Manipulation in Medellin

It’s not uncommon these days, to read about women who are victims of manipulation or gaslighting. People they love who claim to love them, try to manipulate them into believing that they are a bit crazy, that they’ve lost all perspective. Sometimes I can see elements of this type of manipulation in my relationship with my ex-husband. But I never truly identified with this experience until this week.

Gaslighting: manipulation of someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.

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I met a sexy and sweet guy on Tinder. Juan immediately grabbed my interest. I was enjoying his flirty banter and the way he jumped right in with all the sweet sexy talk. Everything was “my love, my sweet, my life, my heart, my lovely, my sweetie, my beautiful one…” you get the picture. Now I know partly, that is how men communicate with women here, lots of chatter, lots of “mi amor.” I also know that as often as not they are sending the same “Good Morning Bonita” message to more than one woman. I am polyamorous. That doesn’t bother me too much. What would bother me is the dishonest aspect of this. But that’s not what this story is about.

After knowing him about three weeks, and having two sexy, just plain fun dates, I was getting excited about the possibilities of this relationship. Both of our dates started late in the evening and were overnight. Then we spent the whole next day together. I felt like we had enjoyed some very concentrated and special time together. I was even excited enough to think that if things kept going the way they were, I might consider being monogamous with him here in Colombia. (Not giving up my partners in Germany mind you, but not seeing other Colombian men.) But we were definitely not there yet. (My mind tends to run away with itself and I see possibilities long before they are truly options.) 

I had a bit of a wobble on Wednesday. I don’t even know why, but I saw a photo he posted on facebook and I literally got a “punched in the gut afraid” feeling. That was very strange, so I just tucked those feelings away to keep them as a reminder, but didn’t do anything with them. It was just a photo. There was absolutely nothing to garner a reaction like that. The same afternoon, I noticed he had changed his profile picture in Tinder. That also made me feel something, but since I had to be in Tinder to notice it, I couldn’t really be mad about him being on Tinder. LOL I did, however, mention these strange reactions to two of my friends that evening. I find telling other people about these things, helps me stay accountable to myself when I need to be. 

That evening while we were chatting he brought up the fact that he wouldn’t be able to see me on the weekend. He said he really just didn’t have the money and since he was trying to save up to pay for the insurance on his motorcycle, that had to be a priority right now. That made me sad because when he was at my place on Monday he had said he would come down on Saturday after work and now he was changing the plan. I was very much looking forward to seeing him. But also, I didn’t want to make him feel bad about not having the money right now. I have been in financial straights before, and it can be embarrassing to admit and frustrating the way it limits one’s ability to do the things you want. My response was to try to be supportive. I told him that I was sad and I would miss him, but that I understood that he has to take care of himself and his finances first. I would miss him but hopefully, we can see each other soon. 

I never suspected this was the beginning of an expert manipulation. 

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I didn’t offer to pay for anything. There is a “thing” that happens in tourist cultures where there is a marked difference in income between foreigners and locals. The stereotype of rich gringa and playboy Colombian man is, sadly, a real thing. Already I was aware that we had not gone out to eat or anything together yet. Both dates were at my house, by my choice, not by any insistence on his part. (The first time he came to see me, he almost didn’t come because he didn’t have enough money for a hotel (he lives pretty far outside the metro area) so I offered him to stay in our spare room. As if he wasn’t going to stay with me!!) 

We did go to the mall and food market where we had a small snack which he paid for. I gladly bought all the fixings for a nice lasagna dinner for us because it was his birthday. He picked out a t-shirt for himself and we added it to the cart, planning for him to pay me back at the house for it. We never got around to that payment exchange. I wasn’t worried, but I was aware it had happened. 

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When I responded sympathetically to his plight, I was surprised his response was to be put out. His feelings were hurt. He said that I had not been very nice. I didn’t offer to come to see him. I must not really care about him or us, because I was clearly unwilling to do my part. Hmm, say what? This felt very much like manipulation. What did he mean I wasn’t doing my part? This is when I started sending the messages to my  Colombian girlfriend for clarification and interpretation. Immediately she was on high alert and told me, “I don’t like what’s happening here.” 

I asked him to tell me what he meant and his answers were more stories of how sad he was that my response was not to try to see him but to just say, “Oh well, take care of it yourself and I’ll see you when I can.” That WAS my answer, but I thought that was totally appropriate. I didn’t want to embarrass him by offering money. I also did not want to get myself into a situation where I was financing this relationship. 

Because if I loved him and wanted to see him I would help us out.

He told me that he was saving for his moto insurance. I knew that. He added, if he didn’t have to save for so much, then he would have enough money for us to do things. He could see me so much more. If his moto was on the road, he could even come down during the week and hang out. All the things we want to do together, like explore the countryside of Colombia, we could totally do because he would have the moto. (But if he didn’t have enough money for the moto, how was he going to have money for gas? For food and hotels if we went places?) He was just telling me this so I understood that HE wants to see me, but since I clearly don’t care, I was breaking his heart. 

Then it came. He told me how much the moto insurance would cost. First in pesos and then in dollars. After that, he only told me in dollars. Now listen, the amount isn’t a lot, $50. But that isn’t the point. The point is now he progressed to asking me to pay it. For us. Because if I loved him and wanted to see him I would help us out. 

Honestly, I was pretty surprised and then not surprised. After getting that weird gut feeling the day before, it almost felt like that had been a warning from the universe to expect craziness. The next texts went back and forth between telling me how much he likes me and then finally just flat out asking me to pay for the insurance. He offered his cell phone as “collateral” to ensure he would pay me back. (He has two and neither of them works very well.) 

I was sad. I really thought he liked me. Now I understand the kind of “romantic chatter” didn’t mean he was in love with me or even had exclusive feelings for me, but I certainly thought he had some feelings for me and that this was going to be a nice relationship to be in while I am here in Medellin. I felt taken advantage of. Eventually, as it got later and I was feeling more and more hurt and annoyed, I said, “I am uncomfortable with this conversation. I would like to take time to think about what you are asking and we can talk about it tomorrow.” He was easy and light and said ok, good night. But then I got one more message just reminding me that if he had the money it would be so much better for us. 

Thursday morning I received my usual, “Good Morning, Bonita!” message. I knew I had all day to craft a response and decide what to do because he wouldn’t be online again until after work. I talked it over with my friends again. I wondered if maybe I would do it. I mean how much fun would it be to have this hot guy with me for a few months and go all over the country and see cool things. But wait, what? Also- there is no guarantee that if I did pay for the insurance, he would actually still come around and see me. Plus, seriously? Maybe if there hadn’t been all the manipulation, but he was being very cunning. 

Eventually, I wrote to him and told him that I was sad that he was in a tough financial position and that this position made it difficult for us to see each other. I said that him asking me for money made me feel like he was using me and I wasn’t comfortable with that. I did say I would go up to his place this weekend, so he didn’t have to put out the money himself. However, I was not going to finance the moto insurance.

I assumed two things would happen. 1- He would try to cajole me and tell me I misunderstood and he hadn’t actually asked me for money, and then 2- he would get angry, assert blame, and accuse me of thinking badly of him. Both of those things happened. The only surprising thing was how quickly the cajoling turned to anger, and how frequently he popped back into the “pero mi amor…” and then back to anger. 

He even told me more than once that he had money and didn’t need anything from me. “No necesito nada de ti!” (He even sent a picture of the cash for good measure!) He swore he had never asked me to give him any money, he was just telling me of his circumstances. Thank goodness I had asked my friend to listen to the messages because she helped me stay sane. She reminded me of which messages he had actually asked specifically for money.

I even said to him one time, “Well if this is all such a misunderstanding, why are you so mad at me? Just explain what I don’t understand and we can figure it out.” I knew we weren’t going to figure anything out. Anyone who could be that angry with me over what he was saying was a misunderstanding, cannot stay in my life. But I really couldn’t believe this was happening. 

Finally, I gave up. Stopped. I told him that I am sorry this ended this way. That I had really enjoyed all of our time together and I wished him well, and I stopped responding. He did too. 🙁 

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The thing is, it didn’t end there, not for me. For a few days, I kept thinking, what if I was wrong? What if I just totally threw this nice guy away? What if I really did totally offend him and that isn’t what he meant at all? What if he really did like me and I fucked this up? How could I be so mean!? What if he really was thinking of us, and was embarrassed to ask and then I accused him of manipulation? These thoughts kept filtering through my head. I couldn’t make them stop. 

It made me realize how effective real gaslighting must be. My relationship with Juan was so short that I think this situation was more of an expert manipulation. But I understand there is a fine line between manipulation and gaslighting when ongoing manipulation in a relationship starts to reach a point of attempting to control the other person.

These thoughts that kept plaguing me, kept circling around my head, made me realize how easy it could be for someone to truly gaslight another. It was scary. I KNOW what I heard and what he said. I have the messages in my WhatsApp thread. My friend heard them and confirmed my understanding of the Spanish and cultural contexts. But I still had doubts.

Just WOW. 

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This article tells more about gaslighting and manipulation: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-warning-signs-gaslighting

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If you like this story, you might like this other one I wrote about Ghosting.

The Big G of Dating: Ghosting

The Big G of Dating: Ghosting

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Check out all the sexy and lovely stories everyone submitted for this week’s Wicked Wednesday!

Photo by DANNY G on Unsplash

17 Replies to “Manipulation in Medellin”

  1. Wow!
    I can relate to this feeling so much, except I went the other way and tried to help the partner that always complained that they didn’t have enough money for doing things. With both of us living in the U.S., even separated by 1000 miles, I wanted to help them, and gave them many, many hours of my time to teach them to have better skills for a better life, but they kept going down the road of just trying to get me to pay to fix their life because a 1 time infusion of cash would solve all of their problems. When I kept saying “There is a long term plan” they finally got me to stop talking to them.
    TL;DR
    You did the right thing

  2. The ways it which people (guys) go from awesome to shitty. He intentionally set you up, wined you and dined you so he could get you to that place. I’m more peeved for you that he didn’t end up being the guy you thought he was.

    1. Thanks… Sometimes I am surprised at people, other times not so much. This was so fun and I was enjoying it so much, the switch pissed me off more than anything. Thanks for the love!

  3. You were right to stick to your guns and not allow yourself to be manipulated. I’m sorry that you had go through those feelings, gaslighting is awful because of how distrustful it can make you in the future.

    1. Yeah the future fear is the worst part. Even this week I was thinking about it and wondering.. just a little. It kind of lingers in the back of your mind in a nagging way. Not cool!

  4. Just wow indeed. I am a slow learner, and never knew what gaslighting actually meant, but I do now, and realized I have been gaslighted in the past. I totally understand your feelings of doubt, of wondering whether indeed you haven’t treated him well. I would have had the very same feelings too. It’s damn difficult to walk away when they let you doubt your own sanity. I hope you meet someone really nice you can spend your time with and who will not try to do the same things as Juan did.

    Rebel xox

    1. Thanks Doll.. It’s an amazing thing to be able to walk out of and look back on. I am still in a little bit of “wonder” about the whole thing. But knowing that my reactions and lingering doubts seem normal to others helps!

  5. Urggghhhh
    Even without knowing the title of thus piece I could sense the way it was heading.
    To doubt oneself is natural. To learn we’ve been manipulated is sickening.

    Fortunately you had the sense to realise and had a trusted friend to discuss the situation.

    I’m glad you got out early.

    Swirly 🌻

  6. HOLY SHIT. Even though I know it happens…and reading your explanation of how it happens in that part of the world certainly made it clear that it REALLY happens, I’m still shocked when people do these kinds of things. And I am so glad you had that safety net of a friend to help you keep things clear in your head.

    1. Me too- she is the best! Especially with the language differences. My Spanish is very good, but when these emotions get involved it makes it hard in any language!

  7. This sounds like those lovely-hearts scammers everywhere on social media these days–except in person. Truly, don’t doubt yourself here. You did the right thing. A guy who really cared about you wouldn’t have put you in such a bad position. He has user written all over him. JMHO. Take care!

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