Abuse Wore a Bright Smile and Louboutins

What happens when you suddenly realize that a man whom you’ve extended your friendship and placed all your trust is secretly manipulating every aspect of your romantic life?

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The names and locations in this story have been changed to protect me. Abusers don’t really deserve protection but victims do.

began thirteen months ago with an adorable “meet cute” which I was beginning to think I might be telling for the rest of my life. A simple swipe on a dating app led to an awkward conversation. “I think I drove by when you were taking out the trash,” he’d awkwardly lead with.

We’d matched weeks before and though I’d wanted to message him- all his images full of a wide smile, beautiful eyes, and great hair- I waited. I waited for him to make the first move. I’d only recently started dating again, and I was terrified. Having just left a physically abusive relationship I was oddly eager and ready to trust again.

Thirteen months ago I was getting right back out there excited to enjoy, have fun, and experience other humans. I was open-minded and my favorite quality- my ability to see you where you were standing- would allow me to go on dates with men who were amazing all the way to men who were terrible and walk away happy regardless.

My life was in a great place. I was living alone. I finally felt safe. I was living for me again. “A person to enjoy things with would be nice. I’m not seeking a relationship, but I’m open to whatever the Universe swings my way,” I’d tell men as they asked what I was looking for, or inquired about my romantic goals. Every day was practiced with mindfulness and intent. I was going to live in the moment because living in the moment kept me free from anxiety.

I didn’t respond to him when I initially received the message that he may have seen me take out my trash. I was embarrassed and I had excellent reasons. One, I know how I look taking out my trash, and two, I feared that maybe I had seen or interacted with him before and just wasn’t aware. So, I posted a screenshot of the message on Facebook, and had an excellent time laughing with my friends.

Days later I’d be in the grocery and I’d hear someone call my name. This isn’t uncommon in a small town. But as I turned I realized this wasn’t a voice from my past or present. The face looking at me down the aisle was “Tinder Garbage,” as I’d initially called him to friends because of his first message. I’ll continue to call him throughout this piece because that is ultimately what he became.

I was caught off guard. He was way taller, broader, and more attractive than his photos conveyed. He stretched a giant smile across his face, a smile that could and would melt my heart all the way to the last day we hung out. He ran his hands through his hair and cocked his head to the side- that strong man had suddenly turned into a curious puppy- “Sam?” this time it was a question. I think this interaction felt like years to me, and I was so busy just taking this man in that I didn’t initially respond, “Yep, that’s me!” I’d say to him with my heart racing a million miles a minute. “You’re absolutely stunning,” he’d respond. I cannot remember how long we stood on that aisle and chatted, but it ultimately led to him saying, “I was worried you ghosted, but knew I’d eventually see you around.”

Had I ghosted? I wasn’t sure. His first message had made me uncomfortable but in a way that was almost forgivable. That feeling of discomfort was the first of many and I wish I’d paid more attention. Looking back on that moment, I now wonder how much of this was methodical, and how much of this was a product of fate.

He was so charismatic, charming, and easy to chat with so when he asked me to dinner before we both continued our shopping there was no way I wasn’t going to say yes.

A few days later we sat face to face in one of the nicer places in town. The lighting was low, the music was serene, and his smile was captivating. I could not stop hanging on every word he said as he talked about film, music, video games, his childhood, and what he wanted in the future. This dinner lasted over 3 hours. We’d order food and drinks over time talking and enjoying ourselves. After dinner, he suggested we walk around downtown. He didn’t want to go to the usual places on the main artery and peer through shop windows or pop into open galleries. He wanted to navigate through parts of downtown I’d never seen. I would soon discover that he was able to share cool historical details on these places on a whim. He was smart and not just a little smart. He was full of facts, figures, and history. Sometimes I’d have to stop him to say, “wait, what does that mean?”

As we walked he reached for my hand and looked at me, “Do you mind if I hold your hand?” Consent. It will come up more in this story. But, as a feminist and advocate for relationship health and safety (which I’d later realize were things in my Tinder bio, things that are easily discovered with research) I was so appreciative of the ask. I placed my hand in his and looked up at his giant eyes and as his smile stretched across his face. He was proud that he’d made the right move. With my heart racing I said, “Do you mind if I kiss you,” and we did- in the middle of a small street tucked away downtown- we kissed.

After that, I believe both of us knew we weren’t ready to exactly end the night. We lived close to one another and he suggested a drink at his place. It wasn’t typically my style, but I’d already established a level of trust with him that made it seem completely appropriate. He walked me back to where I’d left my car. He gave me an address in case we lost one another and I waited for him to grab his car and pull toward me to lead to his home. This wouldn’t be the last time he would lead me somewhere, and it would become an underlying theme in our relationship.

We arrived at his house and I’m not sure what I was expecting. He has a few years on me, but he wasn’t so old that he should have been so established. His home was a shock, and as I pulled into the driveway I was overwhelmed with how large his living space was. I parked my car and he approached my door, opened it, and grabbed my hand. “We’ll go in through the garage I have a dog.” As I followed behind truly eager to see the dog he ushered me through the garage. We went through a set of doors to the basement where the dog was happily awaiting his return. He looked at the dog and said, “wait one second let me take this lovely lady upstairs and I’ll be right back,” I remember how he spoke to that dog like he was a child. It was everything.

As he promised, he took me upstairs and offered me a drink from an unexpected full bar. I asked for a sparkling water. When he left to take the dog he told me to make myself at home. I wandered from the bar to the kitchen and took in the space. It was gorgeous- white, clean lines, and so modern. His living room was welcoming and comfortable as I looked across his giant kitchen island into an open floor plan filled with perfect décor, house plants, and dripping with taste. In case I wasn’t swooning before I was now.

I walked into the living room and looked at the photos on the sofa table. So many images- him and his mother, him surrounded by groups of people, and him with gorgeous women, in each image he looked like the life of the party. His life looked seemingly perfect and I began to wonder how he could be single.

Right as I had that thought the dog came barreling into the living room collapsing at my feet for pets. I got down on his level and we got to know one another. Tinder Garbage followed behind the dog with his perfect demeanor and easy attitude. “Do you mind if I get comfortable?” he asked taking off his tie and untucking his shirt. “Of course not,” I’d tell him. He’d retreat to his room and come back out in tennis shorts, a V-neck, and a pair of Louboutin smoking shoes that really caught my attention. It was a look, and he was pulling it all the way off.

He went to the bar and made himself a drink (an old fashioned.) He joined me in the kitchen and we leaned across the island and chatted for a minute. He eventually moved things to the living room. He opened his media cabinet, and we sat down on the same oversize sofa facing the television. He turned something on, but we immediately fell into conversation. We talked, and we’d kiss, and my heart was fluttering like I was 15 years old again.

During conversation we talked about everything. But one thing would seal the deal for me on why I wasn’t going to be the right woman for this man and that was perfectly OK. I wasn’t necessarily ready to tell him. He had casually during a conversation about children said he wanted three- and mentioned a break up with an ex who only wanted to adopt, “adoption is out of the question for me. I have a strong need to have my own children.”

Around 3 AM I noticed the time and I decided to go home. We had talked all night and I was leaving so incredibly excited. I didn’t have far to go. Over time his home would become one I walked to it was so close. When I told him that I was ready to leave he said, “why don’t you just sleep here, you don’t have to sleep with me, there is a guest room.” Truth is I wanted to sleep with him. So, conversation continued a little longer, and ultimately we wound up in his room.

It had been a while since I’d slept with anyone. In fact, the last person had been the abusive ex I’d left. With a strong hate of my body, and a general fear of sex and men I wasn’t sure I was ready to take my clothes off in front of this beautiful man. But it didn’t matter. He grabbed me a pair of boxers and a t-shirt and led me to the bathroom and invited me to change if I wanted.

I did, and when I came out of the bathroom he was waiting in bed with the television on. I joined him, and we’d spend more time talking, and more time kissing. And finally, around 6 AM, it happened. He’d made me feel completely comfortable and completely safe, and it happened. I’ve had issues with sex and intimacy for years due to past trauma. I go into all sexual experiences expecting nothing. This was something I was working on in therapy. And though there were no fireworks my ability to let go and enjoy everything as it happened shocked me. I was completely vulnerable with him and being that relaxed in general was nice.

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The next morning we’d get up and have breakfast at one of my favorite places. He then asked if I wanted to go for a hike. I was tired from the lack of sleep I’d gotten the night before, but I too wasn’t ready for the date to end. So, I told him to pick a trail. He swung me by my house so I could stop doing the walk of shame. There I changed into appropriate clothing for a hike, and grabbed a sweatshirt. It was spring, but it wasn’t the warmest that day. He drove us + dog out to a trail in part of the Uwharrie Mountain Range, and I was a sucker for the view and for his creativity in finding a spot that wasn’t just one of our local park trails.

We hiked, and we talked, and we hiked and talked some more. Hiking led to grabbing lunch, and finally, I told him I had to go home because I needed some sleep.

So, we went back to his house so that I could pick up my car. As he told me goodbye and kissed me on my forehead, I was smitten.

I went home happy with the experience but aware that he and I weren’t going to be able to have a relationship long term. That was OK with me.

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Over the next few weeks we’d go on dates, he’d buy me things, we’d spend time together, and he’d introduce me to his friends. But at my core, I knew this couldn’t work. So, one night while watching him play Call of Duty I brought it up again. I asked him why he was against adoption, and the conversation veered into why he wasn’t into surrogacy as well. It was all legal reasons. Huge and valid fears he had about winding up in some crazy made for TV movie situation.

I took this opportunity to explain that there was no guarantee I could ever have children myself, and while I was open to the concept I’d not meet his criteria in that regard. I went on to say we shouldn’t continue moving toward dating or looking at long-term. We were both in agreement that the right thing to do was to be friends.

So that night I left with a simple kiss on the cheek, and things felt good.

They would continue to be good. We’d spend time together, travel together on weekends, take more hikes, and I’d meet his mom. I was welcomed into his group of friends with open arms. My life was great and full. I was meeting new people and doing new things. I had the confidence to date. This experience had been the one that set the tone of “if I walk away with nothing, I’ve walked away with an experience,” and it was wonderful.

We’d spend our nights on the couch swiping one another’s Tinder and Bumble and telling stories of the interactions we had. He was the person I’d call on bad nights when I felt like I’d struck out. I’d get a call from him when a woman wasn’t his type or when he had a hilarious story of how awkward or bad a date was. We were constantly growing closer.

He’d make comments about how he wished there weren’t things keeping us apart, and I’d always remind him that it’s a real deal breaker. It didn’t stop me from thinking about the connection we had or what if’s.

After each date that I went on, he and I would pore over the details. My fun experiences started to become investigative fodder. “Was this man terrible?” “How do you know you can trust him?” and he’d take it upon himself to send me information he’d dig up- past DUIs and posts attributed to them on Reddit. He would find shit that blew me away on so many occasions (even though I’m not judgmental) and I would immediately feel that my date had deceived me. He’d spin things, “how could he have not told you about that DUI?” In my mind I knew that a DUI isn’t something that would stop me from seeing someone- though it isn’t something I can condone- I know people are human, and humans make mistakes. I’m not perfect either.

But as each piece of evidence he brought me stacked up against more, and more men I began to go from the girl who trusted everyone to the woman who trusted no man, I wanted all of them to stay away from me.

I’d go to therapy each week attempting to work through why I was pushing people away. I’d land on the concepts that I was so happy alone. I didn’t need someone else and I didn’t have to settle. And then I’d go home and talk to Tinder Garbage about it.

Suddenly I found myself struggling with anxiety. Every date was scary, and every.single.man a potential threat to my person. I wasn’t having fun anymore. Oddly enough Tinder Garbage was right there each time I canceled a date in fear or came home from one worried that a man was terrible. He’d validate my fears, and fuel my anxiety. I wouldn’t even recognize until it was too late and I was removed from it.

This would go on for months. The entire time, he was a huge part of my life.

In September I went to him upset about another male friend. The male friend hadn’t done anything inherently wrong, but I felt like I was not appreciated or loved in the same capacity I loved him. I felt like I wasn’t heard and that I was often judged. I wanted validation that I wasn’t wrong, but I also wanted a man’s point of view. So I looked to Tinder Garbage for legitimate advice.

“He doesn’t value you,” “that isn’t friendship,” “he uses you,” those words began to echo in my mind in Tinder Garbage’s voice, and I would find myself distancing from a man who was truly my best friend. Ultimately I would end the friendship when I was convinced that he was “not going to be capable of maintaining your friendship once he has a girlfriend and a new life.”

Tinder Garbage had an ability to make me push men out of my life faster than I knew I was doing it. Meanwhile, I was sitting in therapy convincing myself and my therapist that I was just in a weird spot, and that this had to be a product of issues I’d struggled with in my past.

This could have continued indefinitely or until I realized he was the only “good” man in my life.

The number of men with whom I’d allowed myself to become anxious to the point of it being crippling was overwhelming.

I’d gotten to the point where everything was an issue and no man could be trusted. I created a Facebook Group to share my negative experiences- and it was cathartic (and some of them were bad) but the ones that weren’t consistently included a common theme- “hey y’all I’m ruining this thing that seems good because of anxiety.” And of course, at the end of the day, Tinder Garbage would be there to assure me that it wasn’t me. My anxiety made sense. It was men, men were terrible, and I didn’t deserve any of this.

His caring, kind, and compassionate friend act was on point. I never saw the truck I was about to be hit with coming. He had been manipulating my entire dating life armed with knowledge I didn’t have. He’d encourage me with advice he knew was inappropriate. He’d use my anxiety as a weapon to prevent me from engaging with men. It would take a while for this to unravel, but when it did it would be so messy and painful.

It started with a man we’ll call Gamer Dude. Gamer dude and I had a lot in common, and we had a lot of fun together. But I was anxious. I was nervous about letting myself feel anything. I was nervous about his responses to me. I couldn’t relax. With the help of Tinder Garbage I’d set out to sabotage this situation like I had so many before. I’d internalize every situation. Ultimately, I’d let Tinder Garbage convince me that I was upset over waiting around on this guy to let me know what our plans for the day were. We’d loosely agreed to spend some time together one Sunday when he had friends come into town unexpectedly. When I finally heard from him that evening he explained himself. Though I still maintain he could have sent me a message when he knew he needed to reschedule. I could have reacted and explained that position a little better.

Instead, I let Tinder Garbage nudge me into pushing this man away. “He’s disrespectful, he clearly doesn’t value your time, he’s stepping all over you as a person.” “Wow, you’re right.” I would then start the argument to end all arguments and find myself being dumped. This wasn’t the first time I would hear, “you’re cool but…” which usually led to a conversation about my anxiety and why I was feeling so overwhelmed.

When did dating become so hard for me, a person who was once so “live in the moment,” “enjoy everyone for who they are,” “experiences are valuable and necessary to life?” I knew I was fine on some levels because the minute things were over with Gamer Dude I was already back on Tinder and Bumble swiping away. I was eager to engage in new experiences with new people, and Tinder Garbage was eager to be the shoulder I cried on if I was hurt.

He messaged me that night, “I hate that your anxiety messed this up for you, come over and have a beer and watch bad television with me.” And I did.

A few weeks later I was swiping. I saw a man I recognized from my past, we’ll call him ‘Genuinely Kind.’ A man I had a gigantic crush on when I was in college- automatic right swipe- who gets an opportunity like this again? I was shocked when we matched, and to be honest a little fearful because our first interaction was in a space from which I still carried a lot of trauma. Trauma which many people in my life, including Tinder Garbage, were aware. I started our interaction fearful and hesitant.

The jokes at the beginning of us talking were sort of ties to our past. Tinder Garbage would convince me they were all sexual in nature, and that this dude only wanted one thing. Honestly? I would have been OK with that. I was still living my life with no expectations and no true desire for anything. I’d maintained for over a year that I was open, but more recently I’d started to put up walls even avoiding being willing to say I was open to anything at all. Being convinced we were only talking about sex, and not wanting that to be what I led with I brought it up. “Be assertive, maintain your boundaries,” Tinder Garbage had told me.

Genuinely Kind immediately responded with shock, almost horror at the thought that I was accusing him of talking about sex. To me it was funny to him he wasn’t amused and felt it was a major communication issue. But he took it in stride. I’d later thank him for forgiving the issue and ask why. He’d explain that he was smart enough to understand that text communication didn’t convey well and, I was hot.

We flirted, and things were fine. I made him aware of my anxiety and noticed small subtle things that he did like telling me he’d be out of touch for an entire weekend but that we’d catch up when he returned. He was careful with me. I was appreciative of him. Conversation was moving in a direction in which I felt comfortable.

Tinder Garbage noticed this. He noticed I was falling back into healthy patterns. He saw that I was willing to be open-minded and trust again. I vocalized it on multiple occasions explaining that “no one could hurt me more than I’d hurt myself pushing people away due to a lack of trust.”

I let my guard down and Genuinely Kind kept his up- for good reason. Reasons I personally respected. Reasons that Tinder Garbage would ultimately use against me. We were out to dinner when it started. “You know, our friend said that Genuinely Kind had a role in the trauma you experienced.” “Other than existing at that point in time, he had zero role,” I didn’t want to discuss it. He wanted me to believe that I was setting myself up for pain. He wanted me to lead with fear.

It would take me a while to find this out, but he spent hours combing the internet and talking to a friend of mine- we’ll call her ‘Toast.’ He’d dug up screenshots, and painful memories all things trying to point a finger at Genuinely Kind. He sent them to Toast acting as though he cared but explaining I’d only listen if these words came from her. Seeing the things he brought to me would be so incredibly painful. But not for the reasons he and Toast thought. It was painful because to me they still proved Genuinely Kind to be…genuinely kind, and I was now being pulled at my core by anxiety.

Time to push him away.

I sent him a message explaining I had anxiety about all of this, but I couldn’t explain why. I’d been pushing for him to meet up with me sooner rather than later not because it was really that important- I was enjoying the slow pace of messaging and building up some tension. I wanted to meet him in person because Tinder Garbage had convinced me that I was going to experience more trauma and it was going to be painful. There was no way Genuinely Kind was legit. Except, he was, and he was the first time in a long time Tinder Garbage had felt threatened because I was blindly trusting again.

He had to regain control of the situation.

I convinced myself that I was fine. I talked to Genuinely Kind about it and we sort of reset. I couldn’t help but continue feeling I’d been terrible, but I was letting it go- I was going to be normal with this dude again. Tinder Garbage wasn’t having it, in fact, he was going to set the stage to ruin it permanently.

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Last Sunday night he asked me to come over. He wanted to hear all the details since he had “gotten wind,” I was angry with Toast about some “crazy screenshots” she had sent. He wanted all the details. So, I go hang out, and talk to him. I explain to him everything that has gone on but that I was confident I had fixed and we’d be meeting up soon enough. I was comfortable. I’d told Toast I couldn’t talk to her because the information she tried to “protect” me with was more harmful than it was good. He was immediately quick to tell me I’d ruined things with Genuinely Kind. He said, “wow, there is no way this is going to work out, you should jump ship while you’re the one in control,” “get out before he rejects you.”

I had a weird feeling in my stomach in that moment. Was I going to be rejected?

I went home and crawled into bed. Genuinely Kind didn’t text me back that night (or maybe he did, he’d had issues with his phone that honestly lead me to believe I’d missed a few texts,) but it didn’t matter because Tinder Garbage was right. He’d text me for a while that night explaining the need for me to send a message apologizing for my actions (again- which I had already done, and already been forgiven for,) but his largest suggestion was that I give this man an out. And that is exactly what I did in a lengthy message about why I was the worst.

I think it shocked Genuinely Kind, to be honest- and once I realized I’d made a mistake the manipulation started to show itself. I assumed we’d never talk again and though disappointed my bigger concern was in the text I received from Tinder Garbage: “Well, I’m sorry this was a terrible ending once again courtesy of your anxiety. But, you always have me. Want to come over tonight and watch some reality TV about it?” I hadn’t even told him what had happened with Genuinely Kind, because I didn’t know for sure at this point. I knew he was at work and that he was busy. I went instantly to the Facebook Group which had offered so much support in the past. I posted a screencap of my message with Tinder Garbage, and I asked the group if they thought, as I was beginning to wonder, if I was being manipulated by him. Had he allowed his desire to be in a relationship with me impact him to the point that he’d been sabotaging my dating?

Believe me, I’m the first to jump on a good conspiracy theory- so I didn’t want to make any assumptions. The responses slowly started coming in- some in the form of memes with red flags, and some well thought out describing how to handle the situation. So, two hours later I hit send on the message I had crafted and shared with the group. “Maybe. Do you think it’s weird at all that every time something happens you are right there to pick up the pieces you participated in creating? Because I’m starting to notice a pattern.”

This would start a slew of messages that went as follows:

Him: Are you asking me what I think you are?

Him: Are you asking me if I intentionally told you to f*&k shit up?

Me: I mean, you just jumped there? So…I think we should talk about it.

An hour later….

Him: Well I always give you incredibly fair advice. I knew nothing was wrong and you’d acknowledged being in a good space. I know we can’t be together. This wasn’t really about that. I’m not sure why I told you to do that. Maybe it was jealousy I didn’t even know existed.

Me: I don’t even understand what is happening.

Him: I knew he’d stop talking to you. I knew I could make you anxious enough to think you were still in the wrong.

Me: I have no idea what to do with this information. I’m so hurt- I’m so tired of trusting men only to be completely ripped open by ones that claim to care about me.

Me: We really cannot be “friends” anymore.

Him: At the end of the day I really just showed you that he definitely didn’t want to talk to you.

Me: No, you made me look actually batshit. I don’t want to talk about this- really.

Him: I think I was just concerned with how much he was willing to extend a second chance. What if he wound up actually liking you? Then what happened to our friendship?

Me: Seriously, I can’t with this shit. YOU WIN. He will never like me.

He had admitted it. He had admitted the manipulation I suspected. All in a matter of moments his entire game fell apart. I was able to look back and clearly see how much I’d been held back and trapped by his manipulation over the course of our friendship.

As I was working hard to fix my issues and fix myself, my ability to do that was being seriously hindered by someone using all my issues against me.

It was abuse.

For months I hadn’t recognized the slimy, terrible acts that were occurring. I felt safe and secure with this person and genuinely believed they were looking out for my best interest. As I began to put pieces together I could see that the relationship had been dangerous. Tinder Garbage was slowly but surely eliminating men from my life. He spent his time convincing me the men I dated and kept as friends were problematic. He’d tell me that they weren’t shouldering any emotional labor but they’re constantly taking from me.

His story was a believable one and the narrative wound perfectly. His plan was for him to ultimately be the only man in my life. One day I’d open my eyes and see that he was the only good man. He was the person who had consistently been there.

And it had been working. So many nights, and so many times I had said to myself, “why don’t you just date Tinder Garbage, he’s so kind, he thinks of you first.” I’d consistently crawled into his bed when I needed to complain and vent, and though there was no longer a sexual element of our relationship there was comfort, and softness, and safety (I thought.)

What I didn’t know is I was crawling into bed with my abuser. I was arming him constantly with more information to keep me under his thumb. Having been vulnerable to abuse in the past I always expected it to come in the form of a physical attack or assault. This was a violent strike to my emotions and my system.

He’d turned me into someone who hated men and refused to allow them in my life.

And with his gorgeous smile and infectious laugh, I never saw the emotional attacks coming. Manipulation was blanketed in what felt like love and friendship. Control was covered in gifts and grand gestures.

I was treated like a pawn in a giant game of “who is she going to terrorize now?”

I left men confused and not understanding where the fun girl they first met had gone. I ruined potential dating scenarios- not to say they would have necessarily worked out- but I never had full control over any of my decisions.

Late last night someone posted a comment on the thread in the Facebook Group where I sorted all of these thoughts out- “This is sociopathic. Who does this? Like regardless of whether or not you ‘fell for’ what he was doing, who. does. this? That’s the thing about people who hurt people vs. people who get hurt- yeah, okay, you may have had some hand in it. You could have played it differently maybe, possibly, hypothetically. Tho I believe you are where you are at any given point in time, so I don’t really believe you would. But literally, regardless of all that, while you were “making decisions” (I use this loosely) to get to where you are now, he was making decisions to get you there. To keep lying. To keep manipulating you. If there is one thing I learned about consent while working in an anti-SA center, its that you can only truly consent to a situation when you have all the facts possible to have. As in, no one person knows things the other doesn’t about the decision they are making. He knew everything. 100% informed. And he used that to keep you uninformed. At any point he could have been like, “you know I wanna say stop talking to him, but tbh I don’t think I’m in the most unbiased headspace for that. I think you should ask someone else.” He could have said that and he didn’t and he knows why. He did that shit. He took away your right to all of the facts. He. Made. Those. Decisions. Period. Full Stop.”

It was powerful. It was eye-opening. It was painful.

The realization that someone I trusted so much had removed my consent from my own dating life, my own decisions about men, and manipulated them to his own advantage washed over me in the worst way.

It was easy to blame myself at first. It was easy to start asking questions about why I attract abuse, and why I don’t see it happening. It was easy to get upset yesterday and cry. It was easy to want to wallow today. But I didn’t because I saw this experience as proof I haven’t lost myself. It is proof I am the girl who is still open to experiences and open to trust. It is proof that I’m still in here eager to keep going, to keep moving, to keep experiencing.

My biggest hate in all of this is the men in my life whom this has impacted. To the guys who thought we were having a good time, to the men who thought this might be a thing, to the people I had chemistry with that I fought off- to each of you I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that you got caught up in something I wasn’t aware of, and I’m sorry you saw the worst side of me.

Cutting Tinder Garbage out of my life was simple. It was immediate. I blocked him everywhere I possibly could. I’ll take new routes, so I don’t run into him. I’ll avoid him with everything I can, but more than anything I’ll share this story of manipulation, emotional abuse, and deceit so that other women are aware that toxicity has many faces and some of them are beautiful. It is important to trust your instincts and listen to your gut when things feel like they’re not right.

I will open up again. I will eagerly trust again. I won’t stop giving all of myself to everything that I do- that’s a thing people admire about me- things happen, things crush me and hurt to the point I don’t want to feel at all, but I get up, I dust myself off, and I dive right back in, because ultimately good or bad life is about the experiences.

I help white folks navigate white fragility and antiracsim. I run a Facebook Group where we talk about race: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2105707219575112

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