Sanctuary for the Abused

Monday, February 06, 2023

A Same-Sex Domestic Violence Epidemic Is Silent



by Maya Shwayder

Two months into their relationship, Chris's boyfriend José pushed him to the ground in a fit of anger and ripped the clothes off his body. "We had gone out dancing, and when we got home, I was changing in front of him," said Chris, 34.

"I had on my favorite pair of underwear; it was the pair I had worn the first time we went out. He saw the underwear, and just flew into a rage, saying, 'How dare you wear those! Those are for me!'"

José threw him on the floor of their bedroom closet, and smashed the only light bulb in the room, leaving them in darkness. He loomed above Chris on the floor as he tore the underwear away. That was the first time things had ever turned violent between the two.

"I was in such a state of shock," Chris recounted seven years later, his fingers tapping at a wine glass stem and his brown eyes drifting. "I thought, 'Oh, he's just jealous; it's the drinking,' and I let it go. There was a lot of drinking in this relationship. No drugs, but lots of drinking."

The second time was worse. "He was angry at something—I can't remember what—and I was laughing," said Chris. José again became incensed, strode into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife. "He pulled me by my hair, had me on my knees and had the butcher knife at my neck."

Chris says he didn't react. At the time, his sister was pregnant, and he wanted to live to see his niece. "I talked him down, told him to give me the knife. I put my hand on his, and we put the knife back in place together," said Chris, demonstrating by holding his two hands together.

That night, José locked their bedroom door for fear that Chris would escape and tell someone. The next morning, he told Chris, "You know I didn't mean it, right?"

"That was his way of apologizing to me," Chris scoffed. The relationship lasted nine months, but continued to affect Chris for years after it ended.

***

Sam, 25, describes himself as having been "naive and impressionable," during the time he was dating David. "He's not a stupid person," Sam told me over Skype. "He never hit me or threw things directly at me, but he would frighten me enough to make me back down."

According to Sam, David became increasingly controlling after they moved in together, three or four months into their relationship. At that point, because of the apartment lease, he said, "it was too late to just up and go."

One of David's main methods of control was evoking pity and threatening to harm himself.

"He would get very sad and upset which, in hindsight, was a plea for compassion," Sam said, "As time went on, he became controlling through jealousy. Any attention that I didn't give to him—whether I gave it to friends, family, or other guys, even just other gay men who were my friends—he would get very upset if I hung out with them too much."

David eventually forced Sam to open a joint bank account so that Sam couldn't "stockpile" any funds and move out. He increasingly tried to cut off Sam’s contacts with friends and family.

After two and a half years, Sam managed to end the relationship after David admitted he had returned to using cocaine.

***

LaTesha, 18, is a consummate Queens girl. Tough and stoic behind her soft voice and hooded sweatshirt, she is about to graduate from high school and wants to study criminal justice in college. She has already been beaten up by a girlfriend. "It only happened when we got into an argument," she said, her brown eyes getting serious. "If she felt like she was being disrespected, she would swing at me."

"We always argued," she continued. "But you know how a couple can argue and then just be back to normal? We would argue, be back to normal. When we argued again, she would bring up the last argument. And it would just build up.” There was always something to argue about and usually, LaTesha said, it was girls.

"She was so insecure," LaTesha recalled. "If I'd be hanging out with one of my friends who was a girl, she'd see me and say 'What's this? You cheating on me?' And I always told her, 'You need to stop.' And then we would get into it. It was a pattern. We would break up for one week, get back together another. We must have broken up about 20 times."

The final break-up happened when Monique landed several punches on LaTesha in front of the staff of Safe Space, an LGBT community center in Jamaica, Queens.

***

Chris, Sam, and LaTesha are smart people with educations, plans, and busy social lives. They all identify as homosexual, and they all have had experiences with physically or psychologically abusive partners who left them financially, mentally, or emotionally damaged. Domestic violence—or as it's often referred to today, intimate partner violence—is usually discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships. But partner violence is also an issue in the LGBTQ community, a fact that has only come to light in recent years.

Tre'Andre Valentine, the Community Programs Coordinator at The Network/La Red, a Boston-based domestic violence support group specifically for LGBTQ people, says that because domestic violence is still thought of as a heterosexual problem, there can be major hurdles when trying to find funding and conduct research, as well as when providing services to people who don't fit in the stereotype of a domestic violence survivor. "The idea that a woman can be the one who's abusive throws a wrench in the traditional view," Valentine said. "The idea that only men can be batterers makes it a lot harder for men to get access to shelter."

Yejin Lee, an associate at the Anti-Violence Program in New York City, said that the assumption of heterosexuality has been a huge stumbling block for gays and lesbians seeking refuge from an abuser. "One problem is the way domestic violence has been framed for the past 30 years," she said. Since the entire movement against domestic abuse started as a battered women's movement, Lee said, we are ingrained to think that victims are all are married, straight women.

As a mental health counselor with the Violence Recovery Program in Boston, Jessica Newman says that because the default assumption is that people are straight, there can be an attitude within shelters that a gay person somehow “deserved” the violence. "Same-sex relationships are often demonized or marginalized," she said, "So some people's attitudes are 'it serves you right.'"

But Newman, Lee, and Valentine all added that there are also internal factors that keep a cover of darkness over the issue of domestic violence in the gay community.

"There can be a fear of making the community look bad," said Newman. "Some people might have a real and legitimate fear of being looked down on, or not finding services through the police, judicial system, or a shelter. People don't want that negative image of the community out there."

Valentine added, "There's the idea that we'll be airing dirty laundry. It sort of discredits the community to say that abuse is happening, after all the work we've been doing [to enter mainstream society]. There's the feeling that we don't want to attach something additionally bad to us, so it's not talked about."

Sitting in a small restaurant near Madison Square Garden, Chris mulled over his past. "I know gay couples in the Bronx who beat the shit out of each other," he said. "The weird thing is, it's like fighting with your brother. You're going at each other, and you're not taking it seriously, and you don't think of it as a problem, it's just the fabric of your relationship. But you don't realize it's a piece of fabric you can cut out."

Raised in a conservative, military family, with a history of sexual abuse running on both sides, Chris said he always felt like the odd one out growing up. "I was raised to tolerate what was dished out," he remembered. "It was just dysfunctional. I grew up with a closeted uncle who died of AIDS and a mother who hit my father, who would then turn around and hit us."

Chris moved from Chicago to New York when he was 21 so that he could live life as an out gay man, he said. "I had a full time job, full time benefits, and my own apartment," he said. "That didn't last."

Chris met José at a lounge in Washington Heights in late September 2004, and for him, it was love at first sight. "I saw his eyes, the way he dressed," he said. "He made me feel secure. He was a husky guy. My ideal: a masculine Latino."

A honeymoon period ensued and within three months the two were living together. Chris said he doted on José, alienating friends and family in the process. But the honeymoon period ended soon after José moved in. He started taking over everything in Chris's life. "It started with verbal abuse," Chris said. "Little things: put downs about the apartment, about me, and then it turned into everything. He wasn't happy with anything."

"I grew up self-conscious. I was made to feel inferior at school and at home," Chris continued. "And I just lost all the self-esteem that I had found when I came here and came out. I'm smart! I graduated from college, I've won awards. And he just made me feel like so much less than I was. [But] the less happy he was, the more I would try to fix things."

Chris sensed José wasn't happy, but it never occurred to him that the relationship had turned bad, or would soon turn physically violent.

"I didn't tell anybody [about the violence in the relationship],” Chris said. “I didn't want to! They're just going to tell you what you don't want to hear."

The summer after José moved in, after those first incidents of violence, Chris was mugged on the street outside their apartment. The thief punched him in the nose, but when Chris went to run after him, José grabbed his arm and stopped him.

"He wouldn't let me call the cops," recalled Chris. "José didn't have legal papers to be in the U.S. and he was scared of what might happen."

Furious, traumatized, and gushing blood, Chris turned around and backhanded José on the street. The two stood looking at each other. Chris remembers this as the moment when the relationship truly began to go downhill.

"I didn't think about leaving until that moment," he said. "It got to the point where I was crying in public. I was crying at work. I couldn't speak my feelings."

The very last time José turned violent was close to the end of their relationship. "He was always on the phone a lot," Chris said. "So one time I reached for his phone to go through it and see who he was talking to, and he just grabbed my wrist and twisted."

By this point, Chris remembers, José was out all the time and coming home late, or not coming home at all. In August of 2005, Chris kept a promise to himself. "I told him, 'I can't count on these fingers how many times you've lied,'" Chris said, spreading all ten fingers out on the table in front of him. "And I promised myself once I couldn't count your lies on these fingers, it would be over.'"

That night, Chris went out without José. "I told myself if I could kiss someone else, then I didn't really love him. Well, I kissed someone else, and I went home and told him to move out."

Data on the rates of same-sex partner abuse have only become available in recent years. Even today, many of the statistics and materials on domestic violence put out by organizations like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Justice still focus exclusively on heterosexual relationships, and specifically heterosexual women. While the CDC does provide some resources on its website for the LGBT population, the vast majority of the information is targeted at women. Materials provided by the CDC for violence prevention and survivor empowerment prominently feature women in their statistics and photographs.

In 2013, the CDC released the results of a 2010 study on victimization by sexual orientation, and admitted that “little is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women and men in the United States.” The report found that bisexual women had an overwhelming prevalence of violent partners in their lives: 75 percent had been with a violent partner, as opposed to 46 percent of lesbian women and 43 percent of straight women. For bisexual men, that number was 47 percent. For gay men, it was 40 percent, and 21 percent for straight men.

The most recent statistics available on same-sex intimate partner violence from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which focuses on LGBT relationships, reported 21 incidents of intimate partner homicides in the LGBT community, the highest ever. Nearly half of them were gay men and, for the second year in a row, the majority of survivors were people of color—62 percent.

In 2012, NCAVP programs around the country received 2,679 reports of intimate partner violence, a decrease of around 32 percent from 2011. However the report noted that many of the NCAVP’s member organizations were operating at decreased capacity due to limiting the number of cases they were able to take. The report said that excluding data from organizations, there was actually a 29 percent increase in reports of violence from 2011 to 2012.

"Statistics are very controversial," wrote Curt Rogers, executive director of the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Program, in an email. "And it's possible that men are underreported. The bottom line for me [is that] it happens to men, period, so we should be inclusive in our approach and not marginalize the male victim population."

Valentine, from The Network/La Red, said that in his experience, the rates of violence in the LGBTQ community seem comparable to those in the straight community. "The rate of domestic violence that has been documented is one in four women, and it's pretty much the same for LGBTQ folks," he said.

"Reporting can be really difficult, and historically we [LGBTQ people] have not had a very good relationship with police and law enforcement, so folks may not be reporting it."

In any case, he continued, the police might not believe the victims when they call, the attitude often being, "You're both men, work it out between yourselves," or, "Women aren't violent; they don't hit each other."

Indeed, according to the NCAVP report, only 16.5 percent of survivors reported interacting with the police, but in one-third of those cases, the survivor was arrested instead of the abuser. A mere 3.7 percent of survivors reported seeking access to shelters.

"We need to change the way we look at domestic violence," Rogers said. "I don't see it in any way as a gender issue. I see it as a power and a control issue."

***

Sam met his first and, so far, only boyfriend, David, outside of a club one night while he was in his second year of college. "The first thing I remember thinking when I saw him was 'Oh God, never,'" he said, laughing. "As in, I would never date somebody like that. He was very assertive; almost a purposely bitchy persona, which is not uncommon in the club scene."

But date they did. After a bit of flirting back and forth on Facebook, within three or four months, as Sam remembers it, they were living together.

"In hindsight," said Sam, "I sort of already knew things were off, which really should have been my chance to get away. But it wasn't until we moved in when I started to realize that amount of control that was going on."

David soon became aware that Sam was unhappy and, according to Sam, he increasingly tried to force a façade of a stable life and healthy relationship on him.

"He went from using emotions to manipulate me, to smashing things, to threatening to commit suicide, to threatening to harm our cat, to threatening to ruin me in various ways—socially, academically, that kind of thing. About a year in, I tried twice to get out of it. He would say 'Okay, that's fine,' and then he would smash up the apartment. He would smash mirrors or push the Christmas tree over or threaten to kill himself. That's usually when the threats became the worst, when he was trying to control me into staying," Sam said, recounting once incident when he tried to break up with David, and David smashed an entire rack of drying dishes, saying, 'Well I guess we don't need any couples dishes anymore.'"

Sam insisted that David was delusional and trying to cling to the idea of a stable, normal life with Sam. David, as it turns out, did not have a stable background. He came from a troubled family: His mother was alcoholic, and his parents, while loving, were dysfunctional and destructive. In addition, David told Sam that an older boy had molested him when he was 12 or 13. He developed a cocaine habit that, he told Sam when they met, he had kicked.

Both men eventually grew depressed, and Sam felt increasingly frightened and isolated by David's behavior—not to mention embarrassed that the neighbors could always hear when David flew off the handle. He had only one friend he felt he could turn to, who of course pleaded with Sam to break things off.

During this time, David began slipping back into cocaine use, and Sam buried himself in his studies. Focusing on earning an honors degree, he said, helped get him through.

"Often he would try to 'guilt trip' me about the time I spent doing school," Sam recalled. "But I was able to hang on to that as sort of a hope and a goal."

In December 2010, David forced Sam into an engagement. "I was so afraid of what he was capable of," Sam recalled. "It was less problematic to keep this up than to break it up." Then, in mid-August 2011, David came forward and admitted he had started using cocaine again.

"I was in the shower," said Sam. "And he came in the washroom and said, 'I have something to tell you. I've been doing cocaine again. A lot of it, and spending a good chunk of our money on it.' We'd been really struggling money-wise, like, probably below poverty line at some points."

Sam got out of the shower and went out, and David began making calls to friends and family, admitting his problem, telling them that he'd been lying to them and taking money from them.

"Years ago, he had had one slip up," Sam said. "And I said, 'Okay, I get it, you're a recovering addict. But you do it again, you slip up again, and it's over.' And that's the card I pulled. I'd been looking for a way out for two years."/br>

The psychology of domestic abuse, both those who perpetrate it and those who survive it, has been studied for years. Multiple factors have been shown to contribute, including childhood abuse, mental illness, cultural norms, stress, and unbalanced power dynamics in the relationship.

Brian Norton has been a therapist in New York for 12 years, specializing in "challenges related to gay men (homophobia, coming out, etc.)" and couples therapy. He said that often a controlling or abusive personality forms in childhood.

"We all recreate the same dynamics over and over again. Ninety-nine if not 100 percent of the time, victims have had previous abusive relationships."

Abusive relationships are, of course, emotionally draining for the victim. "It's disorienting," Norton said. "One minute they're telling you they love you, and being strong, and loving and positive; then they're cheating on you, or not respecting you, and not paying attention to what you need."

Benjamin Seaman, also a New York-based therapist who has been practicing since 2001, specializes in polyamorous relationships and has also seen the "full spectrum" of gay couples. In Seaman's philosophy, violence and abuse are "usually the tools of someone who feels powerless." Seaman agreed that bad relationships fuel other bad relationships and that sometimes the lingering stress of abusive childhood incidents leads to an ongoing shame in adulthood. This can further contribute to stress in a gay relationship, said Seaman, when one or both of the people are "self-loathing" gays.

Norton gave the example of one couple currently in his care. "One person in the couple doesn't have his life together, and his partner does. He feels intimidated and threatened by the success and stability of the partner. So he became abusive."

***

LaTesha, the high-school student from Queens, admits that when she was in first grade, she used to "do things that we weren't supposed to do" with a next door neighbor's daughter. The first person she came out to was her best friend when she was 15. Her mother found out by reading her diary. "She was just like, 'You love girls now? Not in my house!' and she started bashing me. And so I told her I would never tell her anything ever again."

LaTesha was 16 when she met Monique, who was 18, in school. The two started dating, and soon after, started fighting. "This scar, on my neck? Her," she said softly, massaging the thin line with her fingers. "That's from her nails."

LaTesha insists the two didn't physically fight often in their 19 months together. "I'm not the type to do that," she said. "If I love somebody, I will never put my hands on them. I just figured that she got mad, and she swung. That’s what happens when people get mad—I didn't see it as she was beating me. I didn't see it as that. But then I had to realize that's not always the answer for when we get into altercations.”

Others noticed. "People would come to me and ask what happened, 'cause I would usually have scratches or a little bruise on my face. I'd tell them I got into it with her and they'd say, 'I don't' understand why you're putting yourself through this.' I'd be like, 'Well, I love her, and I'm going to accept her for who she is.'"

Monique began trying to manipulate LaTesha, telling her who she could and couldn't hang out with. She bought LaTesha a cell phone and then took it back when she thought LaTesha was texting other girls. When they fought, Monique would hurl insults at LaTesha, saying, "I hope you die of AIDS," and calling her a slut. After the last time the two broke up, LaTesha said, "She just wouldn't let it go. She tried to get back with me. I was still in love with her [Monique], but I didn't want to be with her anymore."

At the time, LaTesha had started dating another girl. Monique didn't like this, tracked the pair down at Safe Space, and came in swinging at the new girlfriend. A final confrontation occurred in front of staff, counselors, and peers at Safe Space. LaTesha had begun volunteering as a peer educator there after she and Monique broke up for the last time. "I could have gotten banned from Safe Space," LaTesha said of the fight.

"We weren't even together, and she was, quote-unquote, in love with me. I was just like, 'No. You're not going to hit her. You got a problem, it's between me and you.' And she swung at me. She got in my face and said, 'What are you gonna do?' And she hit me, and then she did it again."

The Safe Space staff managed to separate the two, and LaTesha remained a peer counselor with the group.

Lesbian women can have a very hard time finding shelter. And sometimes, an abuser will call a shelter claiming to be a victim. "What may happen," said Valentine at Network/La Red, "is that both a survivor and an abuser can access services, so it might not be the safest harbor for a lesbian survivor."

Newman at the Violence Recovery Program said that proper screening techniques can help enhance shelters' safety. "We screen both parties," she said. "And we won't work with batterers. We'll refer them to a batterer's intervention program. But I've definitely seen it. People will see themselves as victims when they're not."

It's tough enough to get into a domestic violence shelter if you're straight, no matter your gender. Kristen Clonan is a spokesperson for Safe Horizon, which claims to be New York City's largest provider of domestic violence residence with nine shelters and around 725 beds throughout the city. Clonan said that in 2011, nearly 2,500 women, children, and men sought out shelter at Safe Horizon, and Safe Horizon's three hotlines field 163,000 calls annually.

That's a lot of demand for 725 beds. And shelters that cater to LGBT people are even more perilously few and far between. Cassildra Aguilera, the LGBTQ program coordinator for Safe Space, said there is one shelter in New York City that identifies as LGBTQ-specific, with 200 beds. Of the mainstream shelters, only 12 are LGBTQ friendly, and all are based in Manhattan. According to Network/La Red in Boston, only two of the 30 domestic violence shelters in Massachusetts are specifically geared toward LGBTQ people: Network/La Red, and the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Program. Of mainstream programs, only eight accept LGBT people. Many shelters, even if they say they're LGBT-friendly, reportedly fail when it comes to providing for LGBT safety needs.

Valentine of The Network/La Red said there's a lot of homophobia in shelters among shelter residents. "The staff might have a non-discrimination policy, but it's not enforced, and that definitely affects a lot of survivors."

Transgender people have an especially hard time, according to Newman. They might not find a shelter, because often neither men's nor women's shelters take transgendered people. If they find a place in a homeless shelter, they might be housed with the men, which could be dangerous, or with women, which can agitate shelter residents. Curious people may ask intrusive questions, or they might not be seen as "real" women or "real" men, which, Newman said, is tremendously demeaning.

A month after breaking up with José, Chris tried to commit suicide. He failed, and shortly after began a course of therapy that, he says, helped him come to terms not only with this damaging relationship, but also with his tumultuous family life. After a rough few years during which he suffered from depression and severely decreased libido, he has just begun to make his way into the dating scene again. He has a steady job working in children’s after-school education.

Sam graduated from college and has begun a master’s degree program. He and his friends work to actively ignore and cut David out of their lives, despite David's repeated attempts to be in touch and get back together. And Sam says he has begun to date again, as his mental health has slowly improved with the help of his psychiatrist and his counselor.

Soon after the last violent encounter with Monique, LaTesha met the girlfriend she is currently seeing and says that she has definitely learned from her experience with Monique.

"The girlfriend I have now, she's so much different than before. You know, if we argue, we just won't talk to each other. If we play-fight, and we know it's about to get serious, we'll stop."

LaTesha is still a volunteer peer educator with Safe Space. Every week, she works to educate the Queens community about the LGBT population and spread the message of safe sex and healthy relationships.

In May 2013, President Obama re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act. While the law still focuses on women in heterosexual relationships, it has a new section that includes coverage of same-sex partners—a big sign that attitudes are changing. Rogers and Newman both agree that circumstances are improving for gays seeking shelter and help.

"Twenty years ago there was nothing," Rogers said. "Now there are significantly more resources and a much higher likelihood of a positive response from mainstream providers and first responders."

As individuals and society come to recognize same-sex partner violence as an existing problem, there is hope.

SOURCE

Copyright © 2015 by The Atlantic Monthly Group

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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Bill of Rights for Domestic Violence Victims



Domestic Violence Victim Bill of Rights

* You have the right NOT to be abused.

* You have the right to anger over past abuse.

* You have a right to choose to change the situation.

* You have a right to freedom from fear of abuse.

* You have a right to request and expect assistance from police or social agencies.

* You have a right to share your feelings and not be isolated from others.

* You have a right to want a better role model of communication for yourself and your children.

* You have a right to be treated like an adult.

* You have a right to leave the abusive environment.

* You have a right to privacy.

* You have a right to express your own thoughts and feelings.

* You have a right to develop your individual talents and abilities without harrasssment.

* You have a right to legally prosecute the abusing spouse.

* You have a right not to be perfect.

(Adapted from; Victimology: An International Journal., Vol. 2 1977-78, No. 3-4, p.550)

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Thursday, January 12, 2023

Emotional Rape



Emotional rape has many similarities to physical rape, particularly date rape. Date rape involves the sexual use of someone's body without consent. In a like manner, emotional rape is the use of someone's higher emotions, such as love, without consent.

However,
in the case of emotional rape the lack of consent is contained in what the perpetrator doesn't say... his or her hidden agenda. Emotional rape can happen to both men and women. Both forms of rape can be very devastating and require specialized programs for recovery.

Several major obstacles are encountered in recovery from emotional rape. The first is that the victim knows that something bad happened, but doesn't know what or why. And as in date rape, a big issue is that of trust. Victims often feel that they will never be able to love or trust anyone again. Other obstacles to recovery, again similar to date rape, are the re-victimization of the victim by friends, family, and society and the subsequent tendencies toward self-blame and silence about what happened.

It Could Happen to Anyone

Shara, who died after jumping from a freeway overpass into rush hour traffic, was exploited by a rapist who could accurately be described as armed and dangerous; an accomplished deceiver who had raped before.

Without exception, victims describe two predominant characteristics of their rapists:

1. They are charismatic, ostensibly attractive personalities, likely to be widely admired, but with a naturally manipulative nature.

2. They can completely conceal their true selves.


These two observations draw attention to one of the central features of such behavior:

Emotional rape can happen to anyone. The widely varying backgrounds and personalities of those who have already become victims demonstrate the danger in thinking otherwise; in believing "It could never happen to me."

It is sometimes difficult to believe that no moral responsibility rests with the victim - because he or she was weak, naive, or otherwise "to blame" - but that it lies with the rapist, whose ability to conceal his or her true self is such that almost anyone could be deceived.


The focus here is mainly on the rapist, examining what it is that makes an individual capable of this form of psychological aggression.

Colliding Emotions

It is no exaggeration to describe emotional rape as the most underrated trauma of our age; the effects are powerful and potentially destructive.

Victims are forced to cope with a tangle of conflicting emotions, experiencing all the traumatic after effects of both rape and loss.

This confused pattern of emotional responses is very similar to that experienced by victims of sexual rape.

It's a pattern commonly identified as post-traumatic rape syndrome, although victims of emotional rape will be unaware that this is what is happening to them.

These colliding emotions become so entangled that it is extremely difficult - and would be a serious misrepresentation - to attempt to categorize them individually. They are inseparable.

However, it is possible to identify certain generalized feelings which characterize the emotional aftermath. Principally, these are:


Each of these is considered in detail in this book, as are the typical physical and material after effects, so victims will understand that what they are going through is normal, that they are not alone, and that they are not insane.

LEARN MORE - CLICK HERE

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Sunday, January 01, 2023

IS YOUR NARCISSIST/ PSYCHOPATH/ ABUSER PLAYING YOU?

a list of FAVORITE PHRASES (by no means complete!!)

"you are my soul mate" or "this is fate" (came up over 50 times on this poll)

"I'm sorry that you feel that way" (because I'm not taking responsibility for this)

"End of conversation!!!", (when it is your turn to speak)

"I did (whatever BS) because of the medication I'm taking/ forgot to take"

"I'm always supportive of you and your education/career" (but when you're not around, and take the focus off of me, I have to find supply elsewhere, baby)

Cute nicknames: Baby, you are my honey, my sweetie, babe, dear... etc (good for when you have more than one woman on the go; in case you forget her name!)

"You/they made me do (whatever BS). It wasn't my fault. You drove me to it."

"I'm a good husband / father and other women are envious and want to ruin that."

"Don't listen to her (when they get caught by someone) she's in love with me/ obsessed with me/ making it up/ lying/ psycho..."

" I can't control how you feel "

"I'm very literal"

"why do you interpret everything I say"

"I don't feel anything" ( means he doesn't care and truly can NOT 'feel')

"I don't express my emotions well"

"I never said that," (when you repeat something from a prior conversation -- sometimes just an hour ago.)

"that never happened" (even when the proof is right there)

"Not my fault" (projection)

"Explain that to me, I'm thick" or "I don't get it"

"I told you that" or "that's what I told you"

"I would never lie to you"

"Listen to my words" (as he played his word games)

"I swear on my life/to God..."

"if you really think it's necessary."

"up to you"

"I will do anything to make you happy" (
except be honest)

"if that's what you want"

"I am a good man"

"It's not what you think"

"just do me one favor...."

"I/ you never...."

"I/ you always...."

For more click here: YOU ARE A TARGET

These were written the 'male', your abuser may well be female!

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Friday, December 09, 2022

The Differences Between A Sociopath And A Narcissist

by

When we try to analyze the people we cross paths with in society, it is possible to misinterpret our analysis for lack of a better understanding. For those who have crossed paths with a sociopath and a narcissist (on separate occasions), it may seem like there is little to no difference between the two when in fact one can be mistaken for the other. Both are considered to be  social terrorists, however, there are distinguishing characteristics that would imply neither of them are one in the same. Therefore, I would like to explain briefly the differences in character between these two personality disorders…

Narcissist will 

Sociopath will 

Here’s a few more brief distinguishing characteristics:

Both think they are superior to anyone and everyone, both think they deserve special treatment, both process the world differently, and both play to “win”. However, it is possible for both personality traits to be combined into one, which is called a “Narcissistic Sociopath,”  and is more dangerous than the two of them separately.


SOURCE

From what I know: All Sociopaths are also Narcissists.  Not all Narcissists are/or become Sociopaths.
One can be a Narcissistic Sociopath but NEVER a Sociopathic Narcissist.  The spectrum only moves one way. - Barbara

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Thursday, December 08, 2022

When Toxic People Start Hoovering


Trying to break free from someone who won’t let you go?
 

 Wanting to end a relationship with someone who keeps trying suck you back in with manipulations (or fake apologies too) ?

You’re being hoovered!


Some toxic people will let you leave a relationship without caring one bit. They never really cared about you, and if you don’t want to be used and abused anymore, they’re simply on to the next person before you can say, “Bye!”

Others, however…

Others hoover.

The toxic hooverer doesn’t truly care about you either — they just want to keep you around to feed on emotionally, and when you decide to go no contact, they don’t plan on letting you get away that easily.

Many hooverers have traits of borderline, narcissistic, antisocial or histrionic personality disorders.


Hoovering is manipulation to gain control over your choice to distance yourself, and typically takes the following forms:

  • Ignoring your requests to break off the relationship and attempting to continue on as if nothing has changed.
  • Asking you when you’re going to “get over it” and return to your past actions.
  • Sending you a fake apology to give you hope that things have changed.
  • Trying to trick you into contact by saying someone needs you, is sick, or in trouble.
  • Triangulating with others, communicating things to you through them.
  • Saying they’re worried about you, concerned about whether you’re okay, need to know where you are, etc.
  • Sending unwanted cards, messages and gifts, sometimes gifts for your children, as they know you are likely to feel guilty about keeping a gift from your kids. Don’t allow this – exposing your children to manipulation is far worse!
  • Returning old items you left behind.
  • Baiting you with drama games.
  • Contacting you about “important” things they “forgot” and suddenly have to tell you.

Don’t Fall for Hoovering Tactics


Attempts to pull you back into a toxic relationship are not valid expressions of caring and concern — they are attempts to regain control over your behavior. Beware — hoovering attempts are often disguised as caring, loneliness, hurt, desperation, fear, and other things designed to play on your sympathies and pull you back. Abusers know that pulling on heartstrings works very well. (In the case of BPD, it may be simply out-of-control emotions and fear of abandonment more than an attempt to control you per se; however you will likely still feel that you are not being allowed to end a relationship you no longer want).

If your wish to end a relationship is not being honored, whatever a toxic person thinks will work best on you will be what they try, so when one angle doesn’t work, they will try another, and another, ramping up their efforts until it seems they might never stop


Typically, hoovering DOES stop if the person being hoovered does not fall for the hooverer’s tricks.

The sooner the person being hoovered completely ignores everything and does not respond to anything at all in any way, the sooner the toxic person finally understands that they do not have the control. Some toxic people may still make the occasional attempt on holidays, anniversaries of events, etc. Don’t bite the bait. Simply ignore any attempts.

If you have already made it clear that you do not want a relationship (or if it’s obvious) then DON’T ever contact the person doing the hoovering to tell them to stop again, or how angry you are. That is a reward. They will be thrilled to receive your attention and pleased to know that their efforts have paid off by snagging you, so they’ll be contacting you even more!



Harassment

If you have told someone you do not want contact, and they continue to bother you, the police can assist you. If you ever feel that someone you are trying to break off a relationship with may be capable of more than simply annoying you mildly, contact your local police for assistance. They are well-accustomed to dealing with skillful manipulators and have many smart ways of handling them, so do not hesitate to ask for help. (And remember, you have nothing to be ashamed about; you’re not the one behaving badly, and the police are there to protect you from abuse.)



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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Who Is This Person?



"When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong - Loving or Leaving the Narcissist in Your Life"by Mary Jo Fay

Chapter 13
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde phenomenon that occurs in relationships with narcissists is a regular theme among those who sent me their stories. Soaring with the extreme highs of new love with the most incredible, romantic, unbelievably perfect man or woman of your dreams is tantamount to a romance novel or soap opera.
So many of us pray and hope for such a relationship, but we never truly think it can really happen. Then, when it does, there is such fear of losing such bliss that many are blinded when Dr. Jekyll behaves like the deadly Mr. Hyde. They ignore the red flags and the gut feelings that keep trying to tell them something's wrong because they know "Mr. Perfect" was not a figment of their imagination. He was very real.
And so, if he's suddenly Mr. Hyde momentarily, they are convinced it is a temporary situation and that their perfect partner will return any minute, if they are just patient enough
. In addition, victims keep going over and over in their own minds what they did "wrong" to sabotage the relationship. They convince themselves if they just figure out what not to do, that they can make everything "go back to normal" when all was magical, wonderful, and utterly perfect. If only they knew just how wrong their belief is!
Another prevalent theme among victims is the feeling that when the perfect partner leaves (or she leaves him), that he will treat his next significant other differently. They envy the new person in the narcissist's life and are convinced the new love is being treated "perfectly," or at least better, than they were. Of course the new partner will know better than to ever do anything that might upset Mr. Perfect. She will live the life of the fantasy world that the discarded victim once held. She wouldn't dream of making the same mistakes that the first victim did. She's probably smarter, more beautiful, thinner, or more understanding than the first victim. Isn't everyone? Isn't that what he told his first victim over and over?

They remain paralyzed with guilt, confusion, and sorrow and continue to blame themselves for the loss. Despite the fact that most of us realize people don't change easily and that logic would dictate if someone behaves a certain way with one person, he will also behave that way with another, the fantasy of the lost "perfect" love now seemingly given unconditionally to another, permeates their minds like a malignant cancer. Many just don't seem to be able to irradiate their cancer and move on to a clean bill of health.

Perhaps Marti and Erica's accounts will help illuminate some light on this subject…


Marti and Erica…
Marti and Erica didn't know each other last year, yet this year they sit with me and we talk of how they were both involved with the same narcissist. The fact that they even fell upon each other is remarkable, as they live several hundred miles apart. Yet when they found each other and began sharing stories of the same painful dance, their laughter and tears merged in a unique sisterhood.

Marti: A bright, beautiful gal in her late 30s, with long, flowing locks and stylish professional fashion was well-educated and mature in the ways of the world. She had worked in business for years as a savvy sales rep and was very comfortable with both men and women.

Erica: Fresh out of an almost-19-year marriage and a bit cautious and still healing her wounds, she was none-the-less a strong woman with conviction and an independent streak. Her blonde hair and snappy, blue eyes sparked a spirit that was longing to get out, yet one that appeared a bit defiant and untamed.

Neither of them ever guessed they'd be swept off their feet by one very manipulative man.

Marti…
I first met Gus online. While I'd done the Matchmaker scene for quite a while, it usually took a lot to get me to actually take the next step to meet someone. I was in the early stages of running my own small business, so time was a commodity and the thought of wasting it on meaningless coffees and dinners with guys who were nothing like what they appeared to be online, just didn't excite me. I would periodically reply to an email, take a phone call and meet someone, but was more often frustrated than excited. Sometimes I'd just walk away from the whole dating process for months at a time. For some reason Gus was different. Once we connected, it was like we couldn't stop. After only 24 hours of emails and phone calls, I just had to meet him. Our first obstacle was that we lived six hours apart, but we knew we had to get together as soon as possible. We agreed to meet in a town halfway between us for a dinner date. As his email had led me to believe, he turned out to be absolutely charming. He just "got me" instantly. Dinner was fabulous! We had this intense connection – a chemistry that was indescribable – both intellectually and physically. Two days later we rendezvoused for the weekend and we both knew what we were anticipating. I knew something special would happen once we connected overnight and of course it did. It was indescribable! I stayed three days more than I had planned. I barely thought about my business and even cancelled a speaking engagement just to stay with him. I was so caught up in his charms … in the magic. It was like I was hypnotized. All I could think about was him … and us. By the end of seven days he asked me to marry him, and I had to say yes! How could I ever find someone like him again? I wasn't about to let him go! I sincerely believed there couldn't be another man like him in the world. We immediately went ring shopping because Gus insisted that he didn't want me to go home without "proof" of how serious he was about us. As we excitedly hurried into the jewelry store, Gus, grinning ear to ear, announced to the clerk, "Today's our anniversary!" She smiled and said, "That's wonderful! How many years?" To which Gus replied, "Seven days!" I was flying. I guess I must have completely missed the quizzical look she gave us. We got a ring with seven stones to always remind us of our life-changing seven days together that had sent us in a direction we knew would last a lifetime.

While my rational mind kept sending me caution signals that no one got engaged in only seven days, my optimistic nature couldn't get over the wonderful gift God had given me. In fact, when friends (and even strangers) learned of our whirlwind romance they often told us their stories of love at first sight, quick engagements, and dozens of happy years of marriage! I could not imagine anything going wrong in this relationship because it was so absolutely perfect! Nothing could be so terrible that we couldn't possibly work it out. One of Gus' strengths was his incredible ability to listen, understand both sides of any issue, and to remain calm and compassionate no matter what the situation (even when I spilled red wine on his carpet). His demeanor was gentle, kind, and so polite; opening the car door for me each and every time, even buckling me into my seatbelt, which he made a big deal about doing so that he could "keep me safe," at the same time he'd sneak a kiss.I felt so adored. It felt like he hung on each of my words and knew just what to say every second we were together. He made me feel like royalty. It was hard carrying on a relationship with a six-hour drive between us, but we were so in love we knew we could do anything necessary to keep it alive. He was so romantic. He would write poetry that swept me off my feet. He even bought a Webcam for my computer – a device rather like a video camera – so we could see each other while we emailed or chatted by phone. It was so great just to see him and hear his voice when I couldn't be with him. We were grateful to the latest technology for keeping us connected. He was attentive to every detail; every word I wrote, every thing I said. It was like he lived just to make me happy. He even insisted on buying new tires for my car, as he was concerned that if I was going to be driving to see him very often, that he wanted me to be on the safest tires available. Then came the flowers. I was hosting a big event and he was unable to make the trip. I understood completely and didn't give it a second thought, so imagine my surprise when I arrived at the conference center and there was the largest arrangement of flowers I had ever seen! The note said, "If only I could be there with you tonight … All my love, Gus." Romance, flowers, love letters, planning our future … He was my Prince Charming. He could do no wrong in my eyes. He had won my heart.

And then I started noticing subtle changes …

Quite honestly I really didn't get it at first. It started with little comments that seemed a bit quirky and out of place. For example, he told me one day that my actions spoke more to him than my words and he gave the example that he knew my favorite color was yellow, even though I'd told him it was purple. I laughed and said, "Actually, it really is purple." "Of course it's not, Marti. Just look around your house. You have yellow things everywhere," he replied, almost speaking down to me as a parent might scold a child. I agreed that, yes, the bedspread we were sitting on was yellow, but there was far more green everywhere, purple in some places, and even red. All decorating choices I liked, but truly if I had to pick a favorite color, it was purple … even in my company logo.

"No, it isn't," he countered. "I can see that plain as day. But if that's what you want to believe, you go right ahead and believe it. I know better." I thought that was really odd, but harmless. Not so harmless, in reality – as I would later realize. He would say, "I will watch your actions, not what you say, to determine what you really mean."

On his first visit to my home I was overwhelmed with work, and as my office is in my house, it showed the effects of my stress by looking as though a tornado had struck. Although the rest of the house was in perfect order, I figured I'd just close the door to my messy office and not worry about sorting through the stacks of papers to tidy it up before he got here. Well that idea didn't fly with Gus at all. He pressured me to let him see my office. I brushed off his request a couple of times, telling him that the room wasn't fit for man nor beast, but he became defensive and told me I was "shutting him out" of a part of my life. I "must" be keeping secrets from him. What was I hiding? I promised him that I wasn't hiding anything, but that I was very embarrassed to have him see my office in such shambles. I finally gave in and opened the door. Of course there were no secrets or anything of particular interest other than the mess, but he became very quiet and withdrawn for the rest of the day. I thought this behavior a bit odd, but again, was so overwhelmed with the deep and incredible love we shared, that I just figured it wasn't a big deal. If he didn't mind my messy office, I guess I didn't mind showing him. Only now have I begun to realize that what he was showing me by that behavior was that he had absolutely no respect for my boundaries. By giving in, I never told him "no" and meant it. Thus, he just kept pushing my boundaries further and further – always testing the waters to see just how far he could go. He often said things like "I'm going to be your husband, so I have a right to …"

One particularly busy day he was back at his house, so many miles away, so we'd check in with each other often via the Webcam; longingly looking into each other's eyes, wishing we were together. After talking for quite a while I told him that I really had to get some work done, so we said goodbye and I shut the Webcam off. He called back instantly and insisted that I keep it on so he could see my "beautiful face" any time he wanted. I smiled that he was so passionate and interested, but I told him I really found it hard to concentrate and I'd get nothing done knowing he was so close and distracting. He really insisted, but I stood my ground. So we said goodbye and agreed we'd talk later in the day. When we got on the phone that night he was cold and silent. I couldn't figure out why he was angry. After much coaxing on my part, he confessed that he felt "hurt" that I wouldn't leave the Webcam on all day so that he could watch me. I held to my earlier points about needing to focus and kept the discussion light, but I was really uncomfortable, even creeped out by what felt like voyeuristic and controlling behavior. He tried to make me feel that his interest was caring and romantic, but the little pangs of nausea I was getting didn't seem to be related to any foods I ate.

Most of the time things were great – amazingly great! Overwhelmingly great! Beyond description great! But over time, things became stranger and stranger. Our plan was to spend a few months dating, decide what changes one or both of us would make to bring us closer together geographically, then marry and move within a year. I began to learn that his grandiose plans were wishful thinking at best. It also became clear that if I gave up my business and life here to move to him, he'd never value or appreciate that I did so. He seemed to have great respect for my work unless it took me away from him for even a minute. While he wanted to know every minute detail of my life, it turned out that he didn't always like to share his. Sometimes he'd share with great depth, even on difficult issues and I'd feel really connected to him, yet other times a seemingly superficial question would make him furious. Several times he abruptly ended a conversation (not an argument) by saying he refused to talk about that subject any longer, period. Also, when I'd get a business call from a male colleague during business hours, he would instantly become jealous or cold and demand to know all about the person who called, yet a woman would occasionally call him at 3 a.m. and when I asked him about it he would get defensive and angry at my curiosity. Although his feelings were easily hurt, he was indifferent when mine were. He appeared to care less and less about my needs and my life. All those first nights of listening to every word I said seemed to disappear. One night he called after I'd just found out that my stepfather had died. He was very sympathetic for about three minutes, but then he asked a question that made it obvious he wasn't listening. He admitted he was distracted and I nicely asked him to call me back when he was finished and we could talk.

I really needed to feel that I had his full attention in my time of need. There was a sudden chill at the other end of the phone. He icily said "fine," hung up, and never called back. I was stunned. In my darkest hour I was looking for a comforting partner and he suddenly turned into a cold, uncaring stranger. Then for the next several days we exchanged emails and voice messages whereby he chastised me for suggesting he call back when he was distracted. He said I was rude in pointing out his lapse of attention. "It's like pointing out to someone when they've farted," he quipped. He even said I should have been grateful for his "generosity," as he had called knowing I'd be hurting and I should have just kept talking even though I knew he wasn't listening. Never, not once, did he ask how I was feeling about my stepfather's death.


I couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth. This mouth that had kissed me like no one else in my wildest dreams. This mouth that had whispered romantic poetry to me for hours on end. This mouth that had tasted my body and all its crevices. Who was this person attached to this mouth?! Certainly not the person I was choosing to spend the rest of my life with. Where did that man go? These are a few of the "choice words" he emailed me after this incident:

Dear Marti,
I will be guarding my heart and emotions from this point on. I feel I have opened myself up prematurely to your personal attacks and therefore must protect my own feelings. The Bible says "it is better to have only a crust of bread to eat upon the rooftop than to feast with many in a house of contention" and I believe that to be true.


I have listened to your voice mails and am disappointed with your efforts at communication. I am growing weary of what I perceive to be a pattern of nitpicking over my phone etiquette. You must acquire a more effective method of conveying your thoughts…I am not stupid.


I believe about you what I have observed about you. I am not swayed by words to believe something I have not seen demonstrated, regardless of the frequency with which I hear the explanation. If I believe, after observing your behavior, that you are irresponsible, then I will not change my mind when you simply say with words that you are "a responsible person." In this regard you will only sway me with your actions. Furthermore, the continuous droning of statements not backed with observable behavior or perceptible intentions, only serves to shut me off.


Perhaps if you were to recognize these communication failures on your own I would not have to hang up on you and wait for your emotions to subside. Even better would be for you to restrict these intense emotional diatribes to written words in an effort to limit your verbosity and to focus on the important points and issues.


On another matter, you still play hide and seek with secrets only you can know. The fact you hesitate to allow me into certain areas of your house when we have promised to spend the rest of our lives together, is quite disturbing to me. This is not how a loving relationship should look.


Please be assured that I am standing by to help in any way that I am able, in spite of the impression I may have given by words or deeds, up until this moment.
Love always, Gus
I physically wanted to throw up. I had just returned from a visit with him and was still "under the ether" – madly, crazily in love and thinking of every way possible to be with him. There was no contention in my words or my heart. The intense coldness of his email and the unreasonable reaction to our conversation was so confusing. It just didn't make sense. In fact, one moment we'd have a loving phone call, then I'd check my email and there'd be a hurtful note that he had to have written before we talked! Then he'd send a note about a house we should buy together. Talk about Dr. J and Mr. Hyde! Although my worries increased, I was still convinced that my perfect partner would return if we just understood each other better. I blamed the distance and limited time together and decided not to address certain issues until we were together, for surely it would be easier in person. I found that if I just "dropped" a tough subject, so did he, yet I felt more and more distant from him.

Things sort of fell into a pattern of Gus getting upset and me being confused about why. Then came an interesting weekend where I was being honored at a banquet for my work with the non-profit community. Gus was coming and I looked forward to including him in a special moment in my life. However, one of my growing worries was related to his heavy drinking. It wasn't uncommon for him to pour himself a vodka at 9 a.m. and I worried that alcohol could become a problem between us. I gingerly shared my concerns with him and he promised that drinking wouldn't be a problem because of his love for me. Of course he was in the limelight at the dinner, being on the arm of the guest of honor. He basked in my glory and I even introduced him to the audience as the man I was going to marry. Unfortunately, my fears were realized when he embarrassed himself and me by getting drunk. I
was hurt and fearful that I was going to have to leave my perfect love because of alcohol, but in the morning he lovingly apologized, saying he never wanted to see that look of disappointment in my eyes ever again and he thanked me for not giving him a hard time. Once again, I melted.

Then one night, the red flag got bigger. It was past midnight and I was getting ready for bed. I had put on a cucumber mask, slipped into my flannel PJ's, and was about to fall asleep when the phone rang. It was Gus, and I was happy to hear his voice before falling asleep. After nearly an hour on the phone he surprised me by telling me that he was a mere four minutes away from my house! (He had been driving nearly six hours and hadn't given me a clue he was coming.) He wanted to talk all the way to my driveway, but I begged off in order to wipe the mask off my face and look presentable when he arrived. I would have to scramble to get it all done in four minutes!

He suggested I leave the door unlocked for him, but I said I'd just meet him at the door. (Living alone I wasn't comfortable leaving my door unlocked and I was racing for time as well.) He rang the doorbell and I opened the door within seconds, but when I saw his face I was startled. He was furious. He had transformed from my sweet, romantic man into someone I didn't recognize. His eyes shot bullets at me as I held the door opened for him and I softly questioned, "Gus, what's wrong?" "It was extremely inconvenient for me to have to wait outside your door!" he cursed. "But Gus, it was only a few seconds," I countered. "It's just not right that you treat me that way, Marti. I'm your fiancé, for God sake!" We argued and by that time I really didn't care if he stayed or went. In fact I remember saying that I was aghast that he would say he was "inconvenienced" when he was the one showing up in the middle of the night. "I'm outta here," he bellowed, and then turned to go, but I could tell he didn't really want to. We talked it through and as it turned out, his sister had passed away and he told me he was on the way to her funeral. Of course my heart softened immediately. As we were making up, he shared with me how he had hated his sister and was torn about even going to the funeral. In the end, he didn't go and said it would be a "lesson" to his other siblings that if they didn't "straighten up" he wouldn't show up at their funerals either. (Can you say huge red flag?) He could never give me a reason for the intensity of his hatred, and although we made up once again, that red flag stayed with me and was perhaps the one that eventually began to get my attention. As of weeks later, he still hadn't even called his mother to see how she was handling the death of her daughter! I couldn't help but wonder how he'd treat me if he ever really got mad at me. For the first time I allowed myself to wonder what the truth was about why his children hate him – a fact that he had shared with me early-on. Somehow, we spent a blissful weekend once again and then came the final straw. We were having such an incredible time together that I decided to cancel everything for the next week and drive back to his home with him. I was going to miss some huge meetings, but had decided it was worth it. I told him I'd go, but that I would need to get a little bit of work done before leaving. He agreed. While Gus waited for me to finish up that morning, he got bored and went to the store. When he came back he announced, "Clearly spending time with me is not important to you, so I'm going to take off." And he made motions to leave … right then. I was totally shocked and taken off-guard. We'd discussed and agreed to the plan only a couple of hours earlier. So where did this angry response come from? I just didn't get it. Couldn't he see that I was canceling meetings, rescheduling work, printing paperwork to take along? I was totally rearranging my life and business to spend time unscheduled time with him. Didn't he appreciate all that I was doing? I was expected to understand when he had work to do. On one hand I wanted to talk it through and work something out, rather than give up on our week together. Yet on the other hand, his irrational behavior made me actually fearful that his anger would lead to something I couldn't handle. What if he drove like a crazy person and we ended up in a wreck? What if he just decided to throw me out on the side of the road? Or worse, what if, once we got to his house he decided he just didn't "feel like" driving me all the way home again? We had planned to take my dog and the thought of having to buy a plane ticket and bring my dog back in a crate on a plane made me think twice. The caution signs started hitting me over the head. I finally recognized that I no longer felt safe and didn't know what to expect from this man. At the same time I struggled with my own sense of integrity – I was wearing his ring and my word had always meant a lot to me. Knowing that if things were this chaotic so early in the relationship it would only get worse, I decided to hold my ground. When I told him that it just wasn't working out between us, he was astonished. Then, in defiance he asked, "Are you really breaking up with me?" Interestingly, he never asked why. He just stated that he was in this "for the long term" and that clearly I wasn't as committed.

Fortunately, a knowledgeable friend had begun to educate me about narcissism during the few weeks before that awful moment. She knew I was head-over-heels in love with Gus, but had seen the terrible signs in our relationship, so had been careful to feed me little bits of information whenever I had called her in tears and confusion. Her support and information gave me the strength to know that the situation would never change. So, instead of torturing myself with doubt about the "what ifs," I was able to end the relationship with certainty and the reality that a better future was waiting for me elsewhere, once I let go.

The education she gave me about this serious personality disorder literally saved my emotional well-being. I started to understand the roller coaster ride I was on and see his behaviors for what they really were – controlling, manipulating, and outrageous. My "Perfect Gus" was just an act – nothing more than what Brad Pitt or any other movie star was capable of. One minute a knight in shining armor and the next minute a heartless, blood-sucking vampire. It was all just a wicked deception.

The sad difference, I realized, was that Brad Pitt knows he is acting. Gus doesn't. I felt terribly sad for him, for I knew he would never change nor understand who or what he really was. Yet, I understood my empathy for his "illness" didn't mean I had to marry him. That would have been the biggest mistake of all. No matter how incredible the good stuff was with us, the bad stuff wasn't tolerable.

If you do not feel sane or safe in your relationship, get out. Listen to your gut. Don't ignore the warning signs. I was lucky. It only cost me 12 weeks of my life. It could have been so much worse. Now I'm a bit hypersensitive to potentially narcissistic behavior, which makes dating even more challenging, but I'm so glad to have a healthier perspective and I'm sure that I learned this lesson with Gus for a reason. Perhaps it was just to enable me to develop the even stronger bond I know have with my girlfriend who educated me about this terrifying disorder.

Erica…
I met Gus on the Internet as well. I was new to the online dating scene, after having recently divorced my husband of nearly 19 years. I was cautious but hopeful. It actually took Gus a while to respond to my email and when he did reply he apologized and said that he had just experienced a tough break-up (with Marti, I realized later), and he was pretty melancholy about the whole thing. He explained that he was taking his time before he "stuck his neck out again." Of course, I felt sorry for him immediately. "The poor guy must be sensitive and emotional for him to react that way," so said my heart. I loved sensitive guys! I just always thought they were a myth. We emailed for a couple of weeks and then he suggested we meet for ice cream on Saturday. I apologized, but said that I had already made plans for the weekend. "No need to apologize, dear," he wrote. "I understand you have a life. We'll get together in time, if this is meant to be." I was so impressed. He respected my boundaries and needs, and that was rare in my past relationships with men. We kept the email doors open and kept chatting, learning more and more about each other in the process.

As with Marti, Gus and I lived hours from each other. While one of the joys of living in quiet, laid-back New Mexico is the slower lifestyle and the friendly people, the vast emptiness between towns makes going anywhere a lengthy ordeal. The logistics of a long-distance relationship had its ups and downs in my mind, but I wasn't ready to rule it out. He kept offering other times when we might be able to connect, but for the longest time I was busy with my teenager's sporting events or school schedules, in addition to my own work schedule at the credit union during the day and the local pub at night. "Is there ever going to be a time I will get to meet you?" he wrote. I felt guilty. He had shown himself to be so patient and understanding that I finally gave him my phone number so we could at least talk.

Our first phone conversation ended up lasting for hours. It was like we had known each other for years. Maybe even all our lives. There were no tentative opening lines or worries that either of us wouldn't meet the expectations of the other. It was fabulous. When next he asked me if we could meet, I was still hesitant. Talking with someone over email or on the phone was one thing – in the flesh was quite another. I was still new to this dating thing, after being married so many years, and I didn't want to get in over my head. I asked him what his expectations were. His answer was perfect – Absolutely no expectations. Lunch only. Friends for as long as necessary. Purely platonic was just fine with him. He would get a room at a hotel and whatever time I could give him around my hectic family and work schedule, he would accept. No questions asked. We agreed to meet for lunch on Thursday and on Wednesday afternoon he surprised me by waltzing in to the credit union where I worked. I didn't know he was there and when a co-worker told me there was a man asking for me, I was completely amazed. He told me that he just wanted to be "early" for our lunch date the next day and would it be OK if he stopped at the pub where I worked in the evening and had a few beers while I was stuck there? Of course I didn't object at all. I was so impressed he had gone out of his way to come early to spend as much time with me as possible! I had never expected it. What a wonderful surprise! He obviously was a man who cared a great deal.

My friends were overjoyed for me. "Oh, Erica – he's adorable," they said. I had to agree. When I walked into work that evening, he was already at the bar and had a big map lying open on the counter. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was looking to invest in some land and was studying the map of the area to get a better understanding of the big picture. Of course, I was immediately impressed that he must have enough money to invest in anything. (Little did I know the truth was he didn't have a dime in his pocket.) We chatted a great deal while I tended bar throughout the course of the evening and I found him to be delightful. By the time our lunch date came around the next day, I couldn't wait to see him again. He mesmerized me, without a doubt. He was like a drug. I would sit and look at him for hours on end. It was like I was a different person when I was with him. He kept encouraging me to tell him everything about myself. He listened so intently. He shook his head compassionately if I spoke of something painful from my past, then would pat my hand gently in understanding. He eyes grew teary in sympathy when I discussed an extremely difficult moment during my divorce. As he'd been divorced too, I felt he knew my pain first-hand. He was so polite. He held the doors open for me. Kissed my hand. Even wanted to buckle my seatbelt for me, which was the only thing that left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. Yet, at the end of that first date when he said, "Would you mind if I give you a kiss on the cheek?" I knew I was hooked.

The minute I left him to go back to work, all my mind could do was figure out how to spend every possible moment with him. Just as we were about to say good-bye, he had an idea. He was attending a birthday party that evening back in his small town and on impulse he suggested I join him, and if I wanted, I could spend the weekend. My mind whirled! I had just promised my ex-husband I would take care of our 16-year-old daughter while he was out of town, but I instantly considered possible alternative options concerning what I could do with her. He could see me hesitate and he said, "It's all about what's important to you, dear. Do this only if you're comfortable. There's no pressure." Within seconds I had made up my mind to go. The weekend turned out to be something out of a dream. Romance. Scented oils. Tender kisses. Incredible bliss.


I wanted to marry this man after only knowing him 48 hours!

I took him home to meet my mom right then and there. I guess I should have thought something was a little out of the norm when he walked in her house and said, "Should I call you Mom?" when he hadn't even officially met her yet. Hindsight is a marvelous thing and I realize now that my mother had been in a relationship for 19 years with a narcissist and the first thing she commented was how much Gus reminded her of her ex-husband! Fortunately the reality of an instant marriage was not possible for us, as I already had a life plan I was working around. I was due to move to Phoenix within a few weeks, where I was registered to begin a two-year court reporter course. Nothing was going to deter me. Not even Gus. However, I swore to him that if all remained the same, I would promise to marry him at the end of that time. He was thrilled!

I look back at that momentary lapse of sanity and wonder how the heck he pulled me into his web so easily. Was it the charisma? His great acting job of being such a knight in shining armor? What? To this day, I can't even figure it out. The fact I so quickly farmed out my daughter to friends without hesitation, just to spend the weekend with a man I had only met 12 hours before, still boggles my mind to this day.

He was very good at what he did. We were instantly boyfriend and girlfriend. I would drive several hours to his house to be with him every weekend I could possibly get away. Of course we had endless phone calls and emails that were filled with romantic language and love poetry he wrote for me.

The red flags started showing up by the third weekend I spent with him. By the time I had driven to his house I realized that I had forgotten some necessary toiletries and knew I needed to stop at Wal-Mart to pick them up. I decided to go to Gus' house first and figured we could stop and get the supplies when we went out. He agreed we should stop at the store on our way to dinner and kill two birds with one stone. We had a great conversation on the way and I figured I'd just rush in and out of the store so we could be on our way. With that in mind, I jumped out of his truck once we parked, and hurried into the store. He seemed to lag behind and I just figured he'd stroll around until I got my things and we'd be out of the store in no time. Yet, once inside the store I could feel his personality change like a light bulb flickering out. I shook off the weird feeling, but there was no denying it. He had suddenly become very angry over something and I hadn't a clue what it could be about. I tentatively asked him what was wrong and he jumped down my throat. "How dare you not let me open the truck door for you?! You know that's my job. You absolutely ignored me on your way into the store!" At first I thought he was kidding. Like he was playing the hurt little kid who had tried to do something right and no one had noticed, but I quickly realized he was dead serious. His eyes were cold and seemed to throw missiles at me. I had never seen him like this before. My gut told me this was terribly wrong and I decided right then to return home that evening. I made him take me back to my car and I left. It had become quite clear to me that we just weren't compatible and I told him that.

As I drove the many hours to get back home I gradually started doubting myself. I kept going over and over the situation, trying to decide if it was a figment of my imagination or if it had really happened that way. It seemed too ridiculous to be real. Then I remembered this lovely man that had swept me off my feet and I blew the entire episode off as a complete misunderstanding.

I decided to call him up and apologize. It wasn't worth throwing away all the good we had over some silliness. He accepted my apology and we went on as though nothing had ever happened. The next weekend it was his turn to drive to my town. I was all excited to have him meet my friends and was sure they'd like him as much as I did. We were all meeting at the pub I worked at and I could barely contain myself all day awaiting his arrival. When at last he showed up, I was shocked. He was wearing tattered clothes, a beat up old cowboy hat, and had a cigar hanging out of his mouth. I knew that he understood that it was a non-smoking bar, and yet he flaunted his cigar like he was above the rules. I didn't know which surprised me most – the fact that he looked like a homeless person for his first appearance with my friends, or the fact that he thought it was OK to push the rules of the bar with his cigar. When I reminded him that he wasn't allowed to smoke inside, he said, "That's OK, honey. I'll just hold it, okay dokie?"

Now I realize that growing up in New Mexico I should be used to the cowboy look, but it has never really done anything for me. I had shared that with Gus in one of our first days together, so I was mildly surprised that he would wear his cowboy hat, knowing how I felt about it. Much less not take the time to clean up a bit for my friends. At first I was a bit disappointed and angry and then I said to myself, "Come on, Erica. You're being a real bitch. He just drove four hours to see you and you're going to get upset over this?" I tried to let the whole incident go. It wasn't worth it. I was looking forward to our time alone together, and that was worth everything to me. Yet, the next day when he insisted I accompany him to the local ranch-wear store to buy a new cowboy hat and clothes, a little bell started going off in my head. That little bell rang even louder when he made me take a picture of him in his new outfit which he knew I disliked. I just didn't get it. We continued to take turns driving to each other every weekend. The next weekend we decided to meet at a small restaurant I had never been to before. I got there before he did and had a couple of beers before he arrived. When I asked him what was good on the menu, indicating I'd never been to the restaurant before, he insisted, "Oh, come on, you know you've eaten here before." I thought that was a strange statement and I reaffirmed that I had indeed not ever been there before. His eyes suddenly grew cold and the conversation ceased. As the silence hung between us like a brick wall, I couldn't believe what had just transpired. Apparently my disagreeing with him had sent him into "angry land" and now I was being punished for it. In addition, I realized that he was playing the cowboy outfit again. All I could think was where did my REI outdoorsman go? And what is he trying to prove with the cowboy stuff? I asked him if he knew where the bathroom was and he wouldn't answer me. So, out of spite I fought back in a rather defiant way. Still wearing my dress and heels from work, I walked over to a table of men sitting near us and asked them where the bathroom was. They were most happy to tell me and Gus' rage only multiplied. Needless to say the evening was a disaster and the end result was that he blamed it all on me drinking too much. The red flags had begun to wave furiously and I was refusing to see them.

The roller coaster pattern had begun. Wonderful days. Terrible days. Passionate lovemaking with candles and scented oils. Cherry wine with chocolate on the rim. (Come to find out, Marti had taught him that one!) Angry nights with hours of the "silent treatment," for infractions I wasn't even aware of. Moments of rage, with eyes so black and deep, I feared I might get sucked into them. I think part of the reason I stayed so long is that I'm a caretaker by nature. I love doing things for other people. Helping them. I have spent so many years putting other people's needs before my own that it just came naturally for me. And of course there was always that deeply imbedded memory of Mr. Perfect. I knew he had to be in there somewhere, if I only knew how to get him to come out and stay out. I guess that means I kept looking for his potential to change, which I've since learned is one major mistake. Never enter a relationship looking at someone for their potential. Look for what is.

Then he began with the ongoing sermon about my "actions." He would tell me how it was his "observations" that told him who I really was. "I will watch your actions, not your words, Erica," he used to
taunt me. Then there was the other sermon about his "needs." "I have independence and you will acknowledge that." I never was entirely sure what he meant by that one. I would go crazy with the mind games he played with me. Yet, every time I considered leaving, he reeled me back in with his charm. It was an amazing phenomenon, now that I look back on it. The beginning of the end occurred one night when he was going to meet me at the bar for a drink before we went home.

I knew an old friend was coming in that night and I told Gus that I'd love to have him meet George, a 60-something-year-old friend of my mother's. Gus said fine and showed up a bit before I was finished. He jumped into a conversation with another guy at the bar and by the time I clocked out, the only empty stool at the bar was one seat away from Gus and next to George. Since Gus was obviously deep in conversation, I sat next to George and waited for my opportunity to introduce the guys to each other. When he finally finished chatting and walked the three steps over to us, I could barely wait to introduce him as my "boyfriend" to my dear friend George. They shook hands and then Gus threw me another curve. He turned to me and said, "Hon, I'm really tired. I've got a long trip ahead of me. I'm going to head on home. It's OK. You go ahead and chat. Take the time you need. I'll let your dogs out when I get home."


All at once I realized what was up. He was jealous and was playing the hurt little boy. He was punishing me for talking to my old friend and not dropping everything for him. So he was going to leave without me and I would have hell to pay later. I was livid. This was too much. I didn't need a child having a temper tantrum in my life. I had already raised three children of my own. I simply didn't need another one. So he left and I stayed. By the time I got home an hour later, he was nowhere to be seen, nor had my dogs been cared for. I called him on his cell phone to be sure he was OK. After all, he had been drinking for a couple of hours and that, combined with his anger when he left, caused me concern. I certainly didn't want him to be off the road in a ditch somewhere. But he wouldn't answer his phone. I drove around looking for him and at last saw his truck at a local motel. I called his room from the lobby phone and asked him what was going on. In a cold, calculating voice he simply said, "I'm going to bed. Why does it matter to you? You were obviously more interested in your old friend than you were in me." I replied that I hadn't done anything wrong and he assured me that if I would just think about it longer, I'd realize just how wrong I was. After all, I was a smart person, he assured me. "If you just look at it from my side, you'll know you're wrong," he snarled. What was I supposed to do? I loved this guy. I blamed myself. I sucked up my pride and apologized if I had done anything to hurt his feelings. He acted wounded for quite a while and once again, we made up.

The next day he fell into reeling me in again. He fixed my car, which I was so grateful for, as I really didn't have the money to pay a mechanic. He took me to lunch. He bought me flowers. I hoped that whatever stress had caused him to lose himself, that it was moving out and the "old Gus" was returning. My ex-husband and I lived in the same small town and still shared custody of our children, so that mandated we still communicated on a regular basis. At times things were pretty emotional for me and Gus suggested that I might benefit from taking some time off. "Why don't you move in with me for a while? It will give you some time to rest and put a little space between you and your ex too. Might be just what the doctor ordered." He also highly suggested that I really had no reason to ever talk to my ex again. I sort of blew the comment off, not believing that he really meant it. How could he? We still had joint custody of our kids. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when I moved in with him. I had to borrow my ex-husband's truck to move my big items and was on the phone with him arranging the details when Gus called and I picked him up on call waiting. I told him I was on the phone with Brian and Gus agreed that I should call him back when Brian and I had finalized all the details. When I called him back he was cool and distant. I didn't figure out until much later that he was furious with me for not taking his call over my conversation with Brian. I later paid for that mistake with several hours of the "silent treatment."

On Thanksgiving Day I cooked a huge dinner for Gus and a bunch of his friends. The day seemed perfect and he bragged to his friends about what a good cook I was. Yet, after they all left he immediately returned to giving me the cold shoulder. Except for one thing…

Since I was a new member in his household he took me by the hand (literally) and walked me through all his expectations. How he wanted his laundry washed and the clothes folded. How I should clean the toilets. Exactly how the food was to be stored in the refrigerator. I couldn't believe that he was treating me like a child who knew nothing when at age 41 with nearly 19 years of marriage behind me and raising three kids, I thought I had learned a few things by now. My gut was screaming at me that something was drastically wrong, and I was finally starting to listen. I decided to go to bed and think about it with a fresh mind in the morning. Gus wasn't tired yet, so decided to stay up and watch some TV before he joined me. I felt emotionally and physically drained. I kept remembering his suggestion to move in with him so that I could rest. Somehow I didn't see that happening. My mind kept reliving all my "transgressions," trying to make sense of it all. I finally couldn't deal with it any further and fell asleep in sadness. About an hour later Gus came to bed and started screaming at me, wanting to know where his cell phone was. In a groggy daze, I realized he must be talking about his extra cell phone he had lent me after he had accidentally driven over mine and broken it. I told him I thought it was in my car, all the while wondering why it was such a big deal in the middle of the night. When he insisted I go get it, I refused and rolled over to go back to sleep. Well, that was entirely the wrong thing to do. "By God, you go get it right now!" he bellowed, as I lay there wondering, "Who is this man?" Again I refused to get out of bed and at that point he grabbed me and physically threw me out of the bed, insisting he would not sleep with me. "I refuse to sleep with a contentious woman!" Then he began screaming scripture to me, "It is better to have only a crust of bread to eat upon the rooftop than to feast with many in a house of contention." I looked at him in amazement one last time while he yelled, "Why do you insist on defying me and not showing me respect?"

I left his bed and slept in the guestroom, knowing full-well that I was leaving in the morning, never to return. I was scared, confused, depressed, and full of self-doubt. What was so wrong with me that he would treat me this way? I had moved in on Tuesday and I moved out by Friday. It still amazes me when I rethink the whole thing. How did the man I wanted to marry within 48 hours of meeting him become a Frankenstein monster who destroyed everything in his path? And furthermore, how did I fall for it?

The one thing that saved me from thinking I had gone completely crazy was finding Marti's business card and an old email of hers that Gus had left lying about. As soon as I got to a safe place I summoned up all my nerve and called her. It was like finding a life line. She told me about the turbulent relationship she had lived through. (She lasted 12 weeks – I had only made it 9.) But the pattern was exactly the same in both of our relationships. We laughed together and cried together. We compared stupid details and stories of his behaviors that left us amazed. We realized how he tried to parent both of us in his own way. "Now, darling, if you'd just realize I'm trying to help you," he loved to tell us. In my case he always told me how he just viewed himself a little further along in the divorce education than I was and so he could "teach me the ropes."

In Marti's case he attempted to be the all-knowing businessman. (He had no credentials or background in business – he was a plumber by trade.) Yet he insisted on showing Marti how to run her business and her finances. The behaviors relating to him having control were absolutely like déjà vu. We marveled at how the whole, pathetic process had evolved. After I left Gus he didn't try to contact me. About a week and a half later I emailed him and said I was sorry things had turned out the way they did. He blasted me back with a scathing email, blaming all our problems on my drinking. (This from a man who used drugs and alcohol freely.) All I can say is thank God I discovered the issue I was dealing with was NPD. Understanding the behaviors and motivating factors behind his actions has helped me quit carrying the guilt that seemed to follow me like a stalker. I kept believing that everything had been my fault. Now I know better.

The sad thing is that both Marti and I know he will find another victim and we just wish there was a way that innocent women could be warned. It's easy to spot loud, rough, pushy men. You know to stay away from them. But these actors are another matter. They're so insidious. They're like quicksand – you don't know you're in danger until it's too late and then it seems close to impossible to get out

Closure
As I finished the interview with Marti and Erica that night, I mentioned that since I had never met Gus, I could only use my imagination as to what he must look like. Erica instantly pulled pictures of him out of her wallet. Marti and I were surprised and asked her what on earth she was doing, still carrying his photos with her. She honestly couldn't say. I also found it interesting that I saw a rather plain looking man when they both commented on how "handsome" he was. The photos obviously stirred deep, emotional responses in both of them.I suggested they burn them ceremoniously right there..

They each took one and lit a match to it, watching it melt and shrivel up symbolically into the ashtray, as the bartender curiously watched the powerful event unfold. Hopefully, the imagery will translate into moving on for both of them. It can be done. It just takes time and a belief that they can.
"Narcissists have no feelings of any kind. You must remember that above all. They are simply actors on the stage, pretending with all their might. Yet, it is all a lie. There is no real emotion of any kind. Any actor can act and these folks win the Academy Award in that category."
Michael – survivor

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