THE FIRST SIGN OF TROUBLE
It happened after he was bouncing through so many new interests and we started playing Minecraft together.
I was new to the game but he had plenty of experience with the franchise, and for some reason he lacked the patience for my learning process and shifted the blame every time things went wrong on his end.
It was night-time during our little gaming session when the map was crawling with enemies. Despite our discretion to make it back to camp unscathed a creeper followed us and exploded in our rabbit cage, killing everything.
I had a laugh about it. Because I was having a lot of fun and it was just a game. But when I realized how furious he was about losing our in-game farm animals (seriously?), I apologized out of reflex. And I went quiet after that because I was afraid of saying anything to escalate the situation.
Eventually I took the blame, even though it wasn't entirely my fault and we both played a role in the accident. But shortly after my apology I noticed that he had left the server, making up some excuse about losing his connection and calling it a night.
Embarrassed and upset I remained at my desk. And I replayed the scenario over and over in my head and thought of everything I could've done differently, just to avoid his outburst.
I stayed up well past the night — making repairs by the camp and bringing in a new herd of bunnies to fix the damage I thought I had caused. And by the time I was finished I was happy to let him know that everything was back to the way it was, so no hard feelings, yeah? But he shrugged it off like none of it mattered. None of my efforts could fix this.
I logged out and went to bed with my feelings hurt and confused. Subconsciously I knew that what he was doing to me was wrong. And that this wasn't the first time that I had felt this way.
I've spoken to a number of women and men who have been through this situation. And I've done my own research on the subject of emotional abuse and its warning signs. Here's a list of red flags from HelpGuide.org that matched my situation:
- avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner? [Yes]
- feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner? [Yes]
- wonder if you’re the one who is crazy? [Yes]
Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power:
DOMINANCE – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship...
- He was older. And he would pick a fight and go off on a tangent whenever I challenged his views. And instead of valuing my opinion or acknowledging when he was wrong, he would have multiple tactics to rearrange his argument and say that I was misunderstanding him.
HUMILIATION – An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way...
- He would ridicule my lack of knowledge about certain subjects based on traits that were out of my control, like our generational and cultural gap. It was very damaging.
THREATS – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving...
- Later in our relationship he would try to keep me in line and say things like, 'I need to find another girlfriend,' or, 'I need to replace you.' And it hurt. Because he was dear to me. And I never would have said such things.
DENIAL AND BLAME – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse...
- He opened up about his strained relationship with his father and how he was undergoing treatment for his depression. He wanted me to feel sorry for him. And he used that as an excuse to make his needs more important than mine.
OTHER RED FLAGS
- He was very pushy very early in our relationship and said exactly what I wanted to hear. He attached to me very quickly and he didn't like being unable to 'figure me out,' he said. Shortly after getting to know the guy he said that he loved me and pressured me into saying it back, but I couldn't bring myself to because it made me uncomfortable and the concept of love language wasn't a part of my culture. My feelings took time to develop and I didn't think much of it at first. And once the pursuit was over, he started chipping away at the fantasy he had invented about me.
- He turned into someone else and seemed to have changed overnight. At some point our interests and our personalities didn't line up anymore. He dropped the act of being Mr. Nice Guy™ and the change was unbearable.
- He was so hung up about his exes. He took every opportunity to share intimate details about his previous relationships and he never had anything positive to say about them.
- He held unrealistic expectations. And he was never the source of his own problems. He overlooked his own flaws and exaggerated everything that he thought was wrong with me and other people.
- He could not let things go. He held grudges. A lot. And he liked to bring up matters that have already been settled, repeat what I've said and done in the past and gaslight the hell out of a situation.
- He was self-centered, dominating, and selfish. In every wacky idea that he had (a podcast, a kickstarter, an animation project, a novel, etc.), he had a pattern of accumulating participants, assuming a position of power over them and abandoning ship whenever things didn't turn out as he expected. He liked the idea of being in charge but he had no qualities of a good leader. Because he couldn't commit to anything. He didn't care to let other people down. And over time this became a problem that made me question my respect for him.
- He was coddled and enabled by his mother. I wish I were making this up, but the umbilical cord was still attached. He had this habit of consulting with his mother about what went on between us, and then he'd report back to me to let me know how she felt about a certain issue or comment I had made.
For a man in his 30s and nearly 10 years my senior it was fucking unreal, especially since he went nuclear on me once for using my friends as a reference to support an argument. He set a precedent to 'think more independently' after my isolated incident, but he never applied that rule to himself when it came to his relationship with his mother.
- He was very codependent. And yet he drove people away and failed to understand why others found it difficult being in his company. There was literally no one else in his life apart from his enabling mother. And that became apparent much later in our relationship.
- It was always Me vs. Him. Everything had to be a debate. I wasn't his partner, I was his competition. And over time I was noticing a change in myself. With him there wasn't any room for discussion. It was better to just fall in line so that I wouldn't have to worry about upsetting him.
WHAT MADE ME LEAVE
By the time it was May, I wanted out. I kept things platonic between us so that I could kindly approach the issue and work out an exit strategy.
But that changed when he snapped and yelled at me over something so stupid. Oh my God it was so fucking petty. But here goes:
We were waiting on an episode of Game of Thrones to start when he brought something up about VR headsets. It came out of nowhere and it felt like he was testing me. But I replied anyway, saying that I was unfamiliar with the tech and its recent breakthroughs.
He wasn't happy to hear that. But then he carried on and made the argument that virtual reality was going to replace consoles and PC gaming. At that point I spoke up and disagreed. I believed that there really was no way of knowing for sure, and made an off-handed comment about my friends as an example, since I know someone who's color-blind and another who's very sensitive to motion-sickness. Instead of hearing me out he cut me off. Using my friends as an example in this situation, according to him, was stupid.
After dismissing what I had to say he then used this as an opportunity to continue being an asshole. And he tried to make me feel worthless by saying how could I be so into gaming and technology when I must 'really live under a rock' for not knowing what he was talking about.
I let it slide and I was patient. I gave him a chance to be candid about it and enlighten me. And then I asked him some technical questions about the hardware ...
And for some reason he took it very personally. He was agitated by what I was saying. And things escalated to the point where I went on defensive mode and tried to lighten the mood. I was being my usual self and made a silly joke about it (like ayyy I'm funny - everyone thinks I'm funny ayyy)! But he snapped at me, saying that he hated when I 'got this way' with him. Then he was shouting. And he gave me direct orders to 'forget it and watch the show.'
The way he shut me down was definite. And it scared the shit out of me.
I couldn't stomach what we were watching that night. I was sitting there thinking, Why am I still here? and I can't be with this jerk anymore. I didn't even care for this season of the show but I was — too stunned and afraid to move.
By the next morning I regained my strength somehow. And I was determined to put an end to it.
But he beat me to it like he knew it was coming. And he tried to isolate me as the problem when he said that he 'wanted some time alone.'
I was so over dodging the issue that I insisted we talk and get it over with. And surprisingly, he agreed. But he was the one to say that it would be best if we broke up. And at that moment I felt like he was putting me through another one of his mind games. I was prepared to leave him, but my instincts were telling me that he was manipulating the situation to strip me of that power.
And what bothered me most about the break-up was when he asked if I was okay after the fact — as if I must have been devastated and needed a moment to mourn the loss.
This fucking guy.
I didn't even get an apology.
But anyway. I've been 100% since I've split from that manchild. 1) Not having to put up with his shitty taste in everything has been a relief. And 2) I've cut off all contact and scrapped the surprise I set aside for us to go away on a trip this summer. That was hard to take back since I've put so much energy and thought into it but fuck it — I deserve better.
♥♥♥ My family and friends have been so incredible in supporting me through this bs. And yeah, I'm looking forward to spending more quality time with myself. ♥♥♥.