The Spy Who Belittled Me

“Making subtle threats or negative remarks with the intent to control you.”  This is one of the many traits that I keep coming across during my research of emotional abuse, and it’s the one that continues to have a hold on me. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am ready to write about this difficult time in my life, and as empowering as it is to get the story out, I also still have a fear inside of me that he put there.

Despite never using his name, and not even using mine, I still consider that he is watching me in some way. He was always watching. The ex was a police officer, and at one point in his career he spent some time specializing in computer forensics and internet crimes – so he knew a thing or two. Regardless of how incognito I choose to be, I still move forward with the feeling that he is lurking about somewhere, that he still knows what I’m up to. One would think after being away from him for 12 years that he would no longer have any interest in where I am or what I am doing. I hope that is the case, but that isn’t the person that I knew, and after receiving a completely random and ominous text message from him a little over a year ago, it’s tough to believe that he’s let things go.

When we were together, I couldn’t make a move without him knowing what I was doing. He once confessed to having put a keystroke logger on my computer to watch every single thing that I had ever typed. I learned that this had been going on without my knowledge for months, and he only finally admitted it because he discovered that I had been having conversations with a woman online who was going through some similar experiences in her marriage. It turned out that we had mutual acquaintances and after some online chats, we had decided to meet up for coffee – a little support group, of sorts.

It was a beautiful weekday afternoon and I spent my lunch break at the local coffee shop we had selected. We were both a little nervous, but the conversation with my new friend came with ease and when we parted ways, I left feeling a bit giddy at the connection we had just made. As I reached my office, the ex called and asked me to stop by home for a minute (we lived within walking distance of my work). The moment I opened the door the twisted scowl on his face said it all, and my heart lurched. He yelled, I got defensive and tried to stand firm in my decision to meet my new friend, but wanted to understand how he even knew. He yelled some more but wouldn’t tell me, he said he had his ways and that shouldn’t be what mattered, that he just wanted to know how I could be so stupid. I kept thinking he must have followed me, but he knew too many details, so did he plant a bug on me, too? I didn’t even know what a keystroke logger was back then, and I’m not sure I would even know now if I hadn’t had this particular experience. The more I stood firm, the more his anger grew until I finally broke down. I sobbed and apologized, I just wanted to make his threatening words and yelling stop. They made me feel like curling up in a ball and hiding, they really hurt.

Once I relented, he finally admitted to what he had done, but insisted that it was all for my own good. He said I made him angry because he knew I was up to something and he was only trying to protect me. He carried on that it was dangerous to continue meeting up with my new friend and told me that the only way I could make this right was by breaking it off right then. I wasn’t fully buying into it, and really didn’t want to do this, but I surely couldn’t tell him that. He was in charge, and nothing was going to make him happy until I complied. He followed me to the computer where I was told, with him watching over my shoulder, to send her a message that simply said I wouldn’t be talking to her any longer, that this was goodbye. I couldn’t give an explanation and I couldn’t apologize. I can’t imagine what she must have thought, and I never reached out to her again for fear that I would be discovered.

I can now clearly see that he was angry that I had spoken to anyone else about anything related to our relationship, even though I hadn’t even discussed anything terribly personal with her at this point (he would know). It didn’t matter, though. He was threatened by the friendship that I had started to build, as he was with nearly every friendship that I had ever attempted. Eventually he always found a way to drive a wedge between me and most other people, unless they met his approval – which was a very rare occurrence. It’s pretty sad to have to sneak around for the sake of friendship, and I certainly never trusted that my computer was a safe place again.

Besides the Russian hackers (I kid, mostly), my computer is safe these days. I am in a good place with a good man and wonderful friends – whichever ones I choose. I’m still figuring out how to let the old threats loose their hold on me, but with every word that I put out into the world, it seems to be getting a little bit easier.


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