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: