Thursday, June 13, 2013

Red Flags

I'm a nice person, a caretaker. I've learned that this makes me vulnerable to people to want to take advantage of me. I've learned over the years to set boundaries, especially with women friends who want to dump all their problems on me, to only use me as their psychologist. In high school I had a friend who would only call me up when she needed me to drive her around. In romantic relationships, it's been harder to set these boundaries. I will go along to get along. This has been my undoing.

I met this guy, James (name changed to protect me). He made me laugh. I also came to learn he is a sociopath. Do you know anything about sociopaths? They are the worst sort of people. They don't care about anyone except themselves. They are very good about faking love. They observe people and James has a lifetime of observing what love looks like. I think by the time he met me, he really did want love in his life, and he wanted what I have in my life; kindness, fun, frivolity, he set about to win me over. He asked around about me, what I liked and wanted in a man. He friended me on facebook and devoured all he read about me; and became what I wanted.

But it was fake, because at his core, he was who he was and he didn't change his core, he couldn't because sociopaths aren't capable of feeling love, only contempt and anger. He was able to fool me for a year, however. I fell in love. We moved in together. His true self came out when he wasn't able to hide it any longer. He began by making false accusations of infidelity against me (was he having an affair? Most likely). He began to try to cause problems between his daughter and me by accusing me of not being a good Mom to his daughter (I wasn't a Mom to his daughter, she had a Mom, I wasn't her Mom--something I kept pointing out to him). He began to chase me, to grab me, to prevent me from leaving.

Then, one night when he was drinking a lot, he strangled me. He pled down from a felony to a misdemeanor.

A good friend who has supported me through all this called me this week to offer to return a prized piece of ceramic that I gave her when James and I moved in together that I had given her. You see, James told me that I could not keep it, that it was a religious piece and since we were both non-religious, he was not going to have that in his house. What I didn't realize was that this is a red flag of an abuser; they do not value your possessions and they give them away...this was even worse, because he was insisting that I give my own things away.

My dear friend, giving me back something so dear to me, brought back memories. It reminded me of red flags that I had ignored in the relationship. I don't want other women to ignore these red flags. Why did I ignore them? Because I was raised to be that nice girl. I wanted to go along to get along, so I gave away something that was very special to me in order to get along. I was raised to be nice, to not rock the boat. I was taught to turn the other cheek. I was raised in a patriarchal society where I was taught the men have the last say, and to submit to men's authority. We are taught that boys will be boys, and, to tolerate men when they act like assholes. The book, How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before you Get Involved has helped me understand red flags, unfortunately after the fact.

James also gave away a mini-fridge, my lawn mower and many of my other possessions. When he came to get his possessions, he even stole things of mine, including some of my artwork as well as some original artwork that my daughter made for me. He drank too much and did illegal drugs. He rushed the relationship.

At one point, when we were buying this house, James had his friend, a realtor, come to me and ask me to hand over my bank information to James. I couldn't believe it! I said no way in hell was I going to do that! I knew right away that that was a red flag. In fact, I began at that moment to look for a house that I could buy on my own, without James. Why, then, did I stay? Why didn't I walk away? Because I'm a nice girl.  Nice girls forgive. Nice girls turn the other cheek and overlook men's asshole behavior.

I stayed, and for staying, I got strangled and am in the process of losing my home and all the money I invested in it. My credit is ruined.

STOP being nice girls, women. Walk away. Walk away as soon as you see red flags. Be your own advocate.

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