What it was like being in a narcissistic abusive relationship

It’s finally time to write this post. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long, as I don’t mind talking about it, and I posted something similar on another blog years ago. Maybe because I was closer to it then, and maybe I don’t want to keep going back to the past. I kept going back and forth with my ego saying, “Who cares about this? Why not just write in a journal and be done with it? No one is going to read this. There are way more important things happening in the world right now, and people have been through worse.” But, right after I close my eyes late at night before bed for so many days in a row now, I keep writing this post in my head, and I just want to get it out. It’s also my therapy since I haven’t gone to a therapist since I was pregnant.

This is the story of my mentally and verbally abusive ex-boyfriend, my daughter’s biological father, dad, sperm donor.

Dancing with friends, not a care in the world

I was 16. We met at my high school talent show. I went with a “friend” to watch the show. I didn’t want to go, but I was shocked someone wanted to do something with me, so I went, and she brought a boy she knew. 

He had dark hair, was confident and outgoing, and was definitely flirting with me. Me, being the completely naive girl who would swoon at any guy who showed any interest, flirted back. After that talent show, somehow one of us found the other on Facebook a couple days later, and we started talking. I learned he actually lived in California and was visiting NC for some reason. We continued to talk over text and talk on the phone. So began the phase of “love bombing.” Talking constantly. The cute long paragraphs of text. The codependency. The early “I love you,” the feeling like you found your person because you’re getting all this attention and someone cares about you. But he also had a dark past, and his family had a dark past. I could totally change him though, right?

If only I knew then what I know now! After months of talking, he told me he was moving back to NC. I was excited but had that gut feeling that said this is weird. He shouldn’t be moving back just for me. It was all too much and I knew it, but I didn’t say anything because my 16 year-old brain told me this was my only chance I’d ever get at love. 

So, he moved back and everything was fine, and the love bombing was extra now. The surprise visits at work. The cute, but excessive, dinners at home. The need to only hang out with me and me only – no friends. Texting constantly and talking on the phone always, no matter what. I should have listened to my intuition because even then I knew something was different.

Anyways, he was living with his much older friend. Too old for a 16 year old to hang out around. I remember the roommate loved to drink, smoke weed, play Guitar Hero, and have girls over…a lot. I was so innocent but loved to pretend everything was all good. As you can probably tell, there was no parent supervision when I was hanging out at my boyfriend’s place, and I liked that, so I was over with him all the time. I was over there so much that there was a lot of sexual activity happening. My parents didn’t like him, rightfully so, but he was so nice to me and gave me attention. I got in trouble a lot for talking to him late at night, which was way out of character for me. I almost never got in trouble – disappointing my parents is and was, surprisingly, one of my worst fears.

Things get a little blurry around this time of our relationship in terms of things he’d say. He started to get more possessive. I HAD to be on the phone with him 24/7, call him right after school, and text him when I was with friends (even though he never believed me that I was just with girl friends and not other guys). I couldn’t be around any other guy; if a friend brought a guy to hang out with us and I didn’t know in advance, then I knew I was going to get in trouble. When he got off work, I would have to be on the phone with him, as he walked an hour home every day. He would show up at my work a lot and cause trouble. I did a lot of things wrong in his eyes.

I lost contact with a lot of friends so I wouldn’t be yelled at and called names, and I didn’t want to put this burden on any of them. I later realized he wanted to break me down so badly through manipulation, like narcissistic gaslighting and threats to my family/friends. I was so brainwashed into believing that was what I deserved and that I could change him that there was no way I would ever leave him. I was afraid he would do something horrible to the people I love or to me.

Gaslighting examples:

  • Pretending to forget they did something when they actually know they did it to make you doubt yourself and your reality.
    • “You literally called me a bitch this morning.”
    • “No, what? I never said that.
  • Isolating you from your support system. 
    • “You can’t trust your best friend, they will never be as good to you as I am. They don’t know anything about you like I do.”
    • Sometimes this occurs after you’ve told them the deep parts of yourself because you trust them, but now they can threaten to use this information against you 
  • Shifting blame onto you: 
    • “If only you didn’t say ‘excuse me’ to that guy in the hallway, then maybe I would be a little nicer to you today.”
  • Giving you false hope:
    • They will sometimes treat you with superficial kindness and remorse and then you believe things could really get better but they are reinforcing the codependency.
    • This is called the “honeymoon phase”. Everything is wonderful and perfect, then you have the tension-building phase, and then the explosion. This cycle continues over and over because after the explosion phase, the abuser will apologize and say they’ll be better and never do that again.

In the end, he ended up getting really close to total domination and control of my life. I remember dreaming about the day I would have the guts to break up with him before it got even worse, but then my abused mind would tell me there’s no way I could do that. Who knows what he would do or who he would hurt? I thought I might as well stay with him so nothing happens to anyone.

Then, an accident happened in bed one day. No protection. He told me it was fine, and I believed him, of course. 

5 months pregnant selfie in the bathroom on a Blackberry phone.

I had a dream about a month later about the movie The Duchess with Keira Knightley. When I woke up, I knew I was pregnant. I took a pregnancy test at my job that night and didn’t tell anyone. It was around 8pm on a fall night, and I was working at a Drop-In daycare. I texted him that I just took a test, and it was positive. I don’t really remember his reaction, and, honestly, for my whole life, I was kind of preparing for that moment. He was at my work door 10 minutes after I texted him. I shouldn’t have told him yet. He came barging through the door yelling, probably about how it was my fault. Calming him down was essential considering he was now in a place with actual young children who didn’t need to see him have a freak out.

I already decided to keep the baby. I knew I was supposed to go through with it. I told my parents, and my dad was THIS close to kicking me out. My mom was livid. Remember, disappointing my parents is one of my biggest fears (that I’m working through). Out of everything, this is the one thing that is really hard for me to talk about, and I usually skip over it when people ask. To remember those moments and feelings everyone had because of something I did makes me feel like a failure and disappointment. My parents sat me down and told me I had options. I told them I was going to keep the baby because I knew I could do it, and I think in the back of my mind I knew this would help me finally get out of the relationship.

At this point, I was 17 and a senior in high school. I went to a big meeting with counselors and the Vice Principal to decide if I was going to go to some alternative school where all the teen moms go, but it was my last year, so I decided to stay and just be pregnant around all the people I grew up with. School was the place where he couldn’t bother me because we couldn’t have phones back then, and there was no way he could get through the doors. I’m sure there was a TON of talk behind my back, but, honestly, I didn’t care because I was in my own little world.

I was able to have a couple friends at school since he wouldn’t know I was talking to anyone, and I am so grateful for them. I hope they know who they are. I’m grateful for my younger sister who made sure to walk in the school with me every morning when she could so I didn’t have to be alone. The only people who were really ruthless were the 9th graders (LOL) and my Creative Writing teacher, who told the whole class, “Brooke’s life is basically over, so don’t be like Brooke.” Unfortunately writing meant everything to me back then, so this comment kind of ruined me. I wanted to write books, and reading was my escape. After this, I stopped writing so much; now my brain tricks me into thinking I suck at it, so I don’t really try anymore. This has carried over into my career now when writing blog posts and it’s one of the hardest projects I have to do each month.

Thus began 9-10 months being pregnant my senior year with an abusive boyfriend and no one to talk to. Here are some ‘highlights’ from my pregnancy directed towards my ex.

Remember when you got pulled over in my mom’s car after we got KFC and you didn’t have your license, but I had memorized it from some document I had to fill out for you weeks before, so he let you go? You’re welcome. 

Remember when the cops showed up at your apartment because your roommate wouldn’t stop smoking (and probably selling) weed, so I just sat on the couch while the cops were counting all the weed on the table looking ridiculous because I was a 17 year old pregnant girl around idiots?

Remember when I had gallstones so bad that I drove home from school not realizing what it was yet, and you came rolling in braking hard, yelling at me about something while I could barely breathe or stand? My neighbor yelled at you to stop talking to me like that, and you told him to shut up. You drove me to the doctor, and they diagnosed me with gallstones that I had to live with for the next 5 months. I wanted to stay there because they took the pain away and put me to sleep (safe for baby), and you couldn’t bother me.

Remember when you cheated on me but said you didn’t “really” cheat on me because you were drunk and didn’t want to tell her to stop doing what she was doing? You felt really bad and cried and said you would be better, and you knew I wouldn’t leave because we had a baby on the way, and I didn’t want to be a stupid statistic.

Remember when I was 8 months pregnant, and you were mad at me for something again? You once again came roaring around the corner, parked at the bottom of my stairs, and I went outside so my parents wouldn’t hear you yelling at me. I was barefoot and pregnant, got in your car, and you drove way over the speed limit yelling at me, and you stopped in the middle of nowhere. Just a bunch of grass and woods. I’m not sure why we got out of the car, but after yelling some more, you threw my phone in the woods and sped away. So, I just went looking for my phone trying to keep my cool because I didn’t want to put stress on the baby. I was hoping I could find it to call who even knows to come get me because I didn’t talk to anyone, but you whipped back around 5 minutes later saying how sorry you were, and you found my phone and dropped me off at home.

Then, it was finally graduation time. I actually made it to graduation. I had a full-on gallstone attack (think kidney stones if you don’t know about gallstones – honestly, it’s worse than giving birth) during the entire thing, so I had to pretend nothing was wrong. I walked and got my diploma, looking like Barney in my purple robe in front of a million people. 

Two weeks after graduation, I went into labor. I went to the hospital 8cm dilated. If you couldn’t tell by now, my pain tolerance is higher than most. My mom was excited, and my sister was there but annoyed at high school things going on in her life. And he was there.

Remember when you and my mom started fighting, and I just laid there waiting for my epidural and watching Princess Diaries?

Remember when you shaved off your EYEBROWS a couple days earlier for no reason? Ya’ll can imagine the photos… 

Remember when you showed up at the delivery room and explained how you were “so tired” from working and my mom had to step in and cuss you out because I’d been in labor for 2 days at that point?

Remember when I had just given birth? She was so beautiful. It was an easy birth, even though I did throw up from pushing the wrong way. The nurses took her to the nursery that night. My hormones were everywhere, and I was frustrated because she wasn’t breastfeeding. Everything hurt. I was scared to death. Then, you decided to pick a fight about something. Maybe you were mad you hadn’t slept. It turned into a full-on screaming match because at that point I was starting to speak up for myself more, which only made you more angry. The nurse came in with our daughter and told you to leave me alone and rest, and I just couldn’t stop crying. I was alone and couldn’t sleep because of you and also because of the fact that I now had to figure out how to take care of a newborn with you around.

I was a single mom the moment she was born. He was there, but it wasn’t how it should’ve been. The first 2 weeks were so hard. I still lived with my parents, and I didn’t want to bother them with her crying. A couple months after I told them I was pregnant, they came around and helped me with so much, and now they are my daughter’s favorite people. But so began another stage with him.

We broke up 2 weeks after she was born… in another screaming match. I was breastfeeding her in a rocking chair at his new apartment (well, trying to, so you know that’s already frustrating), and I told him I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He got so angry, of course. He continued throwing threats and insults around, like he was going to take her away from me, I’m a horrible mom, there’s no way I would win custody because he had too much on me for me to win, etc.

At this point I didn’t care what he was going to say about me or try to do, I just wanted to go home and be free of him. I give credit to one of my oldest friends, who I somehow started talking to on Facebook again secretly so my ex wouldn’t know. I told her I was realizing again that I didn’t think what he did was right and I didn’t deserve it, and she encouraged me by saying that it wasn’t right or normal and that I needed to get away.

After breaking up, it was tough. I was stronger, but now we had to come up with custody arrangements. I tried to do it without the court first. Written agreements. I didn’t want to keep her away from him, as it’s her dad. I half trusted him with her, and I felt it was fair, so he would take her some days (never overnight) to a new place he was living. He was living with old friends who I actually trusted. It was a family house, so there were adults there, and they raised their own kids. They took care of my daughter more than he ever did.

I was also back in school now at the community college and working only 6 weeks after giving birth, so sometimes she’d be with him longer, which he didn’t like because he had *PlAnS.* Eventually, the agreements just didn’t work like I thought they would, so then we had to both lawyer up, and it got ugly. The documents said horrible things about me. He would spin things I said in private or jokes to make it seem like I was a bad mom. We tried doing set custody times, but that never worked for him, and we had to go on a weekly Skype call with his parents so they could see her… it was a lot.

We had to go to mediation. I honestly don’t think he ever showed up, and I barely remember what that was like. I spent a lot of time at the lawyer’s office back and forth. My parents were seriously a godsend. I could not have done any of this without them. Before going up against a judge, there were a lot of crazy things happening that I blocked out. We tried just doing a child support agreement, but he only paid me a couple times. Eventually, what happened was he didn’t want to pay child support anymore, so he was going to sign over full custody to me. It was the best thing I ever heard, but it also hurt. It all hurt. How could someone I loved and cared about do this to me? No one is ever going to want a single mom who has gone through all this shit. How can I trust people again, especially with my daughter? 

I was 18 years old now and was standing up in court with witnesses waiting to present their own cases. My lawyer was next to me, and my ex fired his lawyer, so he was by himself. I was sweating, shaking, and I could barely speak, but I did it and got full custody. He wasn’t allowed to be within a certain radius of her, and I could not wait to be done with this and move on. He said goodbye to her on my parent’s front porch like it was nothing. Then, he left, and I haven’t seen him since.

It’s been 11 years now, and he reached out twice when she was younger. I never responded. His ex-wife reached out at one point telling me she was sorry for the way he treated me, and he understood I was just trying to give my daughter a good life. I can’t imagine what he was telling her. 

He scares me still. His family used to scare me. I know if I ever see him again, I would surely say everything I have ever wanted to say. I fantasize about it a lot, especially at night when it all comes back. I don’t know where he is. Sometimes I think I see him when I’m at a store or just walking down the street. I was working an event a couple years ago, and this guy looked just like him, and he probably thought I was crazy for looking at him constantly to make sure it wasn’t. I could barely focus on anything the rest of the night. I can’t look at pictures of him or show pictures of him to people. I am picky about my daughter putting her face on the internet because I don’t want him to find her. I don’t want him to find me, so I didn’t show my face for the longest time on social media. I still have to search Instagram sometimes because I don’t want him to find me. I don’t use my full last name on social media because then it’s easier for him.

This is only one part of my story. Just until recently, I have had a lot of incidents with men who have treated me wrong and done things to me that are not appropriate. Once again, these have been people I’ve trusted. I’m in a season now of learning what I truly deserve and speaking up for what I know is wrong and what I don’t want, even when they’re telling me otherwise.

1st Halloween

I wanted to write this to share my story and hopefully help anyone else who may recognize the signs of an abusive relationship. If you know of a friend going through this, please be patient with them and don’t bombard them with the facts or get angry because they can’t see how bad it is. They know how bad it is. They are trained to question themselves on everything. They will eventually have to be strong enough to leave. Be there for them to listen and encourage.

I’m here for you too. The trauma of this still takes over my life from time to time, but I am raising an amazing daughter who is just like me with more sass, and I wouldn’t change anything. She has saved my life more than you’d think. She is the reason I am here. She is my everything.

NC Resources
Safe Alliance

Other Resources
The Hotline 
Deeper look into gaslighting
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Staying safe during COVID-19

If you know of any other helpful resources, please email them to me or leave a comment below so I can update!

Note: HUGE thank you to Mandy, my high school friend and editor of this post. You have helped my healing process and I am forever grateful for you, our happy memories in school, and for being a part of my story (she was also there the day of the Creative Writing fiasco!) Mandy works for a domestic violence and sexual assault resource center which I found out after she edited and I truly believe the universe put her in my life all these years for a reason. Thank you Mandy!

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