I think I was brainwashed

This has been a difficult post to write. Last year, I think I was brainwashed.

I was in a bad relationship that was not working. Instead of being honest with myself, I ignored it. I thought that if I just powered on through, things would be fine. Things were not fine.

I know it sounds melodramatic, but I will try and explain why I think I was brainwashed. It did not happen overnight. It was gradual. I have tried to cover as much as possible, but there is still a lot I had to cut out. This has gone through several drafts, reedits and start from scratches. To be honest, I’m still not sure if this will need more work and follow up.


At a certain point, you have to hit the publish button, right?

There was a part of me that thought I would be able to blast this out in a couple of writing sessions. Turns out no.

When working with clients, I tell them to go more personal. I don’t get it when they resist. Now I understand why. This is my most personal post. I know this might seem like I’m having a big moan but understand you are under no obligation to read. This post is more for my own conscience than anything else.

Coming up with the MERCI mnemonic really helped bring this version together. What is the MERCI system? You’ll have to read on to find out.

Before we dive into it some points to keep in mind:

  • I’m not going to refer to her by name.
  • I’m going to try and be even-handed. Understand that I’m biased towards myself.
  • While I may go hard on her, this is all my fault.
  • Some aspects of the relationship may have been coloured by emotion and the passage of time. What I tell you is the truth, but it is my truth. Keep that in mind.

Some context first

We met in 2018. She moved to London in August of that year, and we kept things going. At the end of 2019, she broke up with me then asked for me to take her back within a week. I said OK.

Things went on as usual until March 2020. We had seen each other right as lockdown was kicking off, and we did not see each other again until June 2020.

There is a part of me that realises how petty this all is considering the backdrop of the virus but still, let’s get on with it, shall we?

A Perfect relationship

From June to December, we spent the majority of our time together. There were brief breaks when she went back to her hometown to spend time with her family. Aside from a few times, we were inseparable. Being with her was great. This was the first time where I was with the same person for a sustained period.

Our time together was split between Belfast and London. We would go a month in London then a month in Belfast. Back and forth until the end of the year.

Her flat in London was small. A narrow room with ensuite. There was a kitchen she shared with two other women. It was good. I was never a big fan of London, but I was a big fan of her, so I was happy to be in London.

If the rest of the pandemic was going to work out like this, then I was sold. This would be a real test for the relationship. If we could overcome this, then we could overcome anything.

It was an adventure, but it was the two of us. We made a good team, so it would work out in the long run.

Things were good

Even though it was a pandemic, things were as good as can be, all things considered. With the pandemic going on, things were unsure. We were both furloughed, so there was a lot of free time too.

There were walks, long drives, visiting new places. Over summer, we went on a road trip around Ireland. Ireland is such a beautiful country, and I have pictures as proof.

More beautiful than my home country was this woman, not just physically. I was in love. I wanted to share the rest of my life with her. She made me laugh. She supported me in my creative endeavours. More importantly, she was able to show me where I could improve.

This relationship was mine to mess up.

Life was good.

Could it stay this good forever?

The occasional argument

Now while it was good, let’s get real. We’re human, after all. Like many couples, we would argue on occasion. It was usually over something I did. There are times when I can be inconsiderate. What’s worse is sometimes I’m not even aware of how inconsiderate I am, and that’s a big problem.

Thankfully I was fortunate to have a girlfriend who wanted what was best for both of us. She took the time with me and was able to tell me where I was going wrong. She called me out on my bullshit.

Sometimes I resisted these accusations. That was the childish, immature, irresponsible part of me. Thankfully she persevered, no matter how long it took, and she always got through to me in the end.

I want to be a better person.

My behaviour caused other problems too. One time while back in Belfast, my girlfriend received a message from her flatmates. The message said that I was no longer welcome in the flat.

Everyone in the flat was getting on so well. The four of us had drinks together, and before leaving for Belfast, we went for breakfast together. . It was puzzling. Apparently, my presence in the kitchen in the morning was a problem. The next time I was in London, I confined myself to her room as much as possible.

There were other external factors too.

She had noticed that many of my friends and family were far too complimentary and supportive of me. I hadn’t noticed it, but that was because I was used to the praise.

If I wanted to grow up, I would have to listen to her. She would tell me the truth about me when others were afraid.

Next step

Between Belfast and London, we never felt like we belonged anywhere. Nomads in our own life. I shared a place with a friend in Belfast. Her flatmates in London didn’t want me there. We both felt adrift. We wanted to move in together. A global pandemic felt like the perfect time. She didn’t want to come back to Belfast, and that was fair enough.

We found a place close to Croydon just outside London. There was a forest right beside the place which, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that is a big plus for me. There were shops within walking distance, and the train station was nearby too. It was perfect.

This was a big step. I was scared, but I wanted to be with her. The decision was simple.

Once everything was finalised, a date was set. We were to move in mid-December.

I packed all my things into the back of my car and made the journey from Belfast to London.

Driving home for Christmas

After we had moved into the flat, we got to work on making our house a home. I would have to return my car to Belfast. She wanted to spend Christmas with her family. In the short time, we had there before breaking for the holidays, it was great. We bought cutlery, dishes, and furniture. She wanted to fill the place with plants too, and I thought that was a great idea. There was some downtime too. We watched the Indiana Jones trilogy. She was a big Harrison Ford fan. Temple of Doom is still weak. We were slowly getting it to come together. It was our place.

We got a lot sorted in a week. I was to order a table cloth but the time had come to leave my car back to Belfast. We would spend Christmas with our respective families then I would fly back before New Years.

It felt good to be back. When I write, my parents know to leave me alone and let me get it done. After 6 months of being with someone 97% of the time, I noticed I missed having time to myself.

I had let my writing responsibility slide, and it would take a while to build the habit back up again.

The whole time my girlfriend and I were in constant contact. Unbeknownst to her, I was planning to propose. I had a ring box and a placeholder ring delivered to my house. After I had proposed, we could go shopping for a proper ring then make it official.

A change of plan

My girlfriend and I were either texting each other or having video chats. It was good to hear her voice, and she said that a little time with her parents went a long way. We had to sort a few more things out in the flat. We needed a bedside cabinet, table cloth. Also we needed to sort by sending photos of the flat to the landlord for posterity.

Late in the evening, I said my goodnights, told her I loved her and could not wait to be with her again. She reminded me that I had not ordered the table cloth yet. This was true; it had slipped my mind. There were several long conversations. She told me that she was dreading me coming over. In truth, I was dreading it too. She told me to stay longer. I complied and rescheduled my flight.

Now I would have to ask my parents if I could stay longer. I was embarrassed to have to do it. I went downstairs, knocked on the living room door.

“Would it be OK if I stayed a little longer?” I asked

“What’s wrong?”

Let me tell you what was wrong, everything.

I have been lying to you and myself, I was brainwashed

Let me talk to you, yes, you, the one reading this, directly.

See all that stuff I said before. It was a lie. I wasn’t trying to trick you. No. That was how I viewed things the whole time. It was not until I spoke to someone outside the relationship that it became clear just how bad things were.

I said that things were good.

They were not good.

I said earlier about how we would argue occasionally, that’s true. For us, occasionally was every other day. It would be over something minor. In fact, writing this article, I have been trying to think back to what set things off. I gotta admit I cannot remember. How the arguments went, on the other hand, that’s something I am more aware of. It would start off about one thing, then once it was coming to an end, it would warp and twist and then become about something else. Something I did. How I looked at her, my tone, something I may not have communicated to her.

I found it hard to keep up with these arguments, and I was out of my depth most of the time. The topic kept changing. Any time I wanted to go back, I was told we had moved on from that. Whenever I asked what we were talking about, I was told I was not listening.

Argument frequency

The only thing to rival the frequency of the arguments was the length. How long do you spend arguing with the person you love? 5 minutes? 10, 30, an hour?

How about 4 hours?

What about 8?

How about you keep going, then you have to go to sleep. Then when you wake up, you’re either arguing or getting the silent treatment. When you make a peace offering, you’re accused of trying to brush things under the carpet.

Even calling it an argument feels wrong. I’m trying to be even-handed, but these encounters felt more like police interrogations. The goal of these interrogations was not to get to “the truth”, but it felt like the goal was to get a confession out of me. And I gotta admit. I folded. Every. Single. Time. I was so desperate to get out of these long, directionless conversations that I would always say whatever she wanted to hear. Of course, you probably already know that was not the right thing to do. You have to understand I was desperate.

It’s not like I was dishonest with her at first. She would ask me why I did something or why did I feel a certain way. I would try my best to explain it, but that would never be good enough, and then she would try to get to the “real” reason. No answer was ever good enough for her. When I told the truth, she said I was lying. She was more content with the fabrications, so I would make something up. That, of course, would only lead to further problems.

Looking back

The relationship, looking back now, was an embarrassment to both of us. It should have ended a couple of weeks after I got to London. There were a couple of moments in that first month in London that made me think, “Oh no”. I put it down to the pandemic/lockdown. I thought it might sort itself out. Lol.

That road trip of Ireland? It was shite. A large section of that was ruined by our fighting/arguing/whatever you want to call it. We missed out on Galway town and the cliffs of Moher. That was, of course, my fault.

I got some beautiful photos of Ireland. Every time I look at them, I’m like, “Oh, we had just made up at this point but still weren’t really speaking,” or “This was right before a big fight”. The worst thing, this was the second time we made the trip.

First trip = Disaster

The first time the trip was just to Cork, but it was ruined. The roads “weren’t interesting enough”, and I had booked Blarney Castle, but we never even made it to the grounds. I did something, I don’t remember what, but we had to sit in that car and talk about it.

The car was roasting. Sweat was lashing off me. It was the height of the summer. Here we were in a car park. Stuck in the car watching as hours of our life melted away over something I can’t remember. I bet she can’t remember.

Why didn’t I get out of the car, you ask? Well, because early on, she made me promise never to walk out on an argument. I complied even though these conversations/struggle sessions went nowhere. When I asked for a break, that was just a sign that I was trying to run away.

When I shouted back

So I would be stuck in these scenarios that, looking back, there was no way out of. Like sometimes she would do it in a public place, I would get worried, not because she might do anything. No, I was worried because people would see her upset and immediately assume that I was the aggressor. There were only two times when I shouted at her in the whole relationship.

The first time was in January. She was having trouble with her job and told me about it, that night I had booked us in to see Parasite at the cinema. Right as we were pulling up, she said, “I don’t feel like you’re genuinely interested in my job”. That turned into a long Moebius strip argument. I got frustrated. This was over an hour later, at least, we’d missed the movie, and I felt like I listened to her work, and I was interested. So I shouted at her.

Second instance

The other time was when she was annoyed that I panicked. Let me explain something first. I had noticed that when she got an email she did not like from work, we would always end up having an argument with me. We were out for lunch when she got the email. I remember bracing myself, and she picked up on it.

Lunch turned to dinner, turned to close time, her telling me I had nothing to worry about. She kept on asking me what my problem was. Repeatedly I told her it was the relation between her getting an upsetting email and us having an argument/struggle session. Eventually, I shouted at her because it just was not going into her head.

A fake because

Remember her housemate telling me not to come back? In the message, the reason given was because I was writing in the kitchen too much. Maybe, but it felt like a fake because I asked my girlfriend, “Do you think it’s because we’re up half the night shouting?”


Fair enough. Even though her housemates would text her asking if everything is alright.

Back in Belfast

When we were back in Belfast, I liked staying with my parents. Part of the reason was that she couldn’t shout at me as much. She would announce she wanted to go back down to mine.

As soon as we got through the door, all bets were off. Her shouting got so loud one time my housemate and girlfriend spoke to her. They told her shouting at someone is not the best way to communicate. I appreciate him speaking to her but wish he hadn’t because all I got was, “You put him up to it, Kieran, didn’t you?” I didn’t even know they had spoken.

This is an exorcism

I’m getting all this off my chest because I need to exorcise this. People have told me that I make out on social media that my life is perfect. Understand that I have a good life, but things are far from perfect. This blog is a clearing out of old junk for me. I understand that it sounds like I am having a big old moan. If you’re still reading, thank you. (We’re over the halfway point, by the way).

Even as I write this, I am cringing at myself. Maybe I should keep this private, but I had such a horrible experience. I would not wish any of this on my worst enemy.

No routine

There was never a routine. Every day felt like living in a haze. We would make plans and try and structure the day, but something would always happen. Or the arguing would take up the majority of the day, and we would never get anything done. Then not getting anything done would cause further arguments. Emotionally and even physically, I was spent.

No matter what happened, whatever I did, whatever I said, it was not good enough. Here’s an example. During the summer, there was the threat of redundancy at her work. It would get her down. I would say to her, “You’re a hard worker, and hopefully they’ll recognise that”. I would be told that I didn’t know that, and it was not my place to say. Next time, I would say it must be bad to go through that, but I was not supportive. I may have developed a bit of a stammer. Anytime she said anything, there would be these big long gaps. I tried to figure out something to say that would not get my head bitten off. She’d make fun of me for being stupid. I had to pick what I wanted to get shouted at for.

Nothing was good enough

Nothing was ever good enough. Or if I made adjustments to my behaviour, it was seen as being disingenuous. Of course, I thought, I just have to keep trying.

There’s no other way to put this; I was brainwashed. And it was all my fault. I genuinely thought I was happy and that I just needed to keep working on myself. At the same time, on a subconscious level, I knew things were a disaster. I explained it away as I have no logical reason to be unhappy. Therefore, I should be happy. It seems like that’s why I never spoke to anyone about the relationship. I rationalised as what happens in a relationship should remain private. Subconsciously I knew it meant having to confront the truth. I know that because as soon as I opened up to my parents, it became apparent the relationship was over.

How was I brainwashed? I’ll tell you about that soon. I just want to tell you about how it ended first.

To recap, the rot in our relationship could no longer be ignored.

I had to end things.

The question was, how was I going to go about it?

Address or ignore.

I did not tell her of my intention to end it all. My things were in the flat. I wanted them back; I was in Belfast. In fact, at this point, I was still holding onto a little bit of hope that we could salvage things.

She was still messaging all the time, and phone conversations would go on and on. One night when trying to end a conversation, she flipped out and hung up on me. She had done this before, but she always preached about how we don’t walk out on each other and never go to bed angry. The next time I spoke to her, I called her out on this. She said that she thought I had hung up, which is not true because she cut me off mid-sentence.

Something changed

Something changed with me after that conversation. It felt like the spell broke. It seems like she felt it too because she went from “Don’t come back” to “Fly home tomorrow,” She insisted on this point. The relationship was over for me mentally, so I thought I’d push back slightly more than usual.

Now, of course, her reason for wanting me to come back over the next day was because it would be best for us. Not because she loved me or missed me. No, she had gone away and thought about this and came to the objective conclusion that I had to come back tomorrow. I pointed out that it was convenient that what was best for the relationship was also what she wanted.

Here’s something I learned. I’m passing it onto you; when someone says “We should”, what they mean is “I want”. You will not be able to unread that. My apologies, but it makes life a little bit more understandable.

She was unrelenting when trying to get me to come back soon. Having exhausted all other avenues, she tried being nice to me. And to her credit, It almost worked.

One last push

One night she phoned me telling me she just wanted things to be good between us. She dangled the prospect of a normal day; we didn’t have to argue. We could write together, have a meditation, go for a long. It sounded nice. It made me doubt myself. She even offered to pay for half of my flights. It all sounded so pleasant. These “normal days” would always get offered as a reward for good behaviour.

Maybe I was melodramatic, maybe I was hasty, maybe we could work things out after all.

The next day she gave me one of the best Christmas/New Years gifts you could ever ask for. I woke up to a voice note telling me it would be hard for her to forgive me. That was all I needed.

It was over.

If you’re reading this, thank you for leaving that voice note.

My parents insisted on coming over with me. They were worried I was going to fold. If I was on my own, I probably would have. We booked a ferry and set off.

I want my stuff back.

What happens next won’t take too long. Arrived over in Liverpool, drove down to London. Went into the flat, told her it was over, packed my things.

She told me that I should stay and talk about things. She managed to cry without shedding a tear. Funny how some people can do that.

Finished packing, left my key. Went outside, drove away, did not look back. That was the last time I’ll ever see her.

A few days later, she sent me an email asking me to reconsider. Even in the email, she could not resist getting a few digs in. I read it out to a few people for a second opinion. I’d made the right choice. It felt good knowing I could be me again.

How was I brainwashed?

How the heck was I brainwashed

Looking back and I know that this might sound over the top, but it felt like I was brainwashed. In my head, I had convinced myself the relationship was good. If there was anything wrong, it was all my fault for mucking things up.

There was so much wrong with the relationship. Because she was the only one I was with, I could not talk to anyone about it. I was isolated.

A friend asked me how come I stayed so long in the relationship? The thing is, I felt like I was 100% the problem. When you’re the problem, what’s the point in leaving? In fact, you’re thankful this person is so good to come into your life and help you become a better person. Who was I to complain?

I allowed myself to be brainwashed

How did I let this happen? By opting for the path of least resistance. I did not stand up to her and thought if I gave her what she wanted, it would stop. But that was naive of me.

She always told me that I never took responsibility for anything. Well, I’m taking responsibility for the abuse she gave me.

I allowed myself to get brainwashed. It could be argued maybe she should not have done it, but people will try and get away with as much as you let them. And I let her.

How did I let her?

Well, here’s something I came up with: MERCI.

How MERCI will leave you brainwashed

What is MERCI? It’s a mnemonic I came up with. This has no basis in scientific data. It is based on personal experience. Now, some of these aspects on their own will not get you brainwashed. If you were to encounter all of these at once, it would leave you brainwashed.

Let’s break down what each of the letters in MERCI stands for.

M -Manipulation:

Everyone manipulates everyone to a certain degree. Manipulation itself is not evil. When you ask someone for a stick of gum, you’re manipulating them into giving you that. When a homeless person asks for any spare change and says “Thank you” when you say the jingling in your pocket is your keys. That’s manipulation.

Manipulation is not always a bad thing.

In the case of you getting brainwashed, it’s not good. The crazy thing is I could see it happening in real-time. I was in conversations where I heard memories get warped and changed. Then I was asked to agree to the new false history.

Some examples

There are a couple of examples. A good one is when she broke up with me the previous year. I thought it was cut and dry when she had second thoughts and begged me to take her back. She never said she messed up or said that she made a mistake. No, it was because I had misinterpreted what she said. Because I used to be a person who was willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, I trusted her. When similar re-rememberings happened, I just thought she had a better memory than me. And you know what? She does. Her memory was so good she remembered stuff that did not happen.

Manipulation can take other forms too. One time, she was away somewhere; it may have been her parents. She phoned me crying, apologising, filled with remorse over how she spoke to me, how she had treated me. At the time, I was touched and thought, this is the woman I love. She was never like this with me in person. She’d never say that she played a part in our disagreements either. That’s why I think the whole “I’m so sorry, please forgive me” spiel was an act. She turned on the waterworks. 2020 Kieran was very susceptible to tears and would back down.

Another part of the manipulation was that she would get me to make promises. Promises like “No one walks out when we’re arguing” and “We don’t go to bed on a fight”. These promises were instrumental in allowing the next step to happen.

E – Elongation –

This was a killer. Stretching things out beyond what is reasonable. I don’t know what your work is like, but I am not a fan of meetings. There is a sweet spot when you are focused on things, and you can have a productive meeting. Then it goes past the ten-minute mark, and you get bored and unfocused—same things in relationships. There is a sweet spot when the focus is clear, and there is an agenda.

If someone is trying to brainwash you, they want to stretch things out as long as possible. I’m sure that is some kind of interrogation technique used by Cold War KGB. In my case, it felt like thing being interviewed by the police.

These arguments/discussions/whatever were presented as trying to get to the truth. These conversations are seldom concerned with the truth. Like with police questioning the truth would be nice, but a confession is even better. These conversations/questionings would go on for hours that I would do anything to get out of the room by the end of it. I would do anything to make it stop.

R – Repetition –

Repetition was the secret sauce working away in the background. This was what tied everything together in the long run. It was a dripping tap eroding the rock by repeating things over and over again and again. So many of these conversations were about getting me to admit to being angry. Now I know you don’t know me, but I’m not an angry guy. I think I’m pretty chill, but I could be wrong.

Every conversation was her asking, “Why can’t you admit that you’re angry?” It wasn’t even “Are you angry”. For a long time, I resisted the charge of being angry. But as days became weeks became months, and she kept asking the question, I started to ask myself, “Am I angry?” This became “I must be. Otherwise, she would not ask”. Then like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I started to accept that I was angry. An anger I felt like I was not aware of. Once I allowed her to be right about that, I allowed her to write about everything.

C – Castration –

For a guy, you’ve probably heard it all before. “Man up”, “Grow up”, “A real man would tolerate me being an insufferable bitch”. You’ve probably heard it all before. I’m sure something similar happens to women in abusive relationships. I don’t know what that is. Being called a slut or a whore or “You’re not going out dressed like that”. If you have an example, leave a comment below.

Castration can also take a different form. You lower your defences and reveal something personal about yourself. Next time you have a disagreement, you have it cast up against you. After that, you’re a little less willing to share your inner life with someone.

I – Isolation –

Isolation takes on an obvious form if you are far away from the ones you love. You’re physically cut off. Moving to London was that. I would be in a city where I did not know anyone, and everyone I knew and loved was back in Belfast. But that didn’t matter because I was with her, so I have no need for anyone else, right?

Before we moved in together, I talked to friends and family about them coming over to visit. There was a spare room where we would get a sofa bed for guests to stay over. On the second day in the flat, I remember her saying she didn’t want people coming over to stay. My heart sank.

More than just physical

It’s not only physical isolation. It’s mental and emotional isolation too. After a few betrayals, I wasn’t comfortable expressing thoughts and feelings to her. She also didn’t like banter either. Apparently, I bantered too rough. So I smoothed it out, still not good enough, so I stopped joking altogether.

She would ask if she could watch the things I liked with me. Then she would then not like it and tell me I was wasting my time. So I stopped watching it.

Anytime I wanted to go for a walk on my own, she told me it was not a good idea. So I’d stay in the house.

Slow erosion

She told me that I spent too much time writing (I only needed three hours a day), so I stopped writing as much. Like I love writing, if I don’t do it, I can feel myself getting into a funk. If I don’t do it for long periods, I get depressed.

So she got me to stop doing all the things I like to do, so I kind of became a version of her. Now, she hates herself, so of course, she hated me for being like her.

That is the MERCI system. Do you recognise any of those traits? I know it’s not scientific, and it’s all anecdotal, but it feels right for me.

You have to walk away.

It’s so strange. It was like there was a spell cast over me. Only once I got a bit of distance, when I came back home for Christmas, it felt like my thinking cleared.

I’m glad things worked out the way they did. If they could have worked out that way a little sooner, then that would have been better. But what can you do?

You have to know when to walk away. It may be hard, but you have to get out of there. If you have that gut feeling telling you that there’s something not right, listen to yourself.

Don’t be like me and pretend you know better.

Every part of me was screaming for me to get out, but I didn’t listen. I had let her control my thinking, and I was constantly second-guessing myself. I didn’t even know that I was angry 24/7.

One night before moving to London, I was in bed drifting to sleep, and I asked, “Subconscious, should I move in with her?” As I woke, the following day felt like someone shouting “No” in the back of my head. Of course, I didn’t listen. I reasoned that my subconscious misinterpreted the question. Went ahead with the move anyway.

There were so many warning signs, and I ignored them. Maybe it was pride, maybe it was as she put it, “You’re just a sad old man afraid to be alone”. Who knows what it was. But ignore the signs, and it will cost you.

Keep an eye out for being brainwashed

Keep an eye out for brainwashing in a relationship. It can be so subtle. Keep the MERCI system in mind. It makes you doubt yourself. Self-doubt is a vampire. All you have to do is let it in once, and it will bleed you dry.

Remember, brainwashing can only happen if you allow it in.

All you have to do is not submit. Stay strong, don’t give in to the lie even if it means a harder life. I know it is easy to say this, but you are your top priority.

Realise you can have an easy life of misery or a harder life of happiness. Things have a way of balancing themselves out.

I took the easy road, and I was miserable.

So go for the harder one.

You will thank yourself in the long run if you stay true to yourself. There are so many people who confuse the meaning of cooperation with submission. Keep that in mind.

Conclusion: End of the road

If you have read this far, thank you. This has been long. I want to make a few more points, and then, I swear, I’m done.

I knew that this would never be an easy post to write, but I did not know that it would be this hard.

This post has been more for my benefit than yours. I know that’s selfish. If you got something out of it, then good. If maybe you’re going through something similar, I hope you resolve it or get out. Just get out.

Learning experience

My relationship with that woman has been a long learning experience. When I was able to tell my friend about what was happening, he told me it gave him flashbacks to his first girlfriend.

Do we all have to go through this kind of relationship at some point?

I realised that as strong as I feel I am mentally, I’m susceptible. That comes from backing down. Trying to take the easy road. I tried to compromise with someone who viewed compromise as a weakness to be exploited.

In future, I have to avoid the easy option. It may feel good at the moment, but long term, it carries a considerable cost. Short term pain – long term gain. Something I need to keep in mind.

Like in the end, until/if I have kids, I have to be my top priority. I lost track of that and had my brains scooped out for my carelessness.

Never again.

She did not want me.

Looking back, and this is hard for me to share but, she didn’t want me. There was something about me that repulsed her. It could have been that I became a doormat for her. It was always going to have to be me who ended things. She tried a couple of times to end it but kept coming back. Did she hate me a little bit more each time I said OK? I don’t know.

A friend said to me that I stick around longer than I should in relationships. He’s right. Some of my previous relationships, looking back, were long dead, but I hung in there.

Thinking on it, it feels like I can’t tell the difference between a rough patch of road and a dead end. There is this idea in my head that you don’t walk away from something because it gets tough. That seems to be messing me up. I stick in relationships even though I’m unhappy because I want to give things the best go.

As I get older, it’s funny how your tastes change.

In my twenties, the list of qualities I wanted in a partner was extensive. It was like she must;

  • Be funny
  • Creative
  • Attractive
  • Not be funnier than me
  • Get my sense of humour
  • Have a decent personality
  • Must like to collab on artistic projects
  • Must not want to force me to talk about my feelings

Now, in my thirties, the list has shrunk somewhat, here it is;

  • Just leave me alone when writing

What’s in it for them?

I’ve been doing some self-reflection. One question that keeps coming up is – what does someone who I would want, want?

When it came to relationships, I used to think about what’s in it for me. Now I ask, what’s in it for them?

The answer is not a lot.

I need to work on having something to offer. Providing value and all that. At the minute, I don’t. I’m a work in progress and always will be. I’d like to be able to provide a little worth before I die. Will that happen? Who knows?

I hope she is happy.

I know I’ve been down on her in this post. Wherever she is, whatever she’s at, I hope she’s happy.

She’ll be OK whatever she does. She’s intelligent, creative and confident. She has a good job, and she was moving into an area that she wanted to do. Hope that’s working out for her. She is an amazing artist and a fantastic poet too. She’ll do great in the long run.

Sadly, it took so long for me to realise I wasn’t right for her.

I hope she finds a person who lives up to her standard. Someone she doesn’t have to keep a secret from her family. Someone who she’s proud to bring home and enjoy a long, happy life with.

Because she did not find it with me.


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7 thoughts on “I think I was brainwashed

  1. This isn’t an easy read, because its something I recognise only too well, and which we’ve briefly discussed in the past.
    Yes, you may indeed be biased, but you’re also far too kind in your comments. Every word of your experience is that of a gaslighting, coercive, abusive relationship. People often ask me how I didn’t see the situation I was in, or didn’t get out of it sooner, but the nature of it traps you. The islands of positivity amid a sea of conflict, the exhaustion (and probably sleep deprivation too) of the rows will throw you into a near-hypnotic state too. It messes with your head. Brainwashing isn’t a bad way to describe it. Though you also seem self-aware – just because the private thoughts weren’t aired doesn’t mean you were brainwashed. You can see there’s a problem yet try and make it work – those aren’t mutual exclusive attitudes.

    I hope you’re okay, and this is a really good start, but the ghost of this experience may last quite a while. Hit me up if you need to talk.

  2. Not an easy read and I’m sorry you had to go through something like that. But you’ve articulated something so insidious so well and as someone who has been through it twice in various degrees, I applaud you for sharing it so eloquently.

  3. I understand this is a deeply personal experience to share as your heart, your energy, your being was focused on making that relationship work. I’m sorry you had to go through such headache and heartache! And might I add, enduring an extent of psychological torture. Those elongated arguments with shouting for hours are no healthy way to live. Manipulating you into confessions, isolating you away from friends, and putting you down (castration) screams toxic. Being able to identify the MERCI method for brainwashing is clever and helpful! Your acronym and witing about these details helps the rest of us to be more keenly aware of people in our lives who manipulate us like that; whether family members, friends, clubs/organizations, supervisors, or significant others. It’s impressive you were able to pen such a personal account with deep introspection. I’m glad you did not delay in your writing and got right back to it!

    I especially appreciated this insight, “Realise you can have an easy life of misery or a harder life of happiness.” Letting go is hard. Yet it allows you to find a healthier happiness.

  4. This account reminds me of a nightmare year I spent, when I was only 11, living with a young woman who was acting as my guardian, because my parents were getting divorced, and there was a custody dispute.

    Our guardian was unhappy in her life situation, and soon became tired of living with two children. She became aggressive to us. Her method of being aggressive was confusing, because she would seem very sweet. She would suggest that we sit down together, and talk about what had happened that week. She would say things like: “I do feel very hurt by some of the things you have said to me, but perhaps my feelings don’t count, or perhaps you would like to explain yourself further.”

    These awful group therapy sessions went on and on. One would be asked why did one mention the price of the watch which she had just bought? Did you think that she had a problem with spending money? (She did. She was a compulsive spender, but of course, at that age, I did not recognise the problem.) Gradually, I became nervous about saying anything, as it might be brought up later. The stress was endless. I still look back on that time in my life with grief. Like all emotional abuse, it took away one’s self confidence.

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