When I was young and dumb, I met a guy that I immediately moved in with after knowing him for about three days. Now, "young and dumb" meant about two years ago since I'm still young, and still really dumb. I took this kindness as a stranger trying to help me out, then as a lover trying to do what's best for me. There was more to it, though, a predatory motive that, in hindsight, I should've seen right off the bat.
The thing most people don't understand is that 99 percent of abusers aren't up front about their abuse. They won't just walk in and say "Hey I'm gonna starve you for attention and then make you feel like you're the crazy one." If they did nobody (at least, I hope not) would even try to start a relationship. They're smart, and if they've done it enough they know exactly how to lead up to it to where it feels impossible to leave. My ex always started small, but the first thing he did was try to isolate me from my friends and family. He never outright said "you can't go see them" instead it was "I want to spend some time with you." He mostly did this when the relationship was new, so it made sense at the time since lovebirds never wanna be apart at the honeymoon phase. He'd let me go out every now and then but he would always have to be right by my side at every waking moment.
The day I finally told him that I wanted to have a girls night out with my sister was the first major sign of gaslighting. Immediately he claimed I was going to cheat on him, and that I was nothing but a worthless whore. He told me a story about his last ex and how toward the end of the relationship she would always go out and never wanted to be with him. I ended up locking myself in the bathroom and crying. I cancelled the plans with my sister and stayed home. He refused to look at me till the next day.
Honestly that night is when I should've left, because the moment I gave in is when he knew. After that, everything I did was stupid. All his failures were somehow my fault. He'd make me cry on an almost daily basis, then come up with a sob story about his ex or about how his mom was dead. It worked almost every time.
He'd always comment on how young I was and how I was still a child and didnt know anything. He was a year older than me. This gaslighting technique was one of few that didn't work on me, because every time he brought it up I would counter with his age. Eventually, he stopped using it. Then it was "you live in my house you can at least do ____ for me." He started complaining that I didn't pay bills when he made me quit my job. I wasn't able to leave the house (no car, couldn't talk to friends) so I found a job online writing articles. He seemed happy with that for a little while, until I had built up the business to where I was making full checks every week. Then it was "you need to find a real job." I see now that he didn't want me making enough money that I could leave. So, I started looking for a real job and put the writing down, but every time I had an interview he would always come up with an excuse to why we couldn't go.
The day I left was the day I became afraid for my life. About a year and a half in he bought a gun. It was a pistol that he carried around everywhere. He bought the permit and it stayed on him all the time. There were times that we would fight and he would take it out and clean it close to me. So, I called my sister and got her to come get me. I had to call the police to come with me to get my stuff. For weeks the texts didn't stop. He would threaten to kill himself, me, and my family. He would be at work and say he was going to snap and kill everyone in the store. It was a terrifying experience because each time he would tell me their blood was on my hands.
That was two years ago and I still think about it to this day. I have trust issues. I still have nightmares. I became incredibly antisocial. It took me meeting my now husband to be able to trust and relax around another person again. Abuse follows you around for the rest of your life, but it won't define you if you won't let it. I'm happy now, and that's all I ever wanted.