Laura C’s Story

It was like someone setting fire to your house and then rescuing you from it. You’re relieved you didn’t get burned. But you forget that they were the one with the matches, lighting it.

Laura C photo

A few years ago, I met this magnetic guy. The kind you couldn’t keep away from, no matter the cost. It was a passionate start, like this was the beginning to my happy ending. 

I’d met him just after a pretty intense romance with a devoted Christian. (Turns out relationships don’t go very far when one of you can’t have sex because of God). So, the timing for a new relationship was a little off and I kinda wanted to stay single.

Anyway, back to “the guy”.

Only weeks in to dating and he’d already shouted he loved me in a noisy sports bar. Romantic, huh? Well I put it down to a few too many drinks. Until he repeated it the next day, insinuating he really meant it. He was infatuated with me – even had his friend say “marry her, mate”. 

And I thought he was amazing too, a bit average looking but we had EVERYTHING in common. We were both from the same area in England, had a couple of mutual friends. Yet ended up meeting on the other side of the world. How’s that for “meant to be”?

He began working away which was something I was hesitant about. Especially because he knew I wasn’t down for a long distance relationship. 

I noticed his behaviour shifted when he was away. 

He became aloof and couldn’t be arsed with keeping contact. This created a lot of friction when I would bring it up. Almost like I was asking too much of him. He would always remind me that this was his career path and it was selfish of me to demand his time.

When he was home he’d then act physically distant with me as well. Every time he left and came back things gradually got worse. And the more I questioned the change in our dynamic, the harder it felt to stay connected.

Whenever I felt at breaking point and couldn’t take it anymore, he’d swoop in and change back to the man I first knew. He became the doting boyfriend once again. Gifts, helicopter rides, micro adventures together – whatever he needed to win back my affection.

I spent a lot of the relationship hoping he’d come home and be excited to see me. That he missed me. But it never went like that. Our short time together was filled with toxic arguments instead. He’d always do something shit like disappear all night. Or drink himself into oblivion and leave me fretting of his whereabouts. 

He’d ruin every occasion. But somehow made me feel guilty for it. His sob story was always his get out of jail free card, pulling me back in with his twisted victim playing games.

It was like someone setting fire to your house and then rescuing you from it. You’re relieved you didn’t get burned. But you forget that they were the one with the matches, lighting it.

My draw to the relationship was the good memories – the love bombing – the promises of a future together that I wanted. That’s what fuelled me to stay and make it work all the time.

It didn’t help that any doubts I had were squashed by the opinions of his friends. They just pushed me into him further and made me distrust my own perceptions. So over time, when anything bad happened, I’d put a lid on it. I’d close myself off from others and I’d try to not react and stay strong. 

But what I didn’t realise was I was weaponising my own strength against myself. I was burying all my good parts and fading away who I was, just to maintain the relationship.

This back and forth all came to an abrupt ending. When he sealed it with a text message, dumping me the day before our holiday.

There I was. Alone in Bali and wondering: 

“What the fuck happened?”

I was so shocked that I didn’t cry about it or tell anyone for days. I sat in the confusion and dwelled on the past few years that had amounted to such a climax. I couldn’t figure out how someone who loved me had treated me this way.

A few days later, I was in the Philippines with my best friend, trying to come to terms with everything. She was determined to get me through it; bless her for trying so hard everyday. But I just felt so stunted and drained.

It didn’t help that my ex kept tabs on me everyday and wasn’t letting me move on. There was snippets of hope threaded throughout his messages, like little emotional ties.

After our travels to the Philippines, I flew back to Oz (I sound like a right jet setter here)! I moved to the East coast, the opposite side to where my ex was. Yet somehow he managed to spot me on Tinder – which he was not best pleased about. The fucking cheek, I know!

Well that was my last straw. I politely cut him off for good and blocked him from gaining access to me. 

Some months later and I was back on English soil, chatting to my good friend Rachel. I’d recently discovered some not so pleasant news: my ex had been cheating on me. 

Once I had unravelled his dirty secret, more people came out of the woodwork. It was like I had a whoosh of validation confirming all these suspicious moments in my relationship. Like “Oh that was why he missed his flight”. “Oh that explains the cum on his camper van sheets”. “Oh that’s when he met that woman for dinner”.

So I’m pouring my heart out to Rachel and telling her all these awful woes about my ex. And then she says: 

“He sounds like a narcissist”. 

Whoosh, in flooded more validation again. Another helpful meaning to express what I’d already experienced. It led me down a rabbit hole of research and later became the catalyst for Sallt Sisters.

Recovering from narcissistic abuse AND a betrayal like serial cheating, isolates you if you don’t know anyone who can relate. It was difficult for my friends and family to understand why I wasn’t ‘over’ the relationship yet. 

I also found that explaining my trauma was too complex to pick apart with just anyone. I was still adjusting to living with (what I know now to be) C-PTSD, and it would make me emotional discussing it. 

The only safe space I had to talk about my anxiety and flashbacks was in my therapist’s room.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Laura was suffering from the same consequences. So now there were two of us who’d been with narcissists without being aware of it. 

But we also had that in common. 

That’s when we realised the lack of support women had to deal with the aftermath of narcissistic abuse. It’s such a complicated, misunderstood and trivialised form of abuse. And it’s tough to reach out for help – especially if your friends haven’t been through it. 

You need the empathy from women who understand your pain. Cos there’s nothing like the feeling of unity when others validate your emotions.

The more I opened up and spoke to other women, the more I realised that I wasn’t alone in my experience. It surprised me how many others had similar stories to mine. Narcissistic abuse was actually quite common. Yet nobody seemed to be speaking about it.

So we started to.