Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story

There’s something I’ve avoided writing about for a long time, but I knew this post would come. I need to write about this. Not only because I need to understand what happened better, but also my story may resonate for other women, and I want them to realise that they are not alone. Perhaps together, we can make sense of all of this.IMG_20170709_155059

*Disclaimer: I have changed the names of all persons involved.

About a year ago, I moved to Seoul, S. Korea, and had just begun to work for a private school that seemed like the ideal English teacher’s job. I quickly began to respect and adore the directors, and the staff seemed lovely. However, most of the staff were caught up in relationships and I soon found that I was pretty lonely. I was  located fairly far away from any previous friends I had made during my last work contract in Korea. Actually, I didn’t realize just how lonely I was at the time, but looking back, I can see it plainly.

Out of no-where, Juan, my married work colleague, trusted personal friend to my two school directors, and teacher trainer/ middle manager suddenly took an interest in me about three weeks into arriving. It began like this.

In late May, 2016, Juan’s mother was visiting for his wedding. He had married his Korean wife Anita a year prior, but they were marrying again so family and friends could witness the ceremony, as I understood it.

One evening after work, we all went out for Mexican dinner. Anita joined us, and that’s when I met her for the first time. She seemed nice enough, but her English was poor so I imagined that Juan and Anita had a difficult time communicating. I got on famously with Juan’s mother, and the next evening, a Friday, we all went out again to celebrate Juan’s fabulous mother, this time without Anita. Juan’s mother brought a lot of energy to our group and it was easy to see how much Juan adored her.

After dinner, we went to Noribang, Korean Karaoke. Juan and our other colleague, Mikele, the school manager at that time, kept filling my glass with soju, a local Korean liquor. I drank much more than I would usually, and soon, the directors left. That left myself, Juan, his mum, Mikele, and colleagues, Tim and Rose.

I flicked through the Karaoke song listing when suddenly Juan bounded over to me in the far corner and buried his nose in my arm, sniffing for my perfume. He turned and said to me, “ummmmmm, you smell so good.” I was pretty inebriated by this time, and before I knew it, I was sitting on the opposite edge of the sofa, when Juan sat beside me and put his arm around my waist. I was talking across Tim to Juan’s mum at the time, and soon, Juan’s hands slipped from my waist to my bum and legs. That was the first indication I received that Juan liked me. His wedding was only two days away.

After this occasion, Juan began to enter my thoughts more and more. Ironically, I was soposed to cover his classes while he went on a honeymoon, accompanied by his mother since she was visiting from the states. I felt conflicted when Juan returned a week later because he had just renewed his wedding vows before all my work colleagues. I didn’t attend the ceremony even though I had been invited. I felt confused.

Soon thereafter, after another heavy drinking session with colleagues, and numbers dwindling to Juan and I, we slept together. He told me that he loved me, which really caught me by surprise as we hadn’t known each other long.

As time went on, he began paying me many compliments, and flirting began to occur between us. He would often pass me closely in the school hallways, or would talk to me in either my class or his, and he’d find some way to innocently caress me in the interim. But I had reservations because he was married.

I explained to him that I too had been in a similar situation to him, married but unhappy with my relationship, and that I also had cheated. But, I said to him that I really regretted staying in my marriage that long and dragging out our misery. That if he wasn’t happy, he should end their relationship. I was assuming that Juan started an affair because he wanted out of his marriage, just like I had done. He made me feel important and special to him, and I thought that he recognized my value. Meanwhile, he nodded and listened, but actually, nothing changed.

He continued to pay me lots of attention, which I began to crave, but since he was married, everything seemed to be on his terms. He decided when he wanted to have sex, and I acquiesced. I tried to initiate a kiss on one occasion, which took him by surprise and he refused, explaining that he needed ‘liquid courage’ or alcohol to be intimate. He began to be in total control of our romance, and the expectation that I’d be entirely passive and receptive to his affections began to be very taxing on my emotions.

Meanwhile, I began to ask myself questions like, what does his wife have that I don’t? Is she more attractive than me? How could he possibly not want to be with me? Soon, he was asking me whether I loved him, eliciting proclamations of love. I convinced myself that he would leave his wife for me, and it was only a matter of time.

During intimate moments, he’d tell me again that he loved me. He entrenched himself deeper into my thoughts and my expectations increased for a monogamous relationship after his ‘soon-to-be-disolved marriage.’ He was on my mind every day, and I even told my family and close friends about him.

Actually, friends and family were becoming very worried for me, telling me that Juan’s loyalty toward his wife was foremost, and that I was in grave danger of getting hurt. I retorted defensively, explaining that they didn’t understand the full situation or the complexity of the relationship, and they hadn’t met him, so how could they really understand.

In fact, I begun to tire of listening to my friends and family expressing their concern for me. But meanwhile, I was also concerned about whether Juan took my needs seriously. Everything seemed to be entirely focused on him, and what he needed, and when timing was convenient for him. His pushing me away and pulling me back wore me down, and I began having trouble sleeping.

After about six months, around November 2016, a major turning point occurred. Two teachers left my school, and two new female replacements arrived, Kelsey, and Arianne. Kelsey was in a relationship, which she often talked about, but Arianne was single. Juan took an immediate interest in her, and I began to see this quite plainly, particularly after Arianne mentioned that Juan and Mikele took her and our other colleague, Jennifer, out drinking, and I had been excluded from the event.

I began realizing that Juan was manipulating circumstances so he and Mikele could strategically be around the new staff member. I allowed myself to feel rejected, unimportant and came to the realization that the impediment to Juan and I’s not getting together was not in fact his marriage. He just wanted to play the field, using the female staff at the school as his harem. I felt sick and used. In fact, the situation was so upsetting that I began to develop chest pains. I began to worry that my lack of sleep, and the chest pains might put me at risk for panic attacks, and I was shocked that my body was responding this way just because I felt wretched and heartbroken.

But Juan was still interested in me. He continued visiting me in my class room and visiting Arianne in her one. He appeared to have his two favourite toys at his disposal every day between the hours of 2 to 9pm. He’d come in early to visit Arianne to ‘train’ her on how to perform her duties well as a new teacher. Then, he’d wonder into my classroom. Since my class is on the mezzanine level, he’d pass my class to visit her on the top level, and of course, I’d hear him walk upstairs.

Arianne mentioned that Juan told her that she looks like his ex girlfriend. She was beaming, and so was he, just like new lovers. I could see the whole pattern that had happened six months earlier between Juan and I, like deja vu, but Juan wasn’t hiding it from me. He would roar with laughter as he flirted with Arianne from the top floor.

The situation began to eat me up inside because I felt betrayed. The irony was that he continued to flirt with me at the same time, and even tried to ‘train’ us both together during a science afterschool training session, perhaps to see how we would react. I began to wonder if seducing the newest teachers, the vulnerable ones arriving into Korea with little to no friends, was a pattern for him. I began to feel a mixture of emotions, including deep sadness and intense anger.

He popped into my room on one occasion, presumably to see if I was still sweet with him after returning from Arianne’s room, and I spared no thoughts. I told him that I thought he abused his position of trust as the right-hand man of the directors, and used his unofficial status as middle manager as leverage to impress the new employees and that he had manipulated me. He listened, but refused to discuss the matter.

At the time, I felt as though Juan was driving me crazy. Later, I realized that he was playing mind games. Friends have termed this unhealthy type of relationship behaviour as “gas lighting“, a term that I only learned last week.

After about a month, I decided to tell Arianne everything. I knew that since I still cared for and even loved Juan, this behaviour was torturing me daily, and also, she needed to know that Juan was far from sincere. She couldn’t allow herself to be taken in by him, as I had done. I now distrusted him.

Arianne and I sat in Daechi Dong cafe, and there, I explained how the romance began, his control over all aspects of our romance, my increasingly deep feelings for him, and my frustration.

With tears in my eyes, I explained how his sudden interest in her was heart breaking to witness, and that I could see a repeating pattern in his behaviour, namely, the targeting of vulnerable, new, single teachers at the school who would look up to him. I asked her to avoid developing any feelings for him, that we were puppets in his game to be used at his beckoning. She hugged me, and promised to stay well clear. She was incredibly supportive.

The following week, we tried to stop his behaviour. At that time, he was running between our classrooms, flirting and whispering sweet words to both of us while my face got sterner and sterner. He continued to smile. I was flabbergasted that he could think that we wouldn’t notice, or that our self esteem was so low that we wouldn’t mind casanova Juan doing his thing daily.

So, when he once again targeted Arianne to ‘train’ her, I joined them in her room, and brought some papers to mark, on the guise of just hanging out. I noticed he seemed on edge having me in the room, especially since he did not invite me, but nonetheless, teachers often join each other casually in their respective classrooms, and this usually poses no problem whatsoever.

After nipping back to my classroom and returning, Juan directly asked me to leave. I was taken aback, and when I seemed reluctant to leave Arianne alone with him, he raised his voice and commanded me to leave, shouting at me. Both Arianne and I were startled because neither of us had seen Jose angry or aggressive before, and we were astonished at how quickly his ire escalated. In fact, we were both a little scared. I felt that if I didn’t obey him, he’d become nasty, and at the same time, I was worried about leaving Arianne alone with him, especially with him in that state of mind.

Later, Arianne told me that Juan had asked her while I nipped down to my classroom why I was in her classroom, and she had replied to him that she simply wanted me in there. That December was probably the most agonizing month for me.

In January, Arianne, Kelsey and I went to Kyoto, Japan together. While there, I began to recover. I realized that space and distance can be such a healer, especially as I was not seeing Juan every day anymore. I badly needed to be away from him. I had considered leaving the school several times by now. In Japan, I realized that my self esteem could actually recover very quickly, as indeed it did.

With supportive friends in Kyoto


At a restaurant near Shichijo station, I also confided in Kelsey, telling her about what was happening back at the school between Juan, Arianne and me. She was very surprised as she was very fond of Juan at the time. Later, when returning to this topic, she explained that Juan’s devious actions, his controlling nature and need for significance through simultaneously using multiple women suggest he has psychopathic tendencies, and if not, he is an outright psychopath. This hadn’t occurred to me before, but his emotionless reaction when I had told him my guttural hurt feelings back in December suggested to me that his brain was not wired for empathy the same way mine is, or most of the other humans I’ve met.

With my new, supportive friends, January 2017
Journaling in Kyoto: steps to recovering self esteem

As February and March passed, his behaviour calmed down, and still, I continued to care for him. Despite everything, my heart was still entangled and my brain, confused. We continued as friends. But in mid March, Juan attended our colleague’s birthday party and he brought his wife, Anita with him.

I found the situation of hanging out together extremely uncomfortable, and encountering Juan at the doorway as we entered, I said to him, how could you put me in this position! My directors were there, and I didn’t know how to excuse myself from the event as I had only just arrived.

I distracted myself by talking to my director, showing him photos on my tablet of my family back in England, and he kindly looked at everything I showed him. But a few drinks later, after my directors had left, I was in the host’s bedroom, and suddenly, the door slammed shut. Someone had just walked out, and I found myself alone with Juan. He wanted to kiss me, and I replied, no, you’re married. Meanwhile, our colleague Tim, who had been sitting on the other side of the bedroom door, slammed it open with the same energy that Juan had closed it moments earlier. We sheepishly walked out, while Juan’s wife, who had been sitting only about five feet away, watched on.

Later, I began to wonder whether Juan has a need for danger, and that despite recently returning from a honeymoon at the Maldives, he had no loyalty toward his wife.  I began to realize that I had been comparing myself to Anita and Arianne, asking myself, what do they have that I don’t? But indeed, none of that really mattered. Juan didn’t actually seem to care about any of us.

I’m now writing in mid July, and I’ve come a very long way from all of these events. I no longer love Juan. I began learning how to regain self confidence, despite continuing to work in the same school as Juan. I sought out mentors like Tony Robbins who discusses managing our emotions that control our actions. I also began actively following entrepreneurs, Clark Kegley, and Evan Carmichael, who review influential books and successful people in order to understand and try strategies to develop my strengths. I began changing my morning routine (Hal Elron), and most recently, began to focus on eating more healthily.

I additionally threw myself into writing blogs regularly, and I even wrote about the strategies I was using to recover (see “Learning to invest in myself,” parts one, two, and three). I also started keeping a gratitude diary, and begun to journal (Clark Kegley on journaling) to identify monthly goals toward self improvement, as well as asking myself important questions to identify what makes me happy, and how I can continually challenge myself to become the person I want to be. I was enthralled to discover Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages and learn which type of love expression is foremost to me. I also was fascinated with Tony Robbins’ Six Human Needs, and discovered that ‘significance’ had long played a very important part of my basic needs, but that learning and teaching have recently stepped into my primary focus.

Today, I continue to seek out advice daily, listening to recordings, particularly by Tony Robbins and Dale Carnegie, about taking responsibility for my mental state and happiness, and learning how to genuinely give others the appreciation that each of us crave.

My experience with Juan forced me to learn about myself, begin changing my habits and routines. This experience helped me identify an incredible sense of significance derived through my writing, sharing both my travel experiences and my personal struggles. I’ve also learned how important it is to surround myself with caring, loyal friends, and to develop the strength to walk away from people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Finally, I’m grateful that today, I am more self aware, and am in a position to help others who have experienced some form of psychological abuse.

Caring friendships


I want to thank my sister Vivien and my friend Riley who both listened to me without judgement at my deepest moments of despair, as well as my friends Beth, Sue, Buyeon, CeCe, and Miranda who tried to stir me in a healthier direction. I also thank God for guiding and supporting me at my worst moments, and for my later recovery.

Lastly, I want to thank myself, for finally deciding to stand up to Juan by reporting his misconduct to my school director, and seeking out healthy support that I needed in order to once again be my gregarious, fun-loving self, but this time, a Natasha with a lot more self awareness, kindness, and readiness to help others.

In a much happier space: hiking, nature and restarting my experience in Korea
We all deserve caring, loving friendships. Let’s believe that we will accept nothing less. This T-shirt reminded me of Evan Carmichael’s one word.



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24 thoughts on “Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story”

  1. It is shocking that men behave this way & often get away with it! Donald Trump……!
    They often silence women after having behaved like this…! Not you Tash! Telling your boss, now making this blog!
    You have soo much to be proud of.
    You were venerable as were any other ladies that have been sucked in by this psychopath!
    But your vulnerability has ended, his time of having power has also ended! He has to live in shame, but I’m am sure he is trying his best to hide it.. or maybe since he has no empathy, he may also have no shame either.. who knows… Hopefully in outing him to the boss he will no longer be put in a teaching position with the new vulnerable teachers
    Hopefully in reading this other ladies in similar positions will get their power back and walk away like you did!
    Love you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much, Viv. Yes, I had to come forward about this, and a lot of it was simply to understand everything and heal. I gave up trying to understand said person a while ago, and glad for it. My life is so much simpler. And yes, he won’t be left to train vulnerable new teachers anymore. I’m so relieved cause I felt a responsibility to protect the new teachers, but now my boss knows, that burden is so much lighter.


  3. In glad you were able to untangle yourself from his manipulations!
    Now that you’re out of Korea and defamation laws can’t hurt you, it probably doesn’t matter. But I noticed you didn’t change the name of “Juan” a couple times. In the section about Arianna and the pop-in you had, it says another name, perhaps a former change? I don’t know but figured you could use the information.


  4. did u for even one second think his wife?!? seriously? you are the one who sounds selfish. yes he is in the wrong, but you fooled around with a married man! do you have no shame? seriously disgusting behavior from BOTH of you!


  5. Wow. I’m… shocked.

    First, just because his wife is Korean and her English level is not up to your standards does not mean they have problems communicating. You made a sweeping judgement about his marriage to justify your actions. You dismissed his wife repeatedly throughout this post. You felt you should warn your foreign friend BUT showed absolutely no concern for his Korean wife…. to be honest this comes across as a white woman completely dismissing a Korean woman because she’s Korean. Their marriage is just as valid as any other marriage.

    Second, Juan an Jose are two different names. Just because they both start with J and are Spanish does not mean they’re interchangeable. Come on girlfriend.

    Girl, what he did to you was WRONG. He’s a slimy piece of ddong. You are a victim of him. But what you did to his wife is also wrong. And you did not acknowledge that once in this very long post.

    I respect that you needed to write through some feelings but be advised that what you wrote does not make you sympathetic. You come off as racist, and ignorant of your own wrong doing. I applaud you for using this forum to work through this because you were a victim.. but this is a first draft. Think a little more about the other parties involved and how this situation hurt people other than yourself and write your second.

    I say write your second draft because this is a very real problem. A person who is an authority figure in your school is taking advantage of others. BUT you’re not going to help anyone and especially not yourself with what you’ve written here. You seem to be in denial and solely focused on freeing yourself from any wrong doing through the approval of others.


    1. Wow Marie. That is really bold (not to mention out of line) to call Natasha racist. It is pretty common knowledge that when two people don’t speak a common language that there are communication issues. She didn’t invalidate their marriage because Anita and Juan didn’t share a common language-she figured it would end because he was blatantly unfaithful. I also don’t think she is justifying her actions anywhere here…she has made it pretty clear that she knows she made a mistake. I’m sure if we looked at your life, we wouldn’t see a picture of perfection. We are all human and we don’t always do the right thing-even if we are good, God-fearing people…none of us are perfect.

      Speaking to Adrianne makes sense because not only are they friends but they see each other everyday. They have a relationship and a starting point for a conversation. They are also in the same boat…and given the fact that Juan (clearly mistakenly also referred to as Jose-u don’t need to make a big deal about that) has preyed on both of them. Plus he’s doing it in front of her face. From the looks of the way things unfolded, Natasha could absolutely be putting herself in harm’s way if she did tell his wife. He is a predator whose behavior clearly has become more aggressive.

      I don’t at all agree that she has come off as racist. Your response makes you look callous, rude, lacking of compassion and self-righteous. Actually, it sounds like you may have been cheated on and feel like your partner’s mistress didn’t take your feelings into account. I am sure that Tasha is taking responsibility for her part in this. However, let’s not forget that she is also a victim had is suffering the consequences of her own part in this. Saying that writing this won’t help anyone is including her is very ignorant on your part. I’m sure Juan is not the only person in Korea preying on incoming English teachers. This could potentially help someone in a similar situation and give them hope. Well written Natasha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for your detailed response here. You put a lot of positive energy into your responses, and I really appreciate that. Also, thanks for your private message of encouragement. Messages like these encourage me to talk about topics that are clearly quite controversial, and risk deeply emotional responses from online readers.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello my dear Natasha. I wanted to let you know that I have just finished reading your last post on your travel blog. I have a few things to say about it… brace yourself… You are BEAUTIFUL… You are AMAZING… and you are COURAGES…

    Life can be so many things and it can go in so many direction and one can never know what can happen from one moment to the next. Just when we think we know where we are at, life happens and not always for the better… You have shown how truly wonderful you are and have continued to share it with us. Thank you for being you. I am truly proud to call you a good friend. I so look forward to seeing you next when you return.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Danny, thanks so much for your amazing encouragement. It was certainly one of the more difficult blogs I’ve written, and one friend in particular (Arianne) really encouraged me to share my story. It meant re-living the experience to some extent, but i’m glad it’s all over, i’m rediscovering myself, and moving on! Life, like you say, can catch you unawares, and in my case, it took a while to recover, but I appreciate my circumstances were very challenging, and continue to be to some extent as I still work with this guy. I love you loads toooooooo! xoxooxox


  7. That guy is trash. I’m so glad you got him out of your life. He’s a predator through and through with no regard for you, his wife, or the other teacher. It’s awful you went through that. I hope he is no longer at that school.

    In regards to his being married. I’m not here to judge. A married person should be concerned for their marriage. You weren’t part of that. The same goes if he weren’t married but involved in a pre existing relationship. The onus is on the two people in that relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, he does still work at my school, and I see him every day. I avoid him completely so he can’t manipulate his way back into my emotions. Yes, he has no regard for the wife. The whole situation was crazy, cause he was also sexually inappropriate with a third female teacher at the school, and that’s what prompted me to finally approach the director about Juan’s behaviour.


  8. Wow, you definitely had a lot to get off your chest. I’m sure you have a lot of complex feelings of got and betrayal that you’re still working through.
    It’s a common thing for people with narcissistic tendencies to seek out power and seek out those to use that power on. It has nothing to do with you. You were conveniently vulnerable for him. That’s all. Hopefully this experience will help you see the warning signs in case you encounter personalities like this in the future.
    I do feel a lot of sympathy for his wife though. Most likely she had no idea what she was getting into when they married. He’s clearly a serial adulterer and her married life is going to be extremely challenging, especially if he has no desire to change or be faithful.


  9. Yes, the situation was very overwhelming, and despite continuing to see him at work daily, I determined to put this completely behind me. I was angry at myself for being vulnerable, which really was not fair on myself. But, like you say, I can now identify the warning signs of personalities like this one. And yes, he seemed to me like a serial adulterer, and although he has been chastised at my workplace and appears to be leaving the female teachers to do their job, perhaps he will continue to cheat on her with women he finds elsewhere. I’d like to tell her about his behaviour, but I still work with him. I want to inform her in a way that doesn’t bring the drama into my workplace. I welcome suggestions.


  10. Ugh, this is terrible! This Juan guy, is a selfish pig. I hope he gets what he deserves… Very tough experience, I’m glad to see that you have managed to get yourself out from that situation, move on, and set your sights on your developing. Hope your blog will also reach and help others in similar situations.


  11. Tough one! But it’s good that you got out of that sooner. I do feel sorry for the wife but that’s between the 2 of them. For whatever it’s worth for her, I wish her a lot of strength. I wish you more strength of character too since you are still working with him and you see him everyday.


  12. Just when you think guys play games while single or in relationships and assuming they change their ways when they commit and get married…Not in Korea! Not anywhere! What a horrible human being who obviously doesn’t value commitment, honesty or decency. I’d read “He’s just not that into you” and stay away!


  13. Damn. This is intense stuff. It seems like this guy is quite a manipulative person…definitely someone you shouldn’t be spending time with. The fact that you work with him makes it tough I’m sure. It seems like things escalated quickly. I’m glad you’ve made strides to move past him and focus more attention on yourself. Keep that up!


  14. Whoa, Natasha…. I don’t even know where to begin because this situation is quite heavy. From a point of view in which I’ve never been in a similar situation, it’s easy to judge your actions and obviously his, but I understand that life is a lot more complex than black or white scenarios.

    I’m sure it took a lot for you to write about this so honestly and with this degree of vulnerability, which props for that. But my advice to you is to continue working on yourself, on establishing self-love and self-respect. I wholeheartedly believe we all accept the love we think we deserve. And I think most of us deserve plenty. Don’t ever settle for meager crumbs like the ones Juan offered you. Stay strong and best of luck!


  15. Thanks for trusting and sharing this very personal story. I’m glad you finally moved on from that psychopath. Congratulations dear! You’re a beautiful person. I know that you’ll find someone better, someone you deserve.


  16. I can totally relate . Currently living here in Korea and I understand. It gets lonely sometimes . I too have friends in a relationship with Koreans and they’re struggling trying to communicate and am not being racist 🙂

    Glad you got out of there and in his life..You deserve better… Goodluck in your future endeavors. .


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