I sat in my car, tears streaming down my face. I’d just escaped a terrible fight. What made it worse was that it was with someone who’d treated me like I was heaven on Earth just six months earlier. Now, he was treating me like his worst enemy, and my only escape was the back seat of my Honda Civic. I don't think I had realised I was dating a narcissist by then.
Flashback to a year and a half before that night.
I had moved from Orlando to Los Angeles. I transferred to a college in California, which was terrifying since I didn’t know anyone.
But thanks to a job I picked up working at the Cheesecake Factory, things quickly changed. I made friends with my co-workers, some of which I’m still close with today.
One of those friends forever changed the course of my life
He asked if I could help him with a short film he was directing.
My friend/co-worker needed a blonde actress since the one he hired quit. I agreed and met up on a random Saturday at his apartment for a table read with the other actors. I remember this moment vividly. I sat at my friend’s dining room table, talking with him about the film, when a guy walked in.
His white T-shirt, aviator sunglasses, and perfectly styled hair gave him a James Dean-esque vibe. It was alluring.
Even more so when I found out our characters were love interests.
This guy introduced himself as Sean. He asked for my number at the end of the day, saying we’d probably need to rehearse our lines more. Instead, he asked me out to lunch two days later, which was a smart move since my friend’s film never ended up being made.
We met at an Asian fusion restaurant at the Century City Mall a few days later.
Sparks were flying from the moment we sat down.
We seemed to have everything in common, and Sean didn’t hold back when it came to compliments and telling me how beautiful I was. He insisted that a kiss would end our date on the perfect note, even though I was hesitant. But I gave in and, to my surprise, he wasn’t wrong.
After that date, our story was a whirlwind.
We texted non-stop on days we weren’t together. One weekend, Sean invited me to Huntington Beach so he could teach me to surf. That meant stopping at his mom’s house to grab his boards, where I met her for the first time.
Later, out on the ocean with the waves crashing around us, Sean told me he loved me.
I felt like a Disney character. And I had just met my prince charming
Everything went so well; Sean and I were the perfect match. He was just the right mix of a bad boy who treated me like a queen.
I wasn’t sure if soulmates existed... but if they did, Sean had to be mine.
A month after meeting me for the first time, Sean had a proposition for me.
He was staying with a friend in between apartments and needed to find a new place. And he casually mentioned moving into my apartment. I latched onto the idea. I figured that since he was already there so often, it made sense for us to live together.
Our lives enmeshed practically overnight. Suddenly, Sean’s clothes were in my closet, and we spent every waking moment together, except for when I was at classes or him at auditions. Everything felt like it couldn’t be more right.
Until everything started feeling wrong, that is.
Sean’s behavior changed overnight
Suddenly, his compliments about how driven and beautiful I was turned into little jabs here and there. He’d comment about small mistakes I’d make. He’d jump at any opportunity to insult my intelligence. But I quickly forgot those moments for the times the old Sean would come out.
My optimism shattered quickly, though.
Everything I loved about Sean disappeared. He picked a fight over every little thing I did. He once criticized t the way I put the electric kettle on the counter. He said it made me thoughtless and stupid.
If I disagreed with him, Sean would threaten to leave and state I’d never see him again.
Every mistake he made suddenly became my fault, too.
Like the time he offered to help me study the night before a big exam. In the morning, he woke up in a rage. He’d overslept because he forgot to set an alarm.
“This is all your fault!” he yelled as I slowly woke up, “If you didn’t beg me to help you study, I wouldn’t have slept so late!”
I felt confused since he offered to help me study, but I kept quiet so I wouldn’t make him angrier.
Our relationship carried on like this for a year
Sean convinced me that my friends were bad people and that I needed to cut them from my life; if not, he’d leave me.
“It’s them or me,” he’d say.
I was young, naive, and in love, so it probably comes as no surprise that I chose him.
And then he started picking on my body. He commented on everything I ate and often said things like, “I deserve to date someone who looks like the models I work with.” I begged him not to be so cruel with his words. I was working out five times a week and I was trying to get in shape, but he didn’t care. He expected perfection right then and there.
I spent many nights running away to my car just to be away from him. I cried, but not because of how badly he treated me. My tears came because of how desperately I wanted to be enough for him.
After all, my flaws were all he’d ever talk about
Even after Sean eventually broke up with me, after a nightmare road trip, our relationship wasn’t over. He continued to live with me for six months. I tried to kick him out multiple times. But he’d threaten to sue me or claim he loved me like no one else ever could.
I was desperate to leave Sean but didn’t feel confident enough to remove him from my life. Finally, I made a plan.
After I graduated college, I sold everything I owned and moved abroad to China. It might’ve been an extreme choice, but I don’t regret it. Sean warped my sense of reality so deeply that once I put thousands of miles between us, I saw how toxic that relationship was. That's when I realised I was dating a narcissist.
I cried for many nights. Sometimes because I missed him.
Often because I felt like I betrayed myself for letting Sean stay in my life for so long.
Dating a narcissist is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy
You lose your sense of what’s the truth and what’s their lies.
You watch someone you love more than anything turn into the person who hates you most. What’s worse is that narcissists are too caught up in their egos to realize how much they hurt others.
It’s easy to fall into their trap since a narcissist is charming in the beginning.
That’s their move.
Dating a narcissist makes you feel loved, adored, and needing their presence in your life. Just when everything feels like they couldn’t be better, they snatch all their love away; only giving it when it’s to their advantage.
Dating a narcissist is nothing short of manipulative
Sometimes I wonder if I ever loved Sean or was simply caught up in all the feelings of being with an emotionally abusive person.
Luckily, I get to wonder about this in the past tense:
that relationship can’t hurt me anymore.