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April 5, 2013

The Accidental Mistress

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Over the next few hours, I took a Xanax and called other friends—I was on the phone pretty much till I went out to dinner with the first girlfriend I talked to. Up until then, it hadn't occurred to me to eat or get dressed.

The next day, all my friends showed up—it was like a death had happened, and people came over with food. Everyone showed up with brownies, cupcakes—even my yoga instructor brought candy bars. Every day someone called me: How are you doing? Do you want me to come over? I felt really loved by my friends, but I was a mess. I felt betrayed. I felt used. I couldn't believe what had happened—no one who had met him could. What was real and what was fake? Was the deal real? (No.) Was the job real? (He said he was on a short-term contract with the network that ended between our first and second dates. For most of our relationship, he was a developer at a website.) Was the apartment his? (He paid rent on it.) Was his assistant Cal real? (Andrew had made him up and sent e-mails himself.) Had he done this before? (He said no.)

It sounds strange, but the one thing this has taught me is to finally understand what love is. Before this happened, I had never been in love with anyone or felt so loved. All of a sudden, someone comes along and you feel such kinship and happiness and commitment, you want to share your life with him. And to realize that that's possible had nothing to do with the fact that he lied. It made it sadder, but that you can have love is real. I've thought infatuation or sex was love many times, but here I'd deeply cared for someone who was a lover and a best friend. He taught me that that exists. It didn't have anything to do with him but with me. He loved me; that was not the lie.

My father was a great fantasist—he thought he knew the secret to the universe. He was a gambler, so he would invest a lot of money, or he'd try to sell his winning formula to the stock market, convinced he was going to make a fortune. He would come home with a new Cadillac, so you thought you would go on this fabulous vacation that never happened. He invested in all these railroads, but the closest we came to railroad riches was a train ride in the parlor car from Connecticut to New York. He was so charismatic and he had all these plans that you were going to be a part of—he wasn't like other fathers I knew who came home from work and watched TV, or played catch, or went to the mall with their kids. My dreams were constantly dashed as a child, but my father was not an evil person. It did not come from a malicious place. And that's a huge difference. This made me more sympathetic toward Andrew; I felt sorry for him. If it were within his power to give me all the things he had promised, he would have. He did this because he wanted to get in, as opposed to when people lie because they want to get out.

Just before Christmas, I saw him—how could you not want to find out exactly what happened to you? He was in my neighborhood when he texted to meet, and I agreed to meet at a bar. I was curious, and I thought I would never have closure if I didn't see him. And honestly, you can't shut off an emotion so quickly. It was awkward in the beginning, but he answered my millions of questions over the next few hours. He could not have been more sorry and polite and gentlemanly—he offered to apologize to each one of my friends he had duped and to take a lie detector test. His story was that he hadn't been happy in his marriage for years when he got this dream job offer in New York. He was lonely here and went online for companionship, which is a selfish thing to do when you're married. He said he had fallen for me, and when the lie started—this fantasy life he wanted so desperately—he thought if he kept saying it, he could make it real. It was hard to hear someone pleading with me that he still loved me and would do anything to get back together, but something like this can't be undone in a minute. I don't know if I could trust him again, even though he and Jennifer are getting divorced.

My friend and I were shopping the other day, and I turned to her and said, "I thought we were going to be here looking for my wedding dress." There are moments when I'm very sad. But I thought it would be harder in a way if I wallowed. I believe you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start to move forward because what's the alternative? Something like this can really mar you. What happened to me could create issues of trust, but just because one person lied to me doesn't mean everyone's going to lie to me. What a terrible way to live your life if every time you go out with someone, you don't believe his story. I don't want to become a suspicious, bitter woman. People might say it was too good to be true. But why shouldn't we believe we can have love? Or that a great guy will love us? I choose to learn from this—that love is out there. And I'm going to find it.

"I thought, I can't believe this finally happened to me. But I'm a good person. I put myself out there. I dated a lot of turkeys. I held out for the good guy. I deserve this."

"When the lie started—this fantasy life he wanted so desperately—he thought if he kept saying it, he could make it real."

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