I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, even as a smart and successful woman

By Selena Soo, Medium

As a smart and successful woman, I never thought this would happen to me.

In 2017, I got into an emotionally abusive relationship with a romantic partner, who became involved in my business.

Swept away by his grand, romantic gestures, I overlooked many obvious red flags.

Little did I know that over time, he would seem to take calculated steps to manipulate and disempower me, as he sought to take control of me and my company.

After this complicated, three year journey of heartbreak, growth, and healing, I feel a responsibility to share my story with you.

Because I know this isn’t just my story. It’s the story of millions of women who’ve been manipulated and silenced, afraid to speak their truth.

My hope is that by sharing my story, women in these situations will recognize the signs of abuse and feel less alone — and begin the process of reclaiming their personal power.

This may trigger a lot of emotions, so only read this when you’re in the right space for it.

Spring 2017

I received a huge round of applause. I was in a West Village townhouse in New York City, where I’d just finished speaking at a friend’s workshop. We were now moving into Q&A.

The attendees, sitting cross-legged on the floor, wanted to learn about how I’d built a seven-figure business. You see, five years prior, I’d started my educational training company to help inspirational entrepreneurs and experts, especially women, reach more people through the media.

This was my greatest passion: elevating the voices of people who empowered others to live their best lives and go for their biggest dreams.

During Q&A, one person’s hand immediately shot up in the air. He was lanky and geeky, with modelesque facial features. Let’s call him X.

I forget his question now, but I remember his eagerness to get my attention. After Q&A ended, he told me how much he admired my business. He offered to connect me to people to promote my next launch. After the workshop, he continued to stay in touch.

A month or so later, I was planning my five-year business anniversary party: a sunset rooftop celebration at the penthouse of The Standard Hotel. X popped into my mind. He seemed to be a big fan of my work and I thought, “I’ll add him to the guest list.”

About 80 people came to my five-year business anniversary party. The ladies wore cocktail dresses. The men wore suits.

Everyone had a blast as they sipped on champagne, while waiters came by with seafood appetizers on silver trays.

I remember taking in the sweeping, panoramic views of the city while laughing with friends and thinking, “Life is good.”

My business was successful. I had clients I loved and an incredible network of supportive friends. I felt like the sky was the limit!

When I got home, I opened up my gifts. I was surprised to see an envelope signed by X. Inside was a $250 gift card to one of the best restaurants in New York City. I was impressed!

I sent him an email to thank him. I said I’d love to grab a meal and get to know him better.

What I thought was a business meal turned into something like a date. During dinner, X made it clear that he was interested in me.

While it was flattering, I was already convinced he was not my type.

But as we talked about personality tests (my favorite topic), I was shocked to learn that we had the exact same Myers-Briggs type: INFJ, the rarest personality in the world. Our love languages also matched perfectly.

It was exciting to meet someone just like me. Growing up introverted and shy, I never really felt like I fit in. Just before my 14th birthday, my family left Hong Kong and I was sent to a small, all-girls boarding school in Tacoma, Washington, where at times I felt totally alone.

In high school, instead of going to parties or chasing after boys, I poured myself into my school work. In particular, I was passionate about women’s studies. In my teens, I read advanced feminist texts and wrote countless papers analyzing male and female power dynamics.

Because of my academic achievement, I became high school valedictorian as well as the only person in my grade to get into an Ivy League college.

While I was successful, I always felt different and misunderstood. As a fellow INFJ, X seemed like a kindred soul. The similarities we apparently shared were uncanny!

After our dinner together, X sent me a screenshot of his Myers-Briggs test results as proof.

(Only later did I learn that he retook the personality test several times to get this matching result.)

While I pushed X away romantically, I started to find his persistence and adoration for me endearing.

One evening as I was feeling frustrated about something in my business, I let down my walls — opening up and crying on the phone with him. X listened so intently and compassionately. He offered me such thoughtful and helpful advice.

We talked for hours. I felt truly seen and understood. My heart started to open.

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