Definition: Gaslighting is a specific kind of emotional abuse designed to make the victim doubt their own perceptions, memory, and reality. And yes, it is a very cruel and sadistic thing to do to someone you purport to love, who trusts you.
This is the story of P.
It has taken me 2 days to write this. I’ve cried. I’ve been mad. I broke down in the fucking CHEESE AISLE in Tesco because I felt so raw and so mad at myself. I think this is the first time I’ve addressed any of this to a serious level in my own mind. I ask you to read ahead with an open mind. And with no judgement.
In 2017, the start of the year was me focusing on myself. I was losing weight, doing well at work, concentrating on myself and then the A situation arose again. If you haven’t caught up with that, you can do so here Friends with Benefits – The Finale (or is it….)
May 2017 I was minding my own business when someone messaged me and it turned into something that I wasn’t looking for or even expecting.He had hooked me with his first message, the first date was actually incredible and the rest as they say, is history.
It developed in a fast, exciting, butterflies in my tummy kind of way. He asked me to be his girlfriend whilst I was at his flat one weekend – I was on the phone to my best friend at the time telling her about him. She had asked if I was his girlfriend (as girls do because I had been giddy as fuck for a couple of weeks. She had spoken to him and loved him) and I said I didn’t know. He heard me and said ‘Do you want to be? I’d like that’ and that, was that. He walked up to me and planted a kiss on my lips and I realised that I had fallen big time.
He was everything I thought I had wanted in someone. He made my belly hurt with how much I laughed when I was with him. He was gentle, affectionate, kind. He made me feel like I was the only girl in the world. He legitimately over and over led me to believe that I was his whole world and after my shitty experiences with A, I felt like someone loved me for me and it made me incredibly happy. The sex was good – which is always a bonus right?
My best friend was organising a celebration for her birthday. A night out in our town with all of our friends. P was invited.
We booked a hotel – a night away together, exciting right? It felt naughty and exciting and fun all at the same time. A treat. How wrong I was.
I should explain at this point that P had lost a huge amount of weight. Around 5 stone. He looked incredible. He had worked hard over the course of the previous year to turn his life around. HOWEVER. The reason he had done this was because he abused alcohol and used that to cover up his crippling anxiety. He had made some mistakes – big ones. Ones that had come back to bite him on his arse, hard. And he had said he woke up one day and realized he needed to change so he cut out his drinking and got fit and healthy.
I had huge admiration for that. That he had made such big changes after recognizing that he had some problems he needed to address.
He had told me that he was dealing with his anxiety now and that he didn’t need to drink to hide it anymore, even though he still enjoyed a beer. Who was I to question what he was telling me?
The night out came round. I was off that day as needed to prepare things for my friend’s birthday that evening. We had lunch, we checked into the hotel. Had amazing afternoon sex.
I got ready and was wearing a new dress. I came out of the bathroom and he just stopped dead.
“You look fucking incredible babe”
I was so pleased. I had made such a big effort with my make up and hair and he had noticed. I felt like a million dollars. He was just looking at me, touching me, kissing me, telling me how amazing I looked. he made me feel so good about myself, I remember thinking at the time “How did i get this lucky? My friends are going to love him as much as I do”.
I was aware that meeting new people was scary. I tried to stay with him as much as I could through the evening. He was getting on so well with my friends. This. This was what I had wanted for myself. Someone who appeared to worship me and my friends actually liked!
As the evening drew close to the end, I noticed that he was spending more and more time at the bar. Don’t get me wrong, I had sunk a few proseccos that evening but he seemed to be getting increasingly more intoxicated as the minutes ticked by.
The next thing I knew, he was on the dancefloor – TAKING HIS CLOTHES OFF.
I was mortified. I’m not shy or a prude in any means but I couldn’t believe my eyes. What the hell was he doing?! All my friends were stood watching in disbelief. I didn’t know what to do. I approached him and told him to put his clothes back on and that we should probably get some air.
His face was like thunder.
“You cant tell me what to do!”
“I’m not trying to babe, I just think we need to get some air, come on, lets go outside”.
“Fuck off” was the response I got.
The bouncers, I think, had seen what was going on and taken him off of the dance floor.
I knew he had had waaaaaaaay too much to drink. Who was this person, speaking to me like that? This wasn’t the P I knew and loved. I put it down to him being drunk and thought I best head off outside.
I was talking to some of my friends when someone came over to me.
“He has just been rude to C. You better go outside and sort him out”.
I was so bloody embarrassed. The first time some of my friends were meeting him and he was doing this? He knew how important this evening was for me. How could this be happening?
About to make my way outside my best friend’s boyfriend D came over.
“He’s just insulted K. I’m not happy with what he has said to her”
OH. MY. GOD. My poor best friend, whose birthday we were celebrating and hes insulted her? WHAT IS HAPPENING?
D gave me his key and told me to take him back to their house to sober him up.
I did as he asked. I didn’t want to ruin my best friend’s birthday anymore than I had by allowing him to behave how he had.
I managed somehow to bundle him into a taxi and get him back there. I sat him down and gave him a glass of water. I just burst into tears. Big uncontrollable sobs that I couldn’t control.
“Why are you crying babe?”
“Are you actually fucking serious after what you’ve just done?”
“What? What did I do?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Did the last hour and a half just disappear from his memory?!
I explained what had happened and he stood up and basically told me to go fuck myself and he walked out of the front door.
My friend and her boyfriend arrived back at the moment he was walking away from the house.
“You better go after him – he is really drunk and probably isn’t very safe on his own as he is walking in the road”.
I walked out and he had perched himself on the edge of a kerb in the middle of the road. I tried to talk to him and explain what had happened yet again and he just got angrier and angrier, saying I had driven him to it by forcing him to meet my friends and that I should’ve been more aware of his anxiety. A blazing row ensued. I just wanted to get him into the house so that the poor neighbours were not disturbed. It wasn’t working.
My friend came out and yelled at him to stop talking to me how he was.
Then, it came. Words directed at me.
“Fuck off you cunt”.
I broke down. Where had my seemingly perfect man gone? How was this even happening? I stood there feeling alone even though best friend was right there, telling him off and trying to get him to come inside.
She is a teacher so she has a stern manner sometimes and in the end she cracked and yelled at him…
“Do you love her?”
“Do you love him?”
“Well stop being so fucking pig headed and come inside, both of you”.
I know she wasn’t messing about now so I walked back in, and so did he.
She had calmed the situation but deep down I knew she was furious. As was I. I was feeling all sorts of emotions at that point in time.
Stupidly, we had some more drinks and things seemed to settle slightly. We had those deep drunken totally-not-meaningful chats over about 3 hours but nothing was clearer in my mind. What had happened tonight? I booked a taxi back to our hotel and we traveled back in silence. I had no words. I didn’t know what to say.
We got back and he fell asleep straight away. I cried into my pillow for what seemed like hours.
The next morning when we woke he tried to cuddle me and I couldn’t even look at him. He asked me what was wrong and I snapped. I yelled, screamed, cried and sobbed and everything came out. How upset I was, how disappointed that he had hurt my friends, ruined my friends birthday and shown my friends a side of him that I had never seen.
He was mortified. He cried his eyes out. He could see how hurt I was and he couldn’t believe the things I was saying to him.
I couldn’t believe he didn’t remember. What had happened to my P? Where had he gone?
We traveled back to his flat as I couldn’t face going home and explaining what had happened and why I was home from my weekend so soon. The car journey was silent.
I couldn’t even speak to him I was so disgusted.
When we got back to his, we chilled out and had lunch. I knew ‘the chat’ was imminent and when it came, I genuinely do not know how it happened, but it ended with ME APOLOGIZING TO HIM!
How did that even happen? How have the tables turned so much that I am the one apologizing after his appalling behavior?
And yes, I am aware that some people may be sitting reading this and thinking that his behavior when he was drunk maybe wasn’t that bad. But at the time, I knew it was, for me and my own expectations of respectful adult behavior. That is not how a ‘normal’ person behaves.
My best friend did not forgive him easily and neither did her boyfriend. K warned me that she was looking out for me but being stubborn and not wanting to admit that he was wrong was where I was currently sitting – even though I knew in my heart of hearts that she was right.
I felt like I had waited so long for someone who wanted to be a part of my life in every way possible that I wasn’t ready to surrender it just yet – even though, the sensible part of me KNEW that it wasn’t right to carry on with the relationship.
Somehow, things carried on as normal. That was until similar things started happening. We would be enjoying a chilled Saturday night in with a bottle of wine and before I knew it, he was leaving me to walk to the shop to buy more alcohol because he was ‘enjoying’ himself and felt relaxed – and after all, it was the weekend so why did it matter?
I wanted so much to be happy, so I just forgave him every time he got drunk and acted up. And there were numerous times before we went on holiday in August 2017 that it happened. Instead of blaming me fully, he would manage to convince me that he was sorry and that it wouldn’t happen again. Stupidly, I accepted it every single time.
Majorca came around and I felt proud as punch getting on that plane with someone who ‘loved me’ by my side. I hadn’t been away with a partner since 2015 and I was excited for all the memories we would make.
The night of the McGregor boxing fight was, what I thought, the last straw for me. We had had a lovely meal and gone back for a sleep because it was being shown at a stupid time in the morning. I was wearing a flowery playsuit, and as any girl knows, these can be quite short in the bum area. I was enjoying myself, but that sinking feeling came when 5 beers and 2 JD’s wasn’t enough. He needed more. He paid for more. Kept asking me to drink more and ‘let my hair down’ because we were ‘on holiday’.
He got so drunk that he fell off his stool and grabbed me on the way down, pulling my playsuit so that my bum was completely exposed to a pub full of men, all drinking and leering at me because I was pretty much the only girl there.
“You’re drunk, I think you’ve had enough”
“Why don’t you just fuck off back to the hotel instead of keep telling me what to do”
So, I gathered my things and turned to leave. He grabbed my arm and held me so tight, I couldn’t leave.
“You’re hurting me”
“Please don’t go, I want you to stay here and enjoy the fight with me”
“I don’t care. Let go of me”
He didn’t release my arm.
“LET. GO. OF. ME”
He released me, and he had hurt my arm. I turned and ran from that pub as fast as my legs would carry me.
I walked up to the hotel room and I just broke down. This wasn’t going to change. This was the person I was in a relationship with – in a foreign country with. Miles from home and it was about 6am in the morning – I couldn’t disturb anyone back home as they would all be asleep. Once again, I found myself crying into my pillow.
I cried for hours – he hadn’t returned. I was worried as to what might happen to him. But I didn’t have the energy to move. What had happened? Why had I let myself fall even further into this?
I fell asleep – too tired and exhausted emotionally to be able to stay awake.
I was woken the next day to a gushing sound. He was asleep next to me – and wetting the bed.
That was it. I had had enough. I got up and lost my shit with him. I started yelling at how immature he was and how he got so drunk that he couldn’t even make it to the toilet – he had to wet our bed, that we were sharing. He turned over and again told me to fuck off.
I couldn’t stop – I was sobbing at this point. I didn’t know what had happened to that man I had fallen in love with. Where was he? This wasn’t my P. Not the one I had hoped existed deep down anyway.
I again asked him why the hell this had happened, and the words came, once more.
“Fuck off you fucking cunt”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
He was a drunken arsehole, and had humiliated me in public, and now to top it off, he had wet our bed. Was I meant to be sympathetic and brush it off?
I got dressed and went down to the sunbeds. Left my towel, and then went for breakfast on my own.
People were staring at me. I sat there thinking that they all knew what I felt ashamed about. They all knew that P had done this and how he had spoken to me and were probably judging me.
Of course, they really didn’t. They were all going about their day as normal, enjoying their holiday, eating nice food and getting ready for their day ahead.
Just like I should’ve been with P. Making memories. Having fun.
Instead I was sitting on my own, feeling broken and like I would cry any minute.
I ate breakfast slower than I have ever inhaled food in my life.
Back to the sunbeds I went. On my own. For 6 hours.
I spent the whole time listening to Spotify wondering what I was going to do. I also looked at flights home. I didn’t feel like I could stay there with him any longer.
I should note at this point that I wasn’t happy with my weight on this holiday and I felt very self conscious, so walking round in a bikini and going to eat made me feel very paranoid. I lost an awful lot of my holiday because of how much i wanted to hide away. The times I was with him, I felt almost protected and like it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a size 10 in the pool. Without him there I felt very exposed.
Looking back now, that is incredibly sad.
He appeared after lunch – which again, I had on my own.
He asked to speak to me and I just cried. On the sunbed, in front of all the other people in the hotel trying to enjoy the pool and the sun. Big ugly sobs that I couldn’t stop.
“Please don’t cry baby”
“I can’t help it, you really hurt me. You promised you would never use that language with me again and you did – and you humilated me in public”
“Well, you were trying to tell me what to do. And then you made me feel bad for wetting the bed when I felt embarrassed as it was”
“That wasn’t my fault – that was all you!”
“Why do you blame me for everything – you are hardly innocent in all of this”
“You nag me and you stop me from trying to have a good time all the time. I’m young and I want to live my life”. Honestly, don’t you realize that I behave the way I do because of you?!”
(WHAT IN THE BLUE FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE?!)
“YOU GOT DRUNK, SHOWED ME UP AGAIN, HURT ME PHYSICALLY AND THEN SPOKE TO ME IN A DISGUSTING TONE BEFORE WETTING THE BED AND RUINING A DAY OF MY HOLIDAY”
“I can’t even talk to you, Just stop crying and making it all about you”
“Making it all about me? I just found out I passed my Level 5 HR Qualification and you weren’t even by my side, because you were too busy pissing the bed and calling me a cunt”
I walked off. I couldn’t deal with it. I spent the rest of the afternoon on my own. He tried to talk to me and I just couldn’t look at him the same way.
The rest of the holiday passed in a blur.
We spoke – didn’t have sex, we ate together, slept in the same bed. Traveled home and we had a wedding the next day. It was weird. It wasn’t the same. Everything was booked – he was an expected guest. I couldn’t show up without him, the day after our holiday ended to my friends and family. I wouldn’t of known what to say.
Low and behold, he got drunk. He insulted my brother in law’s mum. He was rude to one of my Directors. He took wine that wasn’t his from the wedding stockpile. HE WET THE BED AGAIN. I GOT THE BLAME – AGAIN. Shouting his head off in the bedroom when I woke him up to tell him.
The next day I had to face my family. It wasn’t easy. He was sullen. We said our goodbyes and that was the last time I saw him because we broke up. He dumped me over text telling me that he couldn’t be with someone that tried to stop him living his life. That I was too serious and I needed to lighten up. That I had driven him to behave how he had through our relationship and that I likely would never find anyone that wanted a girlfriend like me.
I was distraught. How can that be? He was NO good for me but I was heartbroken. I remember a conversation, a couple of days later where he had told me that he needed time to think if a split was really what he wanted but that he needed time away from me and would contact me soon. I felt like I’d lost a limb. I couldn’t handle how I was feeling about everything. He had ripped this ‘situation’ away from me and although I had, in reality, lost control of it a long time ago, I felt helpless. I didn’t hear from him for 2 weeks and it felt like a year. The last conversation we had was him hanging up on me and telling me he didn’t love me. I knew we were done.
My mum saw me the next morning and she just knew. She told me how good I was and that I was someone that he didn’t deserve. She was just my mum and I couldn’t of loved her more in that moment.
I tried to get on with life. It was hard.
I tried dating again, totally on the rebound – not expecting to meet anyone. I had dinner with a lovely guy and a couple of dates after that. I did sleep with him and it was fresh and new and nice. He was a sales manager for a prestige car company and he had impeccable manners. It was SO nice to be treated with respect and to be spoken to correctly. To be asked about my day. To push me to believe in myself. How can someone I’ve known a few weeks have this attitude towards me yet someone who proclaimed to love me treat me so very differently. This was the sort of man I wanted to be with. He was sturdy. Manly. Supportive. Funny. Kind. Thoughtful. He cared about whether I had had a good day or not. That stuff mattered to me.
Dare I say it, I started to feel a little normal again.
Friday 10th November, my phone went off. It was a number that wasn’t saved. I was on the phone at work – so I opened up my phone.
It was a picture.
My. Heart. Legitimately. Stopped.
The Gaslighter – Part Two coming soon…..