Charming. Alluring. Complimentary. Adoring. Exciting. Affectionate. Passionate.
He said all the right things. He even DID all the right things… in the beginning, anyway.
He figured out exactly what I was looking for in a man and pretended to be all of those things. And then, he lost his mind.
At least that’s how it seemed.
And you know what? His madness 3 weeks in made me want to help him, because I had seen a totally different side of him and “there is no way THIS could really be him!” “He must be hurting… he shouldn’t have to go through this alone.” Ahhhh, yes. The empath strikes again. FEELING it all and refusing to allow someone to “hurt” without trying to be there to support and love them through it.
Uh huh. It happened. I was duped. Manipulated into believing his lies. And what’s worse, accepting the lies once they came to light and making excuses like, “that was his past, he’s different now; he cares about me…”
It’s a sickness. And it may be the most confusing, terrifying, heart-breaking experience I have ever had with another person. Someone that I fell in love with.
I want to make this very clear. Because I know that some of you reading this are thinking, “what the fuck?! SHE stayed? SHE was involved in this type of dysfunctional relationship?” Because for those of you that know me personally, you know that I am not a doormat, nor do I put up with games and drama or have any of that in my life.
And that’s the thing. I am still trying to wrap my mind around how in the world I allowed this to happen. How could I possibly accept the type of behavior that I was so deeply intertwined with for 6 months, despite the pain and heartbreak I felt?
Well, it’s not as black and white as it may seem. And trust me, if I hadn’t been through this personally, I would likely be reading this and thinking the same thing… “What the…?”
It started with lies from his online profile. And then turned into put-downs and trying to make me feel bad about things HE was doing, portraying them as if I was the one doing XYZ once we were in a relationship. I stood up for myself, of course! I am not one to stay quiet. And as that slowed down… he was “normal” again. The doting boyfriend who “couldn’t wait to start our lives together; I have never met anyone like you; we are going to make beautiful babies and you are going to be the best mom…” came back.
And that was in month 1.
I guess that should have been my first red flag. Or the now obvious red flag after a ridiculous conversation that left me laughing because there was no way what came out of his mouth was in seriousness – when I said, “you know that makes you sound like a narcissist sociopath, right?” and his response was (laughing), “that’s not the first time I have been told that.”
Hello! Wake-up, Sheree! Are you there?
There were signs. Plenty of them. And I brushed them all aside because I saw something in him. I fell in love with the good in him, along with his potential. I failed to hold on to the truth of the matter: he was conniving, manipulative, disrespectful, dishonest and completely over the top selfish. All attributes I chose not to focus on because the things I loved were enough (right?).
He shut down often, was condescending when he didn’t get his way and everything was all about him. Even when the issue stemmed from his choices, somehow it came back to how it made HIM feel. How it affected me had no merit. His weekend binges on alcohol and women (when we were on the rocks) left me feeling depleted and like I was failing at this relationship. In truth, it would not have mattered what I did, he was in no way concerned with the feelings of others. Although, as you may guess, he was incredibly skilled at pretending otherwise. I am convinced that the only people who have truly seen this side of him are those that have dated him. I have heard the stories straight from his mouth, which I will not air because that’s not my place. But WOW, Sheree! What on earth were you thinking, staying as long as you did?!
After a few break-ups and of course, coming back together (which I NEVER do), I felt like I was riding the crazy train. For real.
He would call me drunk on the weekends, because the party scene is not for me, mad that I wasn’t with him or telling me how I looked “terrible” in the picture I posted, etc. The next morning would be a series of apologies, flowers, planned dates, kisses and “it will never happen again” conversations. He would plead with me to please forgive him, that this was not the life he wanted. That I was everything to him and he wanted to be a better man so that he could be the KING I deserved. And I stayed for a bit. Because the truth is, I wanted that too!
Let me chime in here to say something that was GOOD about this whole scenario…
We had a connection that I cannot explain and had never experienced on an emotional/physical plane in my life up to this point. I know this sounds absolutely insane! Even thinking about it makes my heart sink to my stomach because I have no idea how that’s possible given all the terrible lows that occurred in our very short time together. But it’s true. Although he said the same, I cannot confirm whether that was actually the case for him or if it was another ploy to make me feel “special” only to tear me down, so I will only speak for myself in that I truly felt connected on a soul level, as though we had known eachother somehow for many, many years. There are no words that could possibly express the way my heart felt when things were “good.” And I look forward to the time when I get to experience that beautiful feeling again, without the heartache and pain that I endured in the process. Bottom line: it wasn’t all bad. But the good, unfortunately, did not in any way outweigh the storm that inevitably came about every 3 weeks or so.
A month before our final break-up, he called me while visiting his family for the weekend in the Midwest. He expressed that he had never felt so clear about what he wanted and laid out his plan. He wanted to “stop drinking cold turkey” for 30 days and wanted to sign up for leadership training (which I was currently going through) and begin to really take action in his life. He wanted to focus on building a life for us as a couple and be able to support a family financially and emotionally. He expressed that he was grateful to have me in his life to support him and that he had never felt so loved before by anyone. He asked for my continued support, to give him one last shot to prove he could be the man I deserved because he truly was that man, he just had cared too much what others thought for so long. He was finally ready to give it all up and live the life he’d always wanted. He now felt empowered and certain he could – and would – follow through.
Time after time, he had mentioned pieces of this. And each time I made sure to state clearly, “please, whatever you do, don’t do this for me.” Because that’s the thing – it won’t work if the person making the changes doesn’t authentically want it. I didn’t want him to change who he was for me, I made that very clear. So the way he said this led me to believe that he had made a decision FOR himself, on his own…
Something about this conversation was different. And I wanted so much to believe him, that I decided to stand by him. Again.
When he got home – because we were living together at this point – he was different. He was lighter, more focused and full of love. He was the guy I met in the beginning. The one who I could see in my life for a very long time. These were the pieces that I fell in love with. But loving in pieces never works.
Sadly, that only lasted a week. Old patterns began to show up and I called it quits. The truth is, it wasn’t enough.
The situation wasn’t ideal. I had arrived home about 9pm after dinner with some girlfriends and woken him up to talk to him about how I was feeling and that it was just too late; too much had happened and I couldn’t forget all that we’d already been through. I had forgiven him, but there were still trust issues and that was not healthy for any relationship. I cried. For days, actually. Because I wanted it to work. I never wanted to be the reason anyone felt abandoned or unloved. And at the same time, I had to honor myself too.
Days later, he showed up at 1:30am in the morning, drunk and ornery. We fought, something completely outside of my way of BEing. I am not a fighter or a yeller, but that night, I was both. I was pissed that he just gave up on himself! All of the things he said he wanted when I decided to give it one last shot, out the window. He began blaming me for things that were not true and I questioned myself, although I knew better. It was incredibly painful. And I didn’t recognize myself. That was the moment that everything clicked. The person I had shown up as that night was someone I did not recognize, nor was it someone I cared to know at all.
After 1 hour of sleep, I left for training the next morning and he moved out of my place. And while I knew that I made the right decision, I was still sad beyond belief that things ended the way they did. I had never had a bad break-up before. I had never been with someone so manipulative and condescending. I had never in my life felt so raw, broken or taken advantage of. Yet, here I was. And instead of choosing anger and pain, I chose gratitude. And I picked up a pen and began to journal.
Our relationship was an example of incredibly high highs and painful beyond belief lows. I’ve never experienced such elation followed by such sorrow in my life. It was a tumultuous path to walk, however, I chose not to regret it.
I found gratitude for the lessons learned, the love found and ultimately, lost. Gratitude that I had allowed myself to open up so authentically and vulnerably to another person and completely surrender in love. I did that. And that felt incredible.
The reason I am sharing this with you today is simple. Although I don’t regret this relationship, because I have chosen to find immense beauty in the experience, I don’t wish this upon anyone.
Narcissism and sociopathic behavior is no joke! I now understand how the abuser reels in their prey. And I now understand how the strongest, most put together people can fall “victim” (I like “survivor” better) to the situation. It is an incredibly confusing, turbulent journey to embark on. And one that I would encourage anyone who sees the signs to leave immediately. Because there’s no easy way to put it… these relationships slowly suck the life out of you like a balloon with a slow leak; you see it getting smaller over time but you can’t find the hole and then all of a sudden, it’s flat and you wonder how that happened or, when it really began.
It has also allowed me to reflect inward and recognize the parts of me that still have work to do. We accept what we believe we deserve. And I am SO grateful to have continued on my self-exploration journey into personal growth and freedom this year. While it’s something I have actively done for as long as I can remember, my most recent training has really helped me stay accountable and hold myself and others high. It’s been a powerful blessing.
For those of you that know all to well what I am talking about here, I want you to really understand something – it is never about you! YOU are not the reason they are this way and you cannot fix them. This is their personal journey and you do not have to stay out of fear or any other emotion holding you back from standing in your power and honoring your beautiful essence. These people prey on power, they also prey on weakness. Almost as if it’s a game to see what they can get away with. And far too often, it works! The criticism is a reflection of the abuser, not a reflection of who you are. When we do all things with love, including respecting ourselves in the process, we can walk away with our head held high knowing that we did all we could and that, sweet soul, is enough. YOU are enough.
My heart still aches for him because I believe that only hurt people, hurt people. I have removed myself from feeling any sort of responsibility for his actions, for they are his, not mine. And I will always wish him the very best, because I believe everyone deserves that.
But this is no longer my journey and for that, I am grateful. I am choosing to acknowledge that one of my greatest strengths is LOVING people intensely and standing FOR and WITH them – even in the fire. There comes a point though when that fire burns too hot and creates serious damage. In this case, I’m grateful to have gotten out alive and now be in a place where I am free of the pain. Or at least in a place where I am free to heal.
“May you find serenity and tranquility in a world you may not always understand. May the pain you have known and the conflict you have experienced give you the strength to walk through life facing each new situation with courage and optimism. Always know that there are those whose love and understanding will always be there, even when you feel most alone. May you discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace. May a kind word, a reassuring touch, and a warm smile be yours every day of your life, and may you give these gifts as well as receive them. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending.” – Sandra Sturtz Hauss