Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following story from a reader who posts as “Ravenless Tower.”
I’m going to be as concise as I can here – but like most of you the story is long ”¦ I wanted to tell it so there is a frame of reference to my posts for anyone who cares. I also wanted to get it down in writing, and out of my head. My intent is not to complain or to place blame, so much as to identify the issues that have helped to shape my choices and brought my ultimately to this board for support. The point of being here, for me, is not to hate, not to blame, but to accept responsibility and own the things in my life that need to be addressed and to move on to a healthier place so that I can encourage others to do the same. I will refer to him as I always do in my mind, as “Tower Raven.”
My family life as a child was not perfect. We lived in a nice home, had enough food and clothes, good schools. My father adored my mother and my mother never wanted to have children – especially not girls. After five of us her tubes were tied and that was that. My Dad was a staunch Catholic in law enforcement and my mother was a homemaker but not happy in her job. I remember anger, yelling, belittling and chores, church without socializing and community, and punishment. I do not remember positive reinforcement, encouragement, hugs. Emotions were not shared openly and were discouraged ”¦ to capture my father’s attention, he had to be in a good mood – and you had to like watching the news and law enforcement shows. To capture my mother’s, you had to do something for her – a chore, make dinner, buy her or bring her something ”¦ and then the attention was short lived.
I haven’t seen my parents in 11 ½ years. My father and I talk a few times a month when I call him. He is retired now, but worked long hard hours and was promoted throughout his career. He is well respected by his peers and while his outlook on life is much milder than in his younger days, there is still an unspoken mandate to hide emotion, in fact I am labeled more or less histrionic when I try to bring up anything that is even remotely emotional. My mother and I rarely speak – on the odd occasion when she answers the phone she is always busy and quick to end the conversation. They do not know my children, have only seen them once or twice and speak to them maybe once or twice a year by phone.
Meeting Tower Raven
I did not go to college, but instead into the Navy when I graduated high school. There was no money for college, but the Navy offered tuition assistance and a chance to leave home, to travel. While at my first duty station I met Tower Raven ”¦ it was the penetrating and magnetic stare that caught my attention. I now know from reading Hare and Cleckley that this is often referred to as a “reptilian stare” and is actually predatory in nature. I thought it was exciting – I didn’t realize how foreboding a warning it actually was ”¦ I completely missed it. I thought it was sexy! Silly girl.
After we met the first time, our interactions wove a pattern ”¦ intense and exciting, followed by periods of his absence and disinterest. Then more intensity followed by the same. He was six years older and seemed intelligent and focused with great strength of character. I was in love with him. The dynamic was not unlike the one I had with my father ”¦ when I had his attention I felt valued ”¦ even though it came and went. I just worked harder to keep it, and I would have done anything get and keep him and to “make him happy.”
Eventually, I found myself pregnant and had the difficult task of telling him. That day, I entered his open barracks room and sat, waiting for him to return. I knew he was nearby; after all, he’d left his door wide open. When he returned he fixed his gaze on me in the most disconcerting manner. His anger was barely controlled as he questioned why I would walk into his room when he wasn’t there – uninvited. I was stunned. I never told him about the baby – we walked together to the commissary, had ice cream, and I went back home. About ten days later I miscarried. I requested orders away from the base and was transferred shortly after, though I remained in the same area.
The next man I dated I met in a similar manner ”¦ he was charming, intense ”¦ after a few months I learned that he was married and had four children. He was stationed where I was and they lived down south in his hometown. Again I asked for a transfer – this time I went half way around the world, where I stayed for a year until a sexual assault while I lay dozing on a deserted stretch of beach sent me home, resulting in two separate back surgeries.
When I healed, I went to see Tower Raven. I had decided to tell him what I’d been through. Instead, I learned he was going to be married. I remember standing there that day, in pain, swallowing my emotions – and walking away. That was 24 years ago.
Eighteen months ago we made contact on Facebook. He has done well for himself; he is in law enforcement in the nation’s capitol and knowing what I know now I am stunned at the level he has attained. His first communications with me were as intense as I remembered him. I told him about my ex, his alcoholism, how I left and have been raising my children on my own for the past nine years. We shared histories, he saw the pictures on my page of my daughter going through cancer treatment – a malignant brain tumor diagnosed a year after my divorce. He, too, was divorced – horrible stories of the woman she was, how she’d hurt him, taken his child from him, leaving home one day while he was at work. Taking everything. He said the first person she was involved with after their divorce committed suicide. (It haunts me now, because I believe he was projecting ”¦ could he have driven a woman to suicide? I believe he could.)
He was remarried now, but not happily, they “didn’t have sex” because he lost interest after they were married. Poor him, I thought. He deserved to be happy! I could make him happy, but he was off limits. I told him I reminded myself of that every day. He successfully avoided discussing her, talked about his work and his kids ”¦ effectively, due to the distance, allowing her to seem not so much part of the picture. I lied to myself as I became close to him again, told myself we were going to be “friends” and that was all.
He was full of admiration for what I’d been through and accomplished ”¦ I could go on and on but so many of you know the story. He knew what to say – what I’d never heard. That I was a good person that I’d made good choices, that I was beautiful and warm and intelligent and loving and so wonderful. He held my full attention. And I told him I was amazed at the man he’d become ”¦ and when I read back through the emails and the texts I can see where the focus shifted from me to us to him. And stayed on him. His job, his home situation, his family, his past. He wanted to know how I remembered him, when he’d been like, was he really so jaded back then? Classic “enough about me, now tell me more about me.” When I spent time with friends, he sent me text messages constantly – the busier I was, the more I heard from him. The more available I was, the less he was in contact. Twice, when out with my friends, he sent me a text saying, in essence, “I should have asked you to marry me back then ”¦ ” (I now know these were strategic attempts to keep the focus on him and off of my friends.)
It is amazing to me that in the three short months that passed – really only in a few weeks – I was mesmerized. In love again. What I wanted to do was to see him, one more time, to tell him about the baby, to finally have closure. He asked me, at first, to have dinner with him the next time I was in town. The first time I was in town, I didn’t tell him. He was after all married, and I am not a cheater. But I continued to let him draw me in ”¦ I was the perfect target ”¦ a lonely single mom. I don’t date, because to do so would be to take time away from my responsibilities raising my children. Here, after all these years, the man I’d always been in love with was paying attention to me and I was mesmerized. I could not look away. I should have looked away. I should have run away – I was good at that by now.
Come to me
From the time he left for work in the morning until he went to bed at night he was emailing or texting me. He kept the calls to a minimum, which was fine with me because though I loved hearing his voice, I didn’t want to spend time on the phone when I was with my children. He started sending me government job postings from his area, and I told him I would never even consider relocating my family unless and until his current situation was resolved and he had been on his own for a while. After a while, he would simply text “Come to me” ”¦ and it would thrill me that he wanted me. Eventually, he built enough confidence in me for him that I told him about the baby. He was so sweet, so wonderful. Telling me that if he’d known, then we could have tried again – as a couple. If he’d only realized how much he’d cared for me back then. His first wife, he said, effectively “supplanted” my position in his life after I left with no explanation.
“Come to me.” In the end, I did go. I should have gone two weeks earlier than I did, but I his wife “found out” that I was going to visit. He had left his email open, “by accident.” (Now, knowing what I know, if she really did see his email at all, I think he did it on purpose.) I encouraged him to seek counseling with her. He said she wanted to work on the marriage and though I was emotionally entangled I knew this was right. I told him that I would rearrange my trip, that I wanted closure, but that after he would have to focus on repairing his home life if he could. I told him ten years was nothing to throw away. He told me that it wasn’t as though anything had happened with us. It wasn’t as though I was some 20-something airhead blond. We had a history, we were in love. He told me he refused to tell her or his counselor that he wasn’t in love with me. He took pride in our “love.” After all, it wasn’t really “counseling” — it was for her.
“Come to me. I need you.” I had already by then begun to see some things I hadn’t noticed before ”¦ the way he spoke about other people, his lack of focus at work. It didn’t feel right, but it was HIM! Tower Raven was paying attention to me ”¦ I couldn’t refuse him anything! I remember saying to him one day, when I had to get to work one morning and could not talk to him “I don’t know why, but I hate saying no to you.” He would text me constantly after work until bedtime, and I thought — how bad is their relationship that he has the TIME to do this?
There was one episode of anger at a brother who’d fallen short on a promise to him. It caused me to leave my cell phone at home for the day – something I never do. He sent me desperate texts all afternoon, wondering where I’d gone, was I ok? I told him simply, “I’d forgotten how your anger sounds.” And I remembered that day in the barracks – and quickly pushed the thoughts away.
When I finally went, it was a whirlwind. I got there early afternoon, and he met me, held my face in his hands, and kissed me sweetly “it’s so good, so right to hold you in my arms again.” My common sense was gone. He looked old to me, though, older than his 50 years would have warranted. His Facebook page picture was at least 15 years old. It didn’t matter, it was HIM – and I still loved him. I succumbed to temptation that night.
The second day he showed up in the morning, and we talked all day. He told me about him. More about him. About the people he’d stepped on and showed up and about his shift from career to career and what a good interview he was, how he’d always gotten the jobs he wanted. His major shift was from the medical field in government to the law enforcement field. It was administrative — no real skill needed — just the ability to appear capable and confident and to interview well.
He never asked me about my life, about our baby I’d carried, about anything. It didn’t matter – it was not relevant to HIM. The third day was much the same, except he was pulling back. The fourth day we met for lunch. He did not come into the hotel. He drove me around the area, even past his house, wanting to show me what he’d been working on in the back yard. I looked at him in horror. I didn’t want to go to his house! He looked back at me, as I began to cry, with a look that can only be defined as “the mask slipping.” He was evaluating my emotions with satisfaction. He realized that my heart was breaking, that I knew I would need to go back to my life and leave him to his. And I realized then that his full intention was for him to go back to his — without hesitation. He had done what he’d set out to do — he’d gotten me to fall in love with him, and he was breaking my heart.
He dropped me off at my hotel and kissed and hugged me one more time as I cried – numb. He took my face in his hands, again, and told me “This is not the last time we will see each other. We will ALWAYS have each other.” I told him I had to go, and I walked away.
Does she know?
That night someone called my hotel room three times, hanging up. I ended up calling a friend I’d been spending the evenings with and checking out a night early to stay with her. I let him know about the calls and his reaction was amazing to witness. He was in a PANIC — was it her? Did she know? What was he going to do?! Finally she called (she was away from home that week) and she told him that she’d talk to him when he “hadn’t had a couple of beers.” He was drunk”¦ and he was alone with his children. I was appalled. “Are you still there, because I’m a going down fast?” Then silence.
The next day, I didn’t hear one word from him. Not “have a safe trip” or “did you get home ok?” Until after I was back home with my children, who’d been visiting their father. “It’s ok,” he texted. “She doesn’t know. We had a good talk and everything is fine.”
That night, I called him and I asked him, in tears, not to contact me for a while. I told him I had to get used to NOT hearing from him and he needed to fix his life. I did not hear from him again — until about two weeks later on Thanksgiving. A text”¦ “Happy Thanksgiving Baybee.”
But by then, I’d been to my counselor, and to this website and to others and I had read Hare and Cleckley and “Betrayal Bonds.” I was stunned, and in disbelief and amazement over what I”˜d learned. I was sickened and full of shame and remorse and regret and horror.
I sent him the following letter. In doing so, I began No Contact.
Tower Raven —
I’ve had time to reflect on all that has happened in the past months since we began corresponding again after so many long years. I realize now that the words that last time I was in your arms were full of lies:
“This won’t be the last time we’ll see each other. We will ALWAYS have each other.”
The truth is, it was the last time we will see each other, I’ve NEVER had you, and you no longer have me. My love for the man I thought you were ended the moment I realized that you idealized, exploited, devalued, discarded and abandoned me without a second thought. But you missed one thing”¦ one tiny thing you didn’t count on”¦ in your abuse of my feelings for you, you made me STRONGER.
You read me so well, made it so easy to forget my morals and to believe instead in you. When we began communicating in August, I was surprised and, in a way, enchanted with the scenario you laid out. You were penitent for having hurt me, expressed feelings of remorse for not recognizing that you were ”˜in love’ with me all those years ago”¦ you told me that you still had feelings for me — mirroring my own sentiments — and drawing me into your world. I have held you for so long in my memory as this amazing man who I loved, whose child I conceived, and miscarried. How could I forget that I requested a transfer away from you? It was for good reasons that I chose to forget — and to avoid the pain of the loss, I idolized you, buried your faults, and remembered only what I assessed as strength of character.
You asked me so many times, despite my protests, to “come to you.” And I did – how could I not? I’ve been in love with you my entire adult life. I opened my heart up to you fully and in doing so I allowed you to see my every weakness, my every strength, and every piece of my soul. In turn you used that information to ingratiate yourself to me. You appeared to give me unconditional love and acceptance — and honestly, I believe you thought that’s what it was too. For a while, at least, you imagined that I could be that ”˜perfect love’ that would make you feel complete. Except you aren’t capable of love, because true love means putting someone else and their needs ahead of you and your own wants and desires. It was just a game to you — one that made you feel powerful, for a time.
I suspect, sadly, that you have never felt or known pure unconditional love. The last day I was with you I told you that you reminded me of a six year old boy — that I saw so much damage. I wonder now if you are aware of how broken you are, and if you are angry with whoever is responsible for crippling you emotionally? I believe you equate love with weakness. You hate being weak and you hate and despise weak people. It only goes to follow that because I made the mistake of loving you, I was weak. Because I made the mistake of sleeping with you – again – I became a whore in your eyes. Either way, in your mind I was not loveable or capable of filling the void you’ve expressed feeling in your soul and saving you from your lonely self. Though in truth, no one is capable – the void is too vast.
When you were done with me there in [town] – realized I was no longer of any value to you and in fact uncomfortable with my presence – you went into action. Managing my departure while securing an alibi for yourself, disposing of me, in a sense, without a second thought. You are not capable of empathy, could not see, understand or care about the pain you caused me. Or, perhaps I misjudge you, it’s entirely possible you do SEE it, and if that’s the case, it probably pleases you. How powerful a man you are to be able to inflict such pain on a foolish, adoring woman! You spent months reading me, giving me verbally everything I wanted to hear — and then you took it away — ostracizing me, breaking off all communication so that I knew just how devalued I was in your eyes”¦ that I had meant nothing to you after all – not “worthy” of your “love.” But your love was a faÃ§ade ”¦ I saw the signs before traveling to see you, but I knew I had to see you to understand what was happening.
The only reason you allowed communication the night I traveled home was because you weren’t entirely certain I wouldn’t rail against you, make a scene or worse a phone call that could ruin your carefully laid disaster recovery plan. Of course, I wouldn’t – I could never intentionally cause you the harm you continue to inflict on yourself and those around you. How relieved you must have been for me to ask you not to contact me! How perfectly off the hook and free of THAT burden you must feel! Still, you contacted me on Thanksgiving and that is something I simply won’t allow — understand me when I tell you there will be no contact going forward.
Now I know all too well what transpired — and who you are”¦. and have always been”¦ incapable of developing any measure of intimacy save what you emulate in others as a means of controlling their emotions and response to you. Because you lack empathy, you are incapable of offering any emotional sustenance to a partner.
You told me you realized your sexual life with your wife was not fulfilling soon after marriage ”¦ that makes sense. She isn’t a whore and became a Madonna to you in her attempts to become pregnant, to bear children, and to build a home. She loved you and took care of you and therefore was no longer attractive to you. You prefer to make love to yourself – the only perfect and acceptable partner you know. In November, even with me, the promise of a passionate reunion never availed itself — you used my body to masturbate your own.
Still, you speak well of your wife, which tells me you fear her – what she could do to bring your make-believe semblance of a world crashing down around you. When I watched you terrified, scrambling, trying to ensure she did not find out about our tryst, I realize what a lonely, sad, and also a very angry man you are. Angry not because you never experienced love and probably never will ”¦ Instead, you are angry because you are not as powerful, admired and successful as you had planned to be and as you feel you deserve to be. Your daydreams refuse to come true no matter how you wish them so. Losing your wife could mean the loss of your clearances – career suicide.
You are a warrior – a Spartan, as you put it – able to start again with nothing because the attachment you have to your current life is not real ”¦ and a shaky foundation on which to base a family or future plans. This is no secret, you know as much. You cannot conceive of a life in one place with one set of people, doing the same thing, in the same field with one goal within a decades-old game plan. To you, this is death. You are most terrified of growing old, of boredom and whenever faced with its haunting prospect, you inject drama into your life (your cat and mouse game with me) or even danger (the job “A” is offering you.) This is the only way you feel alive.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to you”¦ I can’t care anymore — though I have to tell you, the man I thought you were is an amazing man — someone I wish you could know”¦ had somehow aspired to be. I LOVED that man with all my heart, and much to my detriment. Whoever damaged you as a child should be damned for leaving you this way — crippled with fear of being called an impostor and self-loathing to the extent you display the antithesis in every effort to make yourself feel alive and to fill the void that may never be satisfied because the things you seek to fill it with don’t exist — like you, they are a mirage.
For me, knowing all I know now, the man of my memory is dead to me; he was make-believe anyway, a product of the imagination of a young girl perpetuated by hurt and maternal loss. What remains is truly, poetically, tragically a ”˜Beautiful Disaster.’ When I asked you why you loved me, you couldn’t tell me, but I know now it was because you were enthralled with the way you saw yourself reflected in my eyes – like Narcissus staring into the pool at his own reflection. Such a pity it took 24 years after meeting you for me to break the cycle — I will no longer be your Echo.
When I met you, I felt as though I’d known you my entire life — because I have — you and people like you who use people up and discard them without a thought. My parents, my ex-husband”¦ as hurtful as letting go of my illusion of the wonderful Tower Raven is — the truth is I CAN finally let you go, and for that I am grateful. I told you on the bench that last day that I could see your pain – your damage – but I also know I can’t help you. If I thought I could ”¦ if you could be put back together ”¦ I’d do my best to try, but all you would do is hurt me – again.
You will not acknowledge and likely deny everything I have written — but even as I know this I know you’ve read every last word — after all, it’s about you. I realize that I can’t even hate you — but I pity you. And now you will blame me for all that has happened, but I have accepted my responsibility and made peace with myself for the faults that are mine. As a woman, regardless of our history, I knew better than to become involved with a married man.
You said to me, the last time you touched me, that we would “always have each other—¦ what you meant to say, was that YOU would always have ME — to provide you with the things you need when you are lonely — when no other source exists to feed your emptiness. I can’t be there for you though, because I know in my heart you will never be good for me. This is the last correspondence I will send to you, and I ask you to respect my wishes by not contacting me again.
You are in counseling, with your wife, and I’m sure you’ve made me the scapegoat in all of this. I wonder how much of what you told me was actually truth. But it doesn’t matter anymore than the truths or lies you are sharing in counseling, because I doubt you’ll take advantage of it. It would be too much for you – scared little boy of a man that you are – to let the walls down and to be seen — to see yourself — as you are. I’m not sure you could stand it — for your sake, I hope your advancing age will lead you to seek solace and to heal — eventually you will burnout and I hope someone is left who you haven’t damaged so much they too leave you. The choices you make going forward are none of my business. I sincerely hope that somehow you — and at the very least the people you’ve hurt and continue to hurt – find peace. I know I intend to — again.
About two weeks after the above was sent, I found it. His online music account. During the time period I was initially supposed to have visited he created a station of 80’s music – from the time that we knew each other. There were 27 songs all together – each one about breaking someone’s heart. “I’m Not the One” ”¦ “Promises, Promises” ”¦ “Dream On” ”¦ “Heartbreak Beat” ”¦ “Pictures of You” ”¦ “Strangelove” ”¦ that’s when I knew for certain that he was more than a narcissist – he is a sociopath. All of it, intentional, a game to hurt me – specifically me. Like a cat playing with a mouse until the mouse was no longer interesting.
Strangelove lyrics (Depeche Mode)
There’ll be times
When my crimes
Will seem almost unforgivable
I give in to sin
Because you have to make this life liveable
But when you think I’ve had enough
From your sea of love
I’ll take more than another river full
And I’ll make it all worthwhile
I’ll make your heart smile
Strange highs and strange lows
That’s how my love goes
Will you give it to me
Will you take the pain
I will give it to you
Again and again
And will you return it
There’ll be days
When I’ll stray
I may appear to be
Constantly out of reach
I give in to sin
Because I like to practice what I preach
I’m not trying to say
I’ll have it all my way
I’m always willing to learn
When you’ve got something to teach
And I’ll make it all worthwhile
I’ll make your heart smile
Strange highs and strange lows
That’s how my love goes
Will you give it to me
Will you take the pain
I will give it to you
Again and again
And will you return it
May be a gift
Sociopath, Narcissist, Psychopath”¦ does it matter?
What I have learned from all of this? It may be a gift – his passing back through my life. No matter how rocked to the core, no matter how hurt and wounded and lonely I feel now. I am lucky, in a sense, that his abuse was emotional – never verbal or physical. Financially, I lost only what I spent on the trip as he didn’t pay a penny, of course. I am aware of how many women (and some men) on this site have been further down the path than I found myself and been forced to deal with those issues.
That being said, emotional/psychological manipulation was extremely earth shattering for me ”¦ I let him in; because of old feelings I trusted and should not have, because of his position in law enforcement – a trusted position like my father ”¦ I don’t believe anyone else could have done this to me because there is no one else that I either trusted or had a history with in this way. Still ”¦ for him it was the perfect opportunity ”¦ Assessment, Manipulation, Abandonment ”¦
“The abandonment phase begins when the psychopath decides that their victim is no longer useful. They abandon their victim and move on to someone else. In the case of romantic relationships, a psychopath will usually seal a relationship with their next target before abandoning their current victim. Abandonment can happen quickly and can occur without the current victim knowing that the psychopath was looking for someone new. There will be no apologies for the hurt and pain they cause because psychopaths do not appreciate these emotions.”
When I learned what I was seeing, I walked away – but it has changed me and forced me to deal with things I did not understand about myself and my life – for the first time I am doing some honest soul-searching with the knowledge my research on this subject has given me. I may be victimized, but I refuse to have a ‘victim mentality!’ I made choices too.
All the reading I have done trying to understand has helped me to learn why I’ve let people like him into my life – gravitated toward them in fact! I can see now that I have in the past had boundary issues stemming from my childhood that need to be addressed. It doesn’t mean blaming anyone, and I realize I can’t change the people in my family – but I can take responsibility for my inner child and my critical parent selves and learn to draw clearer boundaries that are clear to me and to those I let into my life, or even come into contact with at work or church or the community. It doesn’t matter what anyone else’s perception of the facts are – I need to deal with my perceptions and my future reactions to the challenges I encounter.
Early last year, after seven years in remission, my daughter was again diagnosed with cancer. She is in hospice now, and I will tell you from my heart — I believe this all happened for a reason. I was taken on a spiritual journey that has allowed me, however painfully, to know myself better than I ever could have imagined.
Where I come from, why I’ve made certain choices – and how I want to live my life going forward. I know how to set boundaries and feel perfectly justified — unapologetic — about keeping them in place. If I had not been on this journey, dealt with my past and reconciled it all — I would not have had the strength and determination to get myself, and my children, through this very difficult last year, awaiting the inevitable. Knowledge, understanding, and faith — all key for me.
The serenity prayer is my mantra now – and every challenge I face I ask myself: Can I DO anything about this? If I can, what is the best way to go about it? If I can’t, what is the healthiest way to move past it and on with my life?