It’s Not Me, It’s You

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Last edited: 4th August 2019

Someone I had blocked on Instagram recently reached out via email to contact me.  The email began ‘I don’t know why you have deleted/blocked/ignored me….’ and I didn’t read the rest. I had indeed deleted, blocked and ignored this person, making clear – I thought – my desire to be left alone, but apparently not. Not wanting to be pulled into unnecessary drama, I had two choices: ignore them and hope they got the hint, or reply and then block their email, ending the relationship once and for all. I would rather someone told me directly the worst truth rather than lie or ghost me, so I chose to reply. I told them I had deleted the email unread, asked not to be contacted again and ended with a thank you. As cold as that sounds, it seemed kinder than ignoring and it did the job without an unsatisfying exchange of blaming/argumentative emails that would have been a waste of time given my decision to walk away from the relationship. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. What is the correct etiquette these days for ending a relationship? Does it depend on the length of the relationship or the kind of relationship you had? Should you end friendship relationships differently to romantic relationships? Pertinent questions as we will all have to end relationships at some time in our lives for various reasons: infidelity, disloyalty, financial hardship, conflicting values, boredom, you want different things out of life, you don’t enjoy spending time with the other person, they may remind you of a time in your life you would rather forget and you want a clean break, or perhaps you have just grown apart/ outgrown each other.  As we go through life, we are constantly evolving and our relationships change too.  

I’ve only been dumped a couple of times in my romantic life because I am the one who tends to exit first. Not because I have commitment issues but because I go with my gut and I’d rather be alone than in a relationship just for the sake of it. I have had some classic experiences of being let down not so gently.  Adam* was a guy I had known socially through mutual friends. One evening after we bumped into each other and had cocktails, I took him home with me and one thing led to another. I was not expecting this necessarily to lead to anything serious but my word, no sooner had he withdrawn from my vagina than he was dressed and racing for the door. Turning back to see my stunned expression, he looked suitably ashamed, muttered, ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ and he was gone, setting a record for the quickest exit after intercourse I’ve encountered from all the people I’ve slept with. Another dumper Max didn’t even tell me it was over between us, he just gave the key that I had given him for my apartment to a friend of mine to pass back to me; actions spoke louder than words. Rex and I dated for four months and things had been going well until I found another girl’s knickers in his room on a night I was supposed to be staying over. He tried to claim they were mine but when I insisted they were not, he failed to apologise, told me I was bottom on his list of priorities and he didn’t want a girlfriend anymore. Needless to say, I went home and didn’t see him again. Hilariously, he moved to Dubai the year after I did and asked to see me several times ‘to make it up to me’, but I refused to see him. The best excuse I’ve ever heard for being cheated on was given to me by Robbie who slept with a friend of mine; he said he was so drunk when they had sex he thought she was me – she and I look nothing alike. Unbelievable. The most bittersweet break up was with Dominic after a couple of years of us being together. He was crying so much when he tried to tell me it was over he couldn’t get his words out. It went like this: he turned up at my place ashen faced. As his tears started I prepared myself for the worst. I asked him if someone had died. He said no. I asked him if he had cheated on me. He said no. I felt sick. I asked him if he was ending this. He said yes. We both cried. It was painful but at least he gave me the respect of ending our relationship face to face. Though texting and emailing can be the easy way out, they’re definitely not OK for long term romantic relationships. If you don’t want to be with someone anymore, have the heart and balls to tell them directly to their face.   

That said, I’m not averse to ghosting when necessary. Ghosting, as we all know, is when you suddenly cut someone off and disappear out of their life. For those casually dating multiple partners, ghosting is commonplace and you can’t take it too personally. It’s easy to ghost someone you hardly know and who doesn’t mean anything to you but I would only ghost someone who has been a friend or someone I have cared about in exceptional circumstances. When I chose to finally leave an abusive situation in my life, I had to protect myself so I only maintained contact with a small number of people from my old life who I trusted. I did what I had to do. Over the past year I have been ‘haunted’: emailed by fake email addresses, fake accounts have been set up to contact me via my blog and Instagram, and fake accounts have also monitored my Instagram stories. Consequently, I had to change my phone number, remove my email address from my blog and Instagram, disable comments on my blog and make my Instagram private, in an attempt to be allowed to live my life free from abuse, intimidation and manipulation. Enough was enough. Taking back control felt fantastic. Why people – who do not know me, who did not go through what I did, who do not know everything and therefore don’t know what they are talking about – feel it’s OK to contact me to share their ill-informed judgemental comments or to troll me about my appearance is baffling to me. I spoke out to expose the hypocrisy of a company who failed to investigate a complaint of professional misconduct, despite them knowing that evidence existed to support my complaint, and the hypocrisy of an individual who failed to take responsibility for his behaviour, allowing me to be scapegoated instead. What’s done is done and I don’t have to keep defending myself. Only people who have truth to tell that others want to hide are made to sign NDAs. That speaks for itself. I broke the NDA to ensure that what happened to me, does not happen to someone else, and I wholeheartedly stand by that decision. I refuse to be the punchbag for this situation any longer. If you have nothing nice to say to me, please keep your thoughts to yourself and get on with your life, just as I am getting on with mine. I am in touch with the people I care about and want to be in touch with. Some say that even those who teach us the hardest or most painful lessons in life are actually our soulmates. I don’t believe in ‘The One’, but rather feel that people come into our lives at certain times to teach us things of value, that everything happens for a reason, and good can come from bad experiences. With that in mind, I am sending love to anyone I have loved and wish them all the best.

As kind as the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ cliche is, everyone knows what it really means. It’s a cop out. A way of telling someone you don’t want to be with them anymore or you don’t want them in your life anymore without telling them the real reasons you feel that way. Next time you feel tempted to use this cliche, you could try being honest. When Dominic dumped me, he told me I had been an amazing girlfriend, that he knew he had been spoiled by me and that I had done nothing wrong, but in his heart he felt something was missing for him. As hard as it was to hear at the time, I respected his honesty and I took the rejection on the chin. I am an honest and direct person so I appreciate it when other people are that way with me. There are, of course, kind ways and brutal ways of telling the truth and I can be brutally honest when I feel it’s time to cut the crap. Always when possible though, choose kindness. When you don’t want to be with someone or have someone in your life anymore, set them free so they can give their heart, mind and energy to people who will/do want them. Life is short, don’t waste yours, or anyone else’s time by not being completely honest. Don’t put more bullshit out into the world than there already is. The only exception to the honesty rule is when you want to tell someone you have feelings for them but you are not in a position to act on those feelings because you are married or otherwise unavailable – by sharing your feelings with someone you shouldn’t, you are putting the other person in an impossible position. What are they supposed to do with that information? Honesty in this case just opens a Pandora’s Box of pain. In those situations, it’s best to keep your feelings to yourself. Even worse is when someone can’t be with you but they don’t want you to be with anyone else either. I’ve experienced that and it was a total headfuck. Don’t accept being treated that way and get rid. I should have sooner. We worked together; this guy messed with my head and career. I got doubly screwed over and didn’t even get laid. I fell in love with a married man but refused to sleep with him. He would not leave me alone when I asked him to and always talked me round, preventing me from moving on. I experienced retaliation in the workplace when he was upset with me. I was so broken by dealing with him and his behaviour, I became incapable of doing my job properly and my life fell apart after I wrote a blog post to get him to stop, as trying to resolve things with him privately never worked. A lesson learned the hard way. Shit happens. With millions of people looking for love, it is inevitable that we will encounter arseholes during the quest to find ‘The One’. Bad experiences/relationships though help you to work out what you are looking for, what your dealbreakers are, and the kind of person you would like to be with. Dating dickheads or friendships with fakers, make you appreciate the real diamonds more when you find them so no relationship, whether good or bad, is ever a waste of time.   

We all deserve to have people in our lives – friends, romantic partners, family – who genuinely love and respect us exactly as we are, who can be emotionally and physically involved with us, loyal and faithful to us, so never ever settle for less. I have made some changes in my life. If you haven’t heard from me recently, then you were one of them. It’s not me, it’s you 😉

Take care, Lisa.    

*All names mentioned have been changed. My Instagram is now public again – I have nothing to hide.

 

Gaslighting Survival Guide

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Last edited: 16th July 2019

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

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.