I lost a good friend this week. Not because the person died. Or even because we fell out (although I suspect we have); but because the person I thought he was turns out to be a lie. Maybe not a total lie but a mish-mash of truth, non-truth, fabrication, fantasy and lies so deeply intertwined that unravelling the reality would be impossible.
I dated someone like this once. I’d forgotten about it actually, perhaps the intense pain of it had been locked deep inside my internal filing system, locked with the key thrown away. But the issues raised this week have forced open that lock; and with the advancement of my years; the lessons and experiences of various friends and more reading, I now recognise that the relationship I was in was unhealthy and that this person, whilst I am not one of the ones in a relationship with him, still exhibits the behaviour patterns.
Maybe I’m being melodramatic but I think that these days they might recognise it as “gaslighting”. Gaslighting is defined as “to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity (own truth)”
It’s about the ability to baffle your mind. Mixing moments of shared truth with detailed fabrication. The fabrication parts go into such depth and intertwine themselves with the bits you know to be true , this together with your love and trust for that person, your own sense of reality is lost.
The person will also take offence at your unwillingness to believe them; or be upset that you might question a representation of the truth that they present. They won’t like you talking to other people they are close to (as you might hear something different from them). They will show so much compassion and concern at your subsequent confusion that you might wonder whether it is you being overly jealous; or maybe your memory of events is wrong; or maybe you are even mentally unwell.
This man from my past told me he loved me, behaved as if he loved me, spoke to me often and shared the intimate details of his past. But he intertwined the truth of his life with detailed stories and complex lies. We met abroad, he was working there, I was backpacking. We were together over a year. His truth that I knew was he had an ex in his home country. I knew they had a child, According to him she had been his childhood sweetheart but they had grown up and grown apart, their relationship was long over but he still saw and loved his son so they did see one another. I had never asked to visit him at his home or meet any of his family least of all his son. He instigated all that. He wanted to fly me there, introduce me to his parents; meet his son. To demonstrate he was serious he would phone me from a phone box (pre mobiles!!!) whilst with his toddler and have me talk to the child on the phone. He’d repeatedly tell me how he couldn’t wait for me to meet him..
The truth… my ticket never materialised. She, his ex, was expecting their second child. Turns out he had several other women too. some drunken sex others probably in the same boat as me. Friends told me he had flings but he denied it;I thought I knew him; I didn’t see what was staring me in the face. These and so many other things, should have been signs. They weren’t. Love truly is blind.
Anyway, this is not something that has happened to me again but it is something I have seen happening to friends in the past .
Sadly, it is now something I see happening to a couple of female friends who I know (because of him) and the perpetrator is a man I thought was something else. He’s not. It’s so sad because I really thought he was one of life’s rare, truly good guys. It’s weird because I’m mourning the loss of a friendship. I am in the cross fire of a situation I never wanted to be in and I don’t know how to handle it. Part of me wants to ignore it and not lose my friend but I know too much that now I know what he has done we can never have the same friendship again. Maybe we will have a friendship of sorts, it would be easier to have than not in a small community and with shared friendship circles, but that easy banter and easy access will never be there again. Whatever the relationship becomes, it, like him, will be a fake. I miss him.