I get confused. I remember everything. I remember too much, and… some of its made up, and… some of it can’t be quantified, and… there’s secrets.
This is probably going to be my last sociopath post, but I think it might be the most helpful to future generations of Dar Dars and even normal people.
I have learned from my shrink that there are not just Red Flags, which I listed in my first post on this topic, but there are also Yellow Flags. Yellow Flags are the ones that, in retrospect, you can tell were not quite right, but in the moment seemed charming and normal. I have a lot of those.
First ask yourself – is the relationship equal? This can apply to preferences of what to do or where to eat, privacy rules and a few other things.
When I first met AJ, I still do not understand why, but he was, or seemed to be, enamored with me. It was adorable. But that lead to some things like…
He would drive me to and from work every day, which meant he had to drive in the opposite direction of his house to come pick me up, then towards his house and past it to take me to work. Then he would pick me up at the end of my shift. I loved seeing him. I would get very excited to see him at the end of the day. It seemed like he just really wanted to spend as much time with me as possible. But being picked up and dropped off every day meant I stopped doing things with other people after work. I did not have my car, so I just went wherever AJ went. I did not mind at all, I was happy to be with him, but this was the start of me alienating all my friends that I had previously spent quite a bit of time with. He controlled what I did after work by appearing to just really want to spend as much time with me as possible. And maybe he really did want to spend all the time with me. In the beginning, we couldn’t get enough of each other. As a result of this, though, it set the standard for me being so attached to AJ that I stopped interacting with anyone else.
At first, when I did interact with other people still, AJ would make it go wrong in some way that seemed very innocent and sometimes even charming. I was at lunch with a couple friends and I did not realize it was near his house, so he texted and said he would come meet me there. I told him no, it is a “girls lunch” and I would see him another time. He insisted on coming, and I ended up leaving abruptly before he showed up. My friends consoled him. Another time, still very early in our relationship, we attended our first “big event” together, my friend’s wedding. After the wedding we were socializing in the hotel hospitality room and one of my friend’s asked AJ where he lived. He said “Solon” (a city). My friend said “Where in Solon”. This is a totally normal question – we are all from the same very small area and it is likely he could have said “My friend lives on that street” or something. He wasn’t asking like “Give me your address so I can come over”. AJ did not respond, he literally got up and stormed out of the room in a huff of anger. This is where I made the wrong choice – I chose him over my friends. Instead of letting him have his tantrum and staying with my friends, I followed after him and left the wedding at his insistence. He did not want to be there anymore, he felt violated and invaded, and he wanted to leave. So I left. MY FRIEND’S WEDDING!!! I left my friend’s wedding. Bad decision on my part, but just one of the many times AJ pulled me away from my group of friends and refused to become part of it with me. These are two small incidents, but they add up quickly to the point where it was routine to leave not just my friend’s functions, but family functions, early because AJ became depressed and wanted to spend time alone with me, or was annoyed by my nieces (they were little at the time), or didn’t want to be there anymore. No matter how many times I gave him chances, he never allowed himself to become a part of my group of friends, he always found a way to take us both away from it. My niece, who is now 8, has known AJ basically all of her life. She was 1 when AJ and I first started dating and I had him at a lot of family functions. In those 7-8 years that she knew and he was such an integral part of my life, he saw her so rarely that she did not know what he looked like when we met him for coffee one day. I told her “Watch for AJ” and she had no idea who to watch for. That is how much I was pulled away from family events and how short lived it was when we went to them.
Another way the relationship was unequal was in terms of privacy. I did not know where AJ lived for at least 6 months. He was a regular at my house, knew how to get in if no one was home, stayed overnight regularly (on the couch), etc. When I was at the restaurant with my friends and he said I was near his house, I had no idea. My phone/computer/iPad were always open territory – he knew the codes, he could pick them up and use them without fuss, I had nothing to hide. I have never been able to touch any of his computer items, especially his phone. He would go so far as to show me a picture, but refuse to let me hold his phone to look closer at it. Yet he created his own thumbprint log in on my phone, just a few months ago. If I would so much as glance towards his phone, he would turn his back on me. As it turns out, this was because he was hiding about 5 different lives from me, so I suppose he had good reason. But the point is, everything of mine was public domain to him. I was/am an open book, I have nothing to hide, so I am open and honest about everything. I only learned things about AJ when he “slipped”. He is actually a really bad liar, so I always knew when something was up and I (almost) always found out what it was – those are the big red flags. But the “yellow flags” were there from the beginning with his obsession with his own privacy and disregard for mine.
Another unequal thing was where we would eat/movies we would see, etc. I thought the reason we went to the restaurants he wanted to were so he could impress me (he used his dad’s credit card and took me to really fancy places), but it occurred to me that he never even considered the option of going where I wanted to go. He also always found ways to get me agree to his preferences without me even realizing it was happening. He was in complete control of our dating life and I did not see it, I just thought he wanted to introduce me to new things – but it turned out he was forcing me to try new things whether I wanted to or not.
The last unequal thing I can think of was appearance. I have always worn jeans and tee shirts and hoodies. It is what I do. I do not dress up, I do not wear colors and patterns, I do not wear shoes other than tennis shoes. AJ started pushing me to wear things I was not comfortable in, but I did it because he liked it. I wore pink and purple shirts, I “dressed up” sometimes for nights out, sometimes I tried to not wear a hoodie, or if I did, I bought “fancy hoodies”. My entire wardrobe changed significantly. He would never listen to a thing I would say if he asked my opinion about his clothes. I was always honest, I would say if something looked goofy or I did not like it, but it never mattered, he did what he wanted. He had this awful hat he wore for quite awhile and just completely ignored me when I said it did not look good, but he would dictate what I would wear. When we broke up, I got rid of everything that I hated wearing and replaced it all with my black tee shirts and jeans. It was freeing. I did not realize how much I had bought in an effort to make him like what I was wearing.
So in retrospect I can see that AJ put himself in control of who I saw, where I went, what I ate, what I wore and what I was allowed to know. At the time, it was NOT obvious. After he cheated on me the first time, it became obvious to all of my friends, but it was never obvious to me.
And a word about friends – if you are a friend who is watching someone go through this sort of thing, I can tell you that you should do exactly what my friends did. After they realized that AJ was not a great person, and I was still forgiving and making excuses, they let me know how they feel in a very gentle and nice way, and basically said “I will never be Team AJ but I am Team Darcy and I will support whatever you do and continue to accept AJ if you keep dating him, but I have noticed things that are not right and I want you to know that he is not good for you”. It must have killed them to watch me continue, but if they had pushed it, it would have caused resentment. They supported me, told me the truth in a nice way, and never judged ME. Karyn and Mary in particular, you guys could write a book on how to support someone in this kind of situation. HPB friends, you were a little more “upfront” with it, but I appreciated your approach as well
I cannot believe I left this part out. I do not know which category this fits into, but another huge thing AJ did to alienate me from what I love was convince me to stop doing theater so we could spend more time together. At first, in what seemed like a really impressive and supportive way, he would do theater WITH me. I would stage manage, he would work backstage. But almost every night when we would come out of a rehearsal or performance, he would be so angry. One time it got so bad with him raging about how much he hated theater that I tried to fire him. I told him it was hurting our relationship to have us working together, and that I could find someone else to work backstage, and that he should not work on the show anymore. He refused. It was not a question on my part, I was TELLING him that he was not going to work on the show anymore, and he shut me down and did what he wanted. He kept tabs on me by working in theater with me, and then wore me down until I agreed that he was more important than theater, and I was too tired and old to keep doing it while still doing a full time job, anyway. I thought it was my decision, and in retrospect, it was not.
Once AJ became my entire life – no more friends or family get togethers, no more theater – that was when he started the cheating and the lying. He had me where he needed me – completely dedicated to him and willing to accept whatever he did because he had become my life. I thought I was his, but I was not, by any stretch of the imagination. I was his back up for when all the other things he did didn’t work out. I was the fall back, the stable one, the one who would always be there for him unquestioningly. That gave him absolute freedom to go from normal cheating to outright telling me “I will be dating other girls, but you will remain my main girlfriend and you will not date anyone but me”. I had to sit at home and wait while my boyfriend went on dates with other girls. AND I DID. That was a Red Flag. I was essentially brainwashed into thinking that was normal and ok. He was not happy with me – I wasn’t sexy enough was the complaint most often, or I was boring – so it somehow made sense to me that he should go find that elsewhere while I stayed and waited for him to come back.
I don’t think I would have done it any differently, in retrospect, so I don’t know that this would actually help anyone who is going through this, or a friend of someone who is going through it. But it helps to share it now that I have that 20/20 hindsight, and maybe someone will see it and be stronger than I was and get out sooner.
And I am still so brainwashed that I miss AJ. He was a constant in my life for nearly 8 years. No matter how messed up it was, I miss him. Bleh.