It was a normal January night and I was in Mom mode, but a chance meeting was about to turn my life in a direction I never saw coming. Stars filled the night sky, the weather was perfect, and I was loading one child up in the SUV and on my way to pick up my oldest child from his friend’s house. As I pulled in front of the house, my son came to my window and told me his friend’s father wanted to speak with me. I immediately knew this was not going to be a pleasant meeting…we all know how young boys can push the envelope. So I prepared myself and got into the “I’m so sorry and I will definitely handle this” mindset.
I took a few deep breaths as the father walked to my window and as I was rolling it down, my heart took a slight leap as I sat there looking into the eyes of one of the most handsome men I had ever seen. I can still remember to this day how those dark eyes grabbed my attention, the cap he wore, the hoodie he was wearing, and how he fumbled his words as he tried to talk. I could barely make out the point he was trying to make, and how he could barely look me in the eyes as he repeated his words over and over. Immediately I could tell he was attracted to me. He was nervous and instead of letting me have it about how the boys were being boys…he turned into a caring father who suddenly was making sure he was there to help. It was a short conversation, but that night, that chance meeting would set my life on a course that I was not prepared for.
I thought about him on and off for the next few months and then one day, I happened to cross paths with this man once again. This time…the whirlwind of a new relationship would spring forth and my life as I knew it would be a vague memory. I pushed back and kept my distance, trying to take my time and after a few weeks of calls, emails, and texts we finally decided to meet in person. Before we met in person, everything seemed to be just like any other new relationship starting out, no red flags, no reservations, and no reason to have any hesitation.
Our first meeting was while he was on lunch, it was just a quick meet and greet and we would be on our way. As we made small talk about jobs, kids, and how we grew up – I was totally unprepared for this man to lean over and kiss me. My first thought was…”bold move” because he had not earned that – he just took it. Nevertheless, my stomach was turning flips, my nerves were shaken, and he had just taken the reigns of this new budding relationship right out of my hands and I was hooked. We said our goodbyes and you could tell we were both floating on cloud nine. As we parted ways, I could not stop smiling and from that moment on…I was on a high I had never felt before and I mistook this high for love…but it would prove to be something entirely different.
He was not like other men I had met over the years. He was mysterious keeping his intimate life very secretive, only speaking about his work life, how he strived to work hard, and all his accomplishments. Vaguely telling how he had been hurt in the past and how it seemed the women in his life were the problem, how they used him and discarded him like he was nothing. Determined to restore his reputation in the community, he started opening up about the previous few years and how he had made a mistake in marrying his prior wife; he was looking for a “southern faith-filled woman”, but he got swept up in the partying scene with his last relationship. He made it clear he had jumped the gun in that marriage trying to recover from his divorce from the mother of his children. At this stage of his life, he was slowly trying to rebuild his life and reputation and it was evident that was of the utmost importance to him.
He was not a pursuer, and he left me guessing about how he really felt about me. Did I read him wrong? Was he shy, or scared? Was he an extremely hardworking and busy man? He would let days go by and then I would get a call and all my worries would calm down. Wait…why was I looking for him to call? Why did I care? Why was I waiting on his call? That was not me, I was an independent woman with a college degree. Why was I putting my life on hold waiting on a man to show his interest in me? My emotions had been tapped into and the cork could not be reinserted – something had changed and I was starting to feel like a prisoner waiting on a meal that felt like it was never coming. I was willing to accept the small effort he made because when he was “present”, he always left me happy and feeling giddy and I couldn’t wait till I would get to see him again. The love bombing had begun and I had sucked it up like a Hoover vacuum.
I later came to realize that he was a man that would make moves in our relationship like a man playing a chess game. Showing attention and then withdrawing was a cycle I came to settle for and ultimately crave; he was conditioning me for what was to come. In all my 40 years I had never had a man who was interested in me that would play these types of games. Games meticulously played that was meant to confuse me, withdrawing while giving me the silent treatment or ignoring me and then sweeping in to pour out huge doses of attention and love. What was this doing to me? It was conditioning my brain to crave the highs and lows so I would chase the rush I got from his attention. I needed the rush of dopamine in my brain to give me a high and I found myself searching for the highs, so when there were lows or “problems” in the relationship I would immediately fixate on making things better even if it wasn’t my fault. I became a master at apologizing, comforting him, and making sure he knew my love was eternal. It was like I was chasing the next high, just like a heroin addict. My mind had become a storage unit of discombobulation. This was slowly chiseling away at my self-esteem and I didn’t have a clue. Were these games he was playing? Was he only guarding his heart? Looking back on those early months of the relationship it was all about him and I was putty in his hands. It was exhausting keeping up and I stayed in a state of confusion and uncertainty about where we were and where we were headed.
But then things changed. All of a sudden I was the one he had been looking for his entire life, the one who completed him, the one he could not let get away, his soul-mate, and he wasted no time putting a ring on my finger within a few months of meeting him. But I was starting to see cracks and the red flags were starting to become more apparent, and even though these red flags were waving high in the sky, I chose to ignore them and once again I gobbled up his excuses and focused on how I felt around him. I could not sleep, I could not eat, I was falling harder and deeper for him and I could not hide it. But was I really falling for him or had the trap been set and I fell directly into his plan?
So what were a few of the red flags I noticed?
As I said earlier, he was not like any man I had ever met. Even though he had been divorced for years, he still was connected to his ex-wife and there were no children involved. Even living in their old home while she was overseas. He had an excuse for that of course…he always had an excuse. They were merely friends and he was taking care of the home while she was away. His friends and his vacations took precedence over our time together, going so far as bringing his sister on a planned beach trip for the two of us and our kids. His excuse was he felt sorry for her being alone, but in reality, it was another chess move to keep me in a state of feeling confused about his feelings for me, and I fell right in line to give him all the adoration he desired.
At times I started to feel like I was only there as a showpiece, someone that was younger who was stroking his ego and that’s when I started to pull back. As I pulled back, he came in hot and strong determined to marry me. He was insecure and jealous and if I tried to reassure him, he would deny any insecurities and make the issues my problem, then the silent treatment would come. By this time I was so far in, getting out felt impossible. In fact, getting out was never even a thought; only making him happy and doing what I could to wash away his insecurities was all that was on my mind.
The idealization or love bombing stage had now moved into the devaluation stage mingling back and forth together and I had no clue that I was even in this type of situation. These were just hiccups in a new romance; things needed to be ironed out and all would be fine…well, that’s what I told myself. I never even thought that I was in the early stages of a storm and I was blindly walking into it with a smile on my face and a pep in my step. Even though there were small nudges deep inside me to slow down, to breathe, to step back and reevaluate this new romance, I moved forward and ignored them. Were these nudges from the Lord? How could that be? He checked so many boxes of what I wanted in a partner, and yes there were “obstacles”, but I was in love in a way I had never felt before. Little did I know the obstacles would grow and the love bombing would become more intense. I was on a fast track to destruction and love, and it was packaged in a pretty little box with a bow on top, and I was more than eager to accept it.
Ignorance is bliss and I was in bliss, disregarding my gut instincts, completely turning away from the red flags with my head buried in the sand. But at what cost? The lid on this box had only been cracked and the storm I was walking into was picking up speed!
*As always, this was written as my own opinion
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