As told to Shona Hendley.
Isolation has been eye-opening for me in many ways. Although nothing has been quite so illuminating as what I have discovered about my relationship with my partner, *Mark.
Or, should I say, what I have learnt about him.
Before COVID-19, we had been together for about two years. While on occasion he could be what you might call overconfident or self-admiring, at the time it seemed charming, even a bit of a turn on. It was never really an issue between us.
Earlier this year we made the decision to move in together and soon found a property we both liked. We moved in, in early March, about two weeks before the full force of the COVID-19 lockdown was initiated and when I was sent home from working at my office to begin working remotely.
A few days later Mark joined me, turning what had been our kitchen table into a shared office desk.
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While it began well and we had fun being together all day, every day, in a matter of weeks, the shine well and truly rubbed off.
Well, to be honest, it was worse than that. After a few weeks I realised that the man I loved was not at all who I thought. In his place was a total narcissist.
Mark started to show his true colours gradually. He’d say off the cuff, snide comments to me like: “Oh, you’re dressing up for work today I see,” if I was wearing activewear or casual clothes.
Then he started to get harsher with his comments, and didn’t even bother framing them as a joke anymore.
“You’d look much better if you put on some makeup. What happens if one of my colleagues sees you in my Zoom meeting?” He asked me once, as if my real appearance would terrify his co-workers.
When I told him that his comments upset me, he just laughed and told me to “lighten up” and that “I was overreacting.” I was simply dismissed.
Each week we were in isolation, the worse it got. He always wanted me to focus on his problems, his needs, his desires, his feelings.
There was one occasion when I was in an important Zoom meeting for work. I had gone into the bedroom, shut the door and told Mark that I would be about 30 minutes, that it was an important discussion I needed to focus on.
About five minutes into the meeting, he walked into the bedroom and started waving his arms around behind my laptop screen to get my attention, then angrily pointed at the computer, indicating for me to get off. I thought something must have happened, so I apologised to my colleagues and ended the call as quickly as I could.