Looking back, it’s obvious that my ex-boyfriend gaslighted me all the time. Like, all the time. Making me feel guilty for things I hadn’t done was one of his fortes — it didn’t always work but he was consistently making the effort.
Most of his manipulation was geared towards sex. Specifically, the use of contraception — or lack thereof. I figured he, like men I’d been with before, just didn’t like condoms. He refused to wear them, even though I wasn’t on the pill, and we got by on the so-called ‘pull out’ method. This made me uncomfortable for several reasons.
One was that I had never let any other man fuck me without a condom. It was a matter of principle and I hated giving in.
Another was that I didn’t want to get pregnant. At all.
But our fights were draining and he quickly found ways to make me enjoy sex sans-protection. He turned it into a kind of primal game during which, ultimately, he would overpower and ‘take’ me. This game turned me on so much that it seemed silly to suggest that I wasn’t happy with the situation.
Eventually, though, he did the inevitable and came inside me. He hadn’t been quick enough to pull out — or perhaps he hadn’t tried. Either way, I was distraught. Not so much because I thought I would really get pregnant but because he’d done the thing I had begged him not to.
Then there was his mindboggling response to my wanting to get the morning-after pill. It went something like this:
- He believed he was infertile. Believed. Not knew for certain. He had never been to a doctor to check and didn’t intend to.
- If, therefore, I was pregnant, it would be by some kind of miracle.
- Miracles aren’t wont to repeat themselves and for me to abort his child would be to throw his once-in-a-lifetime chance of fatherhood in the bin.
It was, and still is, one of the oddest lines of argument I had ever heard. But he said it with such wounded conviction that I was pulled up short.
I didn’t buy the morning-after pill. But I did go to the GP and order a prescription for Rigevidon.
I assumed that he’d be over the moon. Surely a contraceptive solved everything. It meant he could fuck me without condoms, which he liked, and I could not have a baby, which I liked.
Instead, the frisson in our relationship deepened. The pill, which I have taken faithfully ever since, became a constant source of sourness between us.
I don’t understand, I’d yell at him, perpetually frustrated by his negativity and sullenness. What’s the problem?!
The problem, he said, was that I was turning into a different person.
It was his hypothesis that the pill had changed me. I wasn’t the girl I was yesterday. The reason I got angry at him was because of hormonal and chemical changes going on in my brain.
He became impossible to argue with. Everything I said was put down as an irrational result of drug-taking. And this was from a man who had once taken so much acid that he still had trouble with the concept of time.
He began to constantly belittle me and make me feel stupid. He once insulted my friend so harshly that I cried. He used racist language in public to make me feel embarrassed and angry. He blamed me for getting kicked out of his rented room. He stole my clothes to force me to pay attention to him.
If I was falling out of love with him, it certainly wasn’t because of the drug that was making me feel safer than I had done in months.
I decided to try and compromise. I asked if he would use condoms if I came off the pill. He said maybe. I asked if, before coming off the pill, he would check to find out if he really was infertile. He said he wasn’t ready for that.
No answer or solution I offered was good enough and with every attempt, responsibility and guilt came crashing back onto my shoulders.
When he looked at me, he wasn’t seeing me. When I spoke, he didn’t listen. It felt like yelling into empty air.
Gaslighting is a form of abuse that is difficult to pin in any direction but inwards. It forces you to look in the mirror, to replay your words, to wonder if you really have turned into a monster overnight.
I Googled a million side-effects during those last few months, trying to see whether I really was experiencing a Rigevidon-induced breakdown. But I also called my sister and my friends and told them what was happening — something I encourage anyone going through something similar to do.
Talk to people outside your relationship, away from your partner. Ask them if they think you’ve changed. Recount the conversations you’ve had. Let an outside party be objective and tell you: You’re not going crazy.
I left my boyfriend for many reasons. Only one of them was because I wasn’t ready to have his child.