Absolutely. There were signs. I could give a million excuses — I was young and naive. I wanted so badly to be loved. Seth seemed so put together– his parents had been married for 30 years…he had a great job….he seemed stable and highly educated. All of the things that I thought were important. Yes, there were signs and yes, I take responsibility for my part in ignoring those signs. People who are narcissistic are extremely charming, manipulative and good at their game.
Prior to meeting him, I took a one year hiatus from dating. Historically, I hadn’t made the best choices in men. I thought that I was being careful this time.
We met at a local lake in May of 2000. We went out for dinner a few nights later and he immediately turned on the charm. I woke up after our first meeting to an email that instructed me to take the day off from work and enjoy a massage, hot tub and facial. Seth had called in a credit card and told me to enjoy myself. Every time I turned around there were cards, flowers, gifts and weekend getaways. He wrote love letters and poems. He told me all the things that I wanted to hear. He was a knight in shining armor when it came to dating.
Seth was in sales. He sold me– on his family, his degree and his potential. He was extremely intelligent– had graduated from a reputable college. Six weeks after we began dating, he announced that he was moving to San Diego for a six-figure job. He asked me to move with him. I announced to my family that I was going and it wasn’t up for negotiations. I had only known him for six weeks and it sounded completely crazy but I was young and didn’t have commitments. I longed to be loved– to be in a healthy relationship. I thought that I had found it.
We moved in together and there were things that bothered me but I ignored them. I tried to change and be the person he wanted me to be. He reminded me often that I didn’t have a college degree– he explained that it was acceptable for us to date but that his parents would never approve of us getting married because I didn’t have that piece of paper framed on the wall. I enrolled in college and quit my job– I took out student loans and studied around the clock. I got a 4.0…to impress him and to let him know that I was worthy. I knew college wasn’t for me but I wanted him to love me. I wanted so badly to be married and have the white picket fence lifestyle.
There were little things– things that bothered me but I ignored. He criticized my weight– I was only 112lbs at the time. Things had to be “perfect”– shampoo bottles had to be turned the proper way…labels facing out. He constantly made fun of people– in restaurants, in public places and on television. He was smarter, better looking and more successful on every level– in his mind. His spending habits scared me but I had faith that he knew what he was doing– after all, he was the one with the college degree and the high-paying job. He was controlling but I thought it was love. It wasn’t love.
The lies began: In September of 2001, I caught Seth in a huge lie. I moved out of the house for a week to gather my thoughts. He was beside himself– gave me every line in the world…showered me with cards, flowers and gifts. One particular card said, “Tina- I’m sorry 1 million times over for lying to you. I have no excuse. You are a beautiful person inside and out. I’m not. I’m devious, manipulative and dishonest. If you need to leave me, I understand. I deserve it”.
*Note to self: In the future, if someone admits that they are a devious, manipulative and dishonest person….run. This is what my therapist would refer to as a “red flag”. I didn’t run. I took him back and believed him when he said he could change. He wanted to change and he wanted to be a good person. He said all of the things I wanted to hear.
December 2001- We went to Hawaii on vacation– while eating lunch on the coast, he pulled out a huge diamond ring. He proposed and I said “yes”. Looking back, it was strange– not emotionally charged but almost business-like. Not a lot of feeling which struck me as odd but I dismissed it as I did with everything. Then he suggested that we get married there– on vacation without telling our families. I agreed.
We made arrangements to get married two days later. On the eve of our wedding night, we sat down and decided to write our own vows. It was his idea and it seemed uber-romantic to me. I grew tired as the night progressed and decided to turn in early– he explained that he wanted to stay up and finish the vows. I woke up through the night and realized he wasn’t in bed– 1am…2am…3am…I think he finally came to bed around 4am.
He seemed anxious and odd on the morning of our wedding. We found a Kinkos to print copies of our vows which he had finalized. While waiting at Kinkos, he handed me a 16-page, typed document which turned out to be the most insane pre-nup that I had ever seen. I was in shock. As I sat on the curb outside reading this document, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. One example from the pre-nup: I was not allowed to gain more than 10lbs during the course of our marriage. Exercise was a priority and needed to happen at least 3 times per week. If I had children, I had to return to per-pregnancy weight within one year.
I sat on the curb crying. I told him to shove his pre-nup —I couldn’t marry him.
He begged. He pleaded. He apologized.
We got married a few hours later.
One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.
History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with over 100-chapters in five different countries. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.
Tina Swithin offers annual retreats, coaching services and more at www.tinaswithin.com