“Why would you go to that party without me? Why would you want to? I wouldn’t want to go without you?”
“You know you don’t have a lot of vacation days and we need those for when we can see each other. Why would you take one for your daughter’s birthday with your friend, when you could have arranged it on a Sunday?”
“I just want to be with you. You’re my soulmate. My true love TNF.”
“You give time to everyone else but me. My healing isn’t as important as everyone else’s healing. Even people you don’t know.”
Subtle, right?! At first, I thought he was just wanting to spend every minute with me because he “loved” me. But in actuality, it was part of the isolation game.
It took months of therapy to realize this was what was happening, and seems to be a pattern in narcissistic abuse. Isolate the “loved one” from friends and family—either through subtle comments, mandates, or guilt trips. Lots of guilt trips.
For example, one of my dearest friends was having a birthday party at a bar downtown. I asked if he would go with me and he said he would. But of course, things changed and he had to go out of town. I am and have always been very independent. It didn’t even cross my mind that I wouldn’t go because he wasn’t going with me. I dressed up in the spirit of the party and headed off to celebrate her birthday, but not before receiving some subtle guilt tripping. And the perfectly-timed admission he didn’t like to dress up and do that type of thing—a difference he wanted to point out. As you can imagine, I wasn't present at all at the party and that's the way he liked it. (That's a whole OTHER topic I'll cover in a future post. Birthdays, holidays, big events, accolades—all become nightmares.)
“Did you talk to any guys there?” Um….yes, and I met the husbands of some of my girlfriends I hadn’t met. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go if you weren’t with me,” he said.
Wait, what?!? Note to self: Don’t go to parties without him even if he's saying, "Have fun, honey!"
Cut to a two-hour lunch I chose to spend with an old friend from high school to talk about spirituality and mediumship when I was home a few years ago. I was back in Ohio for two weeks and we were working our tails off building furniture. At first, he was very supportive of me heading out to spend 120 minutes with an old friend, but then it turned.
After the lunch, privately, he made it known he was disappointed I wasn’t focused on the work we were there to do. He was shaming me for choosing to take two hours out of the day to help a friend. He said I was always moving from one thing to another and unlike him, his soul focus was Mod Life, for “us and our future.” And when a TV production company came calling asking if I would consider hosting a TV show, I was excited.....but he wasn’t. My parents were excited, too, but he made it known that he thought I would be spreading myself too thin, even though the exposure from the TV might have helped the Mod brand. Regrettably, I turned them down. I was still believing he knew best while I was sinking further and further into quicksand called "guilt trip."
Isolating comments can be hard to identify, especially if you are a person who internalizes and always looks inward for answers. Maybe I should be more considerate of his feelings? Maybe I needed to just focus completely on him and the work we were doing in Ohio?!? Maybe I am spreading myself too thin by not concentrating ONLY on Mod Life?
I “maybe’d” myself to death thinking there must be some truth to what he was saying all the while feeling that kick in the gut feeling every time I let him take a little bit more of my power.
The real truth is that he was actively working to isolate me from friends and family—and from my own inner knowing— in order to control. It comes after the “love bombing” stage, where you’re put on a pedestal, so it can seem like they’re sharing their observations out of love. It’s not love. It’s control.
If you’ve read other blog posts of mine, you know I was unknowingly healing from past trauma with this NEW trauma. The key for me getting out of the relationship and on the path to true healing has everything to do with my belief in myself. I am lucky that my parents encouraged me to always be confident and stand tall—to believe that I am worthy and trust myself.
What does this mean when you’re on the receiving end of manipulative abuse tactics? It meant that I wouldn’t roll over. I would argue (after questioning myself) my points and reiterate that I am an independent woman who has no problem standing on her own. Going to parties on her own. Fighting for what she knows is right.
Another instance that comes to mind as I write this happened when he was back in Philly during a time period where we were not on solid ground. It’s 2am in the morning EST time and we spoke over the phone before I went to bed in Arizona. What started as a calm conversation spiraled into rage over the phone. I can’t even remember why he was angry but I literally held the phone away from my ear, tears streaming down my face. At one point during the phone call, his ex (who was one floor above him with their sleeping children) sent a text to him and he read it to me. “She cares. She just sent a text to me worried about what time I need to leave in order to catch my 5am flight.” He pitched it to me like, “see, even my ex cares about me in ways you don’t” but what stood out to me was the tactic she used to get his attention. After all, it was 2am in the morning. He was in the garage smoking and yelling at me with a booming voice that months earlier brought the cops to our apartment. There’s NO WAY he wasn’t waking the kids (and clearly, his ex) one floor up. Instead of telling him to please quiet down and stop yelling, she acted worried he might miss his flight and wanted to know when he was planning on getting an Uber. What I heard is a woman who has learned to employ coping mechanisms and tactics of her own when dealing with his anger.
I was not that smart. I was constantly defending myself and standing up for what I felt was right. You can imagine how this played out. Eventually, I would get so worn down from the relentless texts, emails, and in-person and phone fights, that I would just want it all to go away. I would take the blame and hope that we could just move on to happier times. I found myself in the same position with the same tone as his ex, when I would hear her say quietly over the phone to him, “Ok…uh huh…ok.” If she fought back, she’d be punished in some way, maybe with more isolating threats such as not being allowed to see nearby family members, or threats regarding custody of the children.
Can you relate to this post? If so, did you realize it was happening when you were in it? Did you lose family and friends permanently? Please share your experiences with me (anonymously, if you’d like), if you feel comfortable.
The more I speak with survivors, the more I realize the subtle mind control techniques used by many read like a script in a bad movie that never should have been made.
Let’s rip up this script and start over. There’s no room for isolation in it.
(Well, maybe if there's a monkey with a disease that will wipe out the planet. But that movie has already been made.)
3/28/2018 04:08:29 pm
I remember that spa weekend, the barage of texts from him to keep you isolated from your daughter and I, to keep you in a world away. I am so happy that we were able to make so fabulous memories, in spite of his actions, because of your heart! He constantly tried to keep you isolated from all the people who loved you most in this world.
3/28/2018 04:11:36 pm
Awww, Egan, this made me tear up. Thank you. And I'm so sorry you had to endure that during that trip. I was still in the throws of it all, as you knew. It happened with my other dear friend, Lorraine, too. On a girls weekend. You both were concerned and supportive of me, and it meant the world.
3/28/2018 04:52:35 pm
I was isolated in a different way... I wanted some personal social time with him as well as some fun time with friends. But his idea of a fun night was staying home and watching DVD’s while I cooked dinner and cleaned up the mess. He even chose most of the movies... Ones I had no interest in most of the time. But somehow he always had time and energy to break dates with me to suddenly go out with his friends or attend gatherings for his side of the extended family and then invite me. Uh... how would you feel if you had an evening planned and then you get blown off and invited to some other thing at the same time? Happened a lot! He often made up excuses for why I didn’t wish to attend (embarrassing lies even). He often made me out to be some pathetic person who never wanted to go out at all. The truth was I was tired of the charade and really didn’t enjoy being around most of his friends and definitely not his family. I wanted balance. I would be happy to give a little if I could ever get a little in return. But my life was lived on a one way street. A very lonely one way street. And he was very successful at giving folks the impression he was such a nice, caring guy. Truth is he even admitted not really caring that much about others in the ways they thought he did. But he did care about how they perceived him. So he played the part, while I voiced my opposition to the bs and more often than not appeared to be the one who *had issues*. I was so isolated that no one ever knew my side of the story. Even close friends had a tough time believing I wasn’t *blowing things out of proportion*. I was cast to the shadows of our isolated home while he eventually went on to live a legitimate double life. One I knew nothing about. Later he confessed he just wanted attention. As if I never gave him enough! I was the one withering while he was out frolicking with other women and pretending I didn’t even exist. I still suffer from a sense of invisibility. And not the kind you wish for when you’re a kid. 😞
3/28/2018 06:03:56 pm
Kari, I'm so sorry. This type of isolation sounds so painful and miserable. I can relate to a degree because I remember planning walks or "let's go out" tonight (like out for a cheap dinner) and he would say yes, but then it would change last minute to a movie at home, and a chance for him to "relax" using his "medicine." "Medicine" ruled the schedule. That is the part I remember the most--never being able to count on plans we made. For a planner, it's very hard.
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