He was a master manipulator — charming and charismatic to every degree but with a hint of something darker underneath.
That hint of darkness eventually revealed itself to be a black hole, where even I, someone who chose to believe in the inherent goodness of people, had a hard time seeing the light anymore.
He was a cool yet nerdy senior that I looked up to. I was a wholesome yet brash freshman that he looked at with a peculiar interest. It felt like a crazy connection, an intense attraction, something out of some cliched and trashy romance novel.
He made me believe that I was special — most manipulators will do that. They enjoy playing the games. They like the pursuit. And if they see you as some sort of challenge?
He made promises he never actually intended to keep. Every date was cinematic, every kiss was tender and sweet. He complimented me, made me feel as if I was the only one who held his mind captive. At one point, he called me a “siren” — a mythical being so enticing and alluring that he couldn’t stay away, even though it was so wrong.
As wide as my eyes were, I couldn’t help but narrow them quite frequently. I had my guard high up. I grilled him on his intentions. I interrogated him on his past cheating behaviors. I outlined boundaries. He told me that he respected my boundaries — that he would only cross them with my permission. He told me that he didn’t just want the physical things; he liked me because I was fun and unpredictable, and my “adorkable” nature was refreshing.
In reality, he pursued me out of a need for a thrill to temporarily escape the dull ache of being him. He played terrible games and wove beautiful lies.
But even the prettiest lies will unravel at some point. He got caught in his own web by his girlfriend who sent me a threatening message before ripping apart all threads of my existence off of his phone.
One thread remained though — I messaged him on GroupMe and found out the truth: he got back together with his ex-girlfriend during the time that he was with me. Never once did I know. I couldn’t have — he never intended to tell me. And if you ask either of them, they’ll blame me for putting another dent in their already troubled relationship. But the only people at fault are those who believe that lying and cheating are a valid way of coping with their own internal pain.
If any one of you is facing a similar problem, your first response will probably be to blame yourself. I know that’s what I did. I asked myself how I could have been so stupid. I re-read messages, looking for signs that I should have seen. I wondered if there was something wrong with me for giving someone so problematic a chance to hurt me.
But be kind to yourself. You are not at fault. Placing your trust in someone who did not deserve it is not a weakness. It just shows that you’re capable of putting yourself out there and one day, someone who deserves that trust will come along.
Allow yourself time to heal. Emotional trauma is often some of the hardest to see and cope with, but it will get better with time and a strong support system. Surround yourself with amazing friends — those who will buy you your favorite food and force you to eat because, honestly, you won’t feel like it. Surround yourself with those who will allow you to vent and sob as much as you need to and then make you laugh with silly dances and faces. Don’t be afraid to get professional help. Drexel has free counseling services, so take advantage of those resources.
If I ever see him again, I think my primary emotional response will be intense pity. I don’t look up to him anymore. The charm is a facade. The charisma is a carefully crafted mask. Inside is a broken boy who for some reason never learned empathy and compassion. I got to walk away from the situation as a stronger person, but he’s the one who has to face a stark black hole in the mirror everyday — and I truly hope he can find some light.