All his exes were psycho bitches. He once told me, after he had his first argument with his ex-fiancée, that she brought the police home to protect her while she collected her belongings. For no reason, you understand. I believed him: psycho bitch. When he told me the next one was a psycho bitch stalker, I believed him, too. When he told me his ex-wife was a psycho bitch narcissist, I was only too happy to add her to his absurd history of victimisation by every one of his exes. It was only a matter of time before I’d become one of them. I knew it then. I just didn’t want to believe it.
That is why I fear him: not for his temper, but for the strength of his delusions.
His tales of his exes seemed unhealthy because he told them daily, but I tucked them away along with all the other red flags he was throwing up. In those days, the entire world was populated by nice people. Everyone I’d ever known, except my rapist, was nice. How pretty and light the world was in those days—just like a musical.
Now I know, when looking for the true abuser in amongst the crossfire of truth-telling and lies, to follow the contempt. Contempt is what gives them away. Victims and survivors rarely talk about others, even their abusers, with vitriol like that. Anger, certainly, but contempt is its own species. Derision and entitlement are the creatures that give birth to abuse. Victims, even when angry, speak respectfully of the people who destroyed them.
Once you’ve had that level of vitriol directed at you, you never forget it. You can smell it out anywhere. Before I met him, I didn’t know there was worse than rage.
Contempt is not even anger’s relative. It’s more closely related to disrespect. When I’d never been exposed to it, I believed it was nothing beyond fury, or maybe hatred. It really isn’t. A person who feels contempt dehumanises others utterly. We are not people to them. We are objects to be shifted here or there, to be stamped on and used as convenient.
I’m wrong. We are less than objects. We are nothing.
When he was throwing all his charm and sexual chemistry my way, when I was swimming in enough idealisation to get drunk on, when he was telling me he loved me more than any other woman he’d met, he already saw me with contempt. I just didn’t know how to recognise it until I saw it come out from what he referred to as his evil side.
Now I’ve been added to his list of psycho bitch exes. It seems I’m in excellent company.
As for me, I still have a lot of anger. It’s been seven months since he left, and I still have not found a way to feel at peace with the world or with men. I will, though. I will.