Saturday, July 2, 2016

Invisible Red Flags

I've been thinking a lot lately about all of the red flags I missed (or worse, chose to ignore). They were there from the very beginning. Looking back, it's very clear that he was only ever using me to help his career. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but perhaps sharing these subtle (and glaringly obvious) things I overlooked will help someone else to see clearly.

The Business Meeting 
When I was introduced to my now soon-to-be-ex-husband, the VERY first thing he said to me was "Oh, you're American? I love Americans!" I was on vacation in Europe, and used to being the strange American who spoke only English, so to hear someone say that, in English, was refreshing and immediately intriguing. But what I now realize is that the reason he "loved Americans" was because he wanted to be one (I realize how American-centric and patriotic this sounds, but I assure you, I'm one of the least patriotic Americans out there. I don't think we are the center of the world, and I don't think that everyone wants to come here to take our jobs...but in this case, he had made it his plan to come to America YEARS before I met him, unbeknownst to me, and I was a shining opportunity for this to happen for him). When I was doing his greencard application for him (naturally--he wouldn't do it himself, after all!), I kept coming across interviews he'd given to magazines talking about how much he wanted a career in America, how his dream to was to work in Hollywood, and how his dream vacation would be a roadtrip across America. As our marriage was crumbling, one of his acquaintances from acting school confided in me that when he was studying in London, he was unconcerned with mastering the British accent and solely focused on learning the American accent, because he was determined to work in America.

What's more, our very first conversation established that I was in a position to be able to help him. I introduced myself as a writer, director and producer and that I worked in entertainment business management (all of which was true). He was an actor. It was like I was handing him a golden ticket to what he wanted for his career, and since all narcopaths are completely self-serving, that alone was enough to make him pursue me with vigor. In hindsight, it's no coincidence that his discarding of me began at exactly the same time I began interviewing for jobs outside of the entertainment industry. If I no longer had my professional contacts, I was of little use to him. And it was one month from the time I started my new job (in the tech industry) to when he left me, saying we had "nothing in common, and no future together." Curious timing, isn't it?

As we got to know each other more in the days and weeks that followed, his conversation was focused on how much he wanted to live in America, and how he'd been thinking of moving there. Of course, I was smitten, so I was thrilled by the prospect of him moving to my country! He asked me if I needed a roommate. I said we could figure something out. He was outright telling me that he was looking at Masters degrees in America because he wanted to be here so much, but I thought that maybe I had been the catalyst to make him want to be here because he wanted to be with me.  It's sickening now to realize that THE ONLY REASON HE WAS WITH ME WAS TO HAVE A CHANCE AT ACTING IN AMERICA.

Three months into our relationship, we were already discussing marriage, and he came to visit me. On day three of that visit, we got into an argument. I don't even remember what it was about, but I remember saying something to the effect of "I don't feel good about this." There were warning signs going off in my body. I felt uncomfortable somehow, but couldn't pinpoint it. I just remember feeling off. This set him off (it was the first time I'd ever seen him get angry). He said he would just leave. I didn't want him to leave--I wanted to talk about whatever it was that was upsetting me. Naturally, that didn't happen, and I thought I should just let it go and it would blow over. The next day, he told me that the night before had "set us back" and that "all future bets were off." This was his way of keeping me hooked. I begged for us to go back to the way we were, sure that we could get past whatever it was. Once I did that, things were fine. His plan was back in motion.

His final words to me when we were at the airport for him to go back to his country were "I came here to see if I should take this to the next level, and I think I should." Very businesslike for someone supposedly madly in love with me. It struck me as odd, and as if he'd been planning, but again, I was madly in love, and just excited that he wanted to take it to the next level with me! And after he DID move here, and had a number of unsuccessful auditions and wasn't making any money as an actor (and was unemployed totally), I think he realized that working as an actor here was going to be harder than he'd realized, and he immediately accepted a job on a soap back home in his country. That was when our marriage really fell apart, because now he had his fame ego boost back, he was working in his career--I and our marriage were completely superfluous.

General Disrespect For My Time, Needs and Desires
This was always present, in forms ranging from subtle to blatant. It started, subtly, with what I call "The Patience Test" (something I only realized was a thing after briefly dating another narcissist last year who did the same time). He would keep me on Skype for HOURS while he did whatever he pleased, yet I just had to sit there at the computer and wait for him. He would play videogames, cook dinner, spend hours laughing to himself at YouTube videos he was watching, all while he was on Skype with me. I now realize that it was to see if I would sit there and wait for him. And I always did. I played into the game. If I said something like "Why don't you call me back when you're free?" or "Let me just go do this thing while you're doing that," his answer was always "No no no! I'll be done in just a second. I'm sorry! Thank you for waiting!" and then he'd continue doing what he was doing.

Another great example was our wedding. We got married in a civil ceremony at the courthouse in his city in his country. I needed a translator, since the ceremony was in his language. I asked my friend Mary* to translate for me, since she was literally the only person I knew in the country aside from him, and she and I had been friends for 9 years. I trusted her. The morning of the ceremony, he called his friend Sophie and said "How's your English?" I asked what he was doing and he said she was going to translate. I said that no, I would rather have Mary translate because I knew her and trusted her and he got angry and said "Ok, fine!" Then, when we got to the courthouse, he listed Sophie as the translator. Sophie, a woman I didn't know, and who, unbeknownst to me at the time, turned out to be HIS EX-GIRLFRIEND, translated my wedding ceremony. Mary sat in the audience as my "witness." (As an aside, his other witness, Susan, also turned out to be ANOTHER EX-GIRLFRIEND. Fun fact, he had no friends aside from ex-girlfriends. Of course, I didn't know any of this when he first introduced them to me. He called them his "sisters.")

Probably the biggest example of this was when he accepted a job in his home country, a week after getting his greencard here in the US, without asking me how I felt about it. Naturally, I was devastated. He had JUST moved here to be with me, FINALLY, after a year and a half of us being long distance, he had JUST gotten his greencard, we were FINALLY going to be able to start our life together as husband and work, with him being eligible to work...and he was leaving. He pretended to ask my opinion about it, but when I said "Well, this is not ideal..." he made it clear that if I said no or protested in any way, I would be "blocking his career" and he would "resent me forever." So I really had no say, and he'd already told his agent he'd take it before he talked to me, anyway.

Overarchingly, I had no say in anything. It was what he wanted, when he wanted it. Whatever worked for him was expected to work for me, and when it didn't, I was "dramatic" or "needy" or "unsupportive."

Really Obvious Stuff 
These ones don't even really need explainations. They were obvious signs of abuse and signs that he didn't care about my feelings even a little bit:

  • He was consistently rough with me, even in intimate moments. Beyond that, he was downright violent at times. Though he never technically hit me, he would grab me and leave bruises, throw things (including a full suitcase, once) at me, slap my butt HARD out of nowhere, make sounds so loud into my ear that it popped my eardrum (even after I told him it was too loud...and then once my eardrum did pop, he got upset at me for crying because my eardrum popped and I literally couldn't hear and was in pain), which leads me to...
  • Sex was consistently terrible. Terrible. It was all about him and what he wanted, when he wanted it, at all times. This probably deserves its own post, actually. He was rough, and even our very first time, he said "Wow, I'm actually making love! I can't believe it! I'm MAKING LOVE TO YOU! I never make love. I prefer to fuck." His idea of "making love" had no love or tenderness in it whatsoever. I remember thinking "Seriously? This is making love to you?!" but didn't say it. 
  • He constantly criticized my weight/breast size/any other imperfection he could find. But then when I would get upset about his words, he would say "Well if you're so self-conscious about it, why don't you change it?!" Just go on a diet/get a boob job/whatever else he wanted me to do to 'fix' myself. He never understood that it wasn't that I was unhappy with myself--I was unhappy with his criticism of me. Unfortunately, it did take a toll on my self-esteem after awhile, but thank goodness, I always retained enough inner strength to recognize, deep down, that it was him who had the issues and not me. 

There's much more, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot, but this is a start. If you recognize any of these things happening in your relationship, take note. These are not things that healthy people do to people they love. These are things that users and abusers do.

PS - If you haven't already seen this video about emotional abuse in relationships, it's required watching.

*names changed to protect privacy