If You Know, You Know

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This post links with 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
  • 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 have 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 can. 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 and 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 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.

Take care,

Lisa.

Cyberstalking: A Protest

Last edited: 18th November 2019

This post links with 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 recently created a Twitter account ImWatchingYou 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 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. 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 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.          

*Please note that I am not the administrator of this Twitter account and DMs sent to the account will not be passed on to me. The Twitter account is still active but many tweets have been deleted. 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 we discovered that someone had tampered with our 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 has had. The account will now stay active but only a few tweets remain.      

Dear Dubai Ex: Closure

Forgiveness

Last edited: 19th November 2019

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. 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, 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. Originally posted on the 4th September, this post has been revised and now represents closure, my farewell to this chapter of my life. Peace.

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 changed my email address. My ex now has zero ways to contact me. Problem solved.

This post links with 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 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.

Take care and goodbye B.

*I have contacted my ex twice since posting this. 16th October: 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. 18th November: after receiving an email containing porn, I emailed my ex and told him to move on. I then changed my email address. There will be no further contact between us.

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

In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner

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Last edited: 26th September 2019

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 Cyberstalking: A ProtestDear Dubai Ex: ClosureHow 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.’ 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 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 and It’s Not Me, It’s You. 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. 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.

Gaslighting Survival Guide

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Last edited: 25th August 2019

*Trigger warning: this post discusses Gaslighting and emotional abuse. 

This post links with Cyberstalking: A ProtestDear Dubai Ex: ClosureIn Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerHow To Date An Arsehole, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible Scars and It’s Not Me, It’s You

As someone who has experienced the detrimental impact of being gaslighted, I would like to give some tips to help those who suspect they are being gaslighted by someone in their life, whether that be by a parent, a colleague, friend or romantic partner.

The psychological term Gaslighting originates from the 1944 film Gaslight in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane. It has come to describe psychologically/emotionally abusive behaviour that has the intent to cause the victim to question their memory, their perception, and doubt their sanity. Why would someone want to gaslight someone else? To gain power and control. It tends to happen slowly, over a period of time, and can be absolutely devastating to the victim. It certainly was for me. I felt like a shadow of who I was by the time I found the strength to leave the relationship with my ex. During the relationship I became anxious, needy, snappy, paranoid, couldn’t sleep, and cried all the time. I felt as though I couldn’t think straight which impacted my ability to do my job, made worse by the fact that my ex and I worked together and he was in a position of authority over me. He would only support me professionally if our personal relationship was in a good place and even once admitted that to me. He was a compulsive liar but he insisted he never lies. He could be so convincing he would make me doubt myself. He drove me to a breakdown. Relationships with co-workers and friends were negatively impacted. The blog post I wrote to get him to stop led to me losing my job. This is why gaslighting and emotional abuse need to be taken seriously, with abusers held accountable.  You can read more about what Gaslighting is here http://bit.ly/2LgMHv7 

What should you do if you suspect you are being gaslighted?      

  • Do your research. Read about gaslighting techniques or talk with a trained professional so you are informed about the behaviours to watch out for. Once I knew what to look out for, I was able to keep a record of the things that happened whilst still in the relationship. The record helped to prove that my relationship with my ex was not healthy and was also valuable during counselling sessions.
  • Don’t be naive. Always remember that you are dealing with a very clever individual who is adept at manipulation. Simply talking to them and explaining your concerns is going to be ineffective. They will persuade you that you are wrong, convince you that they’ve done nothing wrong, and possibly say phrases like ‘You know I care about you, how could you think I would do anything to hurt you?’ Or ‘I’m disappointed you think that I am capable of that.’ They know how to turn things on you, to make you feel guilty and question yourself. Many times my ex did things that were unacceptable but after calling him out on his behaviour, I would often end up feeling bad and apologise to keep the peace.
  • Keep a record and collect evidence. An online diary that only you have access to could be safer than a written diary that could be found and read by the abuser. I created a Google Docs online diary and wrote down everything that happened in the relationship that I identified as being a gaslighting technique, or anything that was unacceptable to me – blatant lying, manipulative phrases, when his actions didn’t match his words, things done to deliberately confuse or wound etc. For evidence, I collected emails, regularly saved transcripts of WhatsApp conversations and took screenshots. You are always in a position of strength when you have truth AND evidence on your side – even if no one wants to listen/believe you. Knowing you have proof in black and white will make you feel more certain about what happened and make it easier to explain it to others if necessary.         
  • Share what is happening. If you have other people in your life that you trust, try to tell them about things that happen. For example, I did share some incidents with trusted friends and showed them messages. However, no one knew the full extent of the emotional abuse as I kept so much to myself. When I did eventually speak up, it was hard for people to believe me as they didn’t know everything that had happened and they didn’t get that it wasn’t just one event; gaslighting is a collection of manipulative actions and behaviours over a period of time.
  • Trust the evidence, particularly when dealing with gaslighting within a romantic relationship. When you love someone, it is natural to want to believe them and trust them so when they start to gaslight you, you make excuses for them. This allows them to continue to get away with abusing you. If your gut instinct is telling you something is off and you don’t like how someone is making you feel, pay attention to that and trust the evidence. If you speak up about their abuse, they will discredit you and make you appear crazy – but the evidence will speak for itself, making them look foolish. At the very least, you will know that you are right when others try to tell you you are wrong.      
  • Leave the situation. I stayed far too long in a relationship that I knew was harmful to me because I loved him. Put distance between you and your abuser. With distance from both them and the manipulation, over time you will gain clarity and the strength to fight back/ move on. You have a right to be happy. You have a right to good mental health and healthy relationships. You have a right to remove anyone from your life who harms your wellbeing and negatively impacts your life. Life is too short for such bullsh*t.

Recovery after gaslighting can be slow but you will get there in time, with help. These days I am in a good place mentally and emotionally, unless something triggers me – for example, a phrase that someone says, or a manipulative relationship in a TV show, can take me back to a dark place, but I try to surround myself with positive people and count my blessings. I have a new life now, I’m living in a different country, I’m doing a different job, and I am happy I got away. I hope that my writing encourages someone else to find the courage to positively change their life, as I have.  

Take care,

Lisa.   

Invisible Scars

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Last edited: 25th August 2019

*Trigger warning: this post discusses emotional abuse.

This post links with Cyberstalking: A ProtestDear Dubai Ex: ClosureIn Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerIt’s Not You, It’s MeHow To Date An Arsehole, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…) and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Identifying emotional abuse within a relationship is not about blaming, being a victim, and remaining powerless. It’s about empowering those, like myself, that have been in unhealthy/abusive situations and giving them a voice and the tools necessary to heal and move forward. 

This article is a useful starting point in helping people to recognise that they may have experienced emotional abuse within a relationship, and to then seek the assistance needed to recover: https://liveboldandbloom.com/02/relationships/signs-of-emotional-abuse

Speaking to a trained counsellor, like I did, can be invaluable in enabling you to articulate your experiences and then put steps in place to take back control and overcome the abuse/toxicity encountered. Recovery can be a slow process but having fought my way to the good place I am in today, it is definitely possible.

In my relationship with my ex, these were the aspects of the relationship that I identified as being emotionally abusive (comments on the screenshots give some examples of the behaviours I experienced as not every part of the description strictly applies): 

I was shocked when I read through the list to see so many behaviours that I had dismissed, made excuses for, and basically allowed within the relationship because I loved him. I don’t think he realised he was being emotionally abusive – I hope not anyway – so discussing the issue openly, and acknowledging that unhealthy/abusive behaviours have occurred – however difficult that can be – is the first step to healing and to change. Your partner has to be willing to do the work, but if they refuse, then you should put your needs first, protect yourself and leave the relationship.

Help is definitely available – look online for support groups in your area and make an appointment with a doctor/counsellor/therapist (whichever you feel most comfortable with). Many people find talking to friends about their experiences helpful but it can be hard for them to fully understand, particularly if they are friendly with both you and your partner, so a trained professional can be an excellent objective person to speak to whose only goal will be to support you. Don’t feel too ashamed to ask for help when needed.

Good luck on the journey to healing…

Take care, Lisa.     

How To Date An Arsehole

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Last edited: 25th August 2019.

*Trigger warning: this post discusses narcissists and narcissistic abuse. You can read about How to Spot Narcissistic Abuse’ here  http://bit.ly/2WfnxhC

This post links with Cyberstalking: A ProtestDear Dubai Ex: ClosureIn Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Note: I originally wrote this post to set myself free from an emotionally abusive relationship and to hopefully help others recognise that they may be involved in an unhealthy situation with a narcissist, male or female. The main problem with narcissists is that despite how charming and considerate they can appear (when they want to), they only ever really think of themselves and they always think they can do whatever they want and get away with it (they are so persuasive that is often the case). Once involved with them, it can be difficult to extract yourself but narcissists are incapable of loving you more than themselves regardless of the sweet-nothings they say. A relationship with a narcissist can be very damaging so watch out for the warning signs and protect yourself. Trust me, life without having to deal with a narcissist is much happier. Take care.

I’m sure we all have nightmare stories of dates gone awry and relationship disasters we could share but I feel fully qualified to offer my perspective on how to date an arsehole as it seems to come so easily to me. Some would call it a gift. For someone so smart and perceptive – I like to think so anyway – I have shockingly rubbish taste in men. I’m not ‘anti-men’ but I am a little over the fact that I seem to be a sucker for a certain type of highly intelligent narcissistic controlling manipulative man-child having encountered more than one in my dating lifetime. You would think with my track record, I would be able to spot them a mile away or have developed some sort of immunity (ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the ‘anti-arse’!) but sadly it appears that this is not the case. It can actually take me a couple of years to realise oops I’ve done it again. Once I’ve fallen for someone, I develop blinkers – or rose-tinted glasses if you will – and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge their flaws, continuing to make excuses for the poor way they treat me until I have some irrefutable evidence to the contrary: a Facebook message from another girl telling me she spent the previous weekend with my boyfriend who had told me he was having a lads weekend away, or making a concerned friend take a pregnancy test only to be told when the result was positive that the guy I’d been seeing for a few months was the daddy, or the flatmate who told me he had overheard me and my boyfriend having noisy sex the night before when it hadn’t been me who had stayed over… And each one of these guys I let talk me round and took them back – until there were further misdemeanours and they had to go. What can I say, I always try to see the best in people and no one really wants to acknowledge that they have wasted time on a douchebag. Speaking of douchebags, one ex tried to sleep with me a few weeks before he got married (to the girl he two-timed me with btw), he got knocked back, and then after he was married, he thought it was acceptable to send me a video of him pleasuring himself. It was not acceptable and when will guys learn that most women do not appreciate being sent dirty videos and dick pics? He is the sort of idiot the block button was invented for.  Someone I definitely should have blocked and walked away from sooner was my married boss, who had the audacity to slide into my FB DMs to initiate an affair and arrange a rendezvous – whilst rocking a loved up profile picture of him and his wife. That should have told me all I needed to know about the kind of man he was but unfortunately not. I blindly fell head over heels into the ‘Dicksand’ (a definition for those of you who don’t know what this is: “It’s like every time the guy looks at you, you forget who you are and are like ‘ahhh’ and you get sucked into their world” – Rebel Wilson, ‘How To Be Single’… We’ve all been there). Biggest mistake of my life though thankfully, I was smart enough not to sleep with him. Narcissists will cleverly try to talk you into getting what they want from you and before you know it, you find yourself doing all you can to please them to retain their attention and affection. They, in turn, demand more and more. It’s not a healthy or satisfying dynamic and you can end up feeling drained trying to fulfil their wants and needs, without your own being taken care of in return. Narcissists will dominate and absolutely suck the life out of you if you let them. You have been warned.

Mr Control was not a cheater that I know of (I have my suspicions…) but he was certainly a narcissistic man-child. He swept me off my feet, repeatedly told me he was in it for the long haul and then when the honeymoon period was over and we were in a rut after 18 months, he buggered off ‘to find himself’ – with another girl I should add! He had a way of reasoning with me that meant he just always got his own way and for a quiet life I let him. I always had to stand on the right side of him when we walked around holding hands for example. A small thing but illustrates the way everything always had to be on his terms. If he didn’t get what he wanted, if I didn’t do as I was told, he would sulk, be coldly dismissive or highly critical of me. I remember being told one night, out of the blue, during a romantic dinner that my breath had stunk that morning. His deadpan expression and tone of voice revealed he wasn’t joking. I felt like I’d been slapped around the face. It was the ultimate mood-killer but more than that, it was the disdain that wounded. This led to a row and he made me cry. I’ll never forget the image of him standing over me in a busy London street (he was tall, around 6ft 2 and I’m not, a petite 5ft 2) with a sneer on his face saying contemptuously: “Look at you, playing the victim”. 

When we met he had made me feel on top of the world with his admiration and adoration. Friends were envious of the way he looked at me. He couldn’t do enough for me – buying in soya milk for me to have for breakfast, giving me lifts to work and so on. As the relationship progressed, all of that changed. It was so gradual and subtle I didn’t even realise what had happened until it was over and I’d had time to reflect. I had been love-bombed by a narcissist until he no longer required my attention. As he painfully knocked me off my pedestal, he started to make comments on my weight, asked why I didn’t wear low-cut tops or false eyelashes, made little critical asides that slowly dented my self-esteem. He isolated me from my friends, making no effort to get to know them whatsoever as ‘he had enough friends’, preferring us to spend time alone or with his friends. Looking forward to spending our first anniversary together, I had pictured being wined and dined and then presented with a thoughtful gift. Instead I was informed that he was going on a lads holiday that weekend – though he did put a surprise bouquet of flowers in my apartment to soften the blow. He just always did what he wanted and I was expected to accept that. When we were at the mall on my birthday, the last one we spent together, the only treat I had wanted that day was to get my nails done. After being told at the salon that I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment for an hour, he behaved like a sulky teenager, refused to let me wait for the treatment I wanted, insisting instead that I go with him back to his apartment as he “loved me and wanted me all to himself” – how manipulative and selfish. And it was him that ended the relationship. Hilarious! Throughout our relationship, I was not allowed to put a picture of the two of us as my profile picture on Facebook because ‘when it’s on the internet it is out there forever’ he said, though I found it very easy to delete all pictures of him from my page when we broke up…     

You don’t need a guide on how to date an arsehole. Arseholes are everywhere. Just be a kind genuine person and they will hunt you out. I hope if and when that happens though, you are smarter than me and run for your life. After some of my experiences, I might have gotten quite cynical about the quality of men out there but I am an eternal optimistic, certain that there is a good man out there for me (or good woman – I’m open-minded) who will come along when the time is right. In the meantime, I shall stay happily single and play ‘dodge the dickhead’ along with all the other lovely single ladies out there deserving of being treated right.

So back to the title: How To Date An Arsehole. My advice: Don’t!

Take care, Lisa.