I’ve never actually answered a question on Quora before- so here goes…
In my previous relationship, aka my first experience of love, I was accused of lying as a means of manipulation.
If you were to meet my ex, you’d probably think the same about him as everyone else: intelligent, sociable, funny- likeable, basically. He’s an almost archetypal “nice guy”. I always envied his ability to fit in anywhere and make loads of friends. Everyone, LITERALLY EVERYONE, seemed to absolutely adore him.
So when I called my best friend whilst sobbing and told her about our break-up (another story) and unloaded years of emotional baggage onto her, 95% of which I’d never said aloud or even to myself, she was completely shocked.
I told her everything, and as I told her, pieces began falling together.
Often in the relationship, my ex and I would make a promise- be it to do something, go somewhere, or he would promise to do something. A few days, a few weeks later, the day would arrive, or something would occur and I would say
“I thought we discussed X”
Him: “What? That never happened. I never said that.”
Me: “We definitely did! I remember because…”
Him: We have never had that conversation. You’re making it up to get your own way.”
He only accused me of lying to manipulate him a couple of times. Other times, he would claim that I was mis-remembering, or that I had dreamt it up.
This was just one of the things I told my friend about as I sobbed to her on the phone. Many other things- cheating, things he’d say that simply didn’t add up, money he would deny having borrowed from me, etc.
“I just don’t even feel like a person anymore.” I told her, crying my eyes out.
It was true. I didn’t feel like a person. I felt like I was unhinged.
I felt like I was going insane.
I genuinely believed that I was completely stupid, that I had a low IQ and that I just wasn’t built the same as other people.
Because this had gone on for years.
“I don’t know how much of this is real.” I told her. It was true, I truly didn’t. I still don’t. So many times I’ve gone over my memories, over whatsapp conversations.
Was I the liar? I ask myself. Surely I must have done something- surely I fucked up somehow to ruin the relationship. Surely its my fault. It has to be.
That’s the most difficult thing. When you’re used to everything, EVERYTHING being twisted into being your fault, when you’re used to everything you say being questioned or argued with, when you’re used to feeling like a dumb little girl who “needs to grow a thicker skin”… it becomes so hard to wrap your head around the fact that it might not be your fault.
When my best friend spoke again, after giving me time to unload everything onto her, she sounded absolutely horrified.
“Kristen…Have you heard of gaslighting?”
I will include a definition here for what that is so that someone reading this who doesn’t know might feel a bit more understood:
Gaslighting: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.
I didn’t know what the term meant. I had no idea what it meant. Or that it’s so much more common than I’d ever have imagined.
It took me a while to accept that this is what had happened. Still I can’t believe someone I thought I knew could do this. Now, of course, I realise I never knew him. I digress…
I won’t go into everything- but its been months since our breakup.
I question reality every day. We have so many mutual friends. I can’t tell them. They wouldn’t believe me if I did. Everyone thinks he’s ace and we were so private when we were together. They’d believe him over me.
At the beginning of our relationship I was a straight-A student.
By the end I was failing/scraping by, and genuinely believed that I was unintelligent. I suffered from (diagnosed) depression, and had regular anxiety attacks.
I’m on the road to making a better life for myself. I have a 3 year plan and hope, by the end of it, to be accepted on to study Medicine- a dream I gave up years ago as I believed I wasn’t smart enough. Or, more simply, that I wasn’t good enough.
I still have difficulty accepting the fact that I wasn’t a liar. That I wasn’t manipulative. That I wasn’t, am not, nor have ever been, a bad person.
As for relationships… I don’t think I’ll be able to trust anybody for a long time. But I’m okay with that. I’m retaking exams, working on my dream, and I have the best fucking friends in the entire world.
They regret not getting me out of the relationship sooner. I try not talking about it too often but they’re there when I need them, as I am for them. They were so shocked at first when I revealed the ins and outs of the relationship, but at the same time they’d seen the change in me over the years.
I’m just thankful that I’m starting to feel like a valid and important human being again. It’s so freeing.
As for feeling like myself… I’m sure it’ll come soon.
Please. Don’t be blind. If you feel, even for a moment, that your partner isn’t telling the truth, talk to a friend about it, or seek out an online chatroom. I wish I had. It would have saved me many years of pain and self-hatred. But I cannot dwell on those lost years. I have to move forwards.