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There was something about him…and he seemed so sinceretrustworthy, kind and nice.

How could I have known that this was an illusion, that he was unsafe for my heart and that I should have stayed away…far away. But I got lost. I fell in love with him and as each week passed I lost more and more of me.

“There is no walking backwards, and I am lost in the Labyrinth Invisible. I cannot retrace my steps. I wrote my name on the wall of the Labyrinth…I wrote my name but I can find it no longer; My ashes blow around like dust.”

– Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic: The Invisible Labyrinth.

I was looking for a relationship, for something long term and I made that very clear. We spoke for hours and hours on the phone before anything happened. Close to 22 hours over a 3 week period. And in those hours and hours of talking I felt he was sharing and revealing so much about himself, his life, his past to me. I felt special…like he trusted me. His stories seemed so interesting and he seemed to be really interested in me as a person. It never occurred to me not to trust him. He was in a position of trust and I had known him for a few months already, so at this point I never thought for a second to question his trustworthiness or motives.

Months later I asked him why he had asked me so many questions at the beginning and hardly any after and his answer: Because I was trying to get into your psyche.

“They (emotional manipulators) seek out the sensitive, insecure or overly trusting.”

– Barrie Davenport (liveboldandbloom)

“A disarmed target is a much easier to control target, so they’ll play to the desire of the other person to be valued and liked which becomes a powerful manipulation tool.” – Dr. George Simon

After all the hours of talking we agreed to meet to talk about how we would move forward. Driving to meet him I felt so incredibly nervous that I almost turned around and went home. I felt the same way getting ready for our first date…but worse. It was more intense. I was so nervous I was shaking a lot, my chest pounding and I felt sick…weak. I attributed it to nerves but I’ve never experienced that before and looking back I know now it was a warning sign. Something behind the something.

It seemed like we were on the same page. He said he didn’t want another missed opportunity in his life, that he wanted to be with someone who was his best friend, that he was a hopeful romantic and we talked a lot about which romantic movies we each liked…he said so many things that I felt at the time I connected with and I felt excited about the possibility of where this could go. I felt like he saw me. All the things he said swirl around in my head now. He was a good talker…no – a great talker… A poet, a storyteller weaving his glistening, spellbinding web. And he caught me. I fell for the person he pretended to be. 

“But sometimes, seduction can be carried out in such a carefully crafted manner or with such intensity that the other person is completely swept away, blinded to the true character of the seducer. Only after the manipulator gets what he or she wants will their true character become clearer, and by then it’s generally too late.” – Dr. George Simon

Very quickly I felt insecure…anxious…like I sensed something was off but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He would vanish for days and I wouldn’t hear from him. He would make plans with me and then cancel or just not make any plans and always seemed to be busy with something else/someone else on the weekends. But we continued to spend hours talking on the phone…not as much as at the beginning but once we got talking it was easily a 2 hour conversation. I placed meaning on these conversations…he must care if we talked for so long.  

“Identifying covert emotional manipulation is tricky. You sense something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on the problem.” And…”Because he presented himself as kind, sincere, trustworthy, safe, loving when he acted coldly or distant it was much better tolerated.”

– Adelyn Birch

When I wanted to spend his Birthday with him he said: I don’t spend my Birthday with people I’m seeing. From the moment we “got together” he asked me once over a 4 month period how I was and never asked me how my day was or commented that I looked attractive (except on our first date). The conversation always centered around him, always led back to him.

He was very good at getting sympathy…very good at telling elaborate, long stories to evoke feeling and also to detract from something he didn’t want to talk about. He would circle around things…leaving me feeling confused. I would end up feeling bad for expecting him make plans with me or to follow through on something he said he would do as he would give me this whole story of something “awful” or “stressful” that was going on/had happened…reasons why he couldn’t do whatever it was and I would end up feeling sorry for him/guilty.

“The emotional manipulator knows how to play the victim role to perfection. They stir up a pot of guilt and sympathy and serve it to you in heaping ladlefuls.” – Barrie Davenport

A few weeks after we had started seeing each other I had already experienced enough anxiety and hurt to question him whether he still wanted to see me. He said he didn’t think he wanted to be anyone’s boyfriend, that this was getting “complicated” …he wanted “fun and easy”…And then for the rest of the conversation he would say he never said he didn’t want a relationship…that he was just confused..needed more time. I would never have started seeing him had I known he just wanted fun and easy. But he was very good at turning things around…changing what he had initially said and I was already in love with him so I clung on to the crumbs of hope.

But I wasn’t happy. I was upset every week and yet I couldn’t walk away. I would stare at my phone waiting to hear from him, or just sit there crying. I obsessed about what he said and didn’t say and when he told me early on there is temptation everywhere I felt even worse. I scrambled like a rat to feel that he wanted me. I have never met someone who could be so sincere and heartfelt one moment and then in the next seem like he couldn’t care less…was cold and dismissive. It confused me, made me panic. I couldn’t sleep. His communication was so confusing. It was mixed messages mastered, lots of answers in shades of grey that would change even in the course of one conversation.

“Emotional rapists tend to avoid any definite spoken or written statements of intent, preferring vaguely defined implied agreements.”  – Michael Fox

I would research “signs he’s just not that into you” and “signs he’s just using you” and “signs he is emotionally unavailable” and I could check off most points made.

“The person’s an opportunist. Agreements don’t mean anything.” —Dr. Anne Brown

When he said he wanted to explore other people I made it clear where the door was. I felt I was being strong at the time and that because he didn’t walk out the door it meant something….but it was just easier/more convenient for him not to leave at the time.

“Covert emotional manipulation tactics are underhanded methods of control. Emotional manipulation methodically wears down your self-worth and damages your trust in your own perceptions. It can make you unwittingly compromise your personal boundaries and lose your self-respect, and even lead to a warped concept of yourself and of reality.” – Adelyn Birch

In May I finally ended it. And then he said No…I’ll try harder…I’m so sorry…

And yes I stayed. He kissed me on the beach and looked at me so intently and said all the right things and I was filled with hope again.

But the hot and cold behavior started again pretty quickly. And I decided I needed help. I needed to speak with someone. This was affecting everything. My relationship coach demonstrated to me what he was doing. She put one hand up as a stop sign and the other beckoning me forward. And then she looked at me and said he’s a mess.

My guy friends in particular had tried to warn me early on. They said things like: He’s a spider weaving his web, he’s a predator, he’s done this before…But I felt that I would be different. That he would realize how great I was and fall in love with me. He would choose me. I thought they were wrong. Then my girlfriends followed pretty quickly too with he just isn’t that into you, you deserve so much better, he’s a player.

“Skilled manipulators can be quite seductive and charming. Still, I confess readily in my book In Sheep’s Clothing that when I first began my clinical research, I wondered how the victims of covert-aggressors could be so blind to their manipulator’s true character without having a lot of issues of their own.  Only after I got much deeper into the study of covert aggressors did it become clear to me not only how adept they can often be at using various tactics but also how powerful the tactics themselves inherently are.” – Dr. George Simon

Then the summer came. And he just vanished. I felt disorientated. I couldn’t understand how this person who said he cared about me, who only 6 weeks earlier had said he was emotionally invested in me could just walk away and suddenly not communicate with me for over 2 months, wonder how I was or anything. It devastated me. And my sadness reached a whole new level. I never felt so used in my entire life. I felt so discarded. Like I didn’t even exist to him. I couldn’t stop crying at home, at night, in public places, in the car, at work. I had panic attacks and felt I couldn’t breathe properly. I felt deeply depressed. And I felt angry. I felt like my insides had been scraped out and like I had an oily residue on me. It felt like something very profound and heartbreaking had happened to me. To my soul. My core. It scared me, that I had trusted this person, let him into my home and opened my heart to him again and again, treated him with nothing but kindness and consideration and respect and love.

I realized that it didn’t even matter what I looked like or what my name was…I could have been anyone.

“Narcissists know they are amoral. They recognise this. The truth is they don’t care.” 

– Sam Vaknin


“For narcissists, creating emotional devastation is their way of demonstrating power. They know that the wound of abandonment is at the core of human experience.” – Kim Saeed

I focussed on my own healing work. I started to pray intensely and hike a lot and quite simply desperately ask for help. I spoke with friends, saw my relationship coach, painted. And it slowly helped to shift things within me. At this point I had not yet delved into narcissism/emotional manipulation. I just needed to do all that I could to feel better and take care of myself.

And I realized the truth:

“We will never tolerate a level of love less than the level of love we have for ourselves.”  

– Melanie Tonia Evans

I attended a friends wedding towards the end of August at San Luis Obispo Lighthouse. It was a beautiful wedding and also a wonderful healing experience for me.  There was something about that place…the sunset, the ocean, the lighthouse, the air. A beautiful big tree stood close by with a swing. During the festivities I walked to it in the dark and started to swing. The tree was facing the ocean on a hill so that when you swung it felt as if you would fly out into the night across the ocean, up to the moon and stars. That tree had been through a lot. It had character. It was strong. I wanted to be like that tree and I felt so embraced that night by the tree, the night, the air that I will never forget those moments in the dark under the light of the moon. It felt like Freedom and coming home. 

And then…

I had to have contact with him again. I got pulled in and we started talking for hours again and I shared a lot and I thought we could become friends. I thought, I thought…But he didn’t want my friendship. He just kept hurting me with his actions, while saying he really cared, the web started spinning…

“Narcissists are pathological liars, because that is what people who have created an entire persona based on a False Self do. Liars betray people, because they say one thing and mean another. They feign all sorts of love, care and tenderness to secure agendas whilst doing the actions that state the exact opposite.” – Melanie Tonia Evans

I was stronger after all the work I had done on myself during the summer though and suddenly that was it…

I was truly done in every way.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am not for others, what am I?

And if not now, when?”

– Hillel, 12th Century

This is when I seriously began to look into emotional manipulation/narcissist personality disorder. I deeply knew at this point that something more had gone on here. I desperately needed to understand what had happened, what I had been through…how I could have missed this. Again and again I trusted him. I thought I had more self-love and self-respect for myself. I thought I was further along my path of awareness in life…How could my heart be so wrong? I started to doubt myself…and others around me too. Nothing made sense. It was like I had been through a labyrinth of manipulation and I couldn’t see the beginning, middle and end. I read and read and read and I could relate to so much of what I was reading. I discovered a world of information/answers as to how manipulative people/emotional predators and narcissists operate. And I had experienced so many of them.

“Covert abuse is impossible to prove, because it’s always strategically ambiguous.”


The magnetic charm, the charisma, the intermittent reinforcement – bad/good treatment (In 1981 Drs Donald Dutton and Susan Painter posed a theory they referred to as “traumatic bonding”), brutal honesty, triangulation (bringing up previous partners or potential new ones which creates insecurity/competition), the endless mixed messages, Gaslighting – denying he said certain things, Hoovering – a technique used by narcissists (and other manipulative types) to suck their victims back into a relationship with them, chameleon like quality…

“The narcissist is a consummate chameleon – he or she will change tactics and behaviours to suit the environment and the agenda as required.” – Melanie Tonia Evans

…always talking about himself, lack of empathy, withdrawing affection, indifference, very skilled at reading people, need for control, frequent disappearances, abusing his position of trust.…the list goes on and on.

“All cruelty springs from weakness.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Finding all this information was a relief  – but devastating and heartbreaking at the same time.

“The predictable and yet completely unexpected and devastating pattern of a relationship with a psychopath (narcissist) is broken down into three stages: Idealize, Devalue and Discard.” Adelyn Birch

Dr. Rhonda Freeman, PhD – Neuropsychologist and author of the website NeuroInstincts writes a great article here: “The spellbinding bond to narcissists and psychopaths – what’s happening in the brain?”

“If you have been through an abusive relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you will know that no one understands what you are going through unless they have personally experienced it. It can be very frustrating when people in your life really can’t relate to what you are going through. They might say things such as “Why don’t you just leave him / her?” or “Why can’t you just move on and stop thinking about him / her?

The truth is recovering from a narcissistic relationship is nothing like recovery from a non-narcissistic relationship breakup and breakdown.”  – Melanie Tonia Evans

For the most part I feel strong. There are days though when a very deep sadness comes over me…the threads binding me together start to unravel, the oily residue still present… and I consciously have to breath them back in as if my life depends on it. 

And I know…

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Wizard of Oz

Some things change you. Forever. This is one of them.

“The greatest risk we’ll ever take is by far, to stand in the light and be seen as we are.” 

– Jordan Smith

I want to stand in the light and I want to be seen. I will not let this dim my light in any way. I move forward and do my best not to look back. My path involves a lot of self -reflection…a commitment to my own healing…what led me to become involved with a person like this to begin with and to heal those parts within myself. It was a profound spiritual wake-up call. (Great article here)

“When you know better, you do better.” – Maya Angelou

“If you want to know what is going on in your inner world look at your outer world.” – Buddha

I consciously pick up the pieces of me. I am not quite sure where they all go yet, or what they will look like as I reclaim each piece again – for I feel different. But I will carefully place each piece back on my body whispering I’m sorry, I love you as I do it and know that when I am done I will have a beautiful mosaic on my body that reflects many rainbows. 

Rainbows with nothing to hide.

By Annabel Ruffell

Some great websites which have helped me a lot: