Jessica* was newly single when she met Ethan* at a playground in Cronulla in Sydney.
“I’d just moved there after I left my ex-husband but I wasn’t divorced yet,” she told 9Honey.
“My boys had just turned three. His son was a little older than my boys and he was holding a newborn baby girl. I’ve always wanted a girl.”
Looking back, Jessica says she was most likely attracted to his baby more than to him, at least in the beginning.
“We started talking and he asked me what I did for a living,” she said.
“I told him I’d just started my own charity and he said he’d be interested in volunteering.”
He asked for her number and they spoke about organising a play date for their children, seeing as they had gotten along so well that day.
“We exchanged a few texts and spoke on the phone every night for a week and got to know each other a little better,” she said.
RELATED: Why dating in lockdown is a win-win
“We met at a cafe for tea and then we went on a dinner date.”
Jessica said it took just two weeks for her to fall for Ethan, saying he was “just so lovely and genuine and very caring and he seemed very romantic.”
“He told me he’d broken up with his wife before his daughter was born, and I loved the fact he had her overnight. That’s not something most dads I’d known would ever do,” she continued.
“It was clear he loved his kids and they were the loves of his life by the way he spoke about them.”
The pair started dating and were “virtually living together”, with Jessica explaining it worked well because she had her kids and he had his.
“We managed to get away to Las Vegas when my parents came to stay and his kids were with his ex-wife,” she added.
“He was just so romantic all the time. He’d send me photos and write love notes. He’d bring home flowers and chocolates, you name it.”
Things started to go downhill as Jessica dealt with the ongoing emotional fallout of her split from the father of her children.
“I still had issues and I’d been seeing a counsellor but [Ethan] did stuff that would just set me off,” she said.
“I’d have these explosions. Even over little things, like him letting his ex-wife manipulate him. I hated how he’d wuss out over that.”
Things came to a head during their US trip and just days after returning home, he broke up with her via text.
“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said.
“I went around to his house to drop something off and he wasn’t there so I left a note. He didn’t respond for two days, which was weird.
“I found out he’d already started a new relationship with someone he’d met on Tinder.“
Not knowing he was seeing other people, Jessica said they began an on-again off-again relationship until they managed to patch things up. But it was never the same.
In December, Ethan took his kids on a holiday to Queensland and gave Jessica a key to his apartment before he left.
“I’d had it before but gave it back to him when we broke up. He gave it to me in case I needed it while he was away,” she explained.
“To this day I don’t know why, but I went to his place and opened his laptop, which isn’t the sort of thing I would ever do.
“I found messages from other women and I just thought WTF? I basically spent the whole morning writing down all their phone numbers.”
Jessica noticed some of the messages dated back to when she and Ethan were both together.
“To this day I don’t know why, but I went to his place and opened his laptop, which isn’t the sort of thing I would ever do.”
“He’d had me and another girlfriend at the same time. Every time he told me he was busy with work or doing a marathon, he was with her,” she said.
“Every time I had a night out with friends his girlfriend was over.”
Even his second girlfriend didn’t know about the multiple other women Ethan was seeing — at least, that’s what she told Jessica when she called to break the news.
Jessica systematically contacted each of the women Ethan had apparently met on Tinder, 11 in total. She told them who she was and what Ethan had been doing. Some knew they were one of many, while other weren’t as accepting of his behaviour.
When Jessica eventually confronted him, Ethan was angry.
“I rang him and started rattling off the list of names and he said, ‘How dare you go through my laptop.’ I said, ‘Don’t you dare put this on me!’” she recalled.
“Later on he told me he cheated on me because his mother abused him while he was growing up.”
Despite the extent of his cheating, Jessica said she became involved with Ethan again, admitting “the sex was so good”, but eventually broke it off.
“When I was speaking with his other girlfriend she said she’d left a hairdryer at his place, and when I finally broke up with him I left a note saying, ‘Jenny* wants her hairdryer back.”
Share your story at 9Honey@nine.com.au.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .