I Dated Someone Who Was Gaslighting Me, And It Was Terrifying

by Diana Park
Originally Published: 
Tetra Images: Getty

I met Anthony online. We talked on the phone and exchanged texts for three weeks before meeting in person. He seemed wonderful, but as a single mother, I take my time before meeting someone.

After spending a weekend together a few weeks after meeting, I was starting to really like him and wanted to date him exclusively so I told him so.

“I’m not ready for that,” he said. “You’re coming on too strong, it’s a turn off for me.”

I told him that I wasn’t interested in giving somebody all the benefits of a relationship without an actual relationship, which is what I was doing. We were talking for hours when my kids were gone. We were having sex. We would spend days together shopping, dining out, and would come back to my house to snuggle on the sofa and watch movies.

Then I started to explain myself. “I’m not interested in getting married and buying matching shirts. I’m not asking you to move in or meet my kids. I’m just saying if we are going to continue this, I’m only comfortable if we are exclusive.”

It was too soon for Anthony, and I sent him on his way with little regret (even though I was kinda sad).

In my early twenties, before I met my husband, I was more attracted to the men who couldn’t quite commit, the “bad boys.” Now, I’m not attracted to somebody who doesn’t want me in the way I want them.

I told Anthony as much a few days after. I ended things as we sat in his car one evening. He’d driven an hour to see me after work because I’d been ignoring the texts he’d sent after I broke it off.

Yeah, you should find someone that matches exactly how you feel. Not many people are experts in finding an exact match, but it’s obvious you won’t settle for anything other than someone who matches your feelings exactly.

I’m glad we ended things now. You said you don’t need to be in a relationship, but it seems like you do.

Then there was the “I’m sorry, I was wrong” text followed by the “You are wonderful, you’ve been wonderful” text.

I was exhausted and confused. Anthony was putting so much energy into this and I assumed he just liked the chase.

After all those ignored texts, and him showing up to my house unannounced, he told me the real reason he wasn’t ready to agree to my offer of exclusivity: He’d committed too fast in the past with women and gotten burned. He didn’t want to let me go at all and said he wasn’t dating anybody else or interested in dating anybody else.

This is where I made the mistake of not going with my gut — something felt off, but I told myself I was being too picky and harsh (something my friends have told me in the past when it comes to my dating life). I went against my better judgment and let my vagina and heart speak louder than my gut and agreed to keep seeing him.

Another week passed and I told him I missed him one night after spending a lovely weekend together. His response was, “I just saw you. You are coming on too strong. I don’t miss you, I need more time for that.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks, and in that moment I finally saw the pattern in Anthony’s behavior. It was subtle at first, but every time I’d open up to him, he’d try to make me feel like I was too needy. Then I’d back off and he’d desperately clutch onto me, trying to convince me I was overreacting.

Like after our first date when we shared a nice kiss, he sent me a text saying, “I didn’t think you were going to kiss me like that. I wasn’t ready for that at all.”

I responded with, “I thought we kissed each other.” Then I put my phone away for the night, thinking I’d misread the kiss that he’d leaned in for.

Maybe I am coming on too strong?

But I woke up to about 10 texts after he realized I wasn’t responding to him, apologizing.

Or the time we’d spend the day together after he told me he wanted “quality time” with me. We had shared great conversation sitting in a cafe, went shopping, had a long dinner sipping wine followed by making out under Christmas lights in my car for two hours. It was fun, and felt natural. I was happy when I was around him.

He sent me a text after we parted ways saying he was still worked up from all the making out. I thought it would be fun to send a cute/semi-sexy selfie telling him I couldn’t wait to do it again and he responded with, “Really, the making out was enough. I don’t need the picture.”

Was two weeks of dating too soon to send a sexy selfie after he’d already asked me countless times for pictures of myself?

I realized this was not about me coming on too strong at all. But it also wasn’t about the chase for Anthony, like I’d originally thought. I completely broke it off with Anthony after his message about not missing me at all.

I was done, and I felt stupid I’d let it get this far.

He didn’t believe me at first. He asked to see me again to talk about it, but I didn’t need to see him again. He started begging, saying he was sorry, he’d been exclusive this whole time, and he was ready to be in a relationship. I said I didn’t want the same thing and that his behavior made me feel shitty, then I went out for a run.

When I came back, I had over 40 texts from Anthony. 40! He went from accusing me of having personality disorder, saying my daughter needed therapy (something I shared with him in confidence) because I didn’t allow people to be vulnerable around me. Then went on to say he was taking the day off of work and coming to see me so we could talk.

I was very clear and told him I did not want to see or talk with him, and he needed to stop texting me.

He didn’t.

For the next three days, he continued texting about wanting to be with me, saying he was still interested in me even though I had “issues.” I ignored every one, hoping they’d stop.

I was ready to call the police when a male friend of mine stepped in and texted Anthony telling him to back off. He did, thankfully, and I thought that was the end — but then things got really scary.

A few nights after not hearing from him for days, I was fighting a sinus infection and had fallen asleep on the sofa at 6:30 p.m. while my kids were watching a movie. We’d had a snow storm that day and my son had just come in from snow blowing and was in the shower when my daughter woke me up to tell me someone was shoveling our already plowed driveway.

I was disoriented and asked her who it was, and she said she didn’t know — my kids had never met or seen a picture of Anthony but knew he was a friend I’d been seeing.

I looked out the window and saw that it was him shoveling my driveway. He’d driven an hour to my house after work on a night he knew my kids would be there since he was aware of my custody schedule.

I didn’t want to cause a scene so I sent him a text telling him to leave, and he responded with “I will when I’m done.”

We went back and forth six times and every time he was super casual responding with things like, “After I throw some salt down, I’ll go. Let me finish.”

I told him I was going to call the police if he didn’t get off my property, and he finally left. But his departure was followed with messages telling me I was screwed up, he’d just wanted to so something nice for me, and I should have appreciated it.

The term gaslighting means brainwashing someone, trying to manipulate them so they begin to doubt themselves. And there were a few weeks of my life when I was doing just that.

While I knew something was off, I’d never met anyone like Anthony, and instead of listening to what I knew was best, I kept thinking something was wrong with me. Maybe I was being too needy, and overreacting.

But I wasn’t the problem; he was.

Honestly, it scared the shit out of me that I was falling for someone like that, and I see how it can happen to anyone.

I haven’t heard from Anthony since his last texts the night he left my house when I told him I’d call the police, but I did take something from this experience — never again will I ignore my own inner voice, even when someone tries to tell me it’s wrong.

This article was originally published on