“Am I being paranoid?” I asked my friends repeatedly when I was dating this guy I met at a party. It started out great. We spent the whole party talking to each other, went out the next week, and then we were a couple. We went to different schools, so we mostly texted during the week, but we hung out on weekends and the excitement felt mutual. If anything, he was love bombing me, which felt good. Now I know it was a warning sign.
Then one weekend, after dating for a couple of months, I saw him flirting with this other girl from his school at a party. I didn’t want to overreact, because people are allowed to flirt, right? But what bothered me was that she was a little touchy with him, and when I came up to them, he didn’t introduce me as his girlfriend. It was almost like he wanted her to think we were just friends. I mentioned it to him later, and he claimed he did tell her I was his girlfriend, before I came up to them. It seemed weird that she’d be so touchy with him if she knew he had a girlfriend, but I let it go. He told me I had no reason to be jealous. About a week later, I saw her name pop up on his phone. This time, I asked him about it, but he claimed it was nothing.
After that, I noticed that he would turn his phone away from me when he was on it, and when I asked him why he was doing that, he denied he was doing that. Then, a few weeks later, he accidentally didn’t lock his phone and went to the bathroom, and the girl I was worried about messaged him something flirtatious. I asked him about this, and he said they were just friends. I said if they were “just friends,” why would he hide the fact that they’d been texting, and he said he didn’t want to tell me because I’d been so paranoid. He told me I had problems with being jealous and controlling, so I decided to let it go. He still turned his phone away from me when I came near him, but I figured he just needed some space. I didn’t think he was cheating because we saw each other every weekend and texted all the time during the week. When would he cheat?
I also knew he was under a lot of stress. Finals were coming up, he was on a team and didn’t get home until late, and he told me that his parents put a lot of pressure on him to get good grades. So I understood when sometimes we couldn’t be together as much because he was busy with practices and studying.
“I miss you so much,” he would say constantly. He’d text me all the time, telling me a funny story or how he couldn’t wait to see me. Then one night when he said he had to study, one of my friends saw him at a party—hooking up with that girl from his school—and when I confronted him, he claimed that my friend was lying or it was some other guy and she was mistaken.
At that point, I knew he was trying to gaslight me, so I decided to contact the other girl and ask what was going on. It turns out she thought she was dating him too, and she had no idea I was his girlfriend. He was lying to us both.
I put up with so many instances of him explaining things that seemed suspicious, but felt like I was overstepping to bring it up, and when I did, each time he’d tell me I was paranoid. There’s being paranoid, and there’s being rightfully concerned. Know the difference so you don’t get gaslit like I did.
Now I know to trust myself when something feels off, and not to let someone else’s opinion of me override what I know to be true about myself. I wasn’t paranoid or overly jealous. I was being played, and I should have listened to myself sooner.