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Our story began as many clichés do: I moved to Hollywood to get into “the business,” and he was already a big shot in said business. When I interviewed with him at a small but well-known production company, I had no intention of taking the job. The salary was a mere $375 a week… before taxes. (This was 2005, not 1976.)
He’s one of those people whose charisma and sense of humor makes you overlook the fact that he looks like Jon Lovitz. Or at least, made me overlook that fact. When I met him, I never had any idea I’d fall in love with the guy, but I knew I wanted to be around him and learn from him. He had risen through the ranks of the entertainment industry through hard work, and I had come to Los Angeles to prove myself.
Our flirtations were mild at first. The kind of thing where you don’t even realize that that’s what it is unless you squint at it really hard. But then: a text. It was the middle of the work day: “You look stunning in that turtleneck!” I actually laughed; it was such different “game” than guys my age were throwing my way.
Over the next few weeks, our texts escalated. It couldn’t be called sexting, so I was still able to deny the fact that I was basically having an inappropriate relationship with my boss. Then, one night, he asked if I wanted to go an industry event with him. Under the guise of it being a “work thing,” I said sure. Afterwards, he asked if I was hungry and took me to Nobu in Malibu for dinner.
I was flattered, intrigued, excited, amused, and admittedly, slightly ashamed. Was I really going to be “that girl” who hooked up with her boss?
We ended up making out in his car that night, so I guess the answer was yes.
Dating someone 17 years older than you when you’re broke and homesick in Los Angeles is very different from dating a fellow production assistant who lives in an apartment with four other guys from work. Yes, the fancy restaurants and nice weekends away were a huge perk. But it was also nice to spend time with someone whose idea of fun didn’t always involve being drunk at a bar until 3 a.m.
After a year together, I finally told my friends about what, until then, had been a secret relationship. But I still refused to let anyone at work know, and he didn’t push the issue.
My work and personal lives were oddly intertwined and yet compartmentalized. He spent the night only once or twice a week so as to not annoy my roommate, but we only ever hung out at my place because he lived with his brother in a shitty apartment that I had seen once. I thought it was a little odd for someone of his pay grade, but he explained it away as the place he had landed after his marriage ended and he’d been too busy to find something else. I'm a control freak who prefers to be around my own things, so I didn’t question it much.
There were a few other warning signs that something was a little off, but as a then 25-year-old terrified of intimacy and still a little skeeved out to be dating her boss, even after two years together, I ignored them. I figured when I was really ready to mentally commit to this thing that all of these suspicions would be put to rest.
Then, one day, during the third year of our relationship, I overheard some coworkers talking about our boss, aka my boyfriend. One was telling the other something about how he had seen him at an event over the weekend — with his wife.
I kept my game face up but my internal voice was screaming, “What. The. Fuck!”
I sat with this information for the rest of the day. I knew something had been off, but out of convenience, I ignored it.
This was the stuff that Lifetime movies were made out of. They didn’t actually happen in real life, did they?
I confronted him about it that night. He didn’t even deny it; I think it was more of a relief for him to admit to his double life than to keep on living it. His whole body sagged when I got the words out of my mouth, like he knew that the day he had spent so long dreading had finally arrived.
Yes, he had a wife. He told me that they had not been married when he and I met; they got married two years into his and my relationship. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, I did.
I was too stunned to cry as he told me all the details. They got married over the holidays; I remember him calling me that night to wish me a happy new year and tell me he loved me. Though I was not entirely shocked, there was nothing that could’ve prepared me for THAT. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I immediately starting having trouble sleeping as my brain tried to process that this person I loved had said “I do” to another person in the middle of our relationship. It still sort of blows my mind to see those words in print.
We broke up, naturally. I don’t think there’s a relationship in the world that could survive that kind of fucked-up-ness. And who in their right mind would want to be with someone who had the bandwidth for that level of deception? Even with my low self-esteem I could answer, not me.
In the weeks, months, and even years that followed, I was a bit of a mess. I went to therapy and learned to accept responsibility for my part in it, but also to believe that I deserve so much better than how I was treated.
After a few months, I tried dating again, though not very well. When the inevitable “what ended your last relationship” question came up on the third or fourth date, I would tell my story. It sort of felt like the dating equivalent of confession. If they called again it meant I was “OK”; if they didn’t, I was still broken. A twisted dating litmus test.
But as time went on, I stopped defining myself by a dysfunctional relationship of the past and, until now, I hadn’t thought twice about it. I never even told my most recent ex — not for any shameful reason, but because it’s just such a distant memory, like my first-grade school play.
I am not “the girl whose boyfriend married someone else.” I am me. I am strong, funny, driven, athletic, warm, loyal, and, most importantly, deserving of love that is reserved ONLY for me. I still haven’t found that, but I no longer blame myself and wonder why I’m not good enough. I know that I am.