Red Flags

Sunday August 14th 2011

12:15 pm: “Hey, can I come over?” He said on the phone. “Of course! I’m home now”. I reply. I’m not actually home, but I’m at my cousin’s house down the street. I pack up my things quickly and speed home, giddy with relief, love, excitement. I had wanted to see him so badly the day before but we had separate plans. I tried to see him after I was done with my plans but I didn’t know where he was. I had called him and tried to join him in his plans, but it didn’t sound like he wanted me there. He was even reluctant to tell me where he was. So I left it at that. I then decided not to call him since he hadn’t called me all day either. Now that he had finally called, I was ecstatic that he wanted to see me. I go home and force myself to wait.

1:30pm: I’ve been half reading a book, half listening for his footsteps. It’s very difficult because I can’t concentrate on anything for too long since I will have to stop when he arrives. Part of me doesn’t want to be too eager. But the eager part of me can’t help but listen out for him. My heart skips a beat every time I ‘hear’ him. I hear him in every door that creaks, every sound the people on the street make, every silence that stretches too long. I hear him in every car that drives by, every time the dog that barks, every red flash on my blackberry. I turn away from the door cos I can’t bear to watch for him anymore. My heart has skipped so many times, my head is beginning to hurt.

2:15pm: By now I know I should have chosen to do something productive instead of just ‘wait’ around for him. I should have just stayed at my cousins house till he arrived. But it’s been 2 hours so he surely would be here soon right? I’ve already waited too long to start working now. I can’t start anything that I won’t finish before he gets here. He will be here any minute now.

3:15pm: I’m starting to get upset. I’ve been patient haven’t i? I should have asked him what time he planned to get here. But maybe he should have told me what time he was planning to get here. I haven’t seen him since Tuesday and I’ve missed him. But when he gets here, I will be upset. How do I manage that? I don’t want the visit to be about my anger. It will be such a waste of a visit after not seeing each other in so long! But if I complain he will tell me to ‘pick my battles’. Why do I have to ignore my feelings yet again, when he has upset me and shown me no regard? Why can’t he just keep me posted if he is going to be late?

4:00pm: I hear a car speeding down a side road I know he has never used. This time (for the hundredth time) it’s him. I knew it was his car like I knew all the last few cars were him. The dog barks for the billionth time. “Ok maybe it’s finally him”. The kids on the street are excited about something. “Maybe it’s really him”. I hear voices and footsteps. It’s him. He strolls in and flashes a smile saying “Hey Baby! How are you?” He offers neither an apology nor explanation. I’m upset. But I don’t want it to be a wasted visit. I’ve already been very unproductive. My head hurts, my cheeks are tight. But I downplay my feelings, force a smile and say “I’m fine”.

You’ve been taught that to be happy, you have to ignore the things that upset you. Don’t let ‘minor inconveniences’ stand in the way of your happiness i.e. marriage. This is a man! Hold him with both hands! Even if it burns!! Gas-lit over and over, it’s your responsibility to manage their ego and overlook how they’ve disrespected you or else YOU are combative and not “picking your battles”. It doesn’t help that they are charismatic outside so no-one believes your pain. Soon even you don’t believe your pain. You’re just being difficult. Your feelings are not valid. They convince you that they’re the nice guys and they’re ‘putting up’ with you. When you complain, they lose their temper to put you in your place, flashing the risk of danger to warn you to strongly re-consider your grouse.

The signs and cycle of abuse are always there, but gradually increase with each carpet-swept disrespect; a test to unlock a new level of dehumanization. For some, these red flags are blazing and burning bright. But for you, the fumes make you dizzy and ruin your eyesight. When they switch-up post ‘love bombing’, you become inured because of the crumbs of ‘good times’ use to string you along and keep you on a leash. They double down and fight you when you’re choking on the bile of contempt they’re using to gag you. “How dare you complain? I’m the best you’re ever going to get! No-one else will have you!” Then they make you rationalize it away so they can keep on ‘doing them’ at any cost to you. “If you weren’t so X, I wouldn’t have had to do Y”. You yourself start to believe that maybe if you didn’t take offense and their disrespect, you wouldn’t have deserved the slap/silent treatment they gave you.

Narcissistic abuse – a lesson in the most twisted and torturous self denial and invalidation. An internal battle they trigger so you are occupied fighting yourself for the rest of your life. They know it will keep you busy, feeling/looking crazy. They know that with just the right amount of pressure, it will soon break you and make you their slave. Because you will eventually come to agree that they were right: you were just a difficult person and you didn’t even know your own mind.

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