27 April 2011

Online deception - the one that never was

I have wanted to tell this story here for a long time. I've told some people in my life about it and I've written about it in a newspaper following submitting it for a journalism assignment. It's not a new story. But it has always been hard to find the words, to revive the memories. Last week I read an article in the Age Good Weekend supplement (originally from The Guardian). It was about creating false identities and illnesses online - Münchausen by internet to be specific. I read it on the train and felt a shudder shoot through my body when I'd finished the article. I became ready to share this story of mine. It's a long one. So stick with it.

I have only loved three men with all my heart. The one in the last year, one I'd rather forget, and the one I wrote about here and here. He came into my life on Monday 30 August 1999. I'd taken the day off school to listen to radio the debut of the rather appropriately titled I knew I loved you by Savage Garden. I knew I loved him during our first phone call on 10 November 1999, the night before my year 12 history exam. We met in person on Friday 14 January 2000. And I knew I loved him a million times more in the nine days we spent together. We kept in touch, on and off, on his terms, for five years after we met. And in July 2005, the one I still loved wasn't.

‘You’d better watch out for the quiet ones’ was a regular saying of his. He said it to me; he said it to my mother. I wondered what this meant, but did not overly focus on that detail because, to me, he was the world. He was a quiet one, and perhaps that was the reason I found him in on ICQ.

We chatted online for four months before he told me he was beginning to love me. I convinced my parents that this guy wasn’t some 70 year old paedophile (but how did I really know?) and they said I was allowed to give out our home phone number to him. He called me every night for two months, we would speak for up to seven hours at a time. The calls were about our day’s events, how we both loved each other, and how we both had unusual traits about us which made us perfect for each other. We spoke of our future. He sent me generous birthday and Christmas presents - an Opal necklace, a Savage Garden clock (a feat for a Marilyn Manson fan) and a CD of his favourite band, Coal Chamber. I bought him a lava lamp and would write him really long letters.

We arranged to meet in January of 2000 – he came from interstate to stay at my house for nine days. A big expense for an apprentice wage. He had 11 piercings and a penchant to dress like a gothic punk rocker meets the Australian cricket team. My parents, as strict as they are, though reluctant to have a stranger in their home, liked this guy as he was polite, respecting, and taught them how to sharpen their kitchen knives properly.

He was everything I hoped he'd be. Funny, cute, alternative, had a job as a chef, into cool music, smart. Different and eccentric. Gave me confidence. He was a myriad of firsts for me. I felt accepted. And loved. I still remember him and the time we spent together so vividly. He was willing to hold my hand and kiss me. Unafraid to touch me - he knew he wouldn't catch my condition. He accepted me and loved me.

When he left to go home I was devastated. Absolutely devastated. I've never seen him again.

After his stay, we remained in touch via the phone and the internet. We couldn’t continue our romance because he told me he was to become a father. He was also grateful for my online support when his mother died. He called me at ridiculous hours of the night, just to talk.

To be honest, this guy fucked me over. I was 17-18. Impressionable. Naive. Wanting to be loved.

Before we met, he told me he was going to be a father - in early January 2000 he found out his ex girlfriend was pregnant. We spoke for hours that night, we were going to make things work. He cried. I cried. Then I stupidly honestly told my parents, who flipped out. I remember the next day, my Dad was so angry. "He's not Jesus you know", Dad said about my love for him. Still, my parents let him stay after seeing him when he arrived at the airport.

When he left, he got back with his pregnant ex girlfriend. He told me about how badly she treated him, and if she wasn't pregnant we'd be together. And sometimes she'd be logging onto his ICQ account. The baby arrived, a daughter. I sent a card and a dress. He'd tell me stories of what progress she was making - milestones - first steps, pre-school, school. He'd tell me how his girlfriend left him with his daughter to be a single father.

In March 2000 his Mum died. I sent a condolence card to his house. He told me not to talk about my dog that'd just died because it upset him too much.

He told me he still loved me. He told me he wanted nothing to do with me. Then he came back. Months apart. Time after time. Calls at all hours. For six years. I remember saying to Mum that I feel he and I will always have a connection.

I had no reason to disbelieve him. Except for four things. Before we met he sent photos of himself that really looked like him but were actually of a musician. After we met he'd send me poems he wrote, and just by chance (reading a music magazine) I found out they were Marilyn Manson lyrics. I never saw photos of his daughter. And his phone would often go dead when he called me.

Six years after we first chatted online I found out that everything he ever told me was a lie. In July 2005, his then girlfriend called me soon after his phone had gone dead. She'd called before, maybe a year earlier. This time in 2005, the first thing she asked was how I knew him. She was angry. She said my number was all over his phone bills. That he spoke about me a lot.

When she calmed down and found out I was not a threat and didn't know about her (I'd always ask if he had a girlfriend and he said "no, why do you think I'm calling you?"), we got to know each other.

She revealed some truths. There was no baby, his mother was not dead - she actually lived with his mother. The mother of his 'daughter' was a woman he'd met once - and when we contacted her, she was as freaked out as we were.

He seriously fucked me over. While he hurt his then girlfriend - she left him after he 'accidentally' sent me a picture of his penis to my phone - he had shattered six years of my life too. Before I told him I found out his lies (I told him by writing a letter to both him and his parents) he would call me while his then girlfriend was in the other room. Once he called me on my mobile while she was on my home phone.

The only things I really know about him is his name, age, occupation and location. Oh, and that his warning about the ‘quiet ones’ rang true. This ‘quiet one’ was telling similar lies to other girls he met online, though none quite as large has those he told me. He had my love, so I trusted him, but he also had the distance between us in his favour, which meant that I’d probably never find out about his real identity. And he had the benefit of a saved message history to keep track of his lies.

I took it surprisingly well.  Of course I was angry, hurt, numb and sad. I can't say I grieved for the man who wasn't - I spent years before that grieving that we weren't together. I can't believe he won my parents over and that he wasn't a murderer. But on the upside I was excited to have a topic for my upcoming journalism assignment.

I asked him why he did it. Why he maintained the lies to me for six years. He said he wanted to be better than he was so I'd love him. I realised he was so unwell, aside from his drinking and drug use. A pathalogical liar. I was lucky my emotions were the only thing he harmed. Looking back, he was a regular impersonator and chameleon - wearing make up to look like his idols.

I've become friends with his ex girlfriend. We met when I was interstate in 2007. She's lovely. We had a few things in common because of his interests - books, music and sayings. We recently saw him on Facebook, looking well beyond his 30 years - so washed up. He has a real baby now. Neither of us have contacted him.

I often wonder if I hadn't found out the lies would I still have put myself through the hard times he caused with his toying? Finding out was a good thing. About a year after I found out his lies he called me at 3.00 am. I told him that I loved not having him in my life and never to call me again.

Even though this awful thing happened to me I am still so willing to form online (often to offline) relationships and trust people I meet on the Internet. I am always cautious though. You've got to watch the quiet ones.

In 2000 I wrote this poem. And it now reminds me that his lies being revealed meant I was no longer alive just to please him.
draw a life, name it blue
because sometimes it’s that way
and place me in the corner
I’ll be the one you can play with
when you’re sick of it all-
looking for something more
and I’ll obligingly return
when you tire of me
I’ll bathe in misery
to have the smallest part of you
do you want me for my plumage,
or for the idea that
I could make your mind


  1. Carly, that was so beautifully written and my heart was breaking just reading it. It seems the internet and other forms of technology let us meet such wonderful new friends but can also hide many lies and deceptions. Im glad you can still smile through all that past pain xx

  2. what an asshole!!! you deserve better as does the other lady too. I guess you can be thankful (in a way) that you guys did find out before it went even further in your life. Some people are not worth the oxygen!!!!
    Chris xx

  3. Carly, what an amazing post.

    Hon, this stuff happens in real life too. I was once 'friends' with a girl who stole my ATM card after watching me use it one day, and stole money from me, then comforted me when I found the card & money missing. Then when I suspected it was her and called the police in, she denied it to them, telling them I was 'crazy' before they showed her a search warrant. (She'd kept the card.)

    That experience upset me, but made me cautious. Nothing wrong with being cautious, and I'm a big believer in being so online. It's not a bad thing.

    I'm sorry that stuff happened to you, but you're one strong gal. We know that, and it's a (hard) lesson to learn, but can only help, right?


  4. What a great post, it brought back alot of memorys for me.

    I tried internet dating for few years (I use the term dating very loosly)
    A lot of people told me to be careful, that it was dangerous but they were only thinking about me getting physically hurt. The thought of something like what happened to you worried me much more.
    I was lucky although I met some unusual people I can't say I have any bad experiences but a friend of mine had a similar experience to you (it only went on for 6 months before his lies fell apart)

    I'm glad to hear you can still trust.

  5. Carly, what a beautiful poem! You are very talented. I'm sorry this happened to you, but I hope writing about it helped you. At least you are not the only person this guy deceived - he obviously has serious issues and his deception has nothing to do with you or anything you did/didn't do. I know this is probably cold comfort but I just want you to know you are so much better than him and you deserve better

  6. Written like a page out of a really intriguing biography.

    That guy was such a jerk to screw you and others around like that, these liars don't care who they hurt so long as they get what they want, it's a sad thing. It's nice that you became friends with the ex though, always a relief to know you're not alone and to be able to get the full story from another person when something bad like this happens, when you don't know anyone who knows that idiot it's hard to find solice and peace, so i'm glad you found her and are still open-minded about the internet because there are many good people on there. I hope he feels shame for what he's done, or will one day.


  7. Carly

    Such a heartfelt and honest post.

    Thank you for your courage in sharing such a painful time.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  8. I've seen similar things online, although mostly I've avoided being involved. It's sort of scary to think about and I'm so sorry he hurt you.

  9. Woah.... full on post Carly.

    You must have felt violated, I would have been destroyed. So, so glad you have become the amazing person you are and risen above and beyond the rut he had you in.

    Amazing story, I'm still shaking my head thinking about it.

    I hope for the sake of his daughter now he's cleaned up his act.


  10. What an ass! :-( All these experiences have made you strong and the amazing person you are today. Your Mr Right will be amazing, because you deserve it! x

  11. Such an amazing post, Carly. I'm so sorry this happened to someone as wonderful as you, but thank you for sharing this story with everyone. Your courage and strength is, as always, inspiring and incredible, and I really admire that you haven't lost your ability to trust people. xoxo

  12. Thanks for sharing, Carly. As much as I don't like to think about it, I did a similar thing to this man many years ago when I was 13 or 14 in high school. I thought it was a joke but it didn't turn out that way. I made up so many stories, lied about my life and the people in it and eventually I ended up loving the person I was doing it to and He loved me. After a while I became so anxious about what I was doing that I cut off contact but he got in touch with me 6 years later and as a grown woman I had to confess. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.

    I don't think I'm sick or anything horrible, I was just a stupid teenager who had a very vivid imagination. I didn't see the pain my actions would cause and still feel guilty to this day. It is a horrible thing to have happen to you and I wish no one goes through the hurt. The internet is wonderful but years ago it was a cloak you could hide behind. These days you just cannot have that kind of privacy and I think it is all the better.

  13. Beautifully honest post. I was gobsmacked reading it this morning, and had to take some time this morning to digest it. Wow. I can't believe there are people like this in the world. The article on Online Munchausen was interesting and saddening.

    It might be too close to home for you, but the "documentary" Catfish shows the story of online friendships and lies. (the "s are because there is debate as to how true the story was, but a good watch just the same).

  14. Wonderfully written Carly, well done. I was completely intrigued by your story, I hope this has made you stronger...xx

  15. I get so angry when I read about men like these. It doesn't just happen online. I was married to one of them and it took me 18 years to figure out how much of our life together had been a lie. In the meantime he developed an inappropriate online relationship with a 15 yo girl who well knew his age and marital status and in fact knew me personally. I shudder to think about the lies he told her about me and our marriage, and the lies he told to the next woman he cheated on me with.

    I'm sorry this happened to you, Carly. You're right, 17 is such a vulnerable age and I can only imagine how this would have stuffed you up. However, having met you and gotten to know you online I have a feeling that this is unlikely to happen again. You've been through the wringer and will probably think twice, or three times, before getting involved again.

  16. I know some people would be quick to say that it is your beautiful trusting nature that let you be duped for so long. But what I think is most amazing about you is that you did all those beautiful, selfless things like sending baby clothes, and consoling him over his(while admitedly fake) dead mother, BEFORE and you would still do those kinds of things now. Not only have you grown from this horrible experience, but you have managed to do it without becoming jaded (not something many of us with even vaguely similar stories can attest to).

  17. Such an amazing post to read. Thank you for sharing. I hope that guy gets the karma he deserves.. And I hope one day you meet a person who can appreciate you for the amazing person you are :)

  18. Mate, what a thing to go through. Very captivating writing too.

  19. I have met some horrible liars online. I recently found out a real life friend is a pathological liar. It's sickening - you wont believe some of the things she's lied about. I've learnt that this is much more common than I ever thought and I'm shocked that so many people have had dealings with someone like this.
    I hope he gets his come uppance.

  20. Wow. That was an intense, and beautifully written story - thank you so much for sharing! This reminds me alot of my first boyfriend. It's a little bit comforting to know that I'm not the only one who has gone through something like this. Thank-you again, so much, for sharing.

  21. Dear Carly
    I think as women we often try to 'understand' men. Unfortunately, men who require 'understanding' are never worth it. Sadly, one has to kiss a number of frogs to find one's prince. Keep well. Lindaxxx

  22. Awful...it reminded me a bit of Catfish too.

    See you tonight!

  23. Hi Carly! Thanks for sharing!!! Unfortunately the world id full of liars and dishonest people... they teach us valuable lessons!

  24. Carly, I'm so sorry this happened to you. As I was reading, a myrad of emotions swept through me: Hurt for you. Fear for you and your family. Anger that this so called "man" would take advantage of you. I'm so glad you wrote this blog though. Not only as therapy for you, but a real life warning to other women that not every guy is who they say they are. This isn't your fault, so I hope you don't feel guilty. This can happen to anyone at any age, and not just online.
    I'm relieved only your feelings were hurt. You have such a good heart, and you're brave. You're confident. You have a wonderful sense of humor. (I can tell just through your blog) A real man is going to meet you, and you deserve that. He will be so lucky to have you.

  25. oh.my.lord.


    you are one strong lady to have gotten through all of this on top - to make a new friend in his ex-girlfriend and gotten your life together enough to exercise your journalism skills on this story.

    on another note, i think it says a lot about parents who love their children so much that they'll always try take your side even when their original and gut instinct may have been against it...??

  26. I read that article too!

    Holy be-jee-zuz. There really are people like that… Having been at such a young age at the time, you are strong and mature to have come out of it wiser and not had let it take you down too.
    How horrible that people can lie like this or in anyway, really.
    I hate liars.

  27. Thanks for sharing such a moving and personal story. Hugs!! xxx

  28. I'm sorry you experienced this... what a horrible thing to happen!

  29. Stopping by from BlogHer - I'm so sorry that you went through this, and I'm so glad that you're not still entangled with this guy!

  30. My goodness, Carly! What an awful experience. It's so unfair that you had to go through this. How scary that he was in your life like that, what a fraud. Creepy, really creepy and scary!! I shudder to think about it. I hope this was some good therapy for you, to get it out there.
    Heidi xo

  31. So wrong that you had to go through this - what a sicko. You had a lucky escape there. Pathological liars exist offline and online as you know. I was married to one. Unfortunately he is still in my life as we have kids together. He still tells lies and the kids are starting to learn what is truth and what is not. Very sad watching them go through that ...

  32. wow Carly. I love reading your blog and this post really hits home for me. although not someone i met online, my ex did similar things to me. he was so manipulative (still is) and has a magnetic personality but everything he does is a lie and he hurts people with no concern. we were together (on and off) for 4 years and he ripped my heart of my chest more than once. he proposed to me and then 2 weeks later i caught him out with another woman. it can be so devastating for a young woman (or any woman for that matter!). i feel your pain. i am married now and have been with my hus band for 6 years but i still think of my ex most days :(

  33. I read this link from todays blog post. You are so amazing and talented, thank you so much for sharing this post. I also share a similar story with my ex husband, it is easy to gloss over irregularities when everything is going fine.

    Thanks for sharing your gorgeous blog with the world, you make it a better place.


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