IT HAPPENED TO ME: My First Love Was a Sociopath

I had never seen Jess dance. During the months that I was dating her, the head of the ballet department quit and classes were postponed, then Jess had an ankle surgery, and then one thing after another.
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Joeli Katz
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I had never seen Jess dance. During the months that I was dating her, the head of the ballet department quit and classes were postponed, then Jess had an ankle surgery, and then one thing after another.

I received the messages after I got home from my third date with Jess. It was a chilly February night, Jess’s birthday, and I had taken her out to a nice Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s financial district, followed by drinks at the Cubbyhole, a quaint bar and lesbian hangout.

“I’ve been dating Jess for a year-and-a-half and apparently she’s a compulsive liar and we just ended because of that,” read the first Facebook message at around 12 am.

A string of messages from this girl named Amy started pouring in until after 1 am. Amy was telling me that she lived with Jess and that Jess had lied to her about where she was going the night of her birthday. She said that Jess would probably twist the story and tell me Amy was lying.

Choosing to believe the sweet and seemingly innocent girl I had begun dating, I ignored Amy’s messages.

I met Jess through OkCupid. I had been active on a few dating sites for almost three years, since I came out to my friends and family as gay. I had spoken to many girls, met up with a couple, and had failed attempts to meet up with even more.

Jess was unlike any girl I had met before. She was in her senior year at NYU earning her Bachelors of Fine Arts in dance, while I was at NYU in my final semester of a Master’s program in Applied Psychology. 

 Jess was so happy and goal-oriented; she was studying ballet and training to run a marathon. She was very interested in what I was doing, asking me all about my Master’s thesis, and exclaiming that she was really attracted to my intelligence.

We had so much in common and never ran out of things to talk about. She told me I was perfect and that I was so much better than her exes. She opened up to me about her abusive relationship with Amy, the “crazy and jealous” ex-girlfriend who had sent me the Facebook messages. 

Amy would push her around and slap her, and she even burned her with boiling water once. Jess would begin to tear up while telling me these stories, and she’d always talk about how happy she was with me.

I was equally as happy with Jess. She was super supportive of everything I was doing, she made me laugh all the time, and I was really comfortable around her. I had my first real relationship and I was deep in love.

Jess and I pulled over to enjoy a Long Island summer sunset.

Jess and I pulled over to enjoy a Long Island summer sunset.

I had been planning on moving to Boston after graduation, to find a job there and apply to a PhD program. I was an undergrad in the Boston area and loved the city, so I couldn’t wait to get back there. 

In an extreme stroke of luck, the Boston Ballet people attended a ballet showcase at NYU, scouted out Jess, and invited her to join their company. It was fate! Jess and I could continue dating in the same city after we graduated from NYU! Everything was perfect.

Except that it wasn’t.

I had never seen Jess dance. During the months that I was dating her, the head of the NYU ballet department quit and classes were postponed, then Jess had an ankle surgery that left her off her feet, and then one thing after another until I started questioning if she really was a dancer.

I would constantly confront Jess about this, begging for her to just dance for me or show me videos. But she was always too embarrassed to dance solo for me, and her parents in Michigan had trouble burning her dance videos onto DVD so it would have to wait.

In May, I attended Jess’s graduation ceremony, watching her strut in to Madison Square Garden draped in her purple graduation gown. Jess was always misplacing everything, so I didn’t think twice about the fact that she had lost the graduation tickets and I had to stand outside asking the families and friends of the NYU Tisch graduates if they had extra guest tickets. 

Her mom drove in from Michigan and the car broke down on the way, so she would be late to the ceremony, but I would meet her after when we had lunch at Central Park’s Tavern on the Green.

A classy graduation lunch!

A classy graduation lunch!

Except her mom never showed up at lunch.

As we enjoyed our burgers and a bottle of Prosecco, Jess was yelling into her phone. Her mom, who I still had not met, decided to drop her suitcase off at the airport and then take a cab back to Tavern on the Green to sit with us for a few minutes before heading back out to the airport to catch her flight. 

Although this made absolutely no sense, Jess said that her mom often did things without thinking. And when her mom’s cab driver got lost trying to find Tavern on the Green and she couldn’t make it to lunch, Jess began crying. I was the only person in her life who cared to see her graduate, and her mom was making her life miserable.

After the graduation debacle, things seemed to run smoothly. In June, Jess and I went on a cruise in the Caribbean and had the time of our lives. We came back to New York City to celebrate LGBT Pride weekend, see Taylor Swift in concert, and catch a few more Broadway shows before moving to Boston.

Soon we each moved into studio apartments not far from each other in Boston. Jess started at Boston Ballet and she told me that I could come watch a rehearsal anytime I wanted.

Except she kept missing rehearsals.

There was one excuse after another. Her ankle was not fully recovered. She purchased tickets for a nonrefundable sunset dinner cruise we couldn’t miss. She had a stomach virus. The list goes on and on. 

I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and I gave her an ultimatum. She would show me evidence that she dances, or I wouldn’t let this relationship continue on any longer.

In the back of my mind the entire six months were the messages from Amy. After not seeing Jess dance for this long, not meeting her mom, and not meeting any friends or family members for that matter, I felt that something was not right. 

Making Jess seem even more suspicious was the fact that she was not even trying to fight to keep me.

I reached out to Amy and told her that I was starting to realize Jess may really be a compulsive liar like she had said. That September weekend I met Amy at a Starbucks back in New York and learned the bitter truth.

The sweet and innocent girl I fell in love with back in February had lied about being a dancer, running marathons, and even graduating from NYU.

Amy had evidence for everything she was telling me. There were texts on her phone from Jess, apologizing for lying and ruining Amy’s life. Amy told me Jess transferred colleges at least twice and could not have possibly gotten into NYU for ballet, let alone graduated the program. No wonder her mom never showed up.

Even creepier than the whole graduation act was the fact that Jess’s dog Minnie, adopted together with Amy while they were still dating, was not even the real Minnie. The dog that Jess had in her apartment and called Minnie was just an identical stand-in for the real Minnie, who had been in Amy’s possession the entire time.

So why go through the trouble of making up these stories and even attending the NYU graduation? My research led me to the disturbing truth: My first love was a sociopath.

Sociopaths are experts at mimicking human emotions and manipulating people. Unfortunately for her, Jess will never know what it feels like to be open and honest with someone, will never experience real joy, will forever be scrambling to construct new and creative covers, will never feel remorse.

My faith in the goodness of people has been shattered. This person who I opened up my life to in the past six months, shared my ups and downs with, and trusted completely, was not who I thought she was. 

It can happen to anyone. This story is for Jess’s next victim, or for anyone who feels that something in their relationship is not quite right: Trust your instincts (and the “crazy” ex who messages you).