When I Was a Catfish

catfish [kat-fish] verb
To pretend to be someone you’re not online by posting false information, such as someone else’s pictures, on social media sites usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you.

Yikes.

I recently discovered this term and the TV show of the same name. Only then did I realize, I used to be a catfish.

About six years ago, I was unhappily married and felt trapped in a dead-end marriage. My {now}ex-husband was working crazy hours and I found myself online more and more, playing games on Yahoo. After a few very flirtatious and enticing conversations with random guys I was playing Scrabble against, I found myself drawn into the world of chatrooms. I liked the attention I was getting and liked that I could have actual conversations with people — something that was occurring less and less frequently at home. More often than not, when I did try to have a conversation with hubs, he was too busy on the computer or watching TV to even look at me while I was speaking. He forgot most of what I said, or just wasn’t paying attention in the first place, so I gradually just stopped talking.

At night, while he was at work, I would get online. I always used a fake name and lied about where I was from, mainly to protect my privacy. After all, I was a married woman. I had no intention of meeting anyone in person, but I loved having someone to chat with at any given time. With some of the guys I chatted with, it was just great conversations. I would mention things that were going on in my marriage, and was able to get insight and advice from a guy’s perspective without worrying about what they’d think since they had no idea who I really was.

I don’t think I really knew how far my marriage had deteriorated until I started having these interactions. They made me laugh, made me think, and gave me a glimpse of how I wanted my marriage to be. Some of the guys I chatted with led me down a much different path…flirtatious chat, cyber sex, and even sex chat using a mic. I couldn’t get enough of it and soaked it up like a sponge. This random collection of guys provided something for me that hubs hadn’t in years, if ever. They actually remembered things I said in conversation and genuinely seemed interested in what I had to say. They made me feel sexy and beautiful, which I desperately needed at that time.

One night, I met Lance in a chatroom, and we hit it off right away. When he wanted to see what I looked like, I sent him a few pics I had found of a Russian mail-order bride. She looked young {20-something} and fun, with long legs and wild wavy hair. I made up an entire persona, saying that I owned a flower shop and came from a big family. The reason I gave for not wanting to talk on the phone was that I was separated and not sure where things were going with my husband. Semi true, I suppose.

We became extremely close, chatting every day and sharing our innermost thoughts. I never intended to launch into a relationship with anyone, but I found myself falling in love with him. I felt extremely guilty, the longer things went on. I actually thought of possible ways that we might be able to meet {he lived in another state}, where I “accidentally” showed up where he worked or something. It was totally out of control. Over time, I began to distance myself somewhat. I just didn’t feel right misleading him but I didn’t know how to get out of the situation without hurting him. We gradually stopped talking altogether, but every once in a while I peeked at his Facebook page and saw that he had gotten married and had a baby. I was happy for him, but was shocked to see that he named his daughter the same name {spelled slightly differently} that I had used when we were chatting. That still blows my mind.

There were other guys who I got involved with online, never as myself. With one guy, I was a young dance instructor. With another, I was a yoga teacher. I fabricated a whole new me, partly for privacy, as I said earlier, but also because it felt good to kind of recreate myself in the way I’d rather have been. Instead of an overweight, miserable wife and mom in her 30s, I was a young, fun, vibrant 20-something with her whole life ahead of her. It was an escape from the reality of my life and I craved it for a time.

I pretty much stopped cold turkey when hubs found out what I was up to. Apparently, he was suspicious and installed some kind of spyware on the computer. He saw several of my conversations, including some pretty racy stuff. I was very embarrassed, and he felt betrayed that I had been talking to other guys. I tried to explain to him that if things were ok in our marriage, I never would have fallen into the world of online chatting etc. He was angry that I was discussing our marital problems with strangers, but I asked if he would have preferred that I air our dirty laundry to our close friends.

Looking back, it was actually a good thing that that he busted me. It really brought things to a head in what was left of our marriage. It forced me to see how truly screwed up things had become, and it convinced me that I would rather be alone than in such an unhappy relationship.

I’ve thought about trying to find some way to contact Lance and come clean about what I did. I wanted to tell him that even though I lied about who I was, my feelings for him were genuine. But I don’t think anything would be accomplished by that. He’s happy and married now. That’s enough for me.

I’m not proud of what I did, and I certainly never intended to get emotionally involved with anyone. I’m just thankful that the Catfish show wasn’t around back when I was chatting. How embarrassing would THAT have been if I had been found out?

Yikes.