Breaking My Abuse in Love Cycle: Identifying an Online Narcissist
I have so many stories I can tell about my past with emotional abuse and narcissists. From family members and colleagues to romantic liaisons and so-called friends, I have had my share of ignored red flags, verbal beatings, and manipulation.
But today I feel like sharing an empowered story: one in which I used my past experience to identify and block a potential abuser.
I have spent over a decade working on myself, venturing through multiple forms of healing, from traditional therapy to metaphysical soul searching. Along my self-healing, I’ve learned to face what I could not see in past relationships: the patterns of grooming, love-bombing, gaslighting, and entrapment. How a narcissist could see my wounds, understand my yearning for attention and love, and play on those emotions to open up my heart to their crafty deceit.
Somewhere along the way, I turned my pain into wisdom. I commiserated with other survivors and began a mental log of signs to watch out for. I familiarized myself with the inner workings of gaslighting and what it sounded like. I learned that sometimes the advice you don’t want to hear is exactly what you need to protect yourself from what you are blind to. And so, I trepidatiously began an online dating journey in hopes of finding love, and determined to give strangers the benefit of the doubt that not all men were like those of my past.
And then I met someone that I thought was the answer to all my prayers.
He was intelligent, kind, and interested in the same kinds of topics I was interested in. We could talk for hours on the phone, and I vulnerably opened up and shared who I was with him. I felt safe in his responses, nurtured by his protectiveness, assured by his attention.
Until I wasn’t.
Until he repeated a few disturbing stories on too many times. Like how he was in a situation with a group of guys ganging up on him and he kicked all their asses. I believe in self-defense, but there was something unsettling about his pride of physical prowess. Or like how he talked about how he had disowned his kids because they were like their narcissistic mother—who, by the way, signed a statement that she was the narcissist in the relationship. Did I want to see it? Um, no. Why?
And then there was the way he blew up my phone with countless video links to movie scenes and songs that reminded him of me, after I asked him multiple times to not do so. And still, like the newbie dater I was, I overlooked those red flags and agreed to go out on a date with him.
It was then that I realized something was off; my doubts were singing in my ears and I was starting to listen. But part of me just wanted to meet him; I somehow believed that I needed some kind of in-person closure before I shut the door. (Hey, I didn’t say I was 100% healed at the time; just in a better place to begin the dating process).
What finally did the trick for me was after spending the day getting my hair and nails done and feeling absolutely beautiful about myself, I got the dramatic call.
He wasn’t sure if he would make it on the date that day. Why? Oh, he was experiencing a rash on his face, probably from the mask. He was going to take some topical medication for it and hopefully it would go down by the time e were supposed to meet up. He’d be in touch. My initial reaction was that he was full of shit, especially since just a few days prior, I had told him about my daughter’s face rash as a result of the mask. The coincidence was way too convenient.
And yet, my broken little heart still held out hope I would be going on a date. I tried calling later on to check in on him, but I got his voicemail. Another hour passed, and still nothing. I went through all the emotions—devastation, rejection, anger, frustration, doubt, self-berating (how selfish am I to expect someone sick to go out on a date with me? Ugh).
Eventually, I empowered myself and decided that I looked beautiful and was going to take myself out for a drink. I wasn’t going to waste a perfectly great hair day sulking at home.
I left him a message telling him exactly what I was doing, and that I hoped he felt better. I should have cut it off at that point, but the bleeding heart within me still had compassion for someone not feeling well. I tried to check in the next day, but again—no response. He didn’t contact me until 7:00 the next evening, when I was already out with friends and ready to meet another friend up at a restaurant.
And his text was not even normal. Nothing about his health, or an apology about not being able to make it yesterday. Just some more random videos and political nonsense I had no interest in. Was this guy for real?
I didn’t bother to answer him. And so, I went on out with my friend and we were having an amazing time. I joked that I bet this clown would try to contact me at 9:30, since that was the time of night we usually chatted. And sure as shit, my phone rang at 9:30 on the dot. Of course, I didn’t pick up, but I did listen to the voicemail. He was wondering where I was; he thought we’d talk at 9:30 like we always do. He was so nonchalant as if it was completely normal how he blew our date off and hadn’t even acknowledged it.
I was done at that point and turned my ringer off and enjoyed the rest of my evening—after sending him pic off me and my friend showing him that I was out. Apparently, that was a big mistake, as when I turned it back on, there was venom like you wouldn’t believe spewing out. How dare I go out drinking two nights in a row while he was recovering from a traumatic facial mask. How could I not be there for him—I should have been at the ER with him at 3 in the morning because he was so scared, he didn’t know what was happening to his face.
I laughed. I deeply, genuinely belly laughed. I thought to myself: honey, even if we were married for 50 years, I wouldn’t be accompanying you to an ER in the middle of the night because of a face rash. Go pick up your prescription? Of course. But why would I sit in a waiting room and leave my kids home alone for a face rash? **face palm**
Did I mention that I didn’t even know his last name or what ER room he would have gone to? What am I, a fucking fortune teller?
Anyway, by morning I had blocked him. There was no doubt in my mind that he was a sociopathic narcissist. The saddest part was that “Old Jenny” would have bought his story, and I would have even felt bad about not being there in the emergency room with him. I would have twisted myself inside out for a stranger to make him feel better, ignoring the fact that still, after all that, not even an acknowledgement that our date was cancelled.
I am so unbelievably grateful that I only needed three weeks to figure out this guy’s game, and I wasn’t going to play it. I was no longer able to be manipulated. I could see so clearly how I was in the past, but instead of judging my younger self, I had more compassion, because I could see the skill with which narcissists worked after studying him. In fact, I think the reason I let it go on so long is so that I could really see the machinations of manipulation at play; how they teeter between love-bombing and guilt trips. Like after scolding me, and noticing I wasn’t responding, he went back to emailing through our online dating profile, leaving me a beautiful poem that I think was supposed to make me melt?
It didn’t—but it sure as hell was a great piece of dialogue to add to the emotional abuse novel I was writing.
I walked away feeling proud of myself.
Sure, I may have hung in there longer than I should have, and gave him more benefits of the doubt than he deserved, but in the end, I chose myself and my power. I cut ties and didn’t engage. I enforced the end game rule of #nocontact and saved my life from another emotionally battering situation. Instead of being years into an abusive relationship, I identified the signs and broke a critical cycle in my life. I will never let another narcissist control me again—and this online dating debacle proved to myself that I had the strength to honor my self-pledge.
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