10. Incident #5: Maxim

Kevin was extremely controlling, yet it took me some time to come to this realisation as his control came across as so subtle.

In about April 2015, we had a new colleague, Maxim. He was doing the gardening and maintenance work. I first met Maxim on either his second or third day of work, I think. I met him in the morning in the canteen before my first class. We introduced ourselves to each other and chatted for a little bit, as you would do to any new colleague. Soon after we started chatting, Kevin walked into the canteen to have a coffee and then left. I didn’t think anything was wrong until later that day when Kevin came up to me and asked,

“What was that about?”

“What was what about?” I responded.

“You and the gardener. Flirting in the canteen.”

I said that we were not flirting. We were introducing ourselves to each other as any new colleague would do. Yet he insisted that we were flirting and that I had hurt him so badly. So bad, he didn’t know if he could ever recover. Every time I denied that we were flirting, his response was always, “I look at facts”. But they were not facts. It was his interpretation of the interaction between Maxim and me. He was trying to get me to admit that we were flirting and subsequently make me feel guilty for my actions. This was common for him: to try and get me to admit to actions that I did not do so as to twist the situation and put the blame on me. And with all of the gaslighting going on in the relationship, sometimes I did admit to these actions that in reality did not happen or taking the blame when it was not my fault. Over time, I even began to believe that I did these things he said I did even when they never happened. I started to doubt myself.

But in this instance, I didn’t take what Kevin was saying about Maxim and me flirting seriously. I thought he was being ridiculous. After lunch, I went back to the canteen. Maxim was there and we started talking again. A few minutes later, as if Kevin was watching all this time, he appeared in the canteen, had a glass of water and left without saying anything, even though I had introduced Kevin to Maxim. At that moment, a really dark feeling came over me. I got really nervous.

Afterwards, I went to look for Kevin just to make sure he was ok. He was in his room and he completely blew up at me saying that he had told me not to talk to Maxim once already and that I did not listen to him and that I should’ve got up and left. Firstly, Kevin does not own me, even though he seemed to believe that I was his possession. He was in no position to tell me who I could or could not speak to. Secondly, it was not flirting. Colleagues talk to each other. And new colleagues need to feel welcome. Thirdly, it was Maxim’s first week and he was a colleague. I was not going to be rude to him. I was not going to ignore him and get up and leave. Especially as he was only being nice.

I didn’t see it then, but Kevin was already gaslighting me over this incident. He kept telling me that it was so obviously flirting and that I must have been that naïve to have not seen it. He said things like, “Do you not see that it was it was flirting?”, or, “He’s married”. Kevin would not have known whether or not Maxim was married because Kevin didn’t even speak to Maxim. He even brought the canteen chef, Karl, into it by saying that even Karl had told him that it was so obviously flirting from both sides. I don’t think this was true as I was facing Karl the whole time and it seemed like Karl and Kevin were having a conversation about something completely different. This was Kevin’s triangulation coming into play again. But because Kevin kept telling me that I should have seen this interaction as flirting, eventually I gave in out of exhaustion and admitted that our interaction had been flirtatious. At that moment, I was experiencing cognitive dissonance. What I was admitting to clashed with what I was feeling deep inside.

To be honest, talking to Maxim was like a breath of fresh air. I felt so free. Unfortunately, I eventually did distance myself form Maxim because I was afraid that by talking to Maxim, I would trigger more rage in Kevin. I became quite cold. I didn’t even say hello to Maxim unless I knew Kevin wasn’t around. I even had to watch my body language whilst around Maxim, and I felt that whenever Maxim was around, Kevin was constantly watching me for my body language. I think he may have been trying to find something that would have given him reason to be angry at me. I felt really bad for Maxim because he was only being nice.

However, this incident seemed to have hurt Kevin really badly. He said that there were two things I did which truly hurt him dearly. This was one of them. The other one was me wanting to go back to university to do a Master’s degree. That goes to show how much of a sick, jealous, insecure, little man Kevin was.

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