“Why would you go to that party without me? Why would you want to? I wouldn’t want to go without you?”
“You know you don’t have a lot of vacation days and we need those for when we can see each other. Why would you take one for your daughter’s birthday with your friend, when you could have arranged it on a Sunday?”
“I just want to be with you. You’re my soulmate. My true love TNF.”
“You give time to everyone else but me. My healing isn’t as important as everyone else’s healing. Even people you don’t know.”
Subtle, right?! At first, I thought he was just wanting to spend every minute with me because he “loved” me. But in actuality, it was part of the isolation game.
It took months of therapy to realize this was what was happening, and seems to be a pattern in narcissistic abuse. Isolate the “loved one” from friends and family—either through subtle comments, mandates, or guilt trips. Lots of guilt trips.
For example, one of my dearest friends was having a birthday party at a bar downtown. I asked if he would go with me and he said he would. But of course, things changed and he had to go out of town. I am and have always been very independent. It didn’t even cross my mind that I wouldn’t go because he wasn’t going with me. I dressed up in the spirit of the party and headed off to celebrate her birthday, but not before receiving some subtle guilt tripping. And the perfectly-timed admission he didn’t like to dress up and do that type of thing—a difference he wanted to point out. As you can imagine, I wasn't present at all at the party and that's the way he liked it. (That's a whole OTHER topic I'll cover in a future post. Birthdays, holidays, big events, accolades—all become nightmares.)
“Did you talk to any guys there?” Um….yes, and I met the husbands of some of my girlfriends I hadn’t met. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go if you weren’t with me,” he said.
Wait, what?!? Note to self: Don’t go to parties without him even if he's saying, "Have fun, honey!"
Cut to a two-hour lunch I chose to spend with an old friend from high school to talk about spirituality and mediumship when I was home a few years ago. I was back in Ohio for two weeks and we were working our tails off building furniture. At first, he was very supportive of me heading out to spend 120 minutes with an old friend, but then it turned.
After the lunch, privately, he made it known he was disappointed I wasn’t focused on the work we were there to do. He was shaming me for choosing to take two hours out of the day to help a friend. He said I was always moving from one thing to another and unlike him, his soul focus was Mod Life, for “us and our future.” And when a TV production company came calling asking if I would consider hosting a TV show, I was excited.....but he wasn’t. My parents were excited, too, but he made it known that he thought I would be spreading myself too thin, even though the exposure from the TV might have helped the Mod brand. Regrettably, I turned them down. I was still believing he knew best while I was sinking further and further into quicksand called "guilt trip."
Isolating comments can be hard to identify, especially if you are a person who internalizes and always looks inward for answers. Maybe I should be more considerate of his feelings? Maybe I needed to just focus completely on him and the work we were doing in Ohio?!? Maybe I am spreading myself too thin by not concentrating ONLY on Mod Life?
I “maybe’d” myself to death thinking there must be some truth to what he was saying all the while feeling that kick in the gut feeling every time I let him take a little bit more of my power.
The real truth is that he was actively working to isolate me from friends and family—and from my own inner knowing— in order to control. It comes after the “love bombing” stage, where you’re put on a pedestal, so it can seem like they’re sharing their observations out of love. It’s not love. It’s control.
If you’ve read other blog posts of mine, you know I was unknowingly healing from past trauma with this NEW trauma. The key for me getting out of the relationship and on the path to true healing has everything to do with my belief in myself. I am lucky that my parents encouraged me to always be confident and stand tall—to believe that I am worthy and trust myself.
What does this mean when you’re on the receiving end of manipulative abuse tactics? It meant that I wouldn’t roll over. I would argue (after questioning myself) my points and reiterate that I am an independent woman who has no problem standing on her own. Going to parties on her own. Fighting for what she knows is right.
Another instance that comes to mind as I write this happened when he was back in Philly during a time period where we were not on solid ground. It’s 2am in the morning EST time and we spoke over the phone before I went to bed in Arizona. What started as a calm conversation spiraled into rage over the phone. I can’t even remember why he was angry but I literally held the phone away from my ear, tears streaming down my face. At one point during the phone call, his ex (who was one floor above him with their sleeping children) sent a text to him and he read it to me. “She cares. She just sent a text to me worried about what time I need to leave in order to catch my 5am flight.” He pitched it to me like, “see, even my ex cares about me in ways you don’t” but what stood out to me was the tactic she used to get his attention. After all, it was 2am in the morning. He was in the garage smoking and yelling at me with a booming voice that months earlier brought the cops to our apartment. There’s NO WAY he wasn’t waking the kids (and clearly, his ex) one floor up. Instead of telling him to please quiet down and stop yelling, she acted worried he might miss his flight and wanted to know when he was planning on getting an Uber. What I heard is a woman who has learned to employ coping mechanisms and tactics of her own when dealing with his anger.
I was not that smart. I was constantly defending myself and standing up for what I felt was right. You can imagine how this played out. Eventually, I would get so worn down from the relentless texts, emails, and in-person and phone fights, that I would just want it all to go away. I would take the blame and hope that we could just move on to happier times. I found myself in the same position with the same tone as his ex, when I would hear her say quietly over the phone to him, “Ok…uh huh…ok.” If she fought back, she’d be punished in some way, maybe with more isolating threats such as not being allowed to see nearby family members, or threats regarding custody of the children.
Can you relate to this post? If so, did you realize it was happening when you were in it? Did you lose family and friends permanently? Please share your experiences with me (anonymously, if you’d like), if you feel comfortable.
The more I speak with survivors, the more I realize the subtle mind control techniques used by many read like a script in a bad movie that never should have been made.
Let’s rip up this script and start over. There’s no room for isolation in it.
(Well, maybe if there's a monkey with a disease that will wipe out the planet. But that movie has already been made.)
Since 2012, I've lived in five different homes in Flagstaff. And we're about to do it again! This time, more than any other, we are excited for the little things. A bedroom. A door to that bedroom. A back yard. A garage!
Let me catch you up on the adventures in moving over the last three years. When Scott and I split up in 2014, it took a while for me to move out. Because the "build up Mod Life (my ex's line) to help build up Mod Mom" plan wasn't working, I ended up getting a job at the local university to make ends meet. It allowed me to finally move into a place of my own. I picked an apartment that was in a good location and was well put together, but most importantly, it didn't require thousands of dollars deposit. Just a few hundred bucks and I was in my own two-story, one bedroom apartment. The kids split time between Scott's place—he also moved but into a home with three bedrooms so the kids had their own rooms there—and mine, but not in a formal way. It made sense that I was the one who would sacrifice because I was the one who left, and the one who was expecting to live with her new love.
The plan was put into place and my ex moved from Philadelphia to Flagstaff, living with me in the one-bedroom when he wasn't traveling home or for work, trying to build up Mod Life. I foot the bill for us to live in the apartment with my new job. It was all working fairly well, except for the abuse. One day, someone called the cops because they heard him yelling at me, and they heard me crying. Having never endured such a thing, it was terrifying and mortifying all at the same time. Anyhow, my lease was coming up in March of 2017, and he and I were on again, off again. Scott called one day to tell me the house he was living in was being sold in roughly 20 days. Out of the blue, a buyer made an offer. He knew it was coming, but not that quickly. He was frantically checking out other homes and condos and pulling together the amount of money needed for the deposits, but the logical answer came quickly for both of us. We're both adults and we handled our separation lovingly, despite all that was involved, so he ended up renting a two bedroom in the apartment complex where I was living. He upgraded my apartment to a two bedroom and Grace came to live with me, and Noah lived with him. It was ideal because we didn't have to drive all over town towing kids back and forth, and they could easily come and go from either apartment. There were no plans to reunite at the time; but as coparents who got along, this seemed like an ideal situation given everything Scott was facing.
Now, here's some backstory for you that will give you more context as to the nature of the abuse I allowed. I didn't realize when I initially signed the lease at the apartment complex that smoking wasn't allowed on the decks or patios. I just assumed it was which was a grave mistake on my part. My ex has smoked two packs of Marlboro Red a day since he was a young teen. I almost didn't sign the lease when I found out but I was already packed up ready to move in. When I shared this news with him before he moved out to Flagstaff, he was livid. He was so angry I would do this to him—that he would have to walk downstairs, and outside, to smoke. Now, I didn't grow up in a smoker's world, nor was it ever in my mind that it would be OK to smoke in the apartment. I'd had a few smokes over the years in the spirit of rebellion but it was never inside a home. You see where this is going, don't you?
He moved to Flagstaff and immediately starts pushing the boundaries. He would start having a cigarette with the door open, or in the bathroom with the exhaust fan on. I pleaded but eventually felt I had no way to win. (He made a point to not smoke inside around my kids.) Hell, I even joined in with "lady cigarettes" out of stress. After all, I was now living in a smoker's place, breathing Marlboro Red. I'm not proud that I started smoking—and haven't smoked at all since—but I chalk it up to being part of surviving life back then. I quit cold turkey after severing ties. In addition to smoking, I was so stressed I literally pulling my hair out. The whole time he lived here, I felt scared because I knew it was illegal in the apartment complex but I felt powerless to change the situation. I'd been bullied by the best of them and as much as I tried to stand up for myself and fight him on it, I didn't stand a chance.
The point of sharing that is because upon moving into the two-bedroom with Grace, I was hit with a $1200 charge because the carpets in my old one-bedroom had to be changed due to smoke. If I didn't pay it within 10 days, Grace and I were out on the street. I was a mess. With tears in my eyes, I told Scott what had happened and he hugged me and said, "It's gonna be OK, I've got the money and I'll take care of it." And he did. When I shared the news of the bill with my ex, I was told it was my fault. And he didn't have the money, nor would he help me.
While my ex never lived with me in the two-bedroom and he had already moved back to Philly, I finally told him to never talk to me again in early June after a woman wrote to me sharing she had been with him in May, while he was still telling me I was the love of his life. Counseling, friends, and family helped me regain my strength for good. This time, I was not falling back into the cycle of abuse. Scott was my biggest supporter but he was never pushy. We knew if we had a future, it had to be because it was what we both wanted and we'd been through a lot. We let nature take its course and got to know each other again. In September, we made it official—we were reuniting. September was also the time I went to see a judge about granting a restraining order because my ex was threatening me and harrassing me at work and privately, through email. He granted it after reviewing the evidence. I took the restraining order to the apartment complex manager and, through tears, told her what had happened over the past year. She was very comforting, having gone thorugh similar with an ex-husband. She told me that the day three cops came to my door was not the only day someone in the complex spoke up about the abuse I was enduring. Apparently, multiple complaints had been made about the noise level when he would get angry. I was mortified. This couldn't be my life, but it was. She immediately told me that because I had obtained a restraining order, I was able to vacate my apartment without penalty. Scott sat by me holding my hand, and the office manager was so happy to know he and I had made it back to one another. While I was free to move, Scott wasn't so our decision was made for us.
Now, here comes the fun part! Grace and I moved into the two-bedroom with Scott and Noah. Scott and I thought long and hard about how we'd arrange things and ultimately decided it was best to give the kids the bedrooms, and we'd hunker down in the living room. We knew we'd be moving at the end of March so it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Scott and I joked that it's felt like we've been living in a loft in Manhattan. Our "bedroom" is next to the kitchen, "living room," and "dining room." The only problem with this set up is that when we come home from work, it's hard not to flop on the bed and fall asleep at 7pm. Ok, so that's not the only problem with this set up long term. :)
We're all looking forward to moving in a few days to a house in an area we love. And get this—it has a bedroom with a door! Four of them, to be exact. And a yard!
I look back at the last seven months and smile. We did it! On so many levels, we did it! We've made beautiful memories here, rediscovering ourselves, healing, and rebuilding our life in new and better ways. The walls of THIS apartment have only heard the sound of love and laughter, and felt excitement for this next chapter. We finally feel we are home.
(Here's an inside look at how we set up our mini-home over the last 7 months. Onward to a home with a bedroom door! :) ^^^)
I was just chatting with my friend, Kari, who is also a narcissistic abuse survivor. We were saying how frustrating it is that most people think abuse survivors have low self-esteem; therefore, they believe they deserve the abuse, which is why they stay. Sure, in some cases, the survivor becomes conditioned to believe they are indeed the problem, but most of the women I know who have lived through this type of relationship, or are enduring one today, are strong, intelligent, caring, empathic, confident, put-together women. The same goes for the men I know who have been on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse.
So, if it’s not low self-esteem, why do people stay in relationships that are abusive?
Personally, I initially stayed because I believed the façade. In the beginning, I thought he was who he presented himself to be when we met so each abusive episode was hard to understand. I kept the faith that it would get better. And it did, in spurts. I’d never experienced anything like that in my life so it was hard to internalize that this wasn’t just his insecurity rearing its ugly head at times, it was a pattern that was never going to stop. As time went on, I did feel that I’d make my bed. I put all my eggs--personally, financially, and professionally—in one basket. I came to realize that it was not OK (or normal) to live this way but I needed to feel that no matter the damage done on all fronts, it was OK for me to leave.
With that said, never once did I feel I deserved to be yelled at, put down, made to feel inferior, controlled, or manipulated. I knew who I was and I was proud of who I was, even while enduring the abuse I did. Was I conditioned and brainwashed to give him multiple chances after the abuse incidents were over? Yes. Did I believe I deserved to live in a constant state of fear because of the abuse? No. After all, I’d left a marriage and naively, blindly trusted he steer the direction of the company I worked so hard to build. It was my fault for diving in head first without heeding the intuitive warnings I was receiving, but I never once thought I deserved to be treated the way I was being treated.
In the article, Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, the author explains, “Our society reinforces a women's shame and fear of leaving an abusive relationship by suggesting she is culpable for the abuse or by judging her inability to extricate herself. An important part of ending domestic abuse is through education and awareness for everyone, not just the victims.”
I believe this to be true. Before I was personally on the receiving of emotional and verbal abuse, I was silently judgmental of my friend who was struggling to leave an abusive marriage. She kept giving him more chances. I didn’t understand all of the elements at work, and thought like many did/do, just stand up and walk out. She eventually did leave but had I understood the chemical addiction, the complications of leaving a narcissist when you have children, the financial risk, and the inevitable script flipping and escalated harassment afterwards, I would have had the full picture, and wouldn’t have been so quick to judge, even if it was only in my head.
Helping my friend leave her abusive marriage took so much planning on everyone’s part. I was able to help her by putting her on retainer with my company to help with administrative duties—giving her a lump sum upfront that allowed her to pay a deposit and first and last month’s rent on an apartment in her name. We helped her move as well as furnish her apartment. Just identifying a place to live within the same school district that wasn't too expensive was a feat in itself, let alone moving out with three children.
Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be looking to her for strength and advice when it turned out, years later, I had gotten myself into a very similar situation.
My hope is that by penning this post, individuals with zero experience in this department will step back and look at their loved ones who are dealing with this type of abuse with more compassion and understanding.
With one in four women experiencing domestic abuse in her lifetime, we all need a better understanding of the nature of domestic violence, the affect on survivors, the obstacles faced when trying to leave, and what we can do to help, not hurt.
It’s up to us as a whole to eradicate this silent epidemic, and it starts with true understanding.
I have an incredible partner in life—my husband, Scott. He's not only allowed himself to be vulnerable and open with those who have asked him privately about marriage, separation, abuse, and the supernatural, he's written about it.
Here's a list of his posts.....
There are so many names out there right now to describe similar abuses—narcissistic abuse, psychological abuse, and sociopathic abuse, to name a few. I’ve found it’s less important to put a name to it than it is to recognize it. I didn’t know what it looked like so I had no clue to watch for signs. With that said, when I was struggling with what the hell was going on in the abusive relationship I was in, I did strongly connect to articles written about being in relationships with people who were diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and/or Borderline Personality Disorder; however, I do not know if he would be diagnosed with either. While he went to my therapist once to appease me, I know he would never go in order to seek answers because he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way he treats women. As you can guess, that’s a sign.
Many women of all ages have been asking me, “Is this abusive? If he does this, does that mean he’s a narcissist?” It’s so tricky because there’s a preconceived notion that “narcissists” are the guys who are constantly seeking attention for their looks and come across as cocky. Not all people who are prone to dishing out psychological abuse act this way. Many are chameleons who morph given their environment and intent to connect with someone, and can publicly look like they are loving, caring, empathic human beings. This is why it’s so hard to tell, initially, if someone is abusive at first glance. Let's face it—people aren't abusive from the get-go. They need to hook you first.
Today, I want to talk about two behaviors/truths that quickly became red flags for me but I didn't see them as abusive, at first. They aren’t talked about as frequently as other red flags, like love bombing and gas lighting, but based on the women I’ve spoken with who have endured emotional and verbal abuse in romantic relationships, they seem to be common indicators.
First, let’s tackle what happens when you don’t back them up 100% all of the time. We’re not talking playing devil’s advocate, we’re talking not living up to their warped expectations of full agreement. Any "slight" on them is as if you've cut them with a knife. Prepare for the backlash.
For example, when we were traveling for work early on in the relationship (maybe 3 months), all was going well on the drive from High Point, NC back up to Philadelphia until a friend of ours called and said something that made him angry. I simply said, like I would with anyone, “Maybe she was feeling x, and that’s the place she was coming from when she said that.” What he heard was, “I’m not backing you up 100% on this.” The ride got very quiet. We ended up in a crappy motel room a few hours outside of Philly. I apologized for it sounding like I wasn’t supporting him but it was no help. By then, the rage had set in and there was no turning back. We were in a really awful motel room and he wasn’t talking to me—he was avoiding me. His avoidance tactic is frequently sleeping so he fell asleep in full clothing on top of the bed. I was so spun around, I had no idea what I had done to warrant this behavior—I actually felt scared. I remember hiding in the bug-infested bathroom calling my son just to hear his voice. To hear from someone I knew loved me unconditionally and was as grounded as they come.
I pretended to be ok but I clearly wasn’t. I managed to fall asleep for a bit until I heard him up, putting his boots on without talking to me. I was asking him if he was ok and where he was going. He didn’t say a word but looked at me with fire in his eyes. He stormed out of the motel room and slammed the door. I was in tears. What the hell happened? Most people go to sleep and it’s better in the morning—for three years it was NEVER better in the morning. It was worse. He eventually came back and after more silence, told me when the sun came up that he’d had a dream about being betrayed by his sister and father. And me. All of that erupted because I thought we were having a mature conversation and I could say, “Hey, have you thought of it this way? Maybe she said that because….” What did I do afterwards, you ask? Little did I know I was being conditioned to a.) apologize and take the blame, and b.) do whatever I could to get back to the calm. I did just that and hoped that maybe he was just having a bad day and he’d get back to being the guy I thought he was.
Now, let’s talk about the second tip-off, social media, and how it will potentially become a huge issue in your relationship.
These were posted by him before and right at the time I finally started telling the truth of what I endured/allowed. The photo of me sitting on the rock formation says, "She looked me in the eyes, she smiled, and she lied. #brokenheart - With Kiersten Parsons. --- The photo of the two of us says, "If in my darkest hours of pain I gave anyone the wrong impression, I'm sorry. And I certainly tried but through the darkness my soul knows only one thing. No matter what, my hear and soul belong to her. #TNF #MYTRUTH #THISLIFE #FOREVER LOVE
Social media (Facebook and Instagram, in particular) became a complete nightmare. I’d never had issues with social media before him. Now, I realize we met on Facebook through friends but still, I never looked at it and scrutinized it the way he did. I would hear things from him like, “this person is such a supporter and I think she’s crushing on me.” If I didn't proactively tell him who I thought had a crush on me (not my style nor on my radar), I would hear about it. When he would get mad at someone, he would block them for not being a “supporter.” He blocked my parents on Facebook because they stuck up for me. They invested 8K in him and Mod Life. And they got blocked and of course, never repayed. He blocked me numerous times during our relationship. At one point, I couldn't take it. I got off FB all together in hopes it would help the relationship.
He would ask, “Who’s that guy liking your photos?... Who’s this person?.... Has he ever reached out publicly? If he did, what did you say back to him? Why did you tell him you were flattered by his compliment? Would you want me saying that?” No matter what I said or did, or how open I was with him, I would always be blamed for being too nice and not being a "pit bull" for him. It got to the point I even lied to him when he asked if a particular guy had ever reached out privately because I knew it would come back on me. It always did. It didn’t end there.
If I did something he didn’t like, I could pretty much guarantee something would show up on social media in the form of a passive aggressive post or something even more pointed. I could count it down to the minute, almost…3, 2, 1....post aimed at me. Eventually, we would make up which meant I said I was to blame for whatever it was I did—look at a colleague with too much eye contact, be too nice to a man, not work hard enough on Mod Life, not wear the right clothing, not bring up that I believed someone had a crush on me, and so on and so forth. Shortly thereafter, posts about how much he loved me would appear, making him look like the most romantic guy on the planet. And after that, posts that talk about how he loved fully and how through the pain and anger, only our souls knew the truth would be put on display. A lot of spiritual jargon was included, for sure. Something I came to learn from other women in his past, women he was with while he was targeting me, and women who came shortly after me is part of his script and has been for years.
I remember thinking each time, if only the social media world knew what was happening behind closed doors. I felt a lot of pressure to post lovey dovey posts of us. If I didn’t like his posts fast enough, I didn’t care enough about him. If I didn’t reciprocate, I would hear about it. I finally confided in my friends and family about the social media stuff, but it took me about a year for me to open up to them. I was embarrassed and I didn’t want to believe it was full-on controlling behavior but I needed to understand from someone on the outside if what was happening was normal. It was never my normal before meeting him. He was pretty vocal about how I wronged him long before I finally opened my mouth publicly. When I came out with the full story about us after the final break up—the one that didn’t jive with his carefully crafted social media campaign and facade, I was called mentally ill, dishonest, narcissistic, and so on.
It’s crazy to think that between now and then, I’ve learned so much about what was really happening behind the scenes from all of the courageous women with whom I've spoken, who were targets of his in years past or during the time he was targeting me. No wonder he was worried about social media—it was his favorite predatory channel!
I hope by sharing this, it helps someone who is struggling with the question, “Is this abusive?” I just thought he was insecure at times and didn't want to lose me (read: jealous) because he told me I was the one; his true soulmate he'd finally found. I thought he simply needed reassurance so I adjusted my behavior which meant I start blocking people and cutting them out of my life so he wouldn't get angry not knowing that isolation is also one of the tip-offs. I didn’t recognize either of the two points I covered in this blog as abusive, at first. I questioned myself and looked deep, trying to find the proof that I was indeed to blame.
I wasn’t to blame. You aren’t to blame, if you're enduring this. Frankly, it's manipulative, controlling BS and it is indeed abuse. Even after all Scott and I have been through, neither of us ever monitors Facebook. We support each other but we don't stalk one another. You’d think there would be trust issues but there aren’t. Stable, emotionally mature men welcome when their partners say, "Hey, have you thought of looking at it this way?" and they certainly don’t need to monitor social media as a way to control and isolate their partner.
If you notice either of these tip-offs happening in your relationship early on, run.
Another blog post about an abusive tactic: