At first, there’s a choke. A disbelief. A gentle no, no, no. This can’t be. This can’t be true.
The first stage to grief is denial. So, of course, you deny. Deny. Deny. This person didn’t manipulate you. It can’t be true. If it’s true, everything crumbles apart. If it’s true, you were betrayed. So deny.
But as with most things, denial is impossible to keep up. The receipts are piling up. The proof is too damning.
When you learn someone you loved, someone you trusted, emotionally manipulated you, your stomach feels like it’s eating itself.
And when this person is a friend? A close confidante? Someone you felt was practically family?
It’s a stab on both sides.
Lovers leave. Significant others screw up. This person wasn’t supposed to. This person was supposed to be your safe place.
Everything else is brought into question. Was it your fault? Were you dumb? Did you miss signs? Are you too trusting?
Is your heart too giving?
You internalize it all. You blame yourself. You feel used, dirty. Like someone saw your kindness and decided to play with it. Decided to see what they could get away with. How far in it they could go.
The problem with emotional manipulation is it’s so layered that it’s difficult to even see where it begins. Was it all pure manipulation? Was any of it real?
When you discover someone you deeply care(d) about was playing you, you’re stunned. And in platonic relationships, you just don’t see it coming. You don’t even think of it as an option. Because why would someone lie to you? What was there to gain? Why would someone use you like that?
Every other relationship is suddenly under a microscope. Words are scrutinized. You are more careful. You become cautious. And you hate it.
You hate that one person ruined it. You hate that one person put a dent in your optimistic outlook. You hate that one person has you worried if you should ever trust again.
And I don’t know how long it takes. I don’t know how long you sit with those feelings. With that pain. With that questioning.
But slowly, there are bright spots. People who love you, who have always loved you, have your back. They show you strength and let you vent. Let you navigate this time.
You remember not everyone is going to screw you over. Not everyone is that calculating. When there is bad, there will still be good. Always.
When the person who emotionally manipulated you isn’t a lover, you still grieve. You still ache. Because romantic or not, your heart was still broken.
They broke your heart. And you’ll never let them near it again.