“I need some time and space to heal,” she types. “If you need to talk to me about work related issues, you can email me at work. That’s the only contact I want to have with you.”
He makes a derogatory remark about her.
“What’s that for?” she takes the bait.
“It’s either say that or cry, so I’m saying that.”
The red flag goes up again. That same flag she’s seen time and time again. So many times, in fact that her life feels like a blur of red blips on the map of her days. She wishes she’d never mixed business and pleasure—at least, not with him.
In the past, he’d won her over this way. He made her feel that she was somehow responsible for his happiness, his well-being, the success of his business. He made her feel like she couldn’t leave, and he did it so insidiously that she thought she had chosen to stay of her own accord. She didn’t realize that she had given all her power away.
When she stopped to think about how many times she had tried to end the relationship, she was almost embarrassed. She felt weak. She felt deceived. She felt disappointed in herself. She had fallen into the same trap so many times. It was like she couldn’t even see it.
Each time she tried to walk away, he found a way to pull her back in. He’d pout. He’d bring up memories he knew would tug at her. He’d say things he knew would hurt her, just to get a reaction so he’d have a reason to start a conversation. When she thought about these interactions honestly, it was easy to see the pattern.
Today, she hears his words in a new way. She feels their sting, just as before. But this time, she feels something new. Anger in her belly. She hears her intuition whisper, “he’s doing it again.” She feels her frustration, and finally, she realizes, it is time to take back her power. It is time to walk away, and this time for good.
Even in her leaving, she asks for his permission. She asks him not to contact her, knowing that he will. She draws lines, knowing he will step across them, again.
She is not a stupid woman. She’s not naïve or gullible. She’s a rockstar of a business woman. She owns companies that she built from the ground up. She’s a world traveler. She’s cultured, educated, and beautiful. She is compassionate and kind—something he has mistaken for weakness, and used to harm her.
She is angry with herself, and can’t seem to understand why this one thing has taken over her life. Where did she go wrong? How did she let things get so out of control?
If she were to choose one word to describe their relationship, without hesitation she would tell you it’s toxic.
If you’ve talked to her about it—she’s told you it is. She’s told you how their interaction brings her down, how she’s always feeling guilty for something, or how he’s found a new way to manipulate her and keep her right there where she doesn’t want to be. She’s told you how damaging this relationship has been for her emotionally, professionally, and physically.
If she’s close to you, she’s told you that this isn’t even love. It’s an addiction. A sickness. A prison.
And, so it is with an emotional terrorist.
What he presents to her as love is his desperate need to control her.
He is a master manipulator. He’s spent plenty of time studying her, learning her weaknesses. He knows which words make the deepest cuts over her already existing wounds. He knows what to say when he wants to hurt her. He knows what to say to make her believe she is hurting him.
He will beg and plead for her to stay, but that’s just the beginning.
He will sabotage mutual clients to force her to intervene because he knows it will force her to talk to him. He will stop by the office and make sure she knows he was there. He will continue contact long after her request for silence. When she finally calls him on it, he will find a way to make her believe that she’s created this situation all on her own. Or worse, he’ll convince her that she is imagining the whole thing—looking for reasons to cause trouble with him.
He will sulk, pout, and lash out with hurtful words. He will blame her for everything he hates about his own life, and somehow, in the same breath, he will convince her that she alone holds the keys to his happiness. And just like that, she’s hooked again.
I’ve been this woman.
I’ve watched my beautiful friends be this woman.
Maybe we learned from our mothers. Maybe it’s low self-esteem, or fear, or maybe love really is blind. But, there comes a time in every relationship, like this one, when we become aware. We begin to see those red flags. We begin to see past the pretty words and promises, and find the abuse that is the true foundation of the relationship.
Once we become aware, only two choices remain.
We can choose to stay. We can ignore our intuition. We can ignore all the signs and symptoms of dysfunction in our relationships and all the ways they complicate our life. We can decide that we’re getting what we deserve. We can allow each day that relationship continues to chip away at us a little bit more until there is nothing left. We can keep dancing that dance of asking to leave and getting sucked back in—which is the same thing as just staying, whether we admit it or not. Once we are aware of the manipulation and control, staying is a conscious choice we are making—to our own detriment.
Or, we can choose to take our power back. We can say, “no more” and mean it. We can stop asking for permission, and close the door—damn the consequences.
We can block his number, ignore unwanted communication, and do everything it takes to be free from the destructive patterns that will only repeat if we stay. We can let him self-destruct if he wants to—because we know that his choices are his responsibility. We can relinquish our own selfish desires to fix, change, help, and soothe him. Because we know that we only hurt ourselves by perpetuating that cycle.
We can let go of trying to save him, or please him, or meet his demands, because we know that to continue giving him what he wants means to continue ignoring our own needs.
We can decide once and for all to put our own health and happiness at the top of our priority list, because we know that someone who loves us in a healthy way would want us to take good care of ourselves.
We can leave confidently, because we know that someone who loves us in a healthy way wouldn’t want to keep us if they knew that it was hurting us to stay.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman