Shortly after arriving in Thiaumont, Kevin began showing an interest in me. He took me to buy a Belgian SIM card for my phone then got my number and my Skype address. He then began messaging me on Skype every day. I did find it very strange that even though we were living in the same house, our communication was predominantly through Skype messaging (and later on WhatsApp messaging) but not face to face.
One night over Skype, he said that he wanted to play a “game”. The game required him to ask me one question and I would have to ask him another question in return. Basically, we were just taking it in turns to ask questions. It felt like a job interview, and it probably was something like that. He was probably hiding behind his screen taking notes as he was trying to find out as much as he could about my life and my personality. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I thought that it was just a quirk in his personality. His use of words was incredibly charming. He said things like that I was an angel sent down to save him and that I was the best thing to have happened to him in a long time, and all that bullshit. Whenever I mentioned interests of mine, he would say that he had the same interests. He knew how to make a woman fall in love with him. But I eventually came to learn that we had very little in common. He was just trying to make me feel that we had a connection. He also said what I now believe to be subtle warnings of how I should not behave with him. He said that all relationships he enters into, he sees as his last and he repeatedly said that he hopes that I never hurt him as he had been hurt too many times.
However, I felt that things were moving too quickly. After we went on our first date, he had already labelled me as his girlfriend. Personally, it takes me a few dates and it is more of a gradual and natural process rather than abruptly becoming girlfriend and boyfriend. But I let it go as I thought that that was just the way he approached relationships. In hindsight, I see that he was trying to have me under his control as soon as possible.
We only ever had one date. We never had a second date. He already took possession of me after the first date and soon referred to me as his wife and him as my husband. He already spoke about marriage and children early on in the relationship. Very quickly, he was pushing for us to have our own place and live together. They were all early warning signs that I ignored which resulted in many devastating events.
Within two weeks of the relationship, he said “I love you”, which really took me by surprise as this was really quick. It usually takes me about three months to say those words. I barely knew him after two weeks. I didn’t know what to say so I said those words back to him as I could already sense at that time that he was the extremely insecure and sensitive type and I didn’t want to cause any dramas or hurt his feelings. From this and the research I have been doing, I have learnt that moving too quickly in a relationship is one of the earliest warning signs of an abusive relationship. The truth is, I don’t think I ever loved him. I didn’t have the opportunity to. He took his mask off too quickly.
About a day or two after he told me that he loved me, we were going for a walk and I could see that something was bothering him. I asked him what was wrong and he said that I wasn’t showing him affection and that I was being cold to him and that he had never experienced such coldness in a relationship before. In hindsight, I realise that this was one of his first applications of triangulation and gaslighting. Triangulation is a manipulative tactic used by bringing another person or group of people into the dynamic of the relationship. This can be used to create jealousy or self-doubt in the victim. In this instance, Kevin was using his past relationships to make me doubt myself over his perceived lack of affection and coldness I was showing him. Gaslighting is another manipulative tactic that causes the victim to doubt and question his or her sense of perception, identity and reality. In this case, Kevin was trying to make me question my mannerisms and my behaviour towards him.
This whole conversation took me by surprise as I thought everything was going fine up to this point. I didn’t think that I wasn’t showing him enough affection or that I was being cold, and I had never had anyone say anything like that to me before. I thought he was being ridiculous so I laughed it off. But he kept persisting with what he was saying and then I started to get quite annoyed. He kept saying, “I look at facts”, a phrase he often used throughout the relationship. But he wasn’t looking at facts, he was looking at his interpretation of our interaction. There was no resolution to that event. I got annoyed and he used that against me. I asked him what I could do to solve the problem, yet he did not seem to show any interest in finding solutions for the problem. Looking back, I think he was trying to get a negative reaction out of me. It was something I came to learn that he thrived off doing so that he could use my negative reaction against me. Maybe he was also trying to make me become more attached to him by making me think I was not attaching myself to him enough, which he could then use maliciously to say that I was over-controlling. This did happen at some points in the relationship. At the time, I didn’t see it as a sign of possessiveness, but rather, as a sign that he was really into me and serious about the relationship.
The love bombing stage was very short-lived. As soon as I said, “I love you” back to him, he believed that I was under his control and that was when the abuse began.