Have you seen the movie, Girl on the Train with Emily Blunt? Scott and I watched it last night because a friend of mine encouraged me to check it out when I was at the last Las Vegas Market furniture show. She thought it would resonate with me. She was right.
Funny thing is, although I was intrigued by the movie when it came out in October 2016 (huge Emily Blunt fan), I never felt pushed to watch it back then. Maybe it was my intuition telling me to hold off, and I'm glad I did. If I had been sitting there next to him watching the movie in 2016, I'm sure I would have been experiencing physical chills and not know what to do with them because I wouldn't have wanted to admit there were similarities. Back in 2016, I was still trying to make things work in the abusive relationship I dove into in 2014. In fact, I believe he had just moved back and I was helping connect him to a job based out of Seattle.
I had no idea there were muiltiple women on the hook during that time. I had no idea he was juggling five at one time when he met me, and was hitting on women as young as 15, 19, and 21 as a man in his late 40s. I didn't know the half of it because most of what I know now came out after we split in June of 2017.
Here's what I did know back then:
SPOILER ALERT: Like the movie, I endured a lot of gas lighting. I didn't know the term at the time but I remember being told by him I was coming across in less than a favorable light, or as a flirt with other men. I argued that I was being friendly and professional—the way I've always been when it came to interacting with men in business. He had whole elaborate stories to back up his accusations and viewpoints.
For instance, a mutual friend came to visit the furniture showroom where we had launched Mod Life Collection, R's line of furniture. I was helping with PR, funding, sales, marketing, showroom set up, and generally, anything that was needed. Anyhow, our friend came by several times in a day to hang out. He didn't have his own showroom that Market so it made sense to me if I put myself in his shoes—you want a place to hang your hat and chill with people you like. We were those people to him back then. Before I continue, know that sometimes R would be out smoking pot (his favorite anti-anxiety remedy) while I was manning the showroom when clients or friends would come in. I'd cover for him and tell them he was out smoking his cigarettes and we'd chat until he came back in to join us. This happened with our mutual friend, J. J and I had a lovely conversation about what was happening in his life and how Market was going for us. He's a great guy and I have a lot of respect for him and I knew he respected what I had done in the industry and like me as a person, and R and I as a couple. After R came back from smoking, we all chatted and I volunteered to go down to the lobby and grab some happy hour food and wine for us.
Nothing unusual happened during our visit but afterwards, R told me that J had made the comment that R was a lucky man, and that I was "hot" or something like that. R didn't tell me that right away—he waited until later that night when J was gone. It didn't really sound like J but maybe he had said that. I took R for his word, because why would he lie about something like that?!? I was flattered he thought R was lucky but wanted to move quickly to another subject. From past experience, I seemed to be in the wrong a lot when it came to how I interacted with men while I was with R and became a huge source of conflict. (Funny enough, my husband—while we were separated—was the one to say, "Kiers. You're not a flirt. You've never been a flirt. You're just open and kind. Period." He told me that 2 years earlier, right after we had separated because I asked him if he ever thought I had too much eye contact with other men. A "hey, I noticed this about you, Kiersten" comment that R made to me. Scott rolled his eyes and told me what I shared above about not being a flirt. He also added, "He's an ass, Kiers. That's him, not you." I was still too blind to see.
But let's get back to Market. That evening, R asked me why I thought J was coming to visit our showroom so much. I said because he didn't have a place to call home that Market. That wasn't good enough for him. He couldn't believe I hadn't said to R, "I think J's coming to visit because he's crushing on me." A statement that came out of R's mouth frequently about women who would come to check out Mod Life.
We ended up fighitng about the fact that I wouldn't call a spade a spade. Now, here's the thing. My intution never alerted me to anything off-base about J. I knew he was happily married and I knew he respected me and liked R and I as a couple. R was so angry that he would be disrespected by J saying what he said he said about me. If you think this is confusing to read, you can only imagine how confused I was to be living it.
Long after he and I were over, I asked J if what R said was true about what he had said when I went to grab happy hour nosh for all three of us. He said, no way, Kiersten. That is not someting that would come out of my mouth. First of all, it would be disrepectful to my wife and to you. This was the J I knew. This resonated to the core of my soul but funny enough, I hadn't even thought that R had actually made up a lie to make me feel bad and confuse the hell out of me. It kept me on edge. The blame game was his favorite game—it was all my fault because my eyes weren't open to J's "crush" and I wasn't truthful and forthcoming about why J was coming to visit. He said I tried to smooth it over.J's name was put in my face for a good year after that Market. Little did I know at the time of incident, it was all just a big, fat lie.
Watching Emily Blunt's character come to grips with the fact that her husband was telling her that she was making a fool of herself in situations where she wasn't at all was hard to stomach. There were so many similarities, minus murder. The multiple women at one time. The abuse. The tactics. SPOILER ALERT: In the end, you find out he was terribly abusive and had multiple women all over the place. He made her think her tipsy behavior got him fired so he hung that over her head for a long time but the movie reality was that he was fired for sleeping around constantly. Emily's character, Rachel, is told by his old boss that she always felt so sorry for her because he was such a dog.
I've heard this before, too. Multiple times. There are many who knew him in the industry and still feel bad they didn't warn me. I have told them warning me wouldn't have helped. No one else was talking publicly—I had nothing to go on and I was under his spell. (And now I know I was meant to go through this for reasons bigger than myself.) It's one thing to hear a warning from folks about Mr. Playboy, but it's another to read first hand accounts from women he was with of what I now know is gas lighting and abuse. I'm the only one writing, right now.
Part of the reason why I continue to write these blog posts is because I want there to be a trail for the current and next targets in his life. This could be years down the road, I know, but at least it will be there alongside accounts from other business partners. Maybe by sharing what I endured, they will see themselves in me. I may never hear from them but I will know I did what I could to help. I will know I did what I had hoped had been out there already when I started to question things. I don't blame the women from his past for not sharing publicly. It's not easy and it landed me in the position of having to secure a restraining order because of his retaliation tactics so please know, if you're an ex and you're reading this, I don't blame you one bit.
Girl on the Train brought up memories and emotions I apparently needed to feel and share, and I hope for those of you out there healing from abuse or in a relationship like this, it will bring comfort that you're not alone. You're not at fault. You're not stupid. It's called gas lighting and emotional abuse and you don't have to live that way.