I was a career-driven 23 years-old in 2011. My job as a television reporter was taking off.

I was a news break anchor and had a show about investigative crime stories. Therefore, dating was not part of my priorities. Until one coverage changed it all, I was assigned to do a story on a local political rivalry outside the metro. Consequently, I captured the attention of a young city councilman on the process.

He started texting me, asking me on a date, but I kept declining. But a part of me was ecstatic that I am being courted by a young, good-looking, and successful man. He was 12 years older than me.

He is an eligible bachelor.

He is a doctor by profession, a real estate developer, and a city councilor.

My thoughts said, “you should give it a try — just one date.” I have never gone on a date with a stranger before. I don’t know this person. But he is also a catch. Besides, I have given my career a solid four years of focus.

Maybe I should give myself a chance to fall in love.

So, I gave it a shot.

The First Date

I had no idea what to wear on our first date.

Wearing a dress might be too much. I don’t want to give the impression that I was trying too hard. So, I wore denim jeans, a chiffon top, and a teal cardigan.

I curled my long hair and put makeup on.

At 6:00 PM, I’m all dolled up, waiting for him to pick me up at seven.

Over two hours had passed; I was still waiting. I sent a text, “should I hit the sack? It’s 9:45 PM.” He replied, “the traffic was too heinous. Hopefully, I’ll get there by 10,” and so, he did. I was annoyed.

Three-hours late?

But I still gave our night a chance.

One meal, then go home. Besides, he came, so might as well, get this over with. Luckily, we found a restaurant that closes at midnight. Eventually, I found myself drawn to his charm by merely being with him for an hour.

He was polite, intelligent, and amusing. He ticked all the boxes of what a Mr. Perfect should be like. I was smitten.

We had that intense connection — anyone who sees us that night could attest that we were attracted to each other. It was palpable, and I was correct because when he dropped me off at my place.

Point blank, he said, “I like you.”

We Are Official

There was no doubt that I liked him too.

It was a whirlwind romance. So, after two weeks of seeing each other, we made it official. The night I became his girlfriend, he didn’t just confess his feelings but also his insecurity.

He said, “I am a jealous guy, especially if I love the person so much.

I am so insecure, and I don’t know why.

I am laying my cards right now. So, you won’t be surprised.” I translated his words as a romantic gesture. Also, an assurance that he indeed adored me.

I was pleased because I loved him too. Three months of being in love with him were full of perfect moments. I was proud of my boyfriend and everything he is. He never failed to shower me with affection, attention, and gifts.

I felt the luckiest woman in the world.

He’s been very generous, giving me presents such as dresses and high heels.

I don’t even wear heels.

I barely wear a skirt.

As a crime beat reporter, my go-to outfits were jeans, jacket, and flats. No one wears a fancy dress and heels while interviewing criminals at a police precinct. But I wore them because it made him happy, and his happiness matters to me.

The First Way: The Subtle Mandates

In our sixth-month, I started gaining weight.

People said, if you are contented with your relationship, it was natural. Eventually, he started reminding me to be mindful of what I eat, that I cannot get fat because I appear on TV. I was not offended at all. I believed that he was just supportive, and he always had the best intention.

However, one night, when I was about to devour another bowl of rice, he took it away.

He said, “one was enough.

This is too much.” I teased him, “well, you still love me even if I get fat.” He paused and looked at me with a stern expression, then uttered, “when you get fat, I won’t replace you. But I can date more.”

I took it as a pun, but I started to worry.

The Second Way:Be the Woman, He Wants Me to Be

The insecurity started eating me up.

So, I stopped eating.

I relied profoundly on water and coffee. Sometimes, one hard-boiled egg is enough to kick off my day — skipped lunch — dinner was optional.

To ensure I lose more pounds, I took diet pills, and it was effective. I became underweight. I was no longer a size six; I was a zero. I dressed differently. I talked properly. I acted the way he wanted me to. I was a whole different person.

But I kept telling myself then, “it is for your own good. It’s for the best.”

After all the changes I made physically. He then turned his attention to my best friend and told me, “I don’t like her. I don’t think she is a good influence on you. I think she is envious of you. If I were you, I keep away from her.”

So, I did.

He then started inflicting sentiments on my family, such as, “your mom doesn’t have to be in your apartment. That’s not her place. It is yours.” Also, “your sister never obeys you anyway kick her out. She’s disrespectful.”

I followed everything he suggested.

Like I was programmed to be rigorously submissive. Suddenly, I had no friends, and I lost in touch with my family. All I had was my career and him — it was us against the world.

I thought that’s what he wanted. Only the two of us together. But when he had nothing to attack anymore, he aimed for my living.

The Third Way:Not Allowed to Move

It has been a year of being together.

So much had changed in my life’s dynamics. My world became smaller, but I conditioned myself that everything was fine. I faced my colleagues like I was still in a perfect situation with a happy relationship.

Then, he started monitoring my whereabouts and assignments. I was not allowed to talk to men, albeit it was beyond my control. Whenever I had to interview a male personality, he would just start accusing me.

Saying foul words such as, “you are a bitch. I bet you want to fuck that guy.” The incrimination gets worse every day.

I was scared of him.

I abide with whatever he wanted me to. I even acquired a habit of bringing my phone in the shower. So, I can immediately answer his calls because he once accused me of having a man in my place for not answering his call promptly.

It was suffocating.

But the thought of leaving our relationship had never crossed my mind. Sometimes, when I get a chance, I told him my sentiments about our relationship. But every time I did, he would argue, “I told you from the very beginning, I am a jealous guy.

I quickly get insecure.

I am protective because I love you.”

I always bought that. I started blaming myself for the hardships in our relationship because I failed to understand him better. I should be trying more. Then, the vicious cycle goes on, and on, and on.

The Fourth Way:Never Enough

It didn’t take that long until my career suffered as well.

I didn’t get exciting assignments anymore. Neither any of my stories go on-air. But I had him. So, I should be fine. He also demanded to remove all my social media accounts. He said, “you’re so cheap. Dumb people only engage in social media.

It’s is nonsense. Delete it.” Right there and then, I did. I had been trying so hard for him to see me as an equal. That I am someone he would be proud of. But being myself embarrasses him.

I was not like his exes.

One was a lawyer, and the other one was a doctor. He kept telling me stories about them. That soon, made me feel I was nothing. I was trying extremely hard to improve.

So, I can be worthy.

But I was not enough.

The Fifth Way:Nothing More to Give

I was alone in my apartment. It has been two weeks since the last time he had texted me.

As usual, he was mad for something I have never even committed. He lashed out on me. Then, he never called, ignoring my texts.

But instead of going out and had fun. I never left my apartment. I was hoping that he would come, and he did, after three more days. I was excited to see him, but his reactions speak otherwise. He told me I was a burden to be with, that he deserved better. It was heartbreaking. But instead of retaliating, I did the exact opposite — I begged. I knelt down, imploring him not to leave me.

He was my world.

I don’t have anything left apart from him. Without him, what would happen to me? I told him then, I could still fix us.

Even if the chances are, I’m walking on eggshells.

But I will take what I can get as long as we stay together.

An Honest Voice

Since that day, when I begged him to stay.

His power over me strengthens. Whether he was around or not, he knew he was in charge of my life because I allowed him to.

He rarely sees me, texts me, or call me.

He does everything at his own convenience. Sometimes, he would go to my place at midnight. For me, it was making love. But for him, it was a sexual released. But I always made myself available because I was his girlfriend.

After sharing passionate and intimate moments, he gets up and heads home, never stayed a night with me. As much as I wanted to confront him, I kept refraining myself. I was scared that if I do, he would have a reason to end everything. So, I kept mum about my feelings.

However, one day, my youngest sister came to visit me. She hugged me. She cried as she pitied my condition. Up to this day, I never forgot her words: “I’ve always wanted to be you. You are talented, confident, and smart. But he destroyed you. Everything about you. And you are condoning this? Where’s your self-respect?

If this is love, then I don’t want to be in love. I don’t know you anymore. I miss my sister so much.

I want her back.

We need you back.”

My Own Two Feet

My sister was right. I don’t even know myself too. He made me hate everyone so that I would hate myself in the process as well.

When I lost my identity, he manipulated me to depend on him desperately.

Believing that he was the only person who genuinely cares for me, and I foolishly thought that it was love. I started remembering who I was before I met him. The confident, adventurous, feisty go-getter.

She was not perfect but she was good enough.

So, I’m getting her back.

When he was busy ignoring me for months, utilizing his manipulative tactic to the maximum. I was taking baby-steps to recovery. I reached out to my mom, my friends, and volunteered to be assigned remotely. I also activated all of my social media accounts.

I missed having freedom — the feeling of having choices.

Yes, I missed him.

But not having him around made me value what I’ve had. I have so much love to give, and lots of people love me back. But I neglected them for a beast who’s never even worthy of my affection.

How Dating a Narcissist Changes You and Recovery

For three months, I was busy picking up the pieces of my life, forgetting that we haven’t actually broken up yet.

I focused my entire energy on loving and respecting myself more. I was succeeding. Then, he resurfaced and acted as if nothing happened.

Like he never ghosted me nor undermined my existence. He arrogantly behaved as if he owns me still, that I would just be waiting for him at the exact spot where he left me. But I was not that woman anymore. I have gone through hell and high water to fight the doubts, the what-ifs, the anxiety, the depression, and the self-hate. So, NO. He will never have me back.

At that moment, for the first time, I stood tall with all of my mustered courage. Point blank, I said, “I’m done, Jeff. I deserve better.”