I'd never heard the word before, but I knew something wasn't right about my new love interest. We'd met many years ago in junior high, but had very little memories of one another. I was just recovering from a relationship with guy that wanted to party and spend his weekends and paychecks only doing so. Jared was a breath of fresh air—so I thought. We both had three daughters—his a lot younger than mine, but we all got along great. We went everywhere together, he and I. I met his family on our second date and was picking up his kids by the third. Of course, I thought things were moving a bit quickly, but it was my first real adult relationship and everything just seemed to flow. He texted and called everyday just to hear my voice. When video calling became a thing he would video chat just so he could have a look at me. I thought it was the cutest thing! Before the end of our first month dating he sent me a message:
"You know what?"
"I love you."
It was February 20, 2013 at 10:28 AM. Yep, I remember the exact moment and time I ruined my life.
Although, I'm an avid user of all things social media I never posted about a relationship before. He wanted us to change our relationship status and we started posting pictures together. I figured he had to be the real deal to announce "us" to Facebook.
He asked a lot of questions, but none that really allowed him the opportunity to get to know me. He confessed after a couple drinks at a fight party that he was insecure due to his past infidelities. I felt it was my job to help him feel secure in our relationship. I mean why not? He loved me and he made me feel so wanted. The questions and doubts came very soon after. Where are you? Why didn't you text back? How do you know this or that guy? Do you sleep with him? How many guys have you slept with? I made excuses continually for the line up of questions. I knew he needed a sense of reassurance, so I removed anyone from my social media pages he didn't approve of. Then I began to remove the social media pages themselves. He would make comments about how my actions showed him how much I loved him. He would tell me I was lucky to be with him. For a moment I believed him. We looked great and so happy on Facebook. He would even refer to me as the future "Mrs." He was never shy about his love for me. He would post about it all the time. Then one morning as if we entered a totally different dimension overnight, he started accusing me of having affairs. I was more hurt than anything at the fact that someone I love thought I would do something to hurt them. I cried. I pleaded with him to believe me. I thought I was doing everything a faithful woman should. So, what more could I do? How was I not being good enough for this great man? How did I hurt someone that loves me! He had became the master of making me the villain.
No matter what I did or say it was wrong or not good enough, so I stopped saying and stopped doing. He complained and critiqued every aspect of my life. "I'm going to the stars and I wanna take you with me," was his catch phrase and I believed in him. I wanted the love we seemed to have in the beginning or even what was being presented to our family and friends, but life was never that. I went from being a "good girl" to every foul word in the book. I felt maybe I deserve it. Maybe I did do something wrong to make him feel this way. Here I have this "good man" and he is unhappy with me—ME! I changed everything that I possibly could that was, well, basically me. From what I wore to who I associated with. I even stopped going to certain stores because he was certain I was seeing someone there. We broke up several times over the years. Always him leaving me because of something that he thinks happened. He started lying to me about things that were "brought to his attention" about my past or the times when we were not together. You can't fight a lie, but still I tried ... The most insane thing I've ever done. I tried to convince the creator of the lie that it was a lie. I became exhausted—mentally and emotionally. When he noticed that I was no longer going out of my way to prove to him I was at a grocery store or not sleeping with his roommate/cousin things escalated. He was a professional boxer at one time and had no problem with bringing his work home with him.
I remember one of our very first arguments. He had his mom on the phone and she asked, "You didn't put your hands on that girl did you?" I still kick myself for brushing off the question like she was just asking him for the time. Things went from pushing and shoving to choking and then open hand hits. It became the most toxic situation I had ever been a part of. A change in me occurred. I was slowly becoming him. Instead of fleeing from this situation I choose to fight back—literally. I became such an angry person, full of hate and rage. We would argue and I would call his phone over 100 times just to argue some more. I would leave my job and race 90 mph to his duplex, because I was angry, sad, or hurt at some exchange we just had. Fighting, arguing, accusations, lies cheating and damaging one another's property was who we were now. I'd never been this person and I couldn't believe I was spending my life and energy with someone like this. So, three years later I walked away. Not as easy as it sounds, but I made a choice to heal myself and I couldn't do it in the same situation that changed me. I sought counseling and started to feel better about myself again. Just like clockwork. He returned and again I believed, hey if I can change, so can he. He'd taken a truck driving job that took him over the road. I knew it was a crazy idea to try and have a relationship with a man across country that couldn't trust you in the same bed with him, but still I tried and things looked like they were getting better than ever. The distance and time made us miss one another but it also helped us to open up a bit more. I thought after everything that could go wrong in a relationship has happened, only good times could be left right?
Wrong! The old him started to creep back in. Well, in actuality it had never left. The accusations had begun and this time they cut deeper than they ever did. I opened up to him about a sexual attack that I was a victim of before I met him. He didn't believe. He accused me of wanting it ... said I was lying. He even went as far to send me a news article about women falsifying rape reports. Who was this man? I became silent again. No matter what occurred in my life good or bad, I never shared it with him. I felt like my lover was my worst enemy, but still we tried. We tried to find a love in mess we had created years before, but it was impossible. Things changed but not for the better. He was a bit more financially stable and this brought on more of his narcissistic ways. We had one of our last fights that lasted an entire day. He told me he would watch his daughters get beat by a man if they were cheating on a good guy.
I knew there was nothing and no one that could change this man. He caught sight of a receipt and questioned the store I was at. A fight broke out. He dragged me across the room and punched me several times in my face. This was the worst yet. I was able to make it to my car but too shaken to drive. It was as if my life was flashing before my eyes. I recalled the first time this man ever said he loved me. I recalled all the times he literally begged for us to be back together. I thought back on the day we got engaged, all the love we made and all the times he said he was sorry, he was wrong and he would never hurt me again. Then I remembered the person I had become. Not only a victim, but an abuser myself. I changed myself, not perfect by far, but I changed. I was and loved to be lied to, cheated on and beaten. I ignored the infidelities and pretended not to know of his shortcomings and downfalls. Instead, I lifted him up in love and encouragement.
I did everything wrong that I thought was right. I backed out of the drive way and headed not just home but back to me. I wish I could tell you it was that simple, but it wasn't and it hasn't been. I didn't recognize the emotional or mental abuse in the beginning and I didn't know what a narcissist was. I used to question why women stayed after being physically abused, but it's the mental and emotional abuse that traps you long before they put your hands on you. My ex will deny this all, say I'm not nothing but a liar, but his exes and their scars and their stories will beg to differ. I often contemplate whether I would warn the next woman as I wish I was given a heads up but would I have listened? Would I have taken heed? I thought I had a "good man." Would I have taken the words of a bitter ex over him? Not every narcissist is an abuser and vice versa. You can't change either or, but you can look for the signs and trust your gut.