I Was Too Naïve To Realize I Was Just A Fling To Him

It was just another typical affair — but I had no idea.

Typical affair, I just didn't realize alvarostock | Canva

For years, I've always pegged my failed relationships on my daddy issues. The trauma that resulted from my dad's abandonment and subsequent breaking up of my family altered my outlook on love, relationships, and families. I grew up believing that love doesn't exist, and how could I not? It's something I didn't witness at home. I also grew up deaf. 

I thought of love as a privilege, an unattainable blessing that only happened to other people. Worthy, deserving people. A luxury. It wasn't for everyone. 


You needed to qualify for love and it seemed like I always fell short. I grew up with a lot of baggage, part of which included a relentless hatred for men. I witnessed my parents’ pathetic relationship, how badly my dad treated my mom, how he demeaned her, downtrod her before finally walking away and leaving us to our wits. 

My relationship with men was one filled with longing but shrouded in resentment. Longing because I craved that personal daddy-daughter closeness, and it was never there. 

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I was that child needing someone to guide her through life, someone to believe in her abilities, to affirm and validate her — to protect and provide, to adore and instill that sense of belonging, of love. Only one person could do that then, but he wanted nothing to do with me, with us. 

The resentment bit stemmed from the hate I abhorred for him, for what he did to Mom, to us. It was a hatred that was eventually projected onto all men because I was convinced they were nothing but a bunch of insensitive, heartless creatures. They had no emotion; they were incapable of loving. They thrived by hurting women because they were selfish, never thinking of anyone but themselves. 

With the hatred came an ugly emptiness and a rage so strong it consumed me so much that I wondered if this was really who I was, this angry, broken teenager. It made me question my character. The emptiness persisted, a constant force lurking in the shadows, demanding a piece of my teenage years to stain them with its ugliness. 

In a twist of irony, I sought solace from the most unlikely place: I got involved with a man. 


It was not attraction or love at first sight kind of thing. Not those fairy tale stories they feed us in the movies or fantasy novels. It was lust and desperation colliding. Lust, because he was looking for a girlfriend to meet his sexual needs. Desperation, because I was looking for affirmation and acceptance. 

He would look at me with admiration and longing eyes and tell me I was beautiful. I would look at his biceps, towering figure, and strong arms and imagine myself hiding there, feeling safe and shielded from the harshness that was life. He would take me on small dates and picnics and nature walks — things I loved so much — and he would look at me with dreamy eyes and rave on about my physical beauty and I'd feel loved and adored. 

Then I got pregnant, and he stopped taking me on picnic dates and nature walks, looking at me with dreamy eyes and telling me I was beautiful. I was naive and stupid and desperate and a virgin. I was 17. He disappeared. 

The emptiness intensified. The next man was widowed and broken. I thought I could fix him, that we could fix each other. Except he was looking for his dead wife in me. I wasn't her; I couldn't be her, and the realization doubled his grief. He bled on me most of the time, and I was crushed by the weight of his pain. It was an unhealthy encounter. Lots of baggage and trauma. Unable to fix each other, we both limped away. 


The next time I tried being with a man, I was in my mid-20s. I had grown. I was now a woman, hardened by life, no longer a confused, vulnerable teenager looking for love and meaning in the wrong places. I was done fooling around. 

I had become asexual — the very thought of being intimate repulsed me. I chose to focus on things that were more realistic, practical or made more sense. Things that didn't seem out of my league, like friendship and companionship. 

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The man I met was separated. I liked his humor and empathy. He was drawn to my mature outlook on life. He wanted a little fun to distract himself from the separation as he worked on fixing his marriage. I told him I wanted nothing sexual, I just wanted to be there for each other. He laughed at me and told me he was not my daddy to entertain me and that I should grow up and understand a man's needs. I swallowed the rejection with a straight face. 


It occurred to me then that love was not for me, that I didn't meet the cut. Every single one of those men wanted my body, not me. They were amused and fascinated by my handicap. They assumed that because I was deaf, I was stupid and couldn't reason or stand up for myself. It didn't help that I could speak perfectly; others only saw me as an invalid. 

They weren't keen on looking beyond all that facade, all the debris of brokenness and inadequacy, to see the person within. They cared less about the empathetic, gentle, and motherly woman that I was. And because I craved attention and company, they assumed I wanted them the way they wanted me: sexually, and were offended when I was honest about my needs. 

I resolved to stop asking too much from life and expecting too much from people. I was undeserving, unworthy. For almost 10 years, I stayed away from the circus called dating. I avoided relationships and lived in a state of self-imposed celibacy. I became a recluse, a loner. I dwelt in my little world, isolated and withdrawn. It helped that I was deaf, so it didn't take much to lock people out; it happened naturally. 

sad woman sitting alone kenchiro168 / Shutterstock


Then I met him, and all that changed.  It was at the height of the pandemic. I was looking for someone to mentor me as a budding writer, and our paths crossed. He did mentor me alright, except our relationship transitioned from a professional encounter to genuine friendship and then something else. He loved my mind and told me I was intelligent. He was genuinely interested in me as a person and not just as a mentee. 

He was the first man who genuinely understood me. He gave me the attention I badly needed and more. He treated me with respect and genuine care. He was kind and considerate. He was intelligent and witty. He complimented my femininity in ways I didn't know were possible. I felt validated and valued. It was impossible not to fall in love. For the first time, I could love and be loved back and the feeling felt so natural I started to regain my confidence. For the first time, I felt I had found the love I had been looking for since childhood. Except something was unsettling about it: He was married.

I had watched my parents split because of another woman. I saw what unfaithfulness did to my mother and us as children. Our lives were destroyed by infidelity by the other woman. I had grown to hate that woman and other homewreckers like her. I didn't want to become that woman. Being with this man made me happy and complete, with no emptiness gnawing at me. 

And yet, it was so unsettling. I hated the sneaky element of the relationship, but the thought of him leaving my life and abandoning me scared me. I was with him for two years against my better judgment, and in all that time, I knew I could never fit anywhere in that equation. He belonged to someone else. 


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When I couldn't fight my conscience any longer, I called off the affair. It hurt. He was hurt, too, genuinely (or so I thought). He fought to stay; I fought to leave. There was no way I would be his side chick or rebound girl. Even if I was undeserving, I felt being a third wheel wasn't fair to me. The year after I ended the affair, I wallowed in a self-imposed heartbreak. Many times, he made several attempts to get back with me but my conscience won against my heart. I stuck to my guns. I felt I deserved better even though I had long since convinced myself that I didn't deserve anything. 

A year passed, and I didn't see him again. He never showed up at my apartment, begging for another chance. He would reach out once in a while, but it was awkward, forced communication. His words didn't radiate the same charm and warmth that had swept me off my feet. If anything, he sounded resentful in his messages, so much so that I avoided responding to him. 

Then came the day he told me his visa application had been approved, and he was relocating abroad with his family. I still loved him and hadn't healed from the heartbreak. His announcement came as a shock, driving me into another round of heartbreak. 


Don't get me wrong. I didn't fit anywhere in his life, and I initiated the breakup because I felt it was the right thing to do, even if it was incredibly painful for me. And yet, I wasn't prepared for the heartbreak that came with him relocating. Somehow, knowing he was somewhere in the country, in a different city, was comforting. But the thought of him migrating to another part of the world meant he was abandoning me forever, and I would never see him again. 

Amidst my wallowing, I realized he never really loved me. All along, he was looking for a fling, a distraction from the stress of his marriage. He loved his wife dearly and even got a vasectomy for her. He needed a woman on the side to reassure him of his manhood and massage his ego: that woman was me. All the great lengths he went to make me happy, the pampering, the words of affirmation, the sacrifices, they weren't for me — they were the price he was paying to keep me in his life. 

It was just another typical affair, and I was too naive and too daft to realize it. 


In the days following his planned relocation, I comforted myself with delusional hope that he would look for me, that he would ask me out one last time: A goodbye of sorts so he could reassure me he was not abandoning me and that I still meant something to him. He didn't. 

When he flew out with his family, he never said a word. Not even a goodbye. I locked myself in my house and cried for three full weeks. I still wonder why no one has ever thought to invent an antidote for heartbreak. The more I thought about my encounter, the more I realized I had been played. I never meant anything to this man. I was just another side chick, and I had outlived my usefulness. He had no need for me beyond the borders; the relationship wasn't going to benefit him anymore. Without saying a word, he showed me where I belonged in his life: nowhere. He chose the people who mattered the most to him and moved them to a better place, to a better life. 

It's been six months since he left. I know he's somewhere in Oceania, but I don't know where. A month after settling in, I emailed him asking why he treated me like that. Did he love me as he had attempted to prove so many times, or was it just one of those games men play on other women behind their wives’ backs? Even if circumstances wouldn't allow him to be with me, did I mean anything to him at all? His reply was brief and to the point: 


"You're free to decide whether or not you want to be friends. The discretion is yours, but the romance or whatever you thought it was is over. At this point in my life, I have two men I'm raising. That's what I want to focus my time and energy on. Oh, and loving and caring for the people in my life. I understand that you now know where you fit in all this. Thank you for being there when I needed you. It was good while it lasted, but I won't explain myself beyond this."

So much for the loving, empathetic, and kind man I thought I knew. I've never felt as stupid as I did in that moment. Is love supposed to hurt this much, or are men naturally cruel? Am I jinxed or too unworthy? What is wrong with me that I always get the short end of the stick? Ever since childhood, I've been wandering, looking for love in the wrong places and paying dearly for it. I'm convinced now that love doesn't exist, it's a farce. Perhaps my father was right to run away. No man would want me. 

I wish him well wherever he is.

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Teri O'halo McMahonn is a professional memorial writer and author who writes about technology, lifestyle, parenting, hearing loss, and other human interest topics.