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“The biggest coward is a man who awakens a woman’s love, with no real intention of loving her.” ~ Bob Marley
I have always been swept away by charm.
The way someone can captivate. It’s a charisma; the ability to draw people in.
It’s the way someone shows interest in what you have to say, like you’re the only person in the room. It’s an energy and presence. Sometimes it’s a fascination and an attraction. Eye contact; perhaps flattering words. It’s a magnetic essence.
And sometimes it is dangerous. Because sometimes it is covert manipulation.
It’s taken me a long time and a few harsh life lessons to understand the difference between genuine charm and covert manipulation. If one’s charm is who they authentically are at the core and there is no expectation of anything in return, then that’s real. That’s genuine. But if charm is a mask for manipulation, which it sadly can be, then falling under the spell of that charm can be one of the most painful experiences you will endure.
Why? Because eventually the mask slips and by this time, you are in so deep you don’t even recognise what’s happening. You don’t even realise that the charming man you fell for used his charm to manipulate you to meet his own wants and needs. It doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t love, but it’s not always a healthy love. Sad thing is it’s probably the only way he knows how to love.
I have taken a particularly long time to move forward and let go of a past relationship. I had been beating myself up as to why, and it seemed like the grief cycle just wouldn’t come to an end. It felt like I was being repeatedly punished for loving too damn hard.
Recently, I had an epiphany! The reason for my struggle was, I didn’t actually know what was real. I didn’t know what words were true, what feelings were genuine, or what actions were done from a place of love versus a place of manipulation. The thought was breaking my heart over and over again. Questioning intentions and whether what we shared was all real or a manipulated reality to meet their own needs is a horrible f*cking place to be.
When I realised I loved this man, I trusted him with my whole being. I believed in him. I had faith in him and I never doubted his words. But when those words started to defy actions and actions defied feelings, I was left with questions. So many f*cking questions. Time has passed but the memory of those words and actions left me wondering, and I finally understood I would not get clarity. I would never know what was real. Lack of closure is a b*tch.
I was stuck in a loop and knew I had something to shift, something more to release. But what was it? What was this heaviness I was carrying? With a little guidance from my healer, it hit me like a damn tsunami of pain and hurt. I could feel it physically, this lump, and the emotions flooded me. It was a sad acceptance. But finally it was an acceptance.
I felt like my heart had been hustled. I served a purpose and then I was discarded. Thrown out like yesterday’s trash.
I know this is just my reality and I’ll never know what his reality was. But I do know there is a fine line between charm and manipulation. I was putty in this man’s hands, and maybe that says more about my boundaries than it does about his behaviour.
It was charming, until it wasn’t.
His charm bubbled over. To the outside world, he was magnetic. Always there to help. Loyal. Kind. Everyone’s best friend. And don’t get me wrong, he could be just like that with me, and I would have done anything for him. I did do anything for him. But the guilt he would throw on me if he perceived I could do more had knots of anxiety tearing me apart.
But I now understand his charm was a hustle. He was the master of manipulation. And we were all caught in his web.
That’s what wounded people do. They do what they know, what has rewarded them in the past. They need to be loved. They need to be validated. They need to be worshipped. They have learnt that manipulation masked by charm can get them exactly what they want and need when they want it and need it, often without doing too much themselves.
I’ve found my peace as I realise his broken bits were covered by a Band-aid and he lived his life the only way he knew how. His life was like a masquerade ball and he had a mask for all occasions. Funny how clearly I can see that now. It was a brutal lesson to learn.
It’s a sad reality that this isn’t a rare situation. Charm is sometimes simply covert manipulation. The painful reality is that it’s toxic. The heartbreaking f*cking truth is you will never know what was real, what was charm, what was manipulation.
The most devastating blow is you have to accept they may never have loved you the way you thought. And there will be a stark realisation that this part of your story may well have been the biggest lie of all—because the man you were in love with was a master of deception.
Dear Hustler of the Heart, I hope one day you heal and find real happiness and peace—but it won’t be in the manipulation of another.