This list comes with a trigger warning as it focuses on abuse. But the unique and particularly heart-wrenching thing about this type of abuse is that it is hard to pin point. There are no physical manifestation to serve as hard evidence; instead the bruises a psychological and emotional. This is Elisa’s experience:

  • He seems like the guy I have been waiting for and he makes me feel that I am his perfect match .

  • He praises me for all I am, all I have done and all I achieved in my life .

  • He shows that he shares my interests and my passions, he encourages me to follow them.

  • I have played the piano since the age of six and I love playing classical music. He brings me to classical music concerts, he says he enjoys it, he loves the opera and we also go to the theatre.

  • We are very much attached although, he is still suffering from a recent break up with his ex. This is a great excuse for him to not to get into too much detail.

  • On the other hand, he asks a lot of details about my past, too many, but I have to understand: he suffered so much in past relationships that he now needs reassurance that I am not going to betray him. He tells me that if I do not disclose all the details, he cannot fall in love with me so I am forced into a loop.

  • He is making me feel so good, he organises romantic dinners and short trips away to explore new cities. He calls me every evening and we spend hours on the phone. . Five months since our first kiss and finally he declares that he is in love with me and wants to move forward and start our life together, but this has to be in the city where he lives and not in London where I live. He brings up various reasons why the choice to move up to the north is a great advantage for me.

  • He is great, despite those moments when his mood is a bit obscure, but that is my fault and he would not be like this otherwise.

  • He gained all my trust by now so I decide to take the risk and move away from my friends and my little certainties to start a new life with him. I was certain that once he overcomes the feelings of jealousy, our love will bloom. After all, we share the same values, interests and goals in life!

  • He loves me but some things I had done in my past make him suffer, he says. He disapproves of some of my previous relationships. But he loves me so much, he says. It is my fault if he suffers, he gets angry and he stops talking to me for days, he ignores me and he says it’s all in my interest because in those moment he would insult me if he vented what is on his mind.

  • If I try to make him talk, he starts to be very harsh, offensive, criticising and belittling me, and it is all my fault, I have to apologise and be nice to him. 

  • He cannot help but keep thinking about my past relationships. How could I date such losers, he has nothing in common with them, he is so much better than them.

  • He is even offended by me dating anyone before him. Maybe we should break up. Alas we sign a tenancy contract for a year, he says. 

  • Nothing makes sense, but I love him and he loves me. I am sure this sufferance will pass if I show him that I love him despite all his bad moods, after all, I am certain that he is the good and loving Dr Jekyll I can see in the good times, and not that Mr Hyde that keeps showing up.

  • He has isolated me, I know no-one in this new city but I am good at making friends and I meet great and lovely people. They welcome me and I am happy to be surrounded by people I can call friends already. He says that he is happy about my new friendships, but then he is grumpy when I am with them and avoids me when I am back home, making me feel guilty for having fun.

  • We have massive arguments at night, I cry most nights and cannot sleep: he threatens to break up with me because he cannot bear the idea of my past relationships. I fear for the future, I do not want to tell people I failed in my relationship.

  • When the arguments end, I cry and desperately ask him to look at what we are, our potential and future and not my past, he feels sorry for me and he cuddles me, he loves me after all, he kisses me, he tells me he understands me and the fact that now I am changed, I am a different person from who I used to be, I certainly will not do the same mistakes again. The mistakes of dating guys that I was not 100% sure I’d want to marry and have a family with. The mistakes of dating people I wasn’t deeply in love with, what a turbid life I had, luckily I am with him now, he will save me. 

  • Gut feeling says something is wrong, but I cannot believe we have to break up.

  • I start to open up to the closest friends and they are trying to make me understand that this is not the way a boyfriend should act.

  • Maybe we need help. Counselling could help us. He has to carefully select the counsellor. It cannot just be anyone, it must be someone with the highest degree possible, a life spent on understanding psychology, someone who could possibly understand his background and his jealousy, and explain it to me! And help us through. . He selects a few of them, we go to see the first and she very quickly assesses us: we are not made to be together. He has a problem and should seek advice, while I have a great potential to be happy with someone else.

  • As we leave the room he is furious, this lady just took my side because I am a woman and she buddied up with me. How could she possibly assess us in just half an hour! We must go into individual therapy, actually the one with the greatest problems is me. [obviously, not him! He is just slightly narcissistic and paranoid, no big deal.] I am the one who used to date men I wasn’t in love with, I might even potentially be a nymphomaniac, who knows! I need help for sure. And he will start too, to understand how to deal with my past.

  • His attitude towards me is gradually changing. Brick by brick he is taking down the pedestal he put me on at first.  Now I do not look beautiful anymore, I have naturally curly hair but he now prefers straight hair.

  • My teeth are not perfectly straight, I should think about wearing braces.

  • My eyes are still beautiful, but the nose is too pointy.

  • Even the way I dress is wrong: he is always raising one brow when I get ready, despite the clothes being the same as last year, when he used to compliment my style.

  • We don’t go out anymore. He says he’s never enjoyed it.

  • Trips abroad? Useless.

  • Concerts? Boring, he never liked classical music, he actually has a thing or two to say about how I play the piano. He says it is no surprise I did not become a professional pianist. I start to only play the piano if he is not around, but it feels that he is always there.

  • If I am in the other room, he silently and suddenly comes around to check on me, but always finding excuses to pretend he was not controlling me. 

  • I count the days of precarious balance we have. I constantly live holding my breath and hoping for no one to mention a place, a name, or even a language, anything that can trigger his bad mood.

  • In the meantime he has decided that he wants to leave his job and start a PhD, he is too clever and he needs to show people how intelligent he is. He needs a new title, he wants people to call him Doctor.

  • The PhD is in another city, down south. He moves out. He wants me to go with him.  I don’t want to follow him, I want to be the one who takes decisions in my own life and not following someone else.

  • He moves out, I stay.

  • Most of the days in the past months I have been so drained by the arguments, and tears and sleepless nights that during the days I was useless and could not carry out my tasks at work.

  • I soon receive an invitation to leave my job and so he convinces me to move again and join him while I look for another job in the new city. . He promises that he will put all his efforts into making our story last this time, he will not argue, he will love me and accept me, he has been suffering so much without me, he really wants me back because he loves me. 

  • I feel empty.

  • All my certainties have been taken away from me in the past two years and now I don’t know who I am and what I like.

  • My friends would like me to stay and not follow him, he will only make me suffer again. But that’s what narcissists do, they take everything away from you and make you feel like they are the only person who can save your desperate soul. 

  • I move again. This time I am very much aware that this is the last chance I am going to give him. 

  • Soon the relationship goes back to normal: big arguments and sleepless nights. That’s it.

  • I decide to look for another place and move out: he has shown that he does not deserve me nor my love. My patience has come to an end and I want my dignity back. It must be over.

  • I get pregnant.

  • Overall, physically a good pregnancy. 

  • Psychologically…the worst I could potentially imagine. He doesn’t need to pretend to be the good guy anymore. He ignores me around the house, he doesn’t even look at me and we spend dreadful weekends together: we don’t talk to each other, I have no friends here and cannot escape, he simply lays down on the sofa watching videos, and when I am in pain he changes room so he doesn’t have to hear me moaning or suffering, making me feel guilty for being alive.

  • I look forward to Mondays when at least I have some human interaction at work. 

  • He wants to come to all the health checks.

  • An awkward presence, midwives are not at ease and I cannot say anything because he is there and we must pretend that we are a happy couple.

  • He has stopped talking to me unless it is to insult me and tell me how desperate he is for having to waste his life with me. He told me he will never be in love with me and is only staying because we’re having a baby together, but his life is condemned to eternal boredom with such a worthless woman.

  • I started maternity leave and I feel overwhelmed. I only have one friend here and she works during the week. I spend days talking to no one.

  • I talk to my GP and I obtain a number to call. . I call, I speak to a nice lady, I tell her about my situation.

  • Abuse.

  • That word pronounced by the professional I am talking to suddenly resonates as an exploding bomb in my head. . Abuse.

  • So far this word to me meant bruises, rape, physical violence, shouting, aggressive behaviour. Never before have I considered my relationship with him as abusive.  I read the definition of emotional abuse online to understand what exactly I am going through

  • Everything starts to fall into place, everything starts to make sense and is labelled with its own name. 

  • Now it is clear what I should do. Flee. But how and where. 8 months pregnant, living in a different country away from my family.

  • One huge reason to leave and so many little excuses to freeze me here.  And maybe he will see his daughter being born and he will suddenly change. 

  • One night labour kicks in. The constant coldest presence is there. He allows me to squeeze his hand at the peak of contractions. He seemed moved, by the fact that finally our baby was coming out, not by my pain of course.

  • In the following 5 weeks I think he made an effort. 

  • Then back to normal. Not much arguing about my past, but more because I have someone way more important than him in my life. I am a mum now, I have to care for my little human, and less for the adult child demanding all of my attention. .

  • He tries to gain importance again by playing the one who does not care. He is happy for us, me and the baby, to go and stay at my parents in another country for a few weeks.. He can finally sleep all night, while the little creature and her mum are away. 

  • When we meet friends he plays the good daddy, he also takes a thousands selfies in those ten minutes spent with his daughter so he can send pictures to family and friends complimenting himself on what a good father he is. 

  • If I ask for help, he accuses me of being weak and needy. He spends most of the day out and returns home in time for dinner. He wants dinner to be ready by the time he is home and if it is not, he complains. I had nothing to do all day apart from looking after a baby, why is it such a big deal? 

  • I am definitely not pining for his denied love anymore; I love my daughter more than him. And this annoys him very much. He tries to attract my attention, to drag me back under his power, to tighten the lead. His game is not working so well anymore. His silence and avoidance does not produce the effect of me bending to his will and begging for his love. Not a tear is dropping from my eyes for him anymore: I have someone way more important to take care of. His power of control is fading and this makes him furious and aggressive. 

  • My daughter senses that something is wrong. She is a very happy baby by nature, but some days when her dad growls and barks at mummy, she goes quiet for hours. . I cannot stand the way he treats me, there is no respect, there is a stubborn demanding child in that body, who wants attention, who wants reassurance of being the most important person in my life and yet he is not.

  • As a punishment he starts to sleep in the spare room, to it make clear to me that he has no feelings or attraction towards me.

  • And I wish to get a chance to go and live somewhere else. . I am a mum. I brought to life a baby girl. A future woman. I cannot allow her to think that it is normal for a woman to be treated by her partner with no respect. I must save her. 

  • I found a flat and I can finally move out. I tell him that I am considering the idea of moving out, the only topic he can think about is money. The money I should pay for the rent in the current flat. The money for the items I will take with me, the money we had together to pay the bills.

  • He attacks me, he menaces me, he threatens me, he makes me feel in danger, he promises that he will use all his savings to pay for the solicitors to take my baby away from me, he starts to take pictures of me in alleged dangerous situations to collect records of my insanity and he will use all of those as evidence in court to take my daughter away.

  • He even threats to kill me. I called a friend and she suggested to report this incident to the police. I am so glad I did, they have been great. They reassured me that what I am doing is the best choice, they even praise me for my bravery, many women are not brave enough to step out of such abuse.

  • My daughter and I move out.

  • We are much happier now, at the nursery they tell me that her contagious smile is back on her face now. She is eight months old. Who knew that small babies could understand so much? They do.

  • I still allow him to spend some time with us during the weekend. His behaviour sways from being grumpy, aggressive, ironically jabbing with sarcastic jokes to trying to seduce me again, being nice and proposing a date out and even to have another baby together. 

  • No chance he can get me back now.

  • The regained happiness of my baby since we moved out gives me the certainty that I made the right choice.

  • I feel much better, no one in the house is looking over my shoulder to check what I am doing, who am I messaging, what I dare to think, nor judging the way I decide to store the bills. 

  • No joke, it is tough. I am the only person I can rely on for every single task, but so it was before and in addition to that I had to worry about the adult child always hoping that nothing was disrupting his fragile ‘ok mood’ and making him snap at me. 

  • The abuse doesn’t stop. It just changes tactics and means. I receive tons of emails, passive aggressive messages, intimidating phone calls. I am constantly told that the solicitors will get in contact with me because he has all the evidence of my mental instability and my baby will be taken away from me. 

  • Luckily there is a strong network in this country to help victims of abuse. They are trained and very good, they understand even if there is no bruise on your body to show.  I get a place for counselling and this speeds up the process to weaken the voiceover in my brain that was there to tell me what to do and what to think and how to behave. 

  • I feel like I am awakening from a coma. 

  • Nine months have past since I moved out. The situation is not perfect and, to some extent, it will never be.

  • It got worse and worse reaching a point at which I have been reported to the police for child abduction, twice. Police are smarter than abusers though. He still tries to use our child to get some control over my life, to sneak into it and to find out what is going on, to make me believe that he has the power.

  • The great support I am receiving is helping me heal very well and I wish I had reached out for help earlier. Having to protect my baby made me stronger.

  •  I wish for my child to never experience abuse of any kind. I want to teach her to demand respect. I want to guide and support her, teach her how to promptly recognise and reject whoever treats her with disguised disrespect, pretending it is love.

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  • Reply Carol September 30, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    What courage you have shown and are still showing. Keep on keeping on it’s not ideal, no, but you are an amazing mother and you’re daughter will grow to be strong and resilient just like you. Much love xxx

  • Reply Siobhan September 30, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    This is so sad and beautiful to read at the same time. I have an 8 month old and it makes me so sad that you had to go thorough your pregnancy and birth without the support you deserve. But the way you speak of your daughter is so beautiful, and it’s clear you’re a wonderful mother. You’re so strong for taking yourself out of that relationship and for doing everything for your daughter on your own and obviously making her such a happy baby! Wishing you both all the best for the future!

  • Reply Sarah-Jane Homer October 6, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    You are such a strong woman and you are setting the absolute best example for your baby girl! I’ve never met you but I’m proud of you. You’ve done the right thing, keep going. Xxx

  • Reply Stephanie June 28, 2020 at 4:57 am

    This was like reading my life through someone else’s lense. I keep coming across different versions of the same story, though since I have left – the narrative of women finding their own voice and reclaming themselves and their sanity – is growing. The narcissitic plague of the world isn’t disappearing, but it is getting more exposed the more we awaken to ourselves. My coma lasted 20 years. Truly grateful for your bravery. x

  • Reply Caroline June 15, 2021 at 3:44 am

    I came across your article by chance and it was like reading the last 2 years of my life. So many similarities from a narcissistic partner. I too eventually gained the courage to leave for the sake of my daughter and was then served with court papers citing my metal illness. Your storey reminded me to be proud of myself for what I have achieved. It reminded me of the tiny ounce of strength that I found in myself to escape when I was so worn down. The photograph of you and your daughter is truly beautiful. If I could wish for one thing it would be to teach my daughter how to take care of herself emotionally when she is older. But for now I will keep her safe under my wings.

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