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.

Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…)

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Last edited: 25th August 2019

*Trigger warning: this post discusses gaslighting, narcissists, and emotional abuse.

This post links with If You Know, You Know; Cyberstalking: A ProtestDear Dubai Ex: ClosureIn Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling PartnerIt’s Not Me, It’s YouHow To Date An Arsehole, Invisible Scars, and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Early in 2018, I was reading an article online about gaslighting when I had a profound realisation. The sense of clarity I experienced was so strong, I felt sick to my stomach. Gaslighting is a tactic people use to gain power over someone and used in romantic relationships, it can be highly effective and completely insidious. The penny finally dropped. My ex was a narcissist and throughout our involvement, he had used a range of gaslighting techniques on me to keep me attached to him and to try to control me. This realisation was an absolute shocker to me and was the catalyst to me fighting my way out of the relationship and finding happiness away from him.

Handsome, clever, charming and witty, we connected immediately. I was flattered when he began pursuing me: asking for my phone number, sending me flirtatious work emails, DMing me on Facebook. We messaged constantly, always watching out for each other, and it felt like us against the world, with shared jokes and confidences. I would light up with joy whenever I was around him. I could feel when he walked into a room, even if I couldn’t see him. It was like the air changed. I’m very empathic, an ‘emotional sponge’, so I’m sensitive to others’ moods and emotions and I’m an emotional person – I wear my heart on my sleeve and don’t hide my emotions. Apparently empaths and narcissists are frequently drawn to each other and it is not uncommon for relationships between the two to become toxic, as it did in our case. From what I’ve read, the attraction arises because narcissists thrive on being given attention and like to be worshipped whilst the empath loves to give and tends to be too forgiving, letting the narcissist get away with poor behaviour. Narcissists feed off the emotions of empaths and empaths will often give until they have nothing left, leaving the empath drained, which is why such relationships can be very damaging to empaths in particular. As long as the narcissist gets their own way, it’s all good. If you challenge them in any way, point out flaws or try to stand up for yourself, that’s when the trouble starts. He met his match in me.

A few months into the involvement, there had been a couple of red flags, such as hot and cold behaviour (often rapidly changing between the two), his actions not matching his words, and some sharply worded messages (a sudden slap in written form), but he always had an explanation and I was in too deep by then to see that the gaslighting had begun. To me his good qualities outweighed the aspects I didn’t like, he was very persuasive, and I was accepting and made excuses for him because I loved him. We are all human, flawed, irrational, and contradictory sometimes. My friends were worried for me and advised me to leave the relationship. However, I can be incredibly stubborn. I will always follow my gut instinct and do what I think is best. Unfortunately, in this situation, I completely ignored my gut instinct and continued with a relationship that was ultimately to prove highly toxic and harmful. In the last year or so I was aware that the situation wasn’t good for me and was negatively impacting my health but I couldn’t seem to break away. This is where the gaslighting had worked its magic.

Abuse in relationships can take many forms. I am fortunate that I have never been in a physically abusive relationship or been called derogatory names by a partner which people typically associate with abusive relationships. However, today there is greater awareness of emotional abuse and the impact that can have. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. An insightful article about gaslighting written by Stephanie A. Sarkis can be found here  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-warning-signs-gaslighting Gaslighting can happen to anyone. I’m a smart girl but he completely suckered me in. I definitely experienced the blatant lies, being told things to appease me that weren’t true, promises made that he had no intention of keeping, and manipulation. He was also possessive and would watch me when I was chatting to other men; he was prone to jealous sulks if he thought I’d been flirting with them and there would be some sort of retaliation as punishment. When you get involved with someone you make yourself vulnerable and in a healthy relationship, the other person will take care not to hurt you or do things that they know will cause you pain. In my relationship with my ex, there were times when he did things to deliberately hurt me if he was displeased with me. I could also suddenly be ignored either in person or he wouldn’t reply to messages – withholding affection was used to control and assert power over me – as he knew I hated being ignored and that it would drive me nuts if he was cold and distant with me. To stand up for myself and give him a taste of his own medicine, I would then do the same back to him as I knew he also didn’t like being ignored. I knew exactly what to say or do to provoke him – you get to know each others Achilles heels when intimately involved – though most of the time I tried very hard to please him. I had to take him off my Facebook three times because of things he posted; he removed me once – when I posted I was going on a date to annoy him in response to him going cold on me once again. After the first year I had to block him on Facebook for good. We were always falling out and making up; like trying to stand upright on shifting sand, I felt constantly unbalanced. He never seemed to understand my side and would often emotionally invalidate me, dismissing my feelings and being defensive if I tried to explain how his behaviour impacted me. 

I am an honest, direct, person and I think it’s important in relationships for you to be able to communicate openly and honestly without fear of retribution. When I did call him out on the things he did, he would often turn it back on me, make me feel guilty, telling me it was my fault I had misinterpreted something he said, implying I was over-sensitive. Some of his behaviour just didn’t make sense – once I was sent a sharp email and a sweet WhatsApp message at the same time and another time I was sent a kiss emoji but then blanked by him when he saw me. I was always trying to puzzle him out. At times it wasn’t OK how he treated me but if I complained the situation between us was toxic, a headf*ck, and I wanted out, he would become indignant, calling me nasty and abusive, and sulk. If I asked for space, I wouldn’t get it. Rather than seeing that I was trying to do the right thing for both of us (who wants to be in a miserable relationship with frequent conflict?), it was like he felt how dare I not want to be with him and he had a ‘F*ck her, I’ll do what I want’ entitled attitude. For some reason, he just couldn’t let me go. I was an uncontrollable force of nature that he wanted to control. It changed me as a person over time – I became anxious, needy, snappy, paranoid, couldn’t sleep, and cried all the time. My relationships with others, friends and work colleagues became negatively impacted. Eventually I had a breakdown. I couldn’t take anymore. My head and heart were totally f*cked by the time I ended the relationship for good.

So many people stay in toxic/emotionally abusive relationships because they think if they just love the other person enough, it will get better – especially if the other person promises that it will, like my ex did with me – and it can be incredibly difficult to leave the relationship. It’s painful to walk away from someone that you still love, even though you know the situation between you is doing neither of you any good. The good news is you can break away if you are strong enough and believe that you deserve better. Of course I had moments of nostalgia after I left when I missed him, especially if I heard songs we shared, but I also felt a lot of anger towards him for everything he had put me through. Toxic relationships can bring euphoric highs and lots and lots of bonecrushing lows. The drama can be addictive and you tell yourself that you must really feel strongly for each other if you keep going back to each other. That’s not true. It’s just a bad habit. An abusive cycle that can be broken. On-and-off relationships are NOT healthy. Can’t-live-with-can’t-live-without relationships are NOT healthy. Relationships are not always easy but they shouldn’t be painful or harmful or bring out the worst in you. No one who really loves you would ever use gaslighting techniques on you to manipulate and control you, to punish you or make you stay in a relationship with them.

If you are in a toxic/abusive relationship, do yourself a favour. Detox your life. Block them and commit to withdrawal from your relationship addiction. Get counselling if you need it – this has been invaluable to me, allowing me to articulate my experience (to hopefully help others) and has helped me to let all the anger go. Focus on self-care and doing the things that you love, and in time you will find that you are so much happier without the relationship in your life. You know you are at that point when you glow – people keep telling me that I look happy and I am. No longer gaslighted (or should that be gaslit?), I’m lit on life with my arms open to embrace all the possibilities/opportunities coming my way.      

Take care, Lisa.