Dear Dubai Ex: Closure

Forgiveness

Last edited: 15th October 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.

This post links with 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.

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 Dear 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.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

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Last edited: 25th August 2019

This post links with Dear 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, 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. 

 

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 Dear 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.

The Cat’s Whiskers

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Last edited: 11th July 2019

Can there be such a thing as too much honesty in a relationship? Are there some things you should just keep to yourself? There was a moment in my relationship with Mr Control when I realised I had said something that had drastically altered his perception of me, thereby changing the course of our relationship, and there would be no going back. Had I shared with him intimate details of past relationships? Hell no! Had I admitted to him that I’d reached the point when I only really fancied him when we were out and about and I would see some girl looking at him with lustful eyes? Of course not. Or revealed that he was an average kisser and locking lips with him made me nostalgically long for the kiss-me-dizzy embraces of my first love? Err no.

This is how it was. It was a picture of romantic loveliness. The scene was set for some ‘boom-chica-wow-wow’ action; the lights were off, candles were burning, and the ex-beloved, Mr Control and I, were cuddled up on his couch watching a film. He had one long-limbed arm around me and with his free hand, he was shovelling sour cream and onion ridged crisps into his mouth like he’d never been fed. He had his t-shirt off, revealing gym-toned pecs and tuffs of hair on his chest in all their glory, but the pungent aroma of the crisps intermingled with eau de body odour was not really doing it for me. Whilst I pretended to ignore my revulsion at the animalistic feeding frenzy of the alpha male beside me, I absent-mindedly stroked my chin. And then it happened. There was a whisker. Underneath my chin, unbeknownst to me, a surreptitious whisker had been burrowing its way out of my skin into the light. A chill ran through my entire body upon the discovery. Panicked questions ran through my mind: how long has that been there? Are there more of them? Am I turning into a bearded lady? Internally, I was freaking out. I patted my chin on the hunt for more imposters. I was overwhelmed with relief when I realised this whisker was a solo squatter and felt my body relax. Without thinking, the words just came out of my mouth and once they were out there, there was no taking them back: “Baby, I just found a whisker.” There was a sharp intake of breath and he physically recoiled away from me. I looked at him and saw the horror in his eyes. The goddess he had been professing undying love for was tainted. We tried to laugh it off but it was an awkward evening and we went to sleep that night un-spooned, both of us claiming to be too tired for shenanigans. Something in the relationship had shifted.    

Finding the whisker made me feel old and was a shock to the system. It was a reality check that as we age, our bodies metamorphose in unexpected ways. I had anticipated becoming rounder and saggier but no one warned me that I would become hairier too. For ages after, I was paranoid more whiskers would sprout. So far so good but I still conduct a weekly inspection of my under-chin. Apparently legends Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor used to shave their faces to exfoliate and enjoy a fuzz-free complexion. Well, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me ha ha. I will admit that when seated next to a beautiful young woman at the theatre a few months ago, I was surprised by the fact that her head was shaved but her legs were not (unless yeti tights are now a trend?) but good for her – every woman should decide for herself the amount of body hair she is happy with.       

Between you, me and the cat’s whiskers, Walter the whisker and I have come to an understanding. He means no harm. Each time he makes an appearance he is instantly tweezed away and I have accepted that ageing is inevitable. We all have things about our bodies that we don’t like and there are more important things to worry about than the fear that a rebellious whisker is potentially waving to everyone as I make my way in the world… Love yourself, flaws and and all.

Take care, Lisa.