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Mental Health Tuesday: Cat and Mouse

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He toyed with me. Right from the start it was a game for him. He was the predator and I was the prey in a game that included emotional, psychological, and financial abuse.

I found him on a dating site. Oddly, his profile picture was of his back. As it turns out that is his best feature. He had a large tattoo of a crow, wings spread. The lower edge of the wings broke up into smaller crows. It was a work of art.

I’m indifferent to tattoos. But this one was beautiful, so I messaged him to let him know.  After I messaged him he took a few days to respond. This was the beginning of a dialogue that continued over a couple of weeks. Then one evening out-of-the-blue he calls me and asks to meet me at a bar. He says he’s on his way home from work and passing through my town. I accept.

In hindsight, I should have declined. I deserved more than a casual, last minute encounter with someone I had never met before. I’m not saying that our first date had to be a fine dining experience, but a little more planning would have showed respect.

He was already toying with me. Seeing if I would take his crumbs. I did so without giving it a thought. This was going to become a pattern for the rest of our relationship.

I met him at the bar. He was sitting on the step outside smoking a cigarette. I knew he was a construction worker, but I guess I expected he would tidy up a bit. His clothes were dirty and he was still wearing his neon orange safety vest.

I remember thinking that I shouldn’t judge. He was a hard-working man. Without speaking to him I was already making excuses for his behavior. This was another pattern.

I read somewhere that when you make excuses for someone else it’s a clue that you’re not in the right place and you’re not with the right person. If your life feels right you don’t need excuses.

The second time I saw him he asked me lots of questions. He wanted to know everything. My history: romance, family, and finances. What my goals and dreams were. What I was looking for romantically. At one point I told him that I felt like I was being interviewed.

He explained that he was looking for a life-partner and didn’t want to waste his time if I wasn’t looking for the same thing. I said I wanted that too, but honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted.

Something happened in the moment I said I wanted the same things that he wanted. It was like I had committed to having this life with him. I said yes and suddenly I was locked into a lifetime commitment with a man I barely knew. It was unsettling.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was the beginning of the power he would exert over my life. I gave him permission to manipulate, control, and abuse me. I felt trapped.

In a short period of time he started saying I love you when we parted. It made me feel uncomfortable, and yet, I liked it. Thinking that this man was so enamored with me that he was already declaring his love felt so good. In my naivete I didn’t see that he was playing with me.

When I look back I’m surprised that I was willing to give up everything to be with him. In comparison, he gave up nothing.

It took me a long time of planning before I was able to leave. There was a power imbalance that made it difficult to extricate myself from this man’s life.  Living with him destroyed my self-esteem. I doubted myself. On top of all that he was an angry man and I was afraid of him. Leaving wasn’t be easy.

When the time came I didn’t try to explain or make excuses. I apologized and said whatever I thought he wanted to hear so I could leave as safely as possible.

He harassed me for awhile with telephone calls and text messages.  I ended up filing a report with the police and thankfully he stopped. It took a long time for me to stop checking the street when I left my house to see if he was waiting for me.

As I write this, it has been one-and-a-half years since I left him. In that time my self-esteem has improved, I no longer doubt myself and I have discovered a strength that I didn’t know I had. I survived. I am no longer a mouse and he can no longer toy with me.

Visit Jane at

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