic silliness created by the movie industry. But Joe changed my mind ”¦ he made me believe. Like a child made to believe that Santa Clause really did exist.
I was the happiest I had ever been in my life and I loved making him happy. I never loved so hard, so deeply, so purely before.
He told me all the things I ever wanted to hear but had never been told by a man. He told me he wanted to marry me (something before Joe I had sworn I would NEVER do again!) and I would feel elated at the thought of becoming this man’s wife.
He would look me deep in the eyes and say, “You’re going to say yes right? When I ask you?“
Even crueler ”¦ I had told Joe I hadn’t been able to have a child and that my ex-husband had never once told me he wanted to have a baby with me. I told Joe how as a woman I had so longed to hear those words from my ex, but they never came.
So Joe took it upon himself to give me my dream ”¦ to tell more during intense, passionate “love making” sessions that he wanted to get me pregnant. That he was determined. It would make me cry with such joy that the man I loved with all my heart would want this with me even though I could probably never give it to him. He was speaking the words I always wanted to hear.
The man of my dreams wanted to not only make me his wife but the mother of his child. Can you imagine what that did to my psyche?
We would have deep conversations ”¦ about everything ”¦ our childhood, our faith in God, our fundamental core values. We agreed on everything and at every level.
When speaking of Joe to my family and friends I would say, “I feel like I have met the male version of myself ”¦ I have never felt so understood and accepted.”
Many times after our long discussions, Joe would get very serious and again look me in the eyes and say, “Just please Adelaide, please ”¦ don’t ever lie to me. It’s the one thing I cannot tolerate. I hate liars. I was lied to my whole life. Please don’t do that to me. I always tell you the truth Adelaide so please do the same for me.”
He would always have the saddest puppy dog eyes as he said this and my heart would just melt. I wanted nothing more than to love him, heal his wounds and protect him for the rest of his life. I would have laid down my own life for his. That is how much I loved the man. That is how much I believed in and trusted him. There was so much more, but I think you get the gist of the magnitude of the lying and manipulation that was occurring
As our relationship progressed, though, there were times I felt that nagging feeling in my gut and the questions would start to fill my mind. Why wasn’t he divorced yet? Why hadn’t I met anyone from his life?
Really, I began to realize I didn’t know anything about his life outside of what he told me. Yet he had access to all of mine. He almost always came to my home. He had met my family and some of my friends. He knew everything about me and yet, outside of our little bubble, I knew nothing about his life once he left my home.
I started to express this to him. How I was starting to feel like I was being hidden. Which didn’t add up to what he had told me about the state of his marriage. That they were legally separated for years now and both had agreed to live separate lives until the divorce was finalized. So why hadn’t I met at least a friend of his yet?
Something started to feel very off. But he always knew how to reassure me.
In fact around Christmas, after expressing my disappointment over not being able to see him, he told me “You know what Adelaide, you are right ”¦ forget all this. I want you to come and meet my mother. Come to Christmas dinner with me so you can meet her.”
How well did this man know me? Enough to know that just the extension of the invitation would be enough for me.
“Oh Joe, you know I would love that but we can’t. We have to wait until everything is settled before I meet your mother. Its only right.”
Other times, when doubt would creep in I would ask “Joe you ARE truly legally separated right? “He would tell me, “Yes Adelaide, I have the papers. I brought them with me to show you. Do you want me to go get them? I left them in the car.”
I never made him show me. I thought it would make it seem like I didn’t truly trust him. The mere fact that he supposedly brought them reassured me that his word was good enough for me.
Still, many of my family and friends were concerned and they expressed this to me at various times. One night I was drinking wine with one of my close friends and her husband, Steve. After listening to us talk and hearing me explain once again how I chose to believe that Joe was a good and truthful man, Steve had had enough.
“Michelle, I have to say something and I hope you don’t hate me for it but I am going to tell you what you are ”¦. you are kind, and sweet and compassionate, independent and self-sufficient AND you live in another state. You are the perfect mistress!”
The words felt like a kick to the gut. I remember my reply to him. “Joe can only be one of two things … he is either the most incredible person I have ever met or he is a deplorable Monster … there is no in-between … and I don’t believe he is a monster … no one could be that horrible … no one could do and say the things he has and not be true … he would have to be the devil himself.”
I later relayed the troubling exchange back to Joe.
“He said that?” he asked. “Yes.” Joe frowned and once again said, “I understand. It’s okay. They will see. One day I will marry you and they will all see I was telling the truth. They will all see that my intentions were always true.”
Then he followed with, “You know I already have it planned in my head ”¦ where and when I am going to ask you ”¦ you said you would say yes, right?”
And with those few simple words all of my creeping doubts and fears would disappear and it was once again Joe and I against the world.
One day everyone would see just how true and magical our love was. And then we would have our fairytale ending where everyone lived happily ever after.
And then it began ”¦ quite subtly of course. The devalue stage was initiated.
I could swear I was starting to catch him staring at other women when we were out. I was never much the jealous type but I began to feel very uncomfortable, even insecure.
When I would call him on it, he would tell me I was seeing things. That he only had eyes for me. That I was the only woman he wanted. Yet I felt like I was beginning to notice it more often. I decided to take him on a trip to Nashville because it had always been his dream to go.
One night we went to a karaoke bar. There was a very attractive bartender, who for the oddest reason, made me feel threatened.
I remember I had excused myself to go to the ladies room and as I was walking back I could swear I saw the two of them engaged in an intense eye lock.
I walked right up to Joe and asked, “What the hell is going on here?” He told me he didn’t know what I was talking about. That I was acting crazy. Well, I felt crazy. I could have sworn I saw what I did, but he was trying to convince me it wasn’t so.
I wanted so badly to believe him.
In the end I demanded we leave the bar because I felt so uncomfortable. I kept apologizing to him for my behavior, telling him I didn’t know what was wrong with me and why I was acting this way.
It was the truth. I didn’t know what was happening to me, suddenly feeling so jealous and insecure!! I was not that woman!! What was wrong with me??
It was an awful feeling and an awful night. He managed to convince me that his version of the event was true and contrived a story that really the girl was looking at HIM as an indirect way to challenge me because she felt threatened there was another attractive woman at the bar.
Once again I chose to believe him because after all, this man loved me right? He wanted to marry me ”¦ wanted me to have his child. I had to have been imagining what I saw.
I let it go but the discomfort always lingered.
I began to pray a lot more. I had been praying all along but this time I changed my prayer. I told God, “God, I want to do what is right here. I have been asking you for signs to let me know if I am being deceived and going against your will. Please God ”¦ if you are sending me signs, I’m not seeing them or I am excusing them away. So, I’m changing my prayer today ”¦ If this is not right God, I need you to take this man out of my life because I’m too far gone. I can’t walk away from him. You have to do it for me if this is not right.”
Interestingly, I shared my prayer with Joe. I will never forget what he said.
At first I thought it was funny. I completely missed the mask drop in his words. “Ummm”¦can you change your prayer please? I mean I don’t want to wind up dying in a fire.” He was dead serious and I thought it was funny.
“Joe” I told him, “I think God knows what I mean ”¦ I think he knows that I’m not asking him to have you killed but if it makes you more comfortable I will clarify to GOD that I don’t mean that.”
I said it with a smile and small chuckle.
When I look back I cannot believe what I missed. My prayer frightened him because he knew what he was doing and it was the furthest thing from what God would want.
I only had to pray my new prayer a few times before the hideous truth was revealed.
Things suddenly started to fall apart. Joe told me his soon to be ex had begun trying to break into his phone.
“Why would she do that?” I asked. “Because she is crazy, and I am done protecting her about her craziness,” he replied.
“Crazy? You never told me your wife was crazy! You always said things between the two of you were amicable and that you were both in agreement that the marriage was over and would end peacefully. Don’t you think you should have mentioned to me earlier that she was crazy?”
I told him something was off. If things were as he said, why would she be trying to break into his phone?
To me the remedy was simple. I told Joe, “If everything is as you say ”¦ give her the phone records. You have nothing to hide, right? So show her. And also Joe, I hate to ask this but I need you to show me those separation papers as well. I never asked you to before but something is wrong here. Someone is lying. I’m sorry but I need to see them.”
He told me “I will show you. I brought them with me so many times, I could have shown you then. I will bring them and show you when I come back.”
I watched him leave to return to NY and “sort out the mess.”
“I love you “ he said. “Don’t forget that”.
That was the last time Joe was ever in my town. The next morning, as I was getting ready for church, my phone rang. Who on earth calls on a Sunday morning at 7 am I wondered??
I heard an unfamiliar female voice say my name. “Hello Adelaide? This is Joe’s WIFE. I’m calling you because Joe is too much of a coward to get on the phone to speak with you himself but he is here standing next to me right now. He told me everything. That you have been together for the last year and a half. He told me that he told you we were legally separated ”¦ we are NOT ”¦ we are MARRIED!!. He also told me that you never wanted to be the other woman. I hate to tell you this but that is exactly what you have been!”
After a few speechless seconds I asked in a quiet voice “So ”¦ you aren’t getting a divorce? You haven’t been going through divorce mediation?”
“NO!” came the reply.
“We have been working on fixing our marriage.
“So ”¦ he doesn’t live in the basement?”
Again “NO! He can’t live in our basement!! He lives in our house. He sleeps next to me in our bed every night!”
My mind was racing. How could this be? He had brought over the mediation papers and asked me to help him figure things out.
He had asked me to talk to my lawyer brother about referrals and had a list of questions for me to ask him about the legalities of dividing up assets.
He had me and members of my family racing around trying to help him in any way we could.
I began begging his wife to put Joe on the phone ”¦ he wouldn’t. He said nothing.
In fact I was starting to wonder if he really was there at all.
But then she ranted, “I can’t BELIEVE he was being intimate with you while we were supposedly working on our marriage. It’s disgusting!”
That’s when I finally heard Joe mumble something in the background and I yelled into the phone “JOE!!!!…HOW COULD YOU???…I always said, you were either the best person I ever met or the absolute worst…now I know!!!….
“You said that to him?” his wife asked me.
“Yes” I replied.
“That’s funny … I’ve said the same thing to him.”
There were a few more respectful exchanges between his wife and I. She was obviously upset but her anger was not really directed at me. It seems she understood I was a victim here as well.
I apologized to her. I promised her that I didn’t know. That I had been terribly deceived.
She ended the conversation by saying there was nothing really more to talk about. That our relationship was now over and she and Joe would see where they would go from here.
I hung up the phone ”¦ and that was the end. Gone. Finished. Over in an instant. Life dream toppled, hopes destroyed.
The silence that followed was unbearable. I contemplated ending it all but my faith kept me from doing so. In reality, I was actually blessed. The monster was taken out of my life just at the start of the devalue phase. If Joe hadn’t been discovered by his wife I’m sure it would have gone on much longer. Until he was truly ready to discard me on his own terms.
The level of pain I was experiencing was excruciating ”¦ I can’t even imagine how much harder it would have been if I had been taken full circle. I questioned how anyone could survive such a horror.
The realization that true evil does exist has been hard to accept. But now it is very clear to me that it does. Not every human being is inherently good. And there are those among us who are inherently bad.
Joe had made contact quite a few times after, professing his love. Promising he would “fix” himself and come back to me ”¦ yet one thing never changed ”¦ no one ever filed for divorce. He was still trying to keep me in his clutches while salvaging his marriage.
It suddenly became so clear. His plan all along was to break me to the point that I would accept the role of mistress in his life at least until he decided to discard me and find a new victim ”¦ a new source of supply. And I realize too”¦I probably wasn’t even the only one.
It may sound like I am a strong woman but truth be told this has been the most devastating experience of my life. The betrayal was more severe and the recovery even more difficult than that of my divorce.
I am still not completely healed. I’m still working on it. It is a constant battle, but with the grace and strength of God and his unfailing love, I’m getting there.
I am changed but I will not let this man destroy who I am at my core. I can’t ”¦ if I do then he has truly won, hasn’t he?? I WON’T let him win. He’s not in control of my life … I am.