The Grooming Phase

What is grooming? Taken from Abuse and

“Grooming works by mixing positive behaviours with elements of abuse. At the beginning, all behaviours are positive. Slowly, abusive elements are added in amounts that surprise the survivor to an extent, but do not push alarm to a high level. Over time, the inappropriate comes to feel normal.

My story of the Grooming Phase

The Senior Manager who I was having some kind of affair with, turned.  Not overnight, but gradually and then with increasing alarm. The first thing to emerge was he started berating me at work. Saying cruel, demeaning sexist remarks whenever he could. “Did you remember to bring a pen to work today?” he’d say in front of a board room of people.  We were actually performing some pretty intense thinking work on the project, so to pick on something as outrageous and seemingly simple as forgetting a pen (which I never did, incidentally) just felt bizarre and out of context.

Then he’d be super nice to me and I’d think, gosh what was I even thinking, it’s reasonable that he should ask whether I took my pen to work!  Had I previously forgotten my pen, I’d wonder?  This is a good example of how the seeds of self-doubt of the victim are planted.

He’d start openly laughing at me in front of senior client staff during meetings, finding ways to tut or roll his eyes at me.  This was hurtful and such a surprise and a departure from how he’d been, that I just didn’t understand.  Then he’d pass it off as a joke and I’d be left thinking, wow, I’m sure I used to have a sense of humour.

But still I would think maybe I was at fault.  Can I not take a joke or something?  Am I missing something here?

This was my weakness. Rather than be able to see the behaviour clearly, I’d see it as a problem to solve, so I’d then spend time locked in my own thought processes.  Why was I being picked on?  I didn’t see it for the bullying, emotional abuse that it was, I just felt confused and hurt and wondered why it was happening.  Confusion was one of my overriding emotions through this phase – and tiredness.

He stepped it up.  He’d comment loudly and publicly about my terrible dress sense or point out my physical flaws.  All women love this, obviously.  Comparing me to his previous girlfriends and suggesting that what I should wear, and eat for dinner, ought to be more in line with other women’s behaviour.  I was so flabbergasted I barely knew how to respond.

Now if this was JUST a personal relationship, I might have had my wits about me slightly more. Maybe, or maybe not, it’s impossible to say with hindsight.

This relationship, however, was made more complicated by the fact that he was in a position of power over me at work.  My career mattered to me, so this wasn’t just the dynamic of me having to stand up for myself in a relationship with an older man: this was my FIRST JOB and a job that was very important to me.

I was the kind of person that tried hard all the time.  I was earnest – worked hard, wanted to make a good impression, wanted to please others.  (You know, the ‘good syndrome’, before I realised perfection was an illusion and a nonsense).  Yes I could have a laugh outside work but we were also working in a pressure cooker environment where every last thing we did got analysed and rated.  360 degree feedback system, filling in timesheets proving how much time you’d spent on each client project, how much admin time, how much personal development, how long it took you to have a piss today, that kind of thing (the last bit was called ‘personal time’ not ‘piss time’ but you get the gist).

We got feedback on every project and a pay rise according to performance.  It was never going to be easy to stand up to the very man who was going to provide my feedback.  My entire career and pay was linked to him.

It makes me very angry to look back and think of it in this light.  He didn’t just wreck the relationship area of my life – my career was now totally screwed up too.

Laying into his friends

He didn’t only target me: his malice extended to others. He would have a conversation with someone, act like their best friend, then as soon as they were out the room or off the phone, he would criticise them so deeply it was disturbing.  He was vile.  He spoke with nothing but contempt for his family.  Even people he classed as close friends, he would cut to shreds as soon as they were out of earshot.  I started feeling exhausted just being near him.  Again, look up psychopath – it’s a common symptom.

I was being warned. His aim was to terrify me. Watch out!  But I didn’t know how to watch out and I was bloody stuck with him 24/7.

Unfortunately, and this is where I got tied in knots, I thought perhaps I could have a good effect on him.  You know, perhaps instruct him in how to be better.  So I’d try to point out that he could maybe act a bit nicer.  Kinder.  Having a bloody conversation about it!  I had NO IDEA of the workings of a psychopath’s mind.  He was probably loving all the attention, slowly sucking out my soul as I tried harder and harder by the day.

In addition to this, he was a bit perverted and into cheap thrills like lap dancing and porn a lot too much for my liking and he talked about both frequently.  Things changed in the bedroom and I started to feel cheap and empty.

During July, he revealed that he was still in a relationship with his girlfriend, after previously telling me it had ended in April. I felt shocked and stupid.  It put a different light on things.  I hadn’t intended to have an affair – I didn’t know we were in one.  Everything felt like it was escalating.  I felt ashamed about being the ‘other woman’ and stupid for falling for his lies.  I started to panic about who else ‘knew’ about what must have looked like a sordid affair, and whether I might be the target of rumours.  It compounded my sense of loneliness and isolation.

He became nastier by the day and even blamed me for the demise of his relationship.  He dumped his girlfriend and made me feel as though I’d done it.  Projection.  Another psychopath speciality.

Read next post: the first time he raped me


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