They’re insanely gorgeous and all, but what if they’re abusers or worse, psychopaths? If you can easily spot one, you can save yourself and maybe help others as well.
Valentine’s Day or not, people date. And for various reasons, there are those who are particularly vulnerable to abuse from their SOs or the person they are dating, whether emotionally, mentally, or physically.
For the ladies, picture this. The guy is good-looking; he might even give some models a run for their money in the looks/physique department. He laid his eyes on you, you started chatting almost non-stop. His humor and intellect make you fall hard. Plus, you could swear he genuinely cares for you and you have his full attention. I know it kind of reminds you of Joe in the Netflix hit You.
A study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3876290/ states that “abusive behavior does not always involve tangible violence. Distinctions must be made between physical violence/abuse—traditionally, the most researched and detectable form—and emotional, or psychological, abuse. Emotional abuse is any non-physical behavior or attitude that is designed to control, subdue, punish, or isolate another person through the use of humiliation or fear. Emotional abuse can include verbal assault, dominance, control, isolation, ridicule, or the use of intimate knowledge for degradation. It targets the emotional and psychological well-being of the victim, and it is often a precursor to physical abuse. “
Further, the article says that there is a high correlation between physical abuse and emotional abuse in batterer populations and that verbal abuse early in a relationship predicts subsequent physical spousal abuse.
Someone I know has shared her story with me and gave permission for me to share it here under a false name in the hope that she can help educate or warn people, particularly women who can fall victim to the handsome, smooth, and charismatic guy only to realize much later that he can suck out the life and light in you.
Ana (not her real name), who’s in her early 40s, dated and lived with this guy for more than two years before realizing that he had been manipulating and gaslighting her over that period.
“You could say that he was an expert in that field. First, he made me fall for him by showering me with attention and affection. Eventually, he gained my trust, and before I knew it, I was already “under his spell,” shares Ana.
“He had been cheating on me repeatedly without me knowing, and because he was playing his game so well, I never suspected it at first. It was only when a colleague reached out to me and shared that the guy I was dating is showing her an interest that I took notice of the little things. When you’re in love, you can be that blind,” she said.
“When I was able to escape from the trap with the help of my therapist and the people who truly care for me, I was able to recognize my blind side.”
In the two and a half years that Ana spent with the guy, Ana had recurring episodes of depression and anxiety attacks.
“I thought it was brought about by my job. With the guidance of my therapist, we were able to identify the triggers and most of them were my bad experiences with my past relationship. He had been gaslighting me, making me believe that every little thing that goes wrong was my fault. And I believed it,” Ana added.
Thankfully, Ana was able to get out of the relationship and has finally moved on. The experience made her realize that these perpetrators can manipulate even the smartest woman in the room. Now that she’s out of it, she wants her story to be heard in the hope that it can help women who might be in the same situation escape from it.
“The therapy was a big help to me. My therapist and I have exercises on how to easily identify my triggers and overcome episodes of depression and anxiety attacks. There might be others who are undergoing the same experience I went through and to them, I have this to say: Do not be afraid to seek help, to move out, and to move on.”
Maan, a single mother to four boys, also shared her story. On her part, she stayed in an abusive relationship longer than she ought to for her children.
“In hindsight, I could’ve left earlier. But it’s all fine now, the most important thing to me at this point is that we are all safe and happy, and no longer afraid and tip-toeing around the house,” she said.
“It’s been years since I packed up with my four boys and escaped from the abusive hands of my ex-husband. Now, I am raising my family in a safe and loving environment. We are in a happier place. We no longer have to feel like we are walking on eggshells, unlike before when my ex-husband would be triggered by the most trivial of things,” Maan said.
The pain that her former husband inflicted was not always physical. Maan recalled that one time, when they were all in the car, driving out to visit her relatives, when he casually said to her kids, “Your mother is stupid,” just because he did not feel like going. “He called the boys ‘losers,’ too if he saw them cry over something.”
According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, one in four Filipino women aged 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence by their husband or partner.
“For me, the first sign that women should watch out for is when their partner starts isolating them from their family and friends—or their support system. Also, never ever ignore the red flags no matter how trivial or small they may seem,” she advised.
The stories above are just a few of many others. Indeed, it is important to be aware and to realize that there is always that choice to leave especially at the first sign of abuse. These women, though afraid at first at the thought of starting all over again, mustered whatever courage they had within themselves and decided to put a stop to situations that are no longer serving them. And come to think of it, doing so means that they value and love not just the people who count on them, but especially themselves.