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.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

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Last edited: 25th August 2019

This post links with Cyberstalking: A ProtestDear Dubai Ex: ClosureHow To Date An Arsehole, Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…), Invisible ScarsGaslighting Survival Guide and In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner

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. I am in touch with the people I care about and want to be in touch with. 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, change my email address, 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. Despite everything that happened, I reached out to my ex last month to make peace, to apologise for my part and wished him well. It was a sincere act of closure. However, the recent discovery of a fake Facebook account that contained information only relevant to my ex and I, and therefore could only have been created by him – in addition to some other things I won’t disclose here – led to me filing a complaint of harassment with UK police. The manipulation has to stop. This will hopefully deter further attempts to contact/manipulate/control me so we can both get on with our lives. Any more fake accounts or online abuse will be reported.

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 and sulking when I chatted to male colleagues he was insecure about. 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. This is the same guy I spoke about above who I have reported to the police to put an end to the situation and to ensure he doesn’t emotionally abuse or sexually harass another woman in the work place again. It should never have come to that. It was a toxic relationship and the worst break up I’ve ever experienced. 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.  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. 

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. 

 

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.