This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Dea Bala started meeting people via a Craigslist ad in 2014 and has been documenting their lives ever since. By listening to their stories — anonymously and for free — she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. In sharing them with you, she wants to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. To share your story with Helena, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read prior Confessions here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.
“I realized I’d been dating a pathological liar.”
I met Eric at a destination wedding in South America — he was the brother of the bride. He came over and introduced himself to me, and he had this amazing smile. He was always smiling right at me — it’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone look at me that way. We danced all night, and we were kissing on the dance floor. It was amazing. I completely fell in love with him. After the party ended, we hung out by the pool and talked about everything and anything, and I realized how many seemingly random things we had in common. I told him during the course of our conversation that when I was a little girl, I had always thought I would end up with a uniformed type — a Marine or a cop. I didn’t think much of it when he told me he’d been a Navy Seal.
The next day, he went back to the States. We spoke every single day; we would sleep with FaceTime on so that we could wake up seeing each other. No long distance relationship is perfect, but for me it was close. In September, he bought a ticket to see me and we spent two weeks together. He met my whole family and he opened up to us about his experience as a Seal — about all the things they’d done. He told us why he left the Seals: he was in a small village in Afghanistan, doing the rounds with a teammate. The teammate stepped on a mine that was under a rock, and the rock shattered, going through Eric’s leg and badly damaging it. Local insurgents heard the bomb going off and ambushed them. Eric grabbed his teammate and hid with him behind a tree. Then, a helicopter descended on them and Eric passed out. When he woke up again, he was on the helicopter; he started fighting, but then he saw the American flag and passed out again.
I realize now that this sounds like something out of a movie, and I feel so ridiculous for buying it. I am anti-war, but the stories he told were so compelling. I could see that what he had done made the world a better place. Usually I can always tell a lie from the truth, but nothing spoke to me. I was so intrigued. My whole family was.
The doctors told him that the damage to his nerves was so severe that he would never walk again, but he rehabilitated and got back to moving. His leg has some scars and it’s a little thinner than the other, but it’s nothing that you could say left him unable to walk. That's the only thing that I questioned. I didn’t talk about it, but I questioned how it could regenerate so much. He used so much detail in his story, though, that it was very easy to overlook it. He showed me medals and gear from his Seal days. He showed me the patches that you get when you go abroad, and some videos of him shooting at a range. But there were no photos from his time abroad. My friends and family could see how I was, though — I was glowing. If they suspected any foul play, they didn’t let on.
Before I met his family, Eric told me not to mention his war stories to his parents because his mom would cry and it would be too sentimental. So I didn’t. He was so smart about it. He distracted me with promises. We decided that I would move to the States to be with him. We talked about the dogs we would have, the house we would buy, the cars we’d drive… I spent more than a month in the States with him; I still can’t believe I didn’t figure it out.
During this last trip to visit me, he got off the plane and told me about this girl — a friend of his sister’s, he said — whom he’d run into on the way over. I’m not sure why, but I felt suspicious so I decided to investigate. I found her on Instagram, but she wasn’t friends with Eric’s sister. So I casually pushed him on it and he got very defensive. Finally, he fessed up. It was some girl a friend was going to set him up with. Which was fine — that’s not what bothered me. It was how easy it seemed for him to lie that really got to me. And that’s the thread that unraveled it all.
He went back to the States and he called me the next day. He said, “I feel like I can’t be myself with you. Things are getting really heavy.” And he broke up with me. I was left feeling so empty, surprised, and confused. How did we go from making plans to live together and get married to breaking up — literally overnight? So I did the only thing I could think of and reached out to this woman who works for his family — she’s also from my country and we had bonded during one of my visits to see Eric.
I asked her what she knew and she gave me a lot of insight into the family dynamics that really brought to light some of the issues I’d noticed with him. And finally, I asked her about him having been a Seal. There was a long pause on the other end of the line and then the question I’d been dreading all along: “What do you mean?”
I confronted him about it — told him that I’d found out his lie. And he said, “Well, there’s no way I could prove it to you. Believe what you want. I have nothing else to say.”
So, we basically built this whole relationship on a massive and totally unnecessary lie. And there were so many other things, so many inconsequential details, that ended up being untrue. My question is: why? It seems so frivolous. I would have loved him anyways. And the worst part is that I still do. It’s hard to process everything. I could see when he broke up with me that he was devastated. If he told me the truth, I could probably forgive him in some way, in some time. I love him so much. I just think he needs help.