By Sarah Strudwick
Sarah Strudwick, based in the UK, is author of Dark Souls—Healing and recovering from toxic relationships.
For the three years since I broke up with the psychopathic ex I have remained single. I’ve met a few wannabe boyfriends, but unfortunately they have turned out to be disordered, so I never took it past the going for a coffee stage. Like many other victims, I’ve focused on my own recovery and have even written a couple of books on it to help other women.
During the time I was dating this man, whom I call “Oliver” in the book, I was also friends with another man. We had met long before on a dating site but never consummated the relationship (i.e. had sex), and had just stayed in contact as friends. There was just something I didn’t feel comfortable with.
Every time I was single or on a breakup from the psychopathic ex, this man (We’ll call him “Lurch” for want of a better word) would miraculously appear out of nowhere and try and rekindle our friendship. In the past he declared his undying love for me, but has a long history of failed relationships with women and an even longer track record of past drug abuse.
The last time we spoke was about three years ago when he tried to rekindle the relationship. I told him to go and sort himself out and got a long email from him saying he was planning on getting off the weed, stopping drinking and was going to move overseas and become a teacher after he finished his university degree.
Apart from a brief couple of emails from him, where he bragged about this new relationship he was in and how “sorted” he was, I’ve not really heard from him and have avoided all contact. Up until now …
They always turn up again like a bad penny
Just before Xmas, Lurch contacted me saying he was returning from overseas and that he had been on many temple retreats and “sorted” his head. He said he had stopped drinking and was no longer smoking pot, and had had this epiphany moment where he realised he wanted to stop being an “asshole” and a “bastard” and settle down.
I know that people can change. Despite bumping into a few disordered people over the last couple of years, there was a big part of me that didn’t want to end up as cynical old woman who thought all men were either psychopathic or had some kind of character disturbance.
Lurch is a very charming character. He’s funny, somewhat sarcastic and intelligent, but at the same time he has lots of “issues,” all of which he had promised he’d sorted out.
Lurch sent me an email saying he wanted to meet me over Xmas and New Year and start a relationship. In my efforts not to be this horrible old cynical cow, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and meet up with him, albeit it very tentatively.
The big meeting
The night before he was on the telephone saying how much he was looking forward to coming up the following day. Lurch said he had originally planned to come early. He was planning on visiting two women he had known from about 15 years earlier, and was going to spend New Year with them and a bunch of other friends.
The morning he was meant to come up I received a text message saying he wasn’t going to leave until I texted my postcode. I was surprised that he hadn’t even got in the car at this point and so I called him, apologising for not answering his text sooner. He said he would jump in the shower and be there as soon as possible.
Six hours later he finally arrived.
Red Flag One – Putting others down
He explained that he had planned on seeing this other friend, but that she had “blown him out.” That’s a British colloquial term for being stood up. He said that he was delighted that she had blown him out because it meant he didn’t have to fork out for a ton of petrol money. He also talked about another one of his ex-girlfriends saying she was crazy. He compared to having sex with another one as “shagging a wet fish.” He also talked about another girl whom he had met overseas and said “she was boring as f**k, I felt like a walking dictionary.” The final insult came when he talked about another woman saying, “She has the biggest Konk (nose) on her he has ever seen.” He described his sister as a “flying mattress.”
Red Flag Two – Stalking
I have two brothers, and I have been estranged from my eldest brother for a number of years, after having therapy and realising that he’s not so healthy. Lurch explained that he had asked my brother to build a website for him. Lurch then went onto to say that my brother managed to rip him off for thousands of pounds by building a website that was no good. I asked to see the evidence, and was surprised that he was actually telling the truth for once. I was also surprised that he had got my brother to do the site, out of the thousands of people whom he could have contacted.
He then went on to say that he had gone to “great lengths” to try and track me down, because my phone number had been changed. He also mentioned how jealous he was when I was going out with the pathological ex.
Red Flag Three – Gut Feeling kicks in
During the five years I was with Oliver, I suffered from extreme cluster migraines. Now I have stopped taking the prescription pills I was put on for nearly 5 years, and very occasionally have a migraine. That evening my head started to spin and I could also feel this very big knot in my stomach, but couldn’t understand why.
After talking about my brother I decided to call my younger brother, who I still have contact with. Having grown up with pathology in the family, both of us had had tons of therapy and share our new found knowledge if we get a sense that something is wrong. After explaining to him what our older brother had done to Lurch, he suggested we both come round and see him.
Red Flag Four – Bragging, putting other people down, objectification and more stalking behaviour
The moment Lurch met my brother and his girlfriend, he started bragging about all of his accomplishments. My brother asked him what he did overseas, and he explained that he was fed up of being with people from Korea. He said he just did the job for the money and hated every day of it. He liked to “take the piss” out of the students who didn’t understand what he was saying because they couldn’t understand English properly. He then went on to “brag” about how he used to be a bastard and a nasty piece of work, but how sorted he was because he no longer took coke, ecstasy and pills. He said he only drank occasionally, but bragged about what a good laugh he was when he was pissed up (drunk) and how everyone liked him.
When my brother asked him why he hadn’t confronted our eldest brother about ripping him off for a bad website, his reply was, “In the old days I would have gone round and bashed his head in with a baseball bat” but “I’ve done enough work on myself and lots of temple retreats to calm my anger.”
When he pulled out his laptop to show my brother all the invoices for the payments he made, I was shocked to see that his screen saver was a somewhat saucy photograph of me! At which point he hurriedly tried to hide it, but was laughing. I asked him where he had found that picture of me and he said, “It’s amazing what stuff you can find on the internet.”
Red Flag Five – The flattery, projection and love bombing
We arranged to go and have a meal. On the way we collected his bags from his car, as he planned on leaving that night to stay with friends. He gave me a box of Thornton’s chocolates (unwrapped), which in hindsight, was probably meant for the woman who had “blown him out.” He described my eldest brother, who had ripped him off, as being an “oxygen thief.” This was kind of interesting, considering how Lurch behaved with others. Lurch again reiterated how tired he was of being around people that lied to him.
On arrival at the restaurant, he kept saying how wonderful it was to see me again. How he missed my upbeat, fun personality, and that he had never laughed as much as that in nearly three years.
Red Flag six – The deer in the headlights
It was this point, I had what can only be described as a “deer in the headlights” moment. Although I knew something was clearly wrong long before the dinner, and I wanted to run, I felt frozen and couldn’t move. Coming from a childhood background of sexual abuse, I’ve discussed this a lot in therapy. Many targets want to do “something,” but feel powerless. After suggesting it was time to go home we left the restaurant and he went onto his other engagements.
Red Flag seven – Love Bombing and mirroring
That night I couldn’t sleep, and left my mobile in the kitchen overnight. The following morning I awoke to six or seven texts that said, “Anyway you are still ravishing, very sexy, but most of all you still have your hot wonderful personality which I have missed badly.” Then a load more texts including how he wanted to “give me long hot slow sensual massages and how much his ex hated having them and how he hoped I liked having massages.” He then sent texts saying how alike we were. I mentioned I hadn’t slept well the night before because of restless legs and snoring, and he called us a “perfect match.”
Red Flag Eight – Ignoring, shifting the goal posts, minimizing, the silent treatment, devalue and discard
I texted him the following day, asking what time was he planning on coming and he replied with a question. A few hours later, after no response, the same thing happened. He said he would be coming in the evening of the 1st, although previously he said he was coming in the morning. He wouldn’t respond to any calls, at which point my gut feeling said run away as quickly as possible.
My brother called me up on New Years Day and I told him that I’d felt uncomfortable around Lurch. I asked him if he thought I might be imagining it. His response was that both he and his girlfriend felt very uncomfortable around him. He described Lurch as cocky, arrogant and full of himself, and both he and his girlfriend were “creeped out” by him and he thought he was dangerous.
More silent treatment continued and I finally plucked up the courage to tell him I didn’t feel comfortable seeing him again. To which I got a final childish message back saying, “bye, your loss, bye,” then another saying “You fucked it up. You need to heal more and do a temple stay.”
Red Flag Nine – Devalue and Disregard, Grandiosity, Rendering me Silent, Crazy Making
The next day I was surprised to get yet another text from him, as if nothing had happened!
There was no apology, no explaining why he couldn’t answer his phone for two days to firm up our plans. The text said he “hadn’t left yet and could drop by and see me on his way back down south.” At this point I called him. No answer. No response.
He finally answered his phone and I expressed concerns about his behaviour, using the silent treatment and so on. He listened with the utmost calm. There was no apology, no concern that I had been upset and in fact at one point he laughed at me and put me on speakerphone. I realised that there was no point in getting angry or upset. He wanted me to act upset so his friends could see that I was the crazy one. He had the same calmness and flat effect my psychopathic ex displayed when called out in a lie. Then he suddenly said, “I’m not talking to you,” and hung up.
During the whole conversation, he called me “Lisa.”
After rendering me silent because he hung up I sent him a text. I said there was no point in seeing him, since he wasn’t prepared to answer his phone. Nor was there any point in discussing anything if he was going to hang up like a five-year-old. I received a whole lot of texts back, which included how much of an “enlightened being he was” was, how he was of a “higher consciousness,” and that I should go and have some therapy about my trust issues. After I calmed down I read back his texts, I realised that much of what he said was complete projection.
At which point I finally found my power again and told him not to contact me and to kindly f*ck off.
He continued to send multiple texts, saying it was my fault because I had “f*cked up,” in between sending other texts saying what a shame because he would “Go to the ends of the earth for me.” I finally received one more text from him, which said, “Wanna last try?” I thought to myself, “Wanna last try at what.” Text ping pong.
He had relentlessly pursued me over the last couple of years, finding pictures of me on the internet, sending me multiple emails, and was quite miffed because I was the only woman that had never slept with him. I realised that the “relationshit” that never was, was now over, thankfully.
Although I had a very upset stomach and migraine after all the head games he’d played, I realised that if you have the right tools, it doesn’t have to take years or months after giving someone the benefit of the doubt before you see the light and discover that they are disordered, whatever his label is.
No matter how upset they make you, or however vulnerable you feel in their attempts to disarm you emotionally, it is possible to escape very quickly with minimal harm.
I read that many victims of borderlines end up having long term health problems such as colon disorders and migraines. With a history of Chrohn’s, which stopped after my last relationship, this was firm reminder to listen to my own body whenever my intuition screams run!
For all the flattery, love bombing, mirroring, mind games, gas lighting and silent treatment, it was also a stern reminder at how someone who proclaims they want to be with you can quickly can turn around, to the point where you are discarded like a piece of dog doo.
So on a positive note, remember it’s easy to “speed date a sociopath” by standing back and observing their behaviour. It took me exactly three days to figure it out.
I also learned that, whilst I might still have trust issues, I was thankful to Lurch for stepping in to remind me exactly what I do NOT want in a relationship ever again.