not in Primary anymore

date from hell: manipulation

“Date From Hell” is a new monthly series featuring dating and relationship horror stories and the frustrations—and triumphs—of being a single Mormon feminist.

Content Warning: This post contains descriptions of physical and emotional abuse.

A few years ago, I escaped from an abusive relationship. I knew the relationship was bad, but I couldn’t seem to get myself out of it. To this day, people can’t understand why I stayed for so long. I have no answer for them.

I met this particular guy in my YSA ward in September 2010. As singles wards go, there weren’t a lot of prospects. This guy seemed sweet and gave me the type of attention I was looking for. I soon realized he was dating someone else and I became the “other girl” and often felt second best. He held her over my head, and I held on thinking I could change his mind and that eventually he’d end up picking me. As things progressed it became evident that he wasn’t planning on choosing one girl or the other. He was going to do whatever he wanted.

As I look back on it now, I don’t believe he was ever actually dating the other girl, but was instead using it as a means to manipulate me. Why did I even care if he chose me or not? He wasn’t anything special. But he knew my weaknesses and insecurities, and he preyed on them. This relationship came after my missionary dumped me halfway through his mission for a girl he met in the field, after I told him my concerns and he told me I was distracting. I wanted to feel wanted, and this guy wanted me. The more he threatened to leave me for the other girl, the harder I clung to him, even when I knew it was toxic.

I was in a constant state of feeling nauseous and I just didn’t feel like eating around him. Even if he wasn’t around I felt just as sick. I ended up losing 20 pounds in the four months we dated, because his mind games became more than I could bear. He asked so many questions and probed and prodded at everything I did that it was like being in a nightmare. I was attached to my phone because if I didn’t answer he’d yell at me. I couldn’t tell him certain things, like if I was eating out or watching TV, for fear of being yelled at: “You can’t eat out on a Sunday! You’re breaking the Sabbath!” and “You are so lazy. All you ever do is watch TV!” He often told me I was a slut for wearing a v-neck top, and would say things like “I can’t believe you’d go to work in that. Are you trying to entice the fourth graders?” I stopped swing dancing, something I was passionate about, because he didn’t like the idea of other guys touching me and he’d never let me forget it.

One time his nervousness over us having a day out with his dad was so extreme that he took it out on me during a sadistic game of Slug Bug. He hit my thigh so hard that I had two bruises the size of my hand on my right thigh. They were a deep shade of purple. He knew they were there, so he hit them often, all in the name of a fun game of Slug Bug. Those bruises didn’t fade until a couple of years later, and to this day I can faintly see where they once were.

I finally reached my breaking point. I had finally had enough. I was getting absolutely nothing out of what I was giving. I couldn’t stand it any longer. When I broke it off with him, things became much worse. He begged and pleaded for me to reconsider, and he even shed some tears over it. Good to know I can make such a tough man cry, I thought.

I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting soon after I broke it off, on the day he was going to be made an Elder. When a member of the bishopric asked us to raise our right hand to sustain him in this calling, I didn’t. It seemed like only seconds afterwards he was squeezing onto my bench with me. He hissed, “Why didn’t you sustain me? You hate me, don’t you? You shouldn’t spread rumors. You saw me with someone, didn’t you? And I put my arm around a certain someone?” He motioned to a new girl who was giving a talk. “She told me you said some things about me. I know it was you.”

I told him I hadn’t spoken to that girl before, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He just kept doing what he did best: manipulating the situation. I became extremely uncomfortable and I got up to leave. As I did, he grabbed my wrists and tried to hold me down. I shook him off and ran for the nearest exit with the whole ward watching. I stumbled out the door and into a snow bank. I was headed for my car when he caught me and tried to hug me. A friend came out to check on me and he assured her everything was okay. He blocked me from her view and gave me a glare that meant “Don’t you dare say anything.” I was screaming inside.

After that incident, the bishop called me into his office and I told him what had happened in our relationship. He listened quietly and didn’t offer much feedback. The only advice he gave me was to read Ephesians 5:25–“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” That was confusing and didn’t feel like the substantial help I deserved.

I was finally able to break ties with him but things weren’t quite severed on his end of things. When he found out I went on a date with a new guy from the ward, he began harassing him to try to get details on me. I eventually decided to lay everything out for him in an angry email one night. This wasn’t a good idea; the email just gave him the go-ahead to try to talk to me again at a ward game night. He sat down at the table I was playing at and casually said, “If I ever had to rush you off to the hospital, I’d pull over half way there and leave you in a dumpster to rot.” And then he laughed.

It is so easy to get sucked into an emotionally abusive relationship. If you ever find yourself stuck in one, or wonder if yours is bordering on abusive, here is a checklist you should go by. The points you want to look for are in bold, the others you need to avoid.

• Abusive or Healthy
• Competition or Partnership and Faith
• Control and Power Struggles or Intimacy and Sharing Joy
• Contempt or Validation
• Manipulation or Mutual Cooperation
• Inequality and Disrespect or Equality and Respect
• Intimidation and Hostility or Trust and Goodwill

For me, it felt like the best way to fight my abuser was to stay silent. He tried to use my words against me. He tried to make everything that I said sound crazy. He tried to hug it out, but his hugs meant nothing when his words meant everything.

Lindsey loves listening to indie rock, watching movies, reading comics, traveling, and designing geeky graphics. She is an alumnus of BYU-Idaho and Bond University in Australia, where she received her master’s degree in communication. She currently lives in Rexburg, Idaho.

5 Responses to “date from hell: manipulation”

  1. Ruby26

    Wow! I am so glad you were able to get out of this relationship and so sad you ever had to go through that.

    I was in an emotionally abusive relationship many years ago. In fact, we were engaged. I, too, am unsure why I stayed so long but I know some of it has to do with thd fact that I was confused about where the line was. If it was never physical, can it still be abusive? At the time I had no idea.

    This is why I think it’s so important to help women (especially high school and college age women) understand the signs of an emotional abusive relationship.

    Thank goodness you got out and thanks for posting your story!

  2. SF

    Thank you so much for sharing. My comment is very long (my apologies). In case you don’t want to read it (I don’t blame you), just wanted to say “Congrats” on getting out! It’s sad to think that some girls marry those men. Sharing your story is one way to minimize the likelihood of young girls growing up to do just that.

    I also just got out of an abusive relationship – and only (I think) because I was fortunate enough to be accepted to graduate school that was far enough away that I could really separate myself from it. For me, he wasn’t LDS, but his behaviors were a lot the same. He was the new guy that everybody loved and I was the independent girl who was too passionate about her major to consider dating. He targeted me right away and showered me with praise – told me I was the most important person he’d met. Then, when he asked if I had feelings back, I told him I didn’t know by using the words, “We haven’t even been on a date yet.” I only said this because he had asked me to go on a date a while back, but immediately jumped the gun to super high affection. (He later used that to tell me and others that I broke his heart by being so materialistic that I needed him to buy me something to feel something for him). Long story cut shorter, I eventually started to see him, but he refused to show me the same attention at the school he’d show me when we were alone. Right away, I could tell it was affecting my self-esteem. My own best friends wouldn’t believe he was dating me because he never mentioned it. He turned my friends against me and held them over me. He purposefully broke professional relationships I had with my professors by getting me to talk and twisting my words/threatening that if I didn’t do something, he’d tell them I didn’t respect them. Most everyone loved him and saw him as the nicest guy in the world. Meanwhile, I lost everything that I was. I found out he was doing the same thing to another girl, telling her I was crazy and made up everything and telling me she was just a clingy friend. When we finally told him we knew, he tried to “commit” to one and would just flip to the next. When I wanted no part, he started a “real” relationship with her and still made passes at me/hugged me when I didn’t want him to/and continued to guilt me for money (I spent SO much money on him). THEN I found out he was even more of a bad person, who had a past of conning people out of thousands of dollars and also some sex-related charges. Eventually, I found myself in the middle of a legal situation – in communication with a detective, though not for anything he did to me. After he was arrested, I thought I would feel safe, because he was finally physically removed. But I didn’t. Because I was in the same place it’d all happened and around the people who watched, but did nothing but lecture ME.

    He acted so much like the man you described. The anger, the guilt, the competition. He even told me that he could tell that God had high hopes for me. He claimed to be closer to God – even held that above me. After it’s all done, his interpretation of it all is that I was a terrible person to him. He won’t even recognize that we had a relationship. Because he’s incapable of feeling remorse. All he feels is self-pity.

    Girls, do NOT even begin a relationship unless it is already equal, with respect and integrity. I was a very strong person before – and probably more confident than I’d been in all my life. He crushed it in weeks by turning my strengths (generosity and drive) into weaknesses (push-over, needing validation).

    Also, I had to explain this situation in full to two different bishops, as the first was released after I initially met with him. The first was very understanding and told me I don’t need to repent for anything because no father would learn this about a daughter and have any reason to be upset with her. He said I had clearly been punished enough and just needed to let Heavenly Father show his love for me. I did recognize it. I feel like, though several intricate details I can’t take credit for, I was given a second chance at building myself up. The SECOND bishop was sympathetic, but talked almost as if it was my fault it got as bad as it did. It broke my heart, but you have to realize that this is a man acting on his own experience. Some day, he’ll see someone close go through this and realize what abusive relationship are really like.

  3. sm 2pk bram

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been conducting a
    little homework on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I
    discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this
    matter here on your web page.


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