I am a firm believer that the people we meet enter our lives for a reason. Maybe it is just a passerby who offers a kind smile and brightens your day, or a guy you meet on POF who completely breaks your heart (another story for another time), or someone who stays for a while and shakes things up, whether good or bad.

When it comes to dating, people come, go and offer us all sorts of lessons. What we do with those lessons are up to us individually. We can learn and become better humans or we can allow them to break us down and make us a little bit more bitter about the whole dating scene than we were before.

I try to choose the first option.

I have been a quiet person when it comes to my dating life up to this point, hence why I have never written about it before and you will rarely find me posting on social media about it. After a series of events this past year, I decided it was all fair game from now on – because being true to yourself and helping yourself get better is important and this is a big part of my life now. I am a woman who dates and it is okay to talk about.

Some of the men have already been warned, others have not. “I’m a writer,” I tell them, “I may or may not write about you.” One liked the idea that I would change his name and he was the only one who knew that it was him I was writing about; he’s special, that one, a good guy that sometimes has sadness in his eyes, but always seems to be smiling. Some I am still friends with, some I will always look back on very fondly no matter where life takes us, others will probably never know and I will never speak to them again. Some refuse to utter a single word in my direction as a result of huge mistakes I have made, because, at times, I suck at being a compassionate human.

I have always divulged the good, the bad, the awkward, the ugly, and the funny to my closest posse, and kept it as far away from social media as possible, but when a good story happens, as a writer, you just have to get it out there and hope that you won’t be judged by all you know.

And over the past year I have collected more than a few stories.

All of these experiences have lead me to this moment right here, right now, writing this to you. There is a need, a desire, to write about the men I have met this past year in my dating adventures. While there are many stories to share, this story is about one in particular.

Johnny.

I started online dating in December 2015 and met him shortly after. We quickly hit it off.

Johnny was handsome, arrogant, confident, smooth talking, had an impossible quick wit, and, was a completely emotionally messed up human that hid it really well…at first. He could keep up with my penchant for sassiness and off beat, inappropriate humor. He was the Cappie to my Casey, or so I thought. The arrogance and confidence captivated me and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.

My evenings after work were consumed by talking to him on the drive home only to break for dinner and pick up right where we left off. We talked into the wee hours of the morning only to be sad to have to say goodnight and leave each other.

Johnny was the jealous type. And as a person who has manipulated her fair share of people in her life (not my proudest characteristic I will admit), it was easy to see him starting to manipulate me, or atleast trying to. The little comments that would make me question myself, all the little jabs that were said to make me unsure of my decisions, to make me doubt myself, to make me feel bad about myself.

He had to know who I was talking to, if I was out with a friend, he wanted to know who it was and always assumed it was another guy, even if it was just my roomate. He would give me the cold shoulder when I upset him with something he thought I did, but didn’t actually do, ignore me for days and not communicate, only to reprimand me when I called him out for his childish behavior and lack of communication. He assumed I was dating upwards of 10 men at one point and would constantly ask me about any other dates I had gone on – thinly veiled as though we were to be completely honest with each other about where we were at in the course of getting to know each other.

It was emotionally draining on me and I learned that he would never be able to trust me. I had not met anyone as broken as him, as manipulative as him, as mean as him since my college sorority days. And if you have ever heard any of those stories, then you know that is saying a whole lot.

Johnny and I called it quits shortly after Valentine’s Day when I could no longer take the constant emotional neediness and him trying to make me feel bad about my life choices. He went away for the weekend and didn’t bother to tell me only to come back a few days after and act as though I was the crazy one for feeling neglected by him.

He resurfaced several months later during summer of 2016, and I very carefully let him back in only to find that nothing had changed and not even the sheeps clothing he verbally wore could mask the fact that he was still the same wolf underneath. The final straw was when I could not answer a message as quickly as he wanted me to. He called me horrible names, blocked me on all social media sites, and then proceeded to argue with me over text messages until I told him I had had enough, it was done and to never contact me ever again.

We were finally over.

I slept a little bit easier that night, and every night since. Of course I miss the quick comebacks and long conversations about anything and everything in life, but I don’t miss someone trying to make me feel like I was crazy, that tried to make me feel lesser than, that intentionally hurt my feelings so he could feel more powerful and in control to make his existence more meaningful.

Johnny taught me a hard, and not-so-fast, lesson: trust your gut and run. I knew there was something off earlier on, but didn’t know how to deal with it. I needed to run far away as soon as I saw those signs.

That’s the thing about emotional and verbal abuse, it is hard to catch it early, but when you do, take it seriously. I am a huge believer in talking about things with your friends, they can offer outside perspectives when you are in the thick of things. Johnny did help me realize that there were parts of my soul that were broken and needed mending. But in the end, this was his issue. There was never anything inherently wrong with me, it was him who needed the most mending. I truly hope he finds it someday, but I will never know. I simply fell for the bad guy and that was my biggest mistake.

The overarching point is this – trust your instincts, what your gut is telling you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you cannot get out of a situation on your own. And if you need a little extra help in identifying the signs of emotional abuse, check out this article here.