In Sex Love and Obesity part 27 I talked about the stupidest mistake I ever made. Calling Peter and asking him to come over. Looking back on it now, I realize how idiotic it was. But only because almost two years of learning more about myself and reclaiming my self-confidence has provided the necessary insight.

About a week after making that phone Peter and I were officially back together. But before I tell that part of the story, I think we need to discuss why we ended up back together in the first place.

Why, against the better judgement of my closest friends, who all witnessed the damaging effects the relationship with Peter had on my sanity, I returned to someone that had emotionally abused me.

Breaking the cycle of abuse is difficult. 

Sex, Love and Obesity - Abuse

It’s very common for those who have been abused to put themselves in situations where they continue to be abused. I’m sure a therapist or a psychologist could add more insight to this. I’m not a mental health professional. But in my opinion, I think this happens for two reasons.

First, I think it happens because truthfully. it is all we know. When you’ve never had a healthy relationship, there is no example of one in your life.

As a result, there was no healthy relationship I could compare this relationship to. I thought the relationship was emotionally abusive. But I wasn’t positive that it was.

When comparing a relationship to those of my past, it was always about whether the current relationship was better than the previous ones. Better doesn’t always equate to healthy though. Especially if everything you compare it to was unhealthy to begin with.

My relationship with Clark was the closest thing to a healthy relationship I’d ever had. Which probably explains why every time someone else hurt me, I ran right back to him.

We don’t suddenly regain our self-confidence when we lose weight.

Secondly, I believe many who have been in abusive situations cycle back to abusive relationships because of an ongoing sense of being valueless. Some of us carry this feeling of unworthiness without us all throughout our life.

For me, the unworthiness was amplified by my struggle with obesity. I never believed that I would find someone who would love me the way I wanted to be loved. Because, I didn’t believe I was worthy of being loved. At my core, I believed that I deserved something better. But better just meant it wasn’t as bad as anything I had known before. Searching for something better, lead me to a lifetime of settling for less than everything I wanted.

During most my weight loss journey I thought that once I lost the weight the feelings of unworthiness would go away. Later, I believed that by having reconstructive plastic surgery I’d be happier with the body I was in and regain the self-confidence I was lacking.

Unfortunately, none of that was true. Losing weight, having the excess skin removal, none of that fixed the underlying problem. Because, my lack of self-confidence existed long before I weighed over four-hundred pounds.

Those feelings of unworthiness and that fear that nobody would ever love me traced back farther than my struggle with obesity. In fact, I realize now, those issues are very likely the ones that led to me having relationship with food instead of people to begin with. Obesity was a symptom of my lack of self-worth and not the other way around.

Jealousy will make you do stupid things. 

You might recall back in Sex, Love and Obesity Part 23  I mentioned that Peter had started seeing someone new. It was upsetting to me, and at the time and I didn’t understand why.

Let me tell you a secret I’ve learned about narcissists. They use the same tactics over and over when setting their mark. Narcissists don’t change. They are obsessed with an idealized image of themselves. They truly believe that they are superior to everyone else. In their minds, they are perfect. As a result, when they move on from relationship to relationship, the story repeats itself over and over. They do the same things they did before. Because, truthfully, they don’t believe that they ever did anything wrong.

Watching Peter play out our story with a new girl was one monumentally mind-fucking experience for me.

Let me throw out a disclaimer here. I didn’t know the girl personally. So, any information I have about her was given to me by mutual acquaintances on social media or by Peter himself. If my facts are wrong, I was misinformed.

That said. At the time, from where I was sitting, it was like re-reading the same chapter of a book over again. A chapter from my book. A chapter of my story. It was like watching a movie of my life where she was the actress that had been cast in my role. But it wasn’t a movie and she wasn’t an actress. No. She was the new me.

The similarities were insurmountable.

Ignoring the fact that we had the same bad-ass female-rock-star sort of style, the other similarities were hard to overlook. She was a weight loss surgery patient that Peter had followed on Instagram and become friends with. As the friendship developed Peter started having feelings for her. She friend zoned him. She was coming out of a bad relationship and was hesitant and skeptical.

Much like me, she had found a love of exercise during her weight loss journey. She was a gym rat. She enjoyed running and participated in running events.

Everyone has a type and we’re typically drawn to that type.

So, from the outside looking in, or, from where she was sitting, I would venture to guess that it seemed like nothing more than that. I’m confident that anyone who mentioned the similarities to Peter heard this excuse. I know I did. But there was more to it than that. The similarities between us were not the things that cut at my insides. It was the similarities in how Peter was acting that bothered me.

Seeing the gushy social media posts about how happy he was. Him running off to another state to meet her for the first time. Going back shortly after to be there to support her at the finish line of a race. Social media posts of him holding race signs he made for her. Everything he did in an intention to court her echoed the things he had done when he was courting me.

Courting, priming and training.

They seem like three very different things. But when you are dealing with a narcissist, they are all one in the same. In the early stages of the relationship they court you. They do their information gathering. Figure out exactly how you work and what makes you tick.  This allows them to adapt and learn exactly what they need to do to win you over. Once they’ve figured that out the love-bombing begins.

Suddenly, they are showering you with affection, gifts, grandiose gestures of romance, and promises of a future that you’ve always dreamed of.  It’s like, for the first time in your life, you believe in “love at first sight.”

I’d gone through it all with Peter in the beginning of our relationship. In fact, I can look back now and tell you the exact moment he hooked me. This wasn’t the moment I feel in love with him mind you. That came a couple of months later in when I visited him for the first time. This was the moment that he found my soft spot. Once he found it, he played my emotions like an instrument he had been playing his entire life. This was that moment that I first began thinking “How can I ignore how amazing this guy is?”

I was hooked like a fish. All he had to do was reel me in. 

Peter and I had been talking for maybe four weeks. We’d become friendly with each other at a convention we attended in mid-August and it was the middle of September now. We weren’t dating. He had told me that he found me attractive. But he wasn’t pursing me. In fact, at the time, I thought he was pursuing someone else. I had drawn a very clear “friends only” line in and he wasn’t doing anything that came even close to crossing that line.

He had a Disney vacation planned with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Since the trip was non-refundable and planned for the month of his birthday he was going to go alone. But upon discovering that I was going to Disney in January to run the Dopey Challenge, he decided to change his plans.

I was about to run my first full marathon. Taking on a challenge of running over forty-eight miles in four days. Nobody was going with me. Nobody would be standing at the finish line to congratulate me. He knew it was disappointing to me that there wasn’t going to be anyone there to celebrate this big accomplishment with. I had confided in him that I secretly resented the fact that Clark hadn’t even tried to go.

The moment Peter changed his plans to align with mine, he had me hooked.  Changing his plans and giving up a birthday trip to Disney just to be a supportive friend. What a grand gesture! What an amazing gift!

Could Peter be my “happily ever after?”

Sex, Love and Obesity - Love Bombing

I won’t lie. From that moment on the thought of, “Could he be the one?”, entered my mind on several occasions. But after being hurt so many times, I was cynical and jaded. He had me contemplating the possibilities. I was hooked, but I hadn’t been caught yet.

Then, the love-bombing began. I started getting packages in the mail. Little presents for no reason at all. He sent me packages of one of my favorite snacks. A luxury item I couldn’t afford to splurge on while saving for a Disney trip. He filled my message window with song lyrics.

October came and he booked a ticket to Raleigh to be my support person at the convention I was speaking at.

He bought me a ring I had posted a photo of on social media. He had flowers delivered to the room we were sharing.

We were becoming closer and my walls were slowly coming down. He never tried to be intimate with me. I admired that. I respected how much he respected me.

He was courting me in that old fashion and traditional way my Father had always told me a man should court a woman. And, I was eating up every single moment of it.

He was reeling me in so slowly it had me believing I was the one setting the pace. I thought I was the one in control of where we went and how fast we got there.

When he gifted the new girl with a trip to Disney my brain imploded. 

I’m not kidding. My brain literally imploded. There was this inward collapse in my mind and suddenly my thoughts were full of things like, “Was this my fault?” and “How can he replace me so easily?”

Thoughts of, “Did I make a mistake?” and “Did I throw away the best thing I ever had?”, plagued my mind.

I kept asking myself “How can he love someone else so quickly?”

Sure, I had gone back to Clark. But Clark wasn’t new. I had loved Clark for so long that loving him was a natural response for me. It was easy for me to return to it. It was comfortable and safe. But I couldn’t imagine the possibility of being that in love with someone new.

Now, there was another woman in my role. But the story was the same.

Peter and I had planned a Disney trip together for Christmas that year. In the early planning stages, I was sure it was going to include a wedding proposal. Although Peter didn’t know it, I had every intention of making sure my divorce was final by then. I wanted to ensure that I was free to say yes without worry of the guilt or shame of everyone knowing I accepted a proposal while still married to someone else.

Now, we were broken up. He was chasing someone new and I was watching my happily ever after love story play out for someone else. Apparently, the glass slipper hadn’t fit me.

My Prince Charming had found a new Cinderella.

It was Peter himself who told me she was on the fence about a relationship with him. We were on the telephone arguing back and forth about who was getting what in our apartment. Our conversations at that point always ended up in an argument and always circled back to the fact that I had left him.

“How can you move on so quickly? How can you profess undying love to me for almost two years, tell me and the whole word that you can’t live without me, and already be contemplating forever with someone new when we haven’t even finished getting all of our things out of our apartment?” I asked.

I don’t know why this surprised me. He was already in love with me when he was filing for divorce and moving his things out of the house he shared with his wife. He already had his relationship with me in mind as he picked out furniture for his new apartment. I thought it was because he was so in love with me. I never questioned how easy it was for him to leave and how quickly he moved on. Because, when you’re the new woman, you want to believe it’s for all the right reasons.

Peter explained that I had killed the love he had for me when I told him that I was still in love with Clark. Something inside him changed and the switch suddenly flipped when I told him that leaving Clark to be with him had been the biggest mistake I had ever made. My words allowed him to get over any feelings he still had for me. As a result, he was able to be open to the prospect of a future with someone new.

Everything he said amplified my confused state of mind.

He was right. I said all those things. I’d made those decisions. He didn’t know I was still on the fence about who I loved and who I wanted to be with. Because, I had the foresight to make sure I never showed even a hint of interest in rekindling the relationship. I feared that if he saw the opportunity of reeling me back in, he’d take advantage of it.

He blamed me for the fact that he’d lost friends in the aftermath of our breakup and explained how she was helping him deal with that. He was full of explanations about how they were friends and how they were taking things slowly. Originally, he needed someone to talk to about what happened between us. Someone who didn’t know me and didn’t instantly take my side. But now, feelings had developed.

Sex, Love and Obesity - Confusion

I tried to explain how his actions and the similarities in the relationships made me feel inconsequential and invalidated. Throughout our entire relationship, Peter had caused me to doubt who I was. He made me believe I was a fake, a phony, and a fraud. Convinced me that if anyone found out my secrets, I’d be shunned. He amplified a fear of being abandoned, unaccepted and alone that had always existed inside me.

But Peter never made me feel unloved, unwanted or worthless in this sort of way. On the contrary, he made me feel like his entire world revolved around me, and like he was the only one who could ever love the real me.

I wanted to take my story back. 

I can’t tell you why him gifting her that Disney trip affected me so much. But when I found out, I felt more worthless and insignificant than I had ever felt in my entire life and I carried that feeling around with me for months. Trying to numb it and make it go away by being other men.

Him inviting her on that Disney trip made me feel like the year and a half I had spent loving him was all a ruse.

But now, everything had changed again. Now, we were in my apartment, admitting that we still loved each other. Now, he was in my bed, making love to me again and it was just as magical as it had always been.

We agreed that nothing had changed. It was just sex. I was heading to Clark’s for the weekend and he was going out of town to visit her.

As I was driving to Clark’s house, I called the one mutual friend we both still had. I wanted to get her advice. She was the only person in our lives that didn’t think Peter was toxic and wouldn’t tell me I was crazy for calling him over.

At this point, nothing serious had happened between him and this other woman. Peter was chasing her. But she hadn’t come around. Our friend reminded me that if I wanted to keep it that way, I needed to make up my mind. If this was what I wanted, I needed to tell him before he got to her house. The ability to reclaim our love story was still there. All I had to do was tell him that I wanted him back.

I hung up the phone and I called Peter.

In my mind, at that moment, I was taking back what was mine. I wanted to prove to myself, to the world, and to this other woman that Peter never loved anyone else but me.

I wanted to prove that she was nothing but a rebound and that all I had to do was snap my fingers and he would drop everything and come running back.

And just like that, Peter and I were back together. There was a lot of discussion about what happened between us. A lot of re-hashing old wounds and trying to figure out how to recover from them. But just like that, we we’re both back in.

I wanted to go to couples’ therapy. He agreed. He wanted us to go to church, something I hadn’t done since I was a little girl. I agreed. We were in this place of give and take and cooperation. Both of us now recommitted to figuring out how to make things work.

Jealousy can motivate you to do some stupid things. At the time, I didn’t know that evoking jealousy was a typical tactic of a narcissist. Back then, I didn’t really understand anything about narcissists or how they behaved. Sure, I had my suspicions that Peter was a narcissist. I recognized some of the behaviors associated with dating a narcissist in those late nights I spent on Google looking up “How to know if you are being emotionally abused.” But I wasn’t sure like I am now.

Almost two years later and I still can’t tell you what really happened.

Sex, Love and Obesity - Jealous Fishy

I don’t think I will ever know which one of us was really in control at that point.

I don’t know if Peter used his relationship with this woman to manipulate me into coming back. She may have been a means of him getting the narcissistic fuel he needed from someone else.  Perhaps she was someone he might have had a meaningful relationship with if I hadn’t wavered in my convictions to stay away. I’ve never talked to her. So, I have no idea what that relationship was like from her perspective.

Maybe I snapped my fingers and he came running back. Or, maybe I was still on his hook the entire time. Maybe I was a fish fighting against the line and now, he was reeling me back in. I honestly don’t know. But if I was the fish, I was a jealous little fish.

Seeing him having another fairy tale relationship with someone new gave me reason to doubt myself. It left me wondering if Peter was as perfect as he thought he was and if I was just to broken and damaged to appreciate it.  If someone else already wanted him, maybe I was an idiot for letting him go.

Jealousy, fear of being alone, feelings of unworthiness and this horrible need to be loved led me right back into Peters arms. And consequentially, right back into the most toxic relationship I’d ever been in.

Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.