Sally*, 28, Virginia: “I met this guy on a work trip about three years ago. Our relationship started off with him being my mentor and helping me at work. Very few people knew that he was married. He never wore a wedding ring.
He’s very much an alpha male. He was smart, confident, and sure of himself. He’s also 10 years older than me, which made me look up to him. At work, he gave me praise on my performances, which made me feel validated in my role and made me feel more competent. He was very traditional, and I felt safe with him. Our relationship went from mentor to friend to lover.
It was after our first kiss he told me that he was married. I couldn’t believe it. It was like, With all this time that we spend together, how could you have a wife? Then he started explaining how she was verbally abusive and I felt bad for him. I rationalized his wife away. There were times when I felt like it was wrong and a line was crossed. He brought me to the house he lived in with his wife (she moved out and across the country) and that made me uncomfortable. I saw evidence of the fighting they had (holes in the wall, broken banisters), and I just wanted to take care of him.
His unavailability was a turn-on, the danger of it all. But it was upsetting because we couldn’t do normal couple things. I met some of his friends, but he never wanted to meet mine.
It ended when I quickly learned that all the things he accused his wife of doing, he did the same. He was verbally, mentally, and emotionally abusive toward me. He almost backhanded me in the face once during a disagreement, but I blocked him, and then he started crying. He drank entirely too much and when that happened, all he did was pick a fight. He tried to talk me into getting plastic surgery and would say I was ‘unhinged’ when I got too upset. It took me a while, but I realized that he was the crazy one.
Ultimately I broke up with him and then came back because of his crying and apologizing, only for him to pick an argument with me a week later and say that we were no longer together. I realized that his ego was bruised when I told him I didn’t want to be with him, so he made up with me just to break up, so he could have the last word.
After we broke up, he tried to repair things with his wife, and that didn’t work, and I think he realized very quickly that no sane woman would deal with his enormous ego for how little he gives in return. I can’t stand him, and he’s nothing but a constant reminder of all the mistakes I made and how low my self-esteem was at the time to have put up with him for so long.”