Inconvenient Truths

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Last edited: 19th January 2020

This post links with If You Know, You Know; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; Cyberstalking: A ProtestIn Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; How To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Watching the movie ‘Bombshell’ the other night, it got me thinking about the way women are often vilified when we have the audacity to say the things out loud that others don’t want to hear and the strength that it takes to stand up for yourself against vehement opposition. I can relate, though my situation was not as straightforward as the workplace sexual harassment presented in ‘Bombshell’ and unlike in the movie, there has been no ‘victory’ at the end of this story.

In October 2015, I agreed to a consensual relationship with my married boss. Yes, you read that correctly. Consensual and he was married. I told you it was complicated. I did not know that he was married when I met him but I did know he was married when we began the relationship a short while later. He was the initiator, beginning with flirtatious work emails, progressing with sliding into my FB DMs and later, asking for my phone number to chat on WhatsApp as FB was apparently not as discreet for him. After being called to his office for a work chat, he told me he had been happily married for 16 years and he was not leaving, but he had feelings for me he wanted to explore. At the time I was touched by his honesty. I know now it was manipulative bullshit, designed to get what he wanted without appearing to be an arsehole. That is the moment I entered into a relationship that took me a long time to get out of and nearly destroyed me. We agreed we would take things slow and thereafter messaged constantly. I struggled with the morality of the situation, disappointed with myself at being involved with a married man. For that reason I refused to sleep with him but we did kiss in his office. In a hot and heavy moment, he asked me to take things further but I declined. I was stupid to get involved with him but not stupid enough to do that – not with my married boss in Dubai, where adultery is illegal. We were off and on for years. One of us would get an attack of guilt, usually me, and end it. There would be periods of not speaking which probably would have led to the end of the relationship had we not worked together, but when you are seeing each other almost daily, within a few weeks, one of us would begin messaging again. It was an emotional affair. I was pestered for more intimate moments, with him messaging to ask if I was still at work as he wanted to see me but I never allowed myself to be in a room alone with him again without other people around to make sure we didn’t cross the line. I was loyal and faithful to him, and always understanding of his personal situation. I respected the times he couldn’t chat as he was with his family. I didn’t call him. We WhatsApped when in work then switched to work email out of work hours to ensure we weren’t caught. There was no intent to cause harm to his family or his marriage. It is a situation that should have fizzled out eventually with no consequences.

However, we worked together and over time, our personal relationship became toxic, which negatively impacted our professional relationship. He allowed his personal feelings for me to impact the way he treated me as a colleague and it is for that reason I reported him to our CEO and eventually went public. No one should tolerate working in a toxic environment. In the beginning when our relationship was good, he was very supportive of my teaching career aspirations. He was complimentary, encouraging, and spoke highly of me to others. I was on track for a promotion and he told me I was obviously next in line. But then there were times when he would bring his personal feelings into the workplace. For example, he would get upset with me if he thought I was being flirty with male colleagues and there would be some sort of punishment – a snarky WhatsApp or refusal to reply to messages. I had to speak to male colleagues for work but he would watch me when I was speaking to them, making me feel uncomfortable even though I was doing nothing wrong. Then there was the time we had a huge row as I had told him I wanted to end the relationship. A few days later, I needed professional support for a work matter but he completely refused to support me. Had that been any other colleague, he would have supported them. When I spoke to him about it, he admitted that he was upset with me due to our row, he thought I would know that, and he knew he had gone too far on the spectrum by not supporting me at all when he should have. Unfortunately this was not a one off. It became a pattern in the relationship. If he was upset with me, he would find a way to punish me at work and would undermine me to students, parents and colleagues. I felt I always had to keep him on side and please him to be able to work in a happy environment and progress in my career. In the final year I worked for him, there were work matters I needed his help with. He would give me advice, tell me he had my back, but then he didn’t. Contradictory statements were made which caused conflict between myself and my colleagues. He threw me under the bus with parents when there were issues. Nine years working in a school with excellent results for the subject I led gave me a certain amount of autonomy. In the final year it all changed. The quality of my work was questioned. I was told I had become difficult to manage and unsupportive of the kids – anyone who was not a yes person was perceived difficult to manage and I worked tirelessly to support my students. I had gone from being the golden girl on track for the top, to a problem that needed to be forced out. I was only a ‘problem’ because I knew my boss was not the good guy devoted husband and father he likes to portray to the public and I’m a strong woman unafraid to speak her mind. The constant rows and perpetual mind games I endured from my ex/boss took their toll and I had a breakdown, leaving Dubai for a week to get my head together. He had done something particularly cruel and when I asked him to leave me alone at work, he didn’t. I felt trapped. Like I was being smothered with no way out. The only way I could get some space was to leave for a week. He was full of apologies, knowing he had gone too far, but something had broken in me and I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to go back to finish the year for the kids I taught and to get the money I was owed to be able to go travelling – my ticket out. I resigned, intending to leave at the end of the school year and make a new life for myself. I didn’t make it though the year. His behaviour didn’t change, no matter what I did privately to try to sort out the situation between us. I was desperate for it to stop. For three years I kept my mouth shut (only confiding in a few close friends) and put up with his manipulative and controlling behaviour at work. I considered reporting him when I still worked for him but he is a very popular man and I didn’t think I would be believed, though I had collected evidence (emails, Whatsapps, a voice recording) throughout the relationship in case I needed it; I knew by getting romantically involved with my boss I had put myself in a vulnerable position and one day I might need to defend myself. I was right.

I wrote blog post ‘How To Date An Arsehole’, to get him to realise what he had put me through, to hopefully get him to stop (the original version included more specific details about the relationship). As a result of writing that post, I lost my job and home. I had to leave Dubai immediately to avoid arrest (for using inappropriate language and contravening the moral values of the UAE). I told the company we worked for why I had written the post and that I wanted to make a formal complaint about my ex/boss. He needed to understand that his treatment of me had been unprofessional and it’s not OK for a boss to abuse his position of power by mistreating a colleague due to an inappropriate relationship. I was asked to write down some details, ‘though you might feel differently about making a complaint once you go travelling’. It was clear from the get go I was being manipulated and fobbed off. I sent a long email attaching some screenshots that proved the inappropriate nature of our relationship, giving specific dates, details of incidents, and names of people we worked with who knew about the relationship. I was told by HR to ‘trust us to deal with him’. Despite the fact I had had to leave my job immediately after being suspended, I was open to agreeing to a fair resolution for my complaint. An apology from my ex/boss and his resignation (not necessarily immediate – I would have agreed to him working an extra year to wrap up his affairs) would have suitably dealt with the situation. However, no one called me. No one followed up my complaint. I was expected to shut up and go away. I didn’t. I stopped protecting him, for the sake of his family, when I realised he had lied and scapegoated me to keep his job. 

Operation Cover Up went into action to try to stop me telling inconvenient truths and to let my ex/boss get away with all that he had done. Unknown to me at the time, there was a plan in place for his progression within the company and me opening my mouth was problematic. I was threatened with defamation (though I can prove what I’ve said), I was lied to (told they would deal with him) and I was forced to sign an NDA. To stand up for myself and protect other women, I blogged about my experience and publicly proved there had been an inappropriate relationship. He was excused and promoted; I was villainised just for telling the truth. It was all my fault apparently.

People hated me for going public and the online abuse has been horrific. They don’t seem to understand the ordeal that I have been through since I met this man. Getting involved with him was the biggest mistake of my life and all attempts to deal with him privately always failed. Even when I went public, he continued to find ways to contact me, and try to manipulate me until November 2019, when I changed my private email address. I didn’t even sleep with this man yet the relationship proved disastrous to me. I refused to suffer in silence and I will not apologise for that. It’s one thing to go through a bad relationship; it’s quite another experience for the person you loved to exploit his position of power and damage your career because you don’t want to be in a toxic relationship with them anymore. No one is above accountability. The relationship began consensually but it was not consensual by the end. I emailed him privately to ask for closure in July 2019 but I didn’t get it as I have written about in blog posts Dear Dubai Ex: Closure and Cyberstalking: A Protest.

So how did this story end? He kept his job and he is still married, living in Dubai, like he did nothing wrong. After a year of travelling, I am settled in London and have changed career from teaching to hospitality. No doubt his version of events is very different to mine. Evidence speaks for itself. Meeting with a police expert in cyberstalking/ coercively controlling relationships and a solicitor in the UK was a game-changer and confirmed for me what I always knew – that I was right to speak up and take a stand. I was brought up to have integrity; taught that when you do something wrong and cause harm to others, you have to take responsibility for that. I have made mistakes in my life and I own them, making apologies when necessary. Decent people don’t lie and talk their way out of situations they are responsible for or scapegoat other people. I am only responsible for my actions, not the actions of others. Everyone has the right to work in a safe workplace free from abusive behaviours and discrimination. If that is not your experience, speak up for yourself and for others. Even if you don’t get a ‘victory’, like we see at the end of the movie ‘Bombshell’, living your life free from abuse, knowing you told the truth, is the real victory.

The world needs to stop treating women like villains when they tell truths that are inconvenient. Stop expecting us to be good little girls who shut up and go away just because what we have to say does not suit your agenda. Don’t silence us with NDAs before listening to us; we will only shout louder to be heard. I rest my case.

Foodgasm

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If you are a fellow foodie, I don’t need to explain to you what a foodgasm is. The gastronomes amongst you already know the sense of excitement that comes with the anticipation of trying a new dish or cuisine – whether from a market stall selling homemade eats, a funky food truck, or a Michelin-starred restaurant – and the explosion of pleasure that comes when your taste buds are aroused. Even when the appetite has been momentarily sated, a true gourmand will always hunger for more. My hobbies include breakfast, lunch and dinner and it would be fair to say that for as long as I can remember, food has dominated my life. I don’t cook but I love to eat.

My happiest and longest relationship to date is my love affair with food. Partners have come and gone in my life but food has remained a constant that rarely lets me down. Food has never sexted other women behind my back or cheated on me. Food has never tried to pressure me into having a threesome to spice things up. Food has never told me that I would be more desirable if I lost two stone (that’s 28 pounds for my American readers) or left dirty underwear and used condoms on my bedroom floor. When intercoursing with food, I have never had to fake it to protect fragile egos – the orgasmic delight relished when savouring flavours is always genuine – and involving food in sexual intercourse is guaranteed messy fun. If you haven’t yet tried an iced lolly vaginal kiss or a mint chocolate sauce blow job you should; they always seem to go down well. My relationship with food is no one night stand; it’s the real deal. A marriage of devoted fidelity and undying love.

Travelling for a year full-time, and past travels, means I have been able to sample flavourful treats from many different countries over the years. As I have made my way through a global food court, I have learned that my British palate can’t handle too much spice – a chilli in a Sri Lankan devilled chicken absolutely kicked my arse; I couldn’t speak for ten minutes after ingesting – and if I don’t know what it is, I’m not eating it (no animal eyeballs or genitalia or otherwise meat of unknown origin for me, thank you). A vegetarian for thirteen years, I used to refuse to eat anything with a face but an unexpected encounter with chicken fried rice one night (a takeaway mix up) led to me going back to the dark side. Cook me a perfect fillet steak with pepper sauce and I am yours, no questions asked. I would be a terrible vegan – my life motto is ‘Everything is better with cheese’. The diverse culinary experiences are amongst my most treasured travel memories. Living in London, I can luckily dine in restaurants that cover a gamut of cuisines but there is something quite special about being able to eat a dish in the place that it originated. Parma ham in Parma. Khinkali in Tbilisi. Oaxacan cheese in Oaxaca. Okonomiyaki in Japan. The list goes on. When you travel, don’t seek out the same restaurant chains you can eat back home. What is the point of travelling if you are going to do that? Eat local and you will find your tastiest authentic nosh.

Regular readers of my blog will already know that I have had a midlife career change from teaching to hospitality. When I left teaching in 2018 I was certain that it was time for us to part ways and I wanted to do something else. Life is too short to stay in a job you don’t enjoy. I gave myself a year off work for a much-needed rest and absolutely loved my travels. With time to think about what I wanted from life, my strengths, my goals, I knew I wanted to return to hospitality. I had done bar and restaurant work to support myself through my studies before I was a teacher and liked the social aspect of such work. I was even asked to join the management trainee programme for an upmarket seafood restaurant I worked for but I had already accepted my first teaching position and thus my career choice was made. However, watching TV programmes such as Chef’s Table, Masterchef Professionals and Great British Menu gave me an appreciation of chefs and I developed a fascination with the food artistry found within Michelin-starred restaurants. The first chef who got me excited about food was Heston Blumenthal, an inventive British chef awarded the coveted three Michelin stars. It became a dream of mine to one day work within a restaurant with a Michelin star and I’m happy to say I’ve made my dream come true.

In Italy and France, hospitality is viewed as a serious career choice but in the UK, there is snobbery about hospitality. It is often perceived as something people do until they’ve worked out what they really want to do which is a real shame, as working at Michelin level and the relentless pursuit of perfection that goes with that, is very demanding. To succeed in a Michelin-starred restaurant, you have to be dedicated, able to pay attention to detail, have excellent food and beverage knowledge and be willing to work long hours. My first fine dining job was working for Fred Sirieix (of ‘First Dates’ and ‘Million Pound Menu’ TV fame) and Chris Galvin at Galvin at Windows, a Michelin-starred French restaurant on the 28th floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane. It was surreal meeting Fred for the first time as I’ve seen him so much on TV but he was exactly as I expected: a charismatic and highly driven perfectionist. He is the king of hospitality, keen to inspire others to provide first class service. Chris Galvin is an award-winning chef with over thirty years experience. He is also one of the nicest men you could meet. My three months at Galvin were intense – there were highs and lows, laughter and tears – but not a bad way to begin my fine dining career. Working there has opened doors for me. If you have watched the latest season of Masterchef Professionals UK, you will be familiar with judge Monica Galetti and chef Ollie Dabbous who allowed three contestants to cook in his kitchen at Hide Above, the top-floor restaurant of his Michelin-starred HIDE restaurant. A few weeks ago I was offered a position at Monica’s restaurant Mere. I was also invited to do a trial shift at Cornerstone by Chef Tom Brown, awarded London Restaurant of the Year 2019 by AA Hospitality Awards. It was a tough choice but I am thrilled to be joining the team at Hide Above. When I watched the Masterchef Professionals episode featuring HIDE, I had no idea I would be working there myself a short while later. The restaurant has a beautiful interior, the largest wine list in Europe, and serves food that wows. Art on a plate. It’s an amazing opportunity and a lovely surprise to be given a position there #proud.      

The main perk of working in Michelin-starred restaurants is getting to try the incredible food for free. That’s a foodie wet dream. Is eating food better than having sex? That’s a good question. Depends on what you’re eating and who you are sleeping with. Fortunately, you don’t have to go Michelin star to have a foodgasm and you don’t have to have sex with someone else to have an orgasm. Both are pleasures that make life more enjoyable and are happy experiences you can give to yourself 😉 Combine the two and that’s my idea of heaven.

Take care,

Lisa.

If You Know, You Know

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Last edited: 13th January 2020

This post links with Inconvenient Truths; Cyberstalking: A Protest; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; How To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

When you first meet someone and you feel that ‘Wow’, the butterflies in the stomach, the magnetic pull towards them, the ‘I want to know everything about you’ impulse, it’s a special thing. Love makes us feel alive but it also makes us blind. When you have strong feelings for someone, your judgement becomes flawed. Realising that the person you have invested time, energy and love into, has repeatedly lied to you, manipulated you, betrayed your trust, is clearly not who they present themselves to be, is absolutely devastating. You blame yourself for not seeing the signs sooner, for accepting their lies, for being gullible, but it’s not your fault. You can’t beat yourself up for not knowing what you didn’t know.

In other blog posts I have written about my emotionally abusive, narcissistic, controlling ex not because I want to portray myself as a victim, but because I am motivated by a desire to educate and help others. I do not want anyone else to go through what I did. In October 2015 I blindly fell into a romantic situation that in the four years that followed caused utter havoc in my life, extreme emotional and mental distress, and nearly destroyed me. All because I fell in love with someone who is not as nice as the image he likes to portray. So many people have told me over the years that he is such a good man and implied that I must be responsible for the toxicity and abuse within our relationship. They are welcome to believe whatever they want. I have a collection of emails, WhatsApp messages and a voice recording that prove otherwise; the evidence speaks for itself. I know what I have been through and the impact the relationship has had on me and my life.

Gaslighters are highly effective convincing manipulators. They are adept at discrediting those who speak up about them. I am aware of the lies that have been told about me but here are the facts which I can prove:

  • My ex/boss initiated the relationship
  • He kissed me in his office during school hours
  • I refused to sleep with him as he was married
  • He sexually harassed me in the workplace and asked for sex on his desk
  • He refused to support me professionally if upset with me personally
  • There was retaliation in the workplace when our personal relationship was not good
  • He damaged my career and my relationships with co-workers when I worked for him
  • I tried to leave the relationship multiple times but he would always talk me round
  • He lied to and manipulated me throughout the relationship.
  • He has cyber stalked me since I left him last year and has been reported to UK police

When I left my job and Dubai, where we lived, to get away from him, I had thought that a difficult situation in my life was over. How wrong I was. How naive. I quite rightly reported my ex to the company we had worked for for his professional misconduct and expected him to be held accountable – after all, I had been told by them to ‘trust us to deal with him’. I didn’t trust them and I was right not to. After seeing a statement by the CEO proclaiming how proud she was of him, and his continued attempts to manipulate and control me did not stop, I began speaking out publicly about my experience. This is 2019 – NDAs can no longer be relied upon to stop women telling the truth. Had I been left alone to get on with my life, I probably would have shut up and gone away like so many trolls told me to but I’m afraid no man gets to damage my career and wellbeing, scapegoat and villainise me, and harass and cyberstalk me when I had to leave my job and my home in Dubai to get away from him. That’s not a situation that anyone should stay silent about and was certainly not one that I was willing to tolerate and accept. How a woman – who refused to sleep with her married boss – in this day and age can be punished for speaking the truth whilst the man concerned is protected and rewarded for his abuse of power is unbelievable. The refusal to be honest, to take responsibility, and lack of accountability, is on him and the company. Shame on all of them, those who continue to condone his behaviour, and those who tried to shame me and trolled me for speaking up when they do not know everything that happened in the relationship, or its aftermath, or how many times I tried to resolve the situation amicably. I didn’t deserve how I was treated by him personally and professionally when I worked for him and I do not deserve to continue to be abused when I am getting on with my life. It is not OK to villainise women who find the strength to walk away from, and speak up about, abusive situations just because you don’t like what they have to say. Pretending the truth does not exist does not make it go away. My ex/boss is the one who continued the situation and ignored requests to stop. Actions speak louder than words and his actions since I left him seem to indicate he feels he can still do whatever he wants and get away with it. However, no one is above accountability and what is done in the dark always comes to light.

I left Dubai over 18 months ago. Nearly two weeks ago I had to change my email address as yet another unwelcome email was received – containing porn and information only relevant to my ex and I – despite repeated requests to be left alone and warnings about legal action. Being cyberstalked is not simply annoying. It is not flattering. It’s not harmless. It is definitely not romantic. It is weird. It is frightening. It has been deeply upsetting and I cannot understand how someone I loved could put me through everything he has put me through over the last four years. I completely misjudged him and feel that I never really knew him. I fell in love with a facade. Had I known when I met him what he was really like and how fucked up our relationship would be, I obviously would never have gotten involved. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. To live my life in peace I had to change my phone number, change my private email address, disable blog comments, restrict followers on my blog and Instagram and make everything as private as I could. You don’t know how easy you are making it for someone to track you, to monitor you, to invade your life, until it becomes an issue. I urge others to rethink how much information they share publicly – you have no idea how vulnerable you are to cyberstalking and identity theft until you find yourself the target of someone who wants to abuse the power they have.

As a result of my blog and Instagram many people know what I have been through, and the identity of my Dubai ex. I won’t mention his name here. If you know, you know. I hope by speaking publicly about our relationship, I have prevented him from doing this again to another colleague, or to another woman. I also hope that he seeks help, and if he can’t be honest with others about the things he has done, that he has at least been honest with himself to learn from this. Everything we experience in life is an opportunity to grow and become a better person. I am not the same person I was: I am stronger, wiser, more resilient, more humble. Because I know what I want in life and all that I have been through, I will never allow myself to be in a similar situation again. I have reclaimed my privacy (though my Instagram is public again, my settings ensure only people I follow can interact with me) and I feel happier knowing my ex now has zero ways to contact me. I am sure karma will take care of him eventually. Even when you think you have gotten away with something, the Universe is always watching. What will be will be and he is thankfully not my problem any longer.

Only people who have been in toxic/emotionally abusive/coercively controlling relationships themselves know and really understand how damaging such relationships are, and will be able to empathise with my experience. Just because someone appears charming, kind and loving in public, it does not mean that they are not capable of abusive behaviour in private – appearances can be deceptive as I have painfully learned. He and I both know what happened between us; only one of us has told the truth. There have honestly been times when I have seriously wondered if there was much point in going on with my life but each time I felt that low, I found a reason to be hopeful and kept going. Now living a life radically changed to my old Dubai life, I’m so glad I did. It has been a battle getting here but I have genuine peace at last and I hope sharing my story helps others. 

Take care,

Lisa.

Cyberstalking: A Protest

Last edited: 13th January 2020

This post links with Inconvenient Truths; If You Know, You Know; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; How To Date An Arsehole; It’s Not Me, It’s You; Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…); Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Some supporters of mine created a Twitter account ‘I’mwatchingyou’ and held a 24-hour Twitter protest on November 1st to highlight my situation* (see note at the end of the post). Regular readers of my blog will already be aware of the circumstances that led to me leaving Dubai in April 2018 (About Me explains) and what I have been dealing with since I left. I did not expect to still be dealing with my ex and the aftermath of our relationship in November 2019, and nor do I want to be.

Numerous times I’ve been trolled, told to shut up, go away and get over it. I’ve been portrayed as the psycho ex who refuses to let go, who vindictively wants revenge. Anyone who actually knows me well knows that I’m not THAT person. I am someone unafraid to speak up, to fight for my principles and what I feel is right. I’m a Libra and to me, fairness and justice are everything. I was brought up to treat people as I expect to be treated. I don’t like confrontation or discord – but if you screw me over and don’t do right by me, I will stand up for myself. In October 2015 I became involved in a complicated personal situation that was to prove to have catastrophic consequences for me in the four years that followed. I met a guy at work and we clicked immediately. I couldn’t believe my luck – a handsome, smart, funny man liked me! When he made it clear he was attracted to me and began to pursue me, I was thrilled. I had no idea when we met that he was married, he was not wearing a wedding ring, and I was shocked when his circumstances were revealed. He had certainly not acted like a married man around me. The attraction between us and the feelings we had were strong and I allowed myself to get emotionally involved with him, though I refused to cross the line by sleeping with him. That was the beginning. To say that this particular relationship ended badly would be an understatement.

Multiple times during the relationship I ended things and asked to be left alone. My ex would always talk me round and I would be drawn back into it again. I loved him but felt caught in a fucked up web that I didn’t want to be in and couldn’t seem to get out of. He was my boss and there would often be repercussions for me in the workplace when our personal relationship was not good. He gaslighted me to control me and keep me, his ‘special friend’, attached to him, which I have written about in other blog posts to hopefully help others to recognise that they may be involved in a similar destructive situation. He is a clever, manipulative man who told me he always gets what he wants, and he always wants to win. Eventually he pushed me too far, I had enough, and exposed him in a controversial blog post, ‘How To Date An Arsehole’. I lost my job as a result of writing that post. After three years of putting up with his behaviour, I wasn’t going to go without a fight. I asked to make a formal complaint to the company we worked for. They were not interested and just wanted me to go away, despite them knowing I had a vast collection of work emails, WhatsApp transcripts and an incriminating voice recording that proved my allegations. They threatened me with defamation and I had to fight to get the money I was owed paid to me. They only paid me once I signed an NDA (a non-disclosure agreement).

That could have been the end of it and would have been had I received any kind of apology or assurance that my ex would be held accountable. The company had no interest; it did not suit their agenda. I was fobbed off and told to trust them to ‘deal with him’. They gave him a new job in one of their other schools. What a slap in the face. Why it was OK for a married Principal to initiate an affair with a colleague, to kiss and ask for sex on school property and to then gaslight and manipulate when he didn’t get his own way, but not OK for me to tell the truth and expose the behaviour, knowing I can prove what I’ve said, is not something I will ever understand. I blogged about it to ensure that he knows that what he did was wrong and to ensure he doesn’t do it again to someone else. The online abuse I’ve had over the past year has been horrific but I always knew that speaking up was the right thing to do.

At various times I have been prepared to let all of this go and make my peace with it but then something would happen – online abuse attacking me, fake accounts being used to contact me, the bombshell revelation in April 2019 that he was rewarded with a new job when I’d been forced to resign etc. So the cycle continued until I reached a point in July 2019 when I was ready to draw a line under it all. For whatever reason, my ex/boss had been allowed to keep his job despite his obvious professional misconduct and I’d been the scapegoat. That was bullshit but I just wanted positive change and peace in my life after a year of devastating losses and turmoil. I reached out to my ex privately via email, making clear my intention was closure. Even if the company was prepared to condone his behaviour, I wasn’t, but I wished him well anyway. I felt I had mentally and emotionally put the relationship to bed.

Unfortunately, my ex has not allowed me to move on – despite what he may have told other people. I am still writing about the situation because I am still dealing with it. I am still dealing with his attempts to contact and manipulate me. On police advice, I changed my phone number, removed my email address from my blog and Instagram, disabled blog comments, and made my Instagram private for three months. I deleted many blog posts and deleted my old poetry page to prevent him from clicking on ‘our poems’ – he still found a way to access them. I’ve tried ignoring the situation. I’ve tried not posting anything on my blog or Instagram for weeks at a time to see if that helps. I’ve tried to be nice about it. I’ve written about wanting peace, asking to be left alone to get on with my life. A friend has even contacted my ex, and his CEO, on my behalf and asked him to stop. I reported him to the UK police. I wrote Dear Dubai Ex: Closure to publicly ask for the situation to stop. I don’t know what more I can do. The Twitter protest was not my idea but I appreciate the intention behind it, and the support of those who feel I do not deserve how I was treated by my ex/boss or our company.  The people in my life now know how committed I am to moving forward and how frustrated I feel that a part of my past seems determined to keep a connection going with me, or just wants to show me that he can find ways to contact me whenever he wants as he does not like not being in control. He appears charming, kind, an average good bloke, so it has been difficult for others to believe me. What he put me through when I worked for him was not acceptable and it’s not simply my word against his when evidence exists; evidence the company didn’t want to see when I reported him last year and still don’t want to see now he persists in finding ways to contact and manipulate me. Being believed no longer matters to me – I just want him out of my life. 

Cyberstalking can take many forms. Every time a new fake account is discovered, or contacts me, I feel sick to my stomach. I have been advised not to reveal on my blog the full details of the contact or how we know when it’s my ex rather than some other weirdo. He and I know all that he has done. What I can say is that trolling and cyberstalking make you feel vulnerable, anxious, frightened and paranoid. It’s stressful feeling watched all the time and unwelcome contact is both invasive and upsetting. It needs to stop. I have never threatened anyone with legal action in my life and I don’t want to proceed with a court case against someone I loved – but I will, if I have to. Hopefully, it will not come to that. We are weeks away from the end of the year. I would like to enter 2020 with the weight of this situation lifted; happily free from the past.

Peace, 

Lisa.          

*This account remained active for two weeks and I was not the administrator of the account. The purpose of the protest was to highlight cyberstalking and make public my own experience. The original intention was for the protest to last 24 hours – until it was discovered that someone had tampered with the Analytics i.e. had found a way to remove impressions and engagements from certain tweets, probably with the intention of making us think that the protest had had less impact than it had had. Who knew it was possible to do that?! The account is now deactivated as it served its purpose. 

Dear Dubai Ex: Closure

Forgiveness

Last edited: 13th January 2020

NOTE: After all efforts to resolve the situation with my Dubai ex privately and amicably failed, I wrote ‘Dear Dubai Ex’ to publicly ask him to stop his manipulative and controlling behaviour. Originally posted on the 4th September, this post made clear that I was not interested and wished to be left alone. Further attempts to contact me in various ways were made. Police advised me to make my Instagram private (it was private for three months), disable blog comments and restrict followers to deal with the situation. It has been a difficult journey but the police in the UK have been very supportive. Coercive control and cyberstalking are unacceptable so if you too find yourself the target, collect evidence of the incidents and reach out for help like I did. You can take back control, move on with your life and rise above.

THE END: 18/11/19 This morning I woke up to an email containing porn and a subject line only relevant to my Dubai ex and I, from an account that was obviously fake to my private email address. I have now changed my email address. B – enjoy looking at my website; it is the nearest you will ever get to me again. All the best 😉

This post links with Inconvenient Truths; If You Know, You Know; Cyberstalking: A Protest; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerHow To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Dear Dubai Ex,

In July I contacted you privately to make peace with you, to apologise for my part and wished you well. It was a sincere act of closure and I felt such a sense of relief, of lifted weight afterwards. I was optimistic that a painful chapter had finally closed. However, you did some things in August and September that worried and alarmed me and the situation needed to stop.

When we entered our relationship – an emotional affair – we did not foresee how badly it would end. We can’t change what’s been said and done. There have been faults on both sides post-break up and matters escalated in a way I’m sure neither of us wanted. I don’t regret standing up to you and telling the truth, but I know it has been hard on all of us. If I could go back in time to that moment, during a school Professional Development day, when you told me you had feelings for me and wanted to initiate an affair, I would in a heartbeat – to tell you to get stuffed and decline your proposal, like I should have done then (but said many times after).

You have every right to feel what you feel; whatever you feel is your entitlement but please respect my requests for no contact, to not be monitored or contacted via fake accounts on social media, and for my poetry – poems I’d made private for various reasons – to not be accessed from my blog without my consent. I could share details and screenshots to prove what I’m saying but I’m not going to do that. It doesn’t solve anything and what other people think or believe is not my business. I heard endless ‘sorries’ from you during our relationship and promises that things would get better; ‘sorry’ becomes meaningless when you hear it so often and the behaviour that called for an apology doesn’t change. Actions speak louder than words. You once told me that one day you would make me hate you. I don’t. I feel no anger or bitterness towards you now. I don’t think you realised that you were being emotionally abusive but ‘I didn’t mean to’ is not an adequate excuse and doesn’t make everything you did OK. You did know, as a married man and my boss, that it was wrong to ask a colleague to have sex with you in your office – especially in Dubai, where adultery is illegal. Even though I did the right thing and refused, you failed to take responsibility and let me be scapegoated when I exposed you. I loved you but did not cross the line by sleeping with you. There should have been no consequences but getting involved with you had a catastrophic impact on my life and career whilst you were protected and praised by the company – who had told me to trust them to deal with you! That was an injustice, hence why I blogged about it – to stand up for myself and prevent you from doing it again – and I’m proud I did so. 

Nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes. Learn and grow from this experience. My agenda with my blog is to help other people by sharing my experiences and feedback from readers has been very positive. Some good has been achieved. Moving forward, focus on your family and your own happiness. Don’t ‘keep tabs’ on what I’m doing in my life. Respectfully, that’s no longer any concern of yours. I haven’t contacted you since mid-August* (when I told you to stop, and that I didn’t want to see or speak to you again). I never look you up online. I don’t ‘keep tabs’ on you. I’ve moved on.

My closure email in July should have been the end of it. It was heartfelt and clear in intent but as you have done so many times in the past, you disregarded my wishes and boundaries. Enough was enough. I reported you and closed myself off on social media to resolve the situation. Legal advice regarding coercive control, sexual harassment in the workplace and cyberstalking has been illuminating. I am familiar with the UAE’s defamation laws – instead of investigating my complaint, the company threatened me with defamation to try to silence me. It was a risk I was prepared to take to be heard, as I will never return to Dubai. Libel laws are different in the UK. Knowing I can prove what I’ve said, I have blogged about the detrimental impact of our relationship on me, and its aftermath. I don’t need to explain here just how devastating gaslighting, controlling and manipulative behaviour, and cyberstalking can be. Though I’ve been told by my solicitor that I have enough evidence to proceed with a civil case for damages, I have no desire to pursue the matter further. I just want to live my life in peace. Hopefully we now have closure, at last. After four difficult years, I am happily enjoying a new era in my life and, despite everything that happened, I genuinely wish you all the best.

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Take care and goodbye B.

*I have contacted my ex since originally posting this. 16/10/19: I emailed both him and his CEO asking for the contact to stop and told them I would not proceed with legal action if I was left alone. That same day a fake account contacted me. 18/11/19: after receiving an email containing porn, I emailed my ex and told him to move on. I then changed my email address. 27/12/19: There were some things I needed to say to my ex privately to move into the new year with everything said, to put the debacle that was our relationship and its aftermath behind me. This situation, for me, is now finally resolved.

Poem I wrote during the relationship. Says it all…

LOVING YOU

Loving you is like

Trying to hug a cactus.

You score my body

With short sharp shocks

When I get too close.

Loving you is like

Sleeping in a honey bed.

You wrap around me

With slick suffocation

When I try to escape.

Loving you is like

Writing an oxymoron.

You have no words

With cohesive ideas

When I ask how you feel.

Loving you is like

Climbing a jelly mountain.

You unsettle me somewhat

With longed-for openness

When you tell me I am missed.

Loving you is like

Wearing a stone feather coat.

You weigh heavy on me

With your contradiction

When I am without you.

Loving you is like

A jigsaw with a piece missing

You are here somewhere

With resigned defeat

When you watch as I leave.

Loving you is like

Catching air in a jar

You persist in your absence

With memories unspoken

When the end comes.

Lisa Hawkins

London Calling: A Guide for First-Timers

Check out my Flight Path page for other destination guides.

London is one of the greatest cities in the world and a first-time visit can feel daunting/overwhelming for London novices. I’ve been coming to London for years as a tourist and I made London my home in May 2019. This blog post offers tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your visit. As Samuel Johnson famously declared, ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’  I hope when you visit that you love this city as much as I do…

USEFUL WEBSITES AND APPS

ARRIVING

Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport are the two main arrival points for international flights. Flights to Gatwick can sometimes be cheaper than Heathrow so it’s worth checking flights destined for both airports to compare.

  • Heathrow Airport – you can avoid the expensive cost of the Heathrow Express by taking the Piccadilly Line on the Tube for under £5.
  • Gatwick Airport – take the Gatwick Express. You could take an National Express coach but it’s a longer journey (90 minutes to London Victoria Station) and not much cheaper than the Express.

GETTING AROUND LONDON

London is a fantastic city to walk around but it is also huge with lots to see and do. London consists of 33 distinctive boroughs but you will probably spend most of your time in the boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea during your first visit. If you are short on time, use public transport to get to key areas which you can then explore on foot.

  • Oyster card – definitely buy one of these. You can buy them from ticket machines in London Underground Stations. You will need one to travel on all forms of public transport. Whilst you can now travel contactless with your bankcard, not all International bank cards work. My bank card works but I feel more comfortable keeping my travel card separate, not flashing my bank card in public. The oyster card can easily be topped up using ticket machines or the TFL Oyster app https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/terms-and-conditions/tfl-oyster-app
  • Don’t bother buying a travel card – Oyster cards have a daily capped rate of £7 zone 1 – 2 on the Tube and £4.40 for unlimited bus travel
  • Download the Tube App and CityMapper App to help you navigate the city.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Wombats City Hostel London – I’ve stayed in many London hostels over the years and this one is my favourite. It was awarded London’s best hostel by Hostelworld in 2019. Great facilities and location. Maximum length of stay is two weeks https://www.wombats-hostels.com/london/
  • The Hub Premier Inn – if you can afford to spend more than the cost of a hostel bed, then The Hub could be for you. I like the one in King’s Cross. They offer compact and comfortable modern rooms with TVs and AC https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/hotels/england/greater-london/london/hub-london-kings-cross.html
  • Good Hotel London – if you fancy staying somewhere unique, I stayed at the Good Hotel London earlier this year. It’s a boat hotel with an amazing socially conscious mission. Read about my stay here Good Hotel London
  • LHA Hostels – perfect for people looking to move to London and who can’t afford expensive deposits and rents. A £200 deposit will secure you a place and you can select to stay in a private room or shared room in various properties around London. These hostels are not designed for backpackers or short term travellers (stay at Wombats City Hostel instead) as you need to provide your own toiletries, kitchenware etc. Check out their website here https://lhalondon.com/

THINGS TO DO

Free gems in the city:

  • View London from Primrose Hill, or Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath.
  • Stop by the British Library – the Treasures Gallery is unmissable and free (extra charge for some exhibitions) plus the outside seating area is lovely in the summer.
  • Prepare to be amazed at the Wellcome Collection – a fantastic place that showcases artefacts exploring ‘the connections between medicine, science, life and art’. The free temporary exhibition I visited about the psychology of magic was brilliant.
  • Spend time in one of London’s most-loved galleries – National Portrait Gallery (extra charge for some exhibitions) – I much prefer this to The National Gallery next door.
  • Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace – has to be seen at least once.
  • Get an art fix at Tate Modern – a modern and contemporary art fan’s dream (extra charge for some exhibitions) and Tate Britain – housing British art dating back to Tudor times.
  • Peruse thought-provoking exhibits in the Imperial War Museum (a charge to visit the Churchill War Rooms).
  • Lose hours at the British Museum (extra charge for some exhibitions) – home of the Rosetta Stone and other treasures.
  • Shop til you drop in Covent Garden – known for street performers, markets and designer stores.
  • Pause for thought in the ‘Actor’s Church’, St Paul’s Church, when browsing round Covent Garden.
  • Drink tea in the Twining’s Tea Bar, Strand – the oldest tea shop in London (free to look, charge for tea).
  • Visit the V&A (extra charge for some exhibitions) – has 4.6 million items!
  • Mooch around Harrods.
  • Harry Potter fans can get a photo taken at Platform 9 3/4 Kings Cross.
  • Pose with a lion at Trafalgar Square.
  • Swot up at the Natural History Museum – a stunning building housing a vast collection.
  • View London from the Sky Garden – beautiful views of the city but you have to book in advance to visit.
  • Pop in to the neon paradise of God’s Own Junkyard and pick your favourite sign.
  • Walk The Line – London’s first dedicated modern and contemporary art walk http://the-line.org/#/home
  • Have a coffee in a restored Victorian public convenience (free to look, charge for coffee) at The Attendant Fitzrovia.
  • People watch in Leicester Square. Check out actor handprints outside Vue Leicester Square cinema. You may get lucky and see a premiere taking place.
  • Pose with Eros in Piccadilly Circus – a mini Times Square.
  • Stroll round Chinatown – a vibrant area of the city.
  • Imagine London during the Swinging Sixties when shopping in Carnaby Street.
  • Walk through the Baker Street Wonderpass – the city’s most unusual underpass.
  • Head to Hackney City Farm – home to a variety of rescued animals.
  • Drop by the Design Museum (extra charge for some exhibitions) – the recent Stanley Kubrick exhibition was phenomenal.
  • Explore Camden Market – for shopping and food on the go. Grab a beer canal side and people watch.
  • Ride the Emirates Air line, a cable car that spans the Thames.
  • Meander round Little Venice – for some serenity in the city.
  • Another serene space to help you find your inner zen – Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park.
  • Go deer-spotting in Richmond Park – home to over 650 deer.
  • Snap street art – key areas: Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Camden.

Ticketed Places:

  • Tower of London – a history buff must.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral – a visit up to the Whispering Gallery is unmissable.
  • London Eye – the big wheel with majestic views.
  • Westminster Abbey – pay your respects to some historical giants.
  • Jack the Ripper Museum and Walk – a must for Ripper enthusiasts.
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum – again a must for fans.
  • Greenwich’s Royal Observatory – go to stand on the Meridian Line.
  • Stay overnight at London Zoo – book a night at ZSL London Zoo Lodges.
  • Kayak on the Thames with Kayak London.
  • Go up The Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fire of London.
  • Slide down the ArcelorMittal Orbit – the UK’s tallest sculpture. If you fancy a swim, the London Aquatics Centre is nearby, offering one of the cheapest swims in the city.
  • Open air swimming – Hampstead Heath Ponds and London Fields Lido.
  • Picturehouse Central – catch a movie at my favourite cinema.

Tip: look out for small round blue plaques on buildings around London. They tell you where famous writers, artists etc lived.

FOOD & DRINK

You can find all international cuisines and a multitude of drinking spots in London. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Borough Market – one of the city’s largest and oldest markets. Eat a pie at Pieminister.
  • Rules – oldest restaurant in London.
  • Savoy’s American Bar – longest surviving cocktail bar in London.
  • Netil360 – laidback rooftop bar in East London.
  • Abeno – the go-to place for Japanese Okonomiyaki (one of my favourite eats).
  • Hawksmoor – for your Sunday roast dinner.
  • Best fish and chips – the award-winning Poppies (available for delivery).
  • A must-try: a sausage roll from bakery chain Greggs.
  • Places with meal deals to grab lunch on the go – Boots, Tesco, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer.
  • Coffee on a budget – the Pret a Manger chain do a filter coffee for £1.
  • Cheapest food shop if self-catering – Morrisons.

SEE A WEST END SHOW 

  • Get cheap tickets from the TKTS booth in Leicester Square.
  • My recommendations: Hamilton; Book of Mormon; Come From Away – book tickets for under £20 direct with the theatre online. No need to shell out for pricey tickets – you get an excellent view from the back of the Phoenix theatre.

MY FAVOURITE WALK

  • Start at St Paul’s Underground station, visit St Paul’s Cathedral, then walk over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. Lovely views of London from the bridge and tower of the Tate Modern. Facing the Thames, you can either go right, walk by the Globe Theatre to Borough Market, a perfect spot for lunch or go left and you’ll get to the National Theatre and BFI Southbank.

DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON (reachable from under 2 hours).

Other suggestions: Bristol; Bath; Windsor; Canterbury; Margate; Cambridge; Oxford.

IMAGES OF LONDON

 

In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner

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Last edited: 13th January 2020

NOTE: Instagram feedback on this post has been amazing! Sorry to hear that so many of you have gone through similar experiences. My heart goes out to you and I appreciate all the positive comments. Take care.

Trigger warning: this post discusses coercive control in relationships, emotional abuse and gaslighting.

This post links with Inconvenient Truths; If You Know, You Know; Cyberstalking: A Protest; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; How To Date An Arsehole; It’s Not Me, It’s You; Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…); Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

There is a difference between someone who just likes to get their own way all of the time, i.e. a selfish f**cker, and someone who is coercively controlling. Many relationships have one partner who tends to take the lead but sometimes their need for control can go too far. This blog post discusses warning signs that your partner may be too controlling, and may indeed be coercively controlling. Coercive control within relationships refers to a spectrum of behaviours that puts one person in a position of dominance and control over their partner. When thinking about coercive control, you may have an image of a man who controls finances within the relationship, won’t let his partner spend money without his consent, won’t let his partner go out without him, who dictates everything his partner does, makes all the major decisions in the relationship, who verbally and/or physically abuses his partner. That’s not necessarily the case although many such men – Romantic Dictators – unfortunately do exist. According to Evan Stark, 2007, Coercive Control. How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University Press, ‘Not only is coercive control the most common context in which women are abused, it is also the most dangerous.’ Like I said, a spectrum of behaviours constitute coercive control. Coercive control is a form of emotional abuse and it can have a serious detrimental impact on your mental health, your wellbeing, and your whole life. That was certainly my own experience.

My last two relationships have been with men who liked to be in control and get their own way. In the first relationship, with a man I have referred to in other blog posts as Mr Control (How To Date An Arsehole, The Cat’s Whiskers), the last few months of this two-year relationship made it clear that I had dodged a bullet when he ended the relationship (as he wanted to be single). Only with hindsight did I recognise just how controlling he had been, and how much I had compromised myself within the relationship to keep the peace. Though I felt the usual sadness experienced after a break up, I was able to quickly pick myself up and get myself back out there… walking straight into a relationship with another controlling man, who I will refer to as The Boss, as he was indeed my boss at work. The difference is The Boss was coercively controlling and getting involved with him was the biggest mistake of my life. As I had had a relationship with a controlling man before, why was I not able to see the signs sooner to avoid getting involved with yet another man who likes to control? The answer is the charm offensive. Defined as ‘a campaign of flattery, friendliness, and cajolement designed to achieve the support or agreement of others,’ I was charmed into the relationship, and my love blinkers prevented me from discerning his true nature and just how catastrophic this relationship would prove to be. Coincidently, Mr Control and The Boss shared the same birthday but they also shared other traits too. I obviously have a type – handsome, highly intelligent, ambitious, witty, charismatic men. Both men were emotionally intelligent, able to engage in thoughtful discussions, and could be supportive and considerate when they wanted to be. As happy as I was at times within each relationship, neither relationship could ultimately go the distance once I realised the different ways they tried to manipulate and control me. I’m an independent strong-minded woman and although I will make compromises for the sake of a healthy, happy relationship, I will always naturally rebel against efforts to control me unnecessarily. I want to be in a relationship with an equal, a loving partner, not a dictator who expects to always get their own way and punishes when you don’t toe the line.

My relationship with The Boss is a long and complicated story that I have blogged about extensively since I left him in April 2018. You can read about it on my About Me page and the blog posts How To Date An Arsehole, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible Scars, Gaslighting Survival Guide; It’s Not Me, It’s You, Cyberstalking: A ProtestDear Dubai Ex: Closure and If You Know, You Know. Our relationship took place in Dubai, a hypocritical Middle-Eastern city where everything is skewed in favour of men and the rights of women are a joke. As such, he got away with professional misconduct and emotionally abusive behaviour. Controlling and coercive behaviour is an offence in the UK. The law recognises the harm that the cumulative impact of controlling and coercive behaviour can have. It is an offence if the behaviour has a serious effect on the victim, i.e. causes serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities. For example, two years in to the relationship, there was an incident in which The Boss did something that he knew would hurt me to punish me for chatting to a male colleague at a staff party. I was so devastated, I instructed him to leave me alone, and to go through my line managers if there was a work issue to be dealt with. The Boss ignored my request, summoned me to a meeting in work to tell me there had been a silly complaint about me. He pretended he had done nothing wrong, that I had not requested to be left alone, and tried to manipulate me into compliance by telling me he had my back, implying I should be grateful for his support. This is a textbook example of gaslighting and was not the first time he had caused conflict with his unacceptable behaviour and then tried to manipulate me back in to submission. Unfortunately two years of dealing with this kind of behaviour had taken its toll, I had a breakdown and left Dubai for a week during term time to try to get my head together. I did go back for the kids I taught but I was broken. I managed a couple more months but he pushed me too far and eventually I spoke up to put an end to the situation. This relationship negatively impacted my mental health, my physical wellbeing, my relationships with others and my career. Far too many things happened in the relationship and post-break-up for me to discuss in this post; I’ve only ever shared as much as I felt I needed to to be believed, and to help others who may be in similar abusive situations. The point of this post is not to ‘dish dirt’ but instead to highlight what coercive control is.

Some warning signs of a controlling partner to watch out for:

  • being love-bombed at the beginning of the relationship – over the top gestures, excessive compliments. This is the charm offensive used to sucker you in. Both Mr Control and The Boss did this with me.
  • wanting to be with you all of the time. You feel flattered that they want you by their side all the time but it’s just their way of taking you over. Ensure you have time for yourself and your friends. Mr Control ended up isolating me from my friends because we spent so much time together and he didn’t like my friends.
  • messaging constantly – you may like the fact they want to chat so much but they may be checking up on you, monitoring your activities and who you are with.    
  • telling you what to wear, how your hair should be and what your weight should be. Not OK.
  • critical comments made with the intention of making you feel stupid, that make you feel not good enough, that make you feel as though you are in the wrong even when you’ve done nothing wrong. I remember being sent this classic when I joked I only got a smile emoji back in response to a long WhatsApp comment. The Boss replied, ‘A smile is a good thing and something you used to appreciate.’ Ouch. That told me.
  • encouraging dependency – when they imply that only they understand you, only they ‘get you’, so you get used to going to them for support. I once turned to The Boss for support in a professional matter, only to find out later that he had been the one who had caused the issue and had thrown me under the bus despite telling me he had supported me. It is not uncommon for victims to become overly-dependent on their abusers – it’s akin to Stockholm-Syndrome.
  • mind games – telling blatant lies or going hot and cold to play with your perceptions/emotions.
  • lack of respect for boundaries – they may not respect boundaries you set and will instead just do what they want regardless. For example, not giving you space when you ask for it. If you end the relationship, they may ignore your requests to be left alone. They may prevent you from leaving the relationship if you express a desire to end it and manipulate you into staying.
  • jealousy and possessiveness – they monitor who you chat to or spend time with. They may monitor your social media, to see what you post and who likes or posts comments. They may monitor phone calls, WhatsApps, emails etc, or even track your whereabouts using apps. They may insist that you share your passwords with them. They regard you as theirs, a possession.
  • Sulking and punishment – they go cold on you when upset with you and may do something to retaliate, to punish or let you know they are displeased with you. This is where fear comes into play – fear of letting them down, or fear of losing your job for example. I felt I always had to please The Boss to ensure my career was not impacted; in the end I lost my job when I spoke up about his behaviour. This was, however, a blessing in disguise. 

All of the above can appear to be ‘low-level’ behaviours but they are used to control and assert dominance; over a period of time, they can have serious consequences for victims. Controlling men do not like it when you do not do as you are told, if you fail to comply with their wishes and demands, or if you stand up for yourself, and they will find ways to regain power and control. As confident as these men can appear to be, the need to control often stems from their own deep-rooted insecurities. They may fear that you will leave them so they chip away at you, to make you feel that no one else will want you, or may even tell you that no one else will love you as much as they do. Some men treat women like trophies to make themselves appear more desirable or successful. You may have to look and behave a certain way in order to be ‘good enough’ to be with them. Coercive control has absolutely no place within a healthy relationship. Unchain yourself from anyone who tries to control you, who stops you from being yourself, who makes you unhappy, and does not enhance your life. 

Now fully back in control of my life, I am passionately committed to educating others about coercive control. Victims deserve to be heard and believed and I have spoken up on behalf of so many women who may not recognise that they are experiencing coercive control, or feel too afraid to speak up themselves. I didn’t know what coercive control was until I had counselling and I’m glad I can use my blog, and Instagram, to share my experiences to highlight the issue and encourage others to set themselves free. 

Peace, Lisa.