Prior to this year, I must have listened to the song ‘Bed of Lies’ by Nicki Minaj and Skylar Grey a hundred times. Ashamedly though, the meaning of the song went over my head every single time. I simply enjoyed the melody of the song without paying attention to the lyrics. I naively thought it was about a broken heart caused by a player. Only now do I grasp the deeper meaning of this moving song.
Minaj and Grey have written a perfect narrative about an abusive relationship, involving a personality of the dark triad (narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism). Ever since I came to clearly understand the message behind the song, I have found a new appreciation for it. To me, the song highlights the widespread nature of abuse – it affects individuals of all demographics across the globe. I do not know if Minaj or Grey have personally endured this struggle, but I do know, from my research and personal friendships, that too many women (and men) are affected by this type of abuse.
It saddens me to know that the important message of this beautiful and powerful song might go unnoticed by many, as it was in my case for many years. However, I am grateful to have the knowledge now, to pick up the tell-tale signs, which are clearly outlined in this song. I would like to bring your attention to this if you have not yet listened to the song closely. Perhaps you are in a relationship of this sort and need insight from a third party about what you are suffering. Allow me to walk you through my understanding of the song’s lyrics based on the known signs and symptoms of abusive relationships:
“Do you ever think of me when you lie, lie down in your bed, your bed of lies?”
“I could tell you lying”
“A thousand count and not a single thread of truth”
Abusers of the dark triad are either pathological or compulsive liars. They lie about anything and everything for their personal benefit. If they do happen to relay a story of truth to you, they will still change the details to reflect themselves as the hero or victim of the incident. They will manipulate any piece of information to get you to believe the point that they are trying to make.
Almost every word out of the abuser’s mouth is a lie, and once you realise this, you will spend months, or years, trying to figure out what was real and true about their personality, their words, their feelings and the relationship itself.
Sometimes the lies are unnecessary, but they feel inclined to lie anyway. Lies are told in a convincing manner, with passion and conviction. This makes it almost impossible to identify as a lie at the time of hearing it.
“Oh, how you made me believe, you had me caught in every web that you weaved”
Abusers create stories with multiple lies to get you to believe what they want to you believe. Whether it is about their lives, past experiences, character traits or belief systems, it is all a carefully woven plot to portray themselves in an attractive and desirable way. If you catch onto the inconsistencies in their behaviour and remarks, they will change the narrative of what has been said or done. This leaves you confused and questioning the facts of what really happened. This widely used manipulation tactic is known as ‘gaslighting’. Gaslighting leaves you feeling crazy as you begin to question your own reality.
Further weaves of manipulation include ‘triangulation.’ This is where the abuser sets up scenarios with you and a third party. They aim to play both parties off against each other for the abuser’s benefit. For example, your abuser might engage in conversation or activities with their ex-partner. They will make you aware of this or involve you in it. This stirs jealousy and causes hurt, placing you and the ex in vulnerable positions where you both can be manipulated for whatever the abuser wants.
They also use other people, known as ‘apaths’ or ‘flying monkeys,’ to achieve their plans of manipulating you. These could be family members or friends who support, assist and defend the abuser in their schemes. Flying monkeys often do the dirty work, while the abuser’s hands remain clean.
“Everything you got was based off my contacts… I’mma remain icon-stat”
“Put you in a crib and you ain’t never pay a bill in it, I was killin it”
Abusers will use you for whatever they can get from you. If you are intelligent, attractive, rich, strong, well-positioned in society or successful in your career, the abuser will be drawn to you. They will use your strengths to boost their own ego for the sake of public image. The abuser may also aim to get their hands on your financial resources and they may try to piggyback of your successes.
The more you possess these attractive qualities, the more appealing you will be to the abuser. They pride themselves on being able to acquire, attain and ruin the smartest people. Someone, who they would consider a ‘weakling,’ does not pose enough of a challenge to them in their quest to use and abuse. Ruining a person gives them a high of power and control. Therefore, the stronger you are to break, the more of a thrill it is to them when they do eventually break you.
MASK, CHEATING AND DISCARDING
“And I know better than to look in your eyes, they only pretend you would be mine”
“You a fraud”
“I just figured I was something you couldn’t replace”
“Does she know I’ve been in that bed before?”
These abusers wear a mask and do not show their true selves to you in the initial stages of the relationship. The personality, which they portray to you is a disguise. It is created to earn your trust and to make you fall in love with them. The mask is specifically designed to mirror your desires in a partner, after they have spent time studying your wants and needs.
The relationship is also fake. They are pretending to care about you. This person would never truly be yours as they are known for being promiscuous. They may cheat by having other relationships, sexual partners or prostitutes. They are generally known for being adulterers, if married. Their string of past failed relationships or marriages testify to this.
They also move on quickly after the relationship ends. This is possible because they usually have potential partners kept in reserve whilst they are dating you. As soon as they lose interest in you, they discard you for the next person. ‘Discarding’ is the final stage of the relationship if you have not broken away from the abuser first.
TRAUMA BONDING, LACK OF EMPATHY AND LACK OF CONSCIENCE
“Do you ever think of me…?”
“If I was just another girl, then I’m ashamed to say I am not over you”
“I just figured if you saw me, if you looked in my eyes, you’d remember our connection and be freed from the lies. I just figured I was something you couldn’t replace, but there was just a blank stare that I couldn’t relate”
“When the tears roll down it’s like you ain’t even notice ’em. If you had a heart, I was hoping you would show it some”
Once the abuser takes their mask off, you will see them for who they really are. However, it will be difficult for you to accept this because, by this stage, you are in love with the person you thought they were. ‘Idealisation’ is the first stage of courtship, in which they make you feel loved and wanted; they give you attention and affection until they have you hooked. What follows is the ‘devaluation’ stage, in which the abuse begins – this could be emotional, mental, verbal, physical, sexual or financial abuse.
During the devaluation stage, you will have hope for your partner and the relationship. You will recall all the good memories from the idealisation stage. You will work your hardest to get back to that happy time in your relationship. You will believe that you can fix the relationship or get back the abuser’s good behaviour if you change things about yourself. The abuser will relish watching you bend over backwards to please them. They will use your efforts to get whatever they want from you. This might be: agreeing to sexual acts that you are not comfortable with, giving them money, forgiving their abuse, etc.
The desire to continue a relationship with your abuser is further entrenched by ‘trauma bonds.’ Trauma bonds cause you to form strong emotional attachments to your abuser as a “survival mechanism” to endure the abusive episodes. These bonds lead to dependence on your abuser, making it harder to leave them despite having the knowledge that you are being abused. This could be described as the feeling of being addicted to your abuser. Trauma bonds also make it difficult for you to let go of the abuser after you have ended the relationship. There will be a period where you feel as if you are having withdrawal symptoms from not being with them.
Whilst you are at your worst during the abuse, the abuser’s blank stare shows their absolute lack of empathy and lack of remorse for what they have done to you. They can watch you crying in anguish and not bat an eyelid. They are incapable of understanding or feeling your pain.
Psychopaths lack a conscience and will never experience any guilt for the hurt they have caused you, or the wrongs they have committed against you. Instead, you might experience feelings of guilt and shame though you are not responsible for the abuse. This is because the abuser has guilted you into believing that you are in the wrong and that they are the victim or innocent one in the relationship.
“So call me when you are not so busy just thinking about yourself”
At the core of Machiavellianism is self-interest and personal gain. Similarly, at the foundation of narcissism is self-centredness and self-admiration. These personality types will go to any length of manipulation to get what they want. For as long as you serve them, they will continue to use and abuse you. They are master-manipulators at convincing you to play into their every request. You may find yourself going against your belief systems or committing acts that risk your life. They do not have an issue with crossing legal or moral lines to fulfil their desires.
“Couldn’t believe I was home alone… no more coastin, no more toastin over oceans, they say you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone”
“I was doing it for us, I told ’em f@#k the public”
Manipulation is most effective when you are alone. When alone, you are vulnerable which places you in an easy position to be taken advantage of. In isolation the abuser becomes the only voice in your head, making it easier for them to control you. Abusers deliberately manipulate you to cut off ties with your friends and family. They work at tainting your relationships, so you “choose” to break connections.
They also find excuses to stop you from going out. They want to limit your contact with the outside world. Some go to the extent of withholding phones and computers. They, especially, try to cut you off from places where you can get advice and help about abuse. For example, they will not want you to attend church.
The abuser isolates you for two reasons:
- They want you to be solely dependent on them as this feeds their need for power and control.
- They want to keep you away from caring people who will notice your pain and encourage you to leave the toxic relationship.
LOSING YOUR IDENTITY AND RATIONAL THINKING
“I ain’t mean to cut you, I ain’t wanna catch a felony”
After spending time with these personality types you may take on some of their traits, especially when they push and provoke you. You may find yourself acting out of character and going against your rational thinking. For example, they may drive you to violence if you are not a violent person, whilst you are aware of the risks of your behaviour.
More than this, they systematically work towards eroding your identity. They want to mould you into the person they want you to be. They use all sorts of manipulative techniques to achieve this. The most effective tool is criticism. They insult your personal interests, tastes, appearance and so on. As they criticise you, you withdrew into a shell and subconsciously adjust your behaviour to be more pleasing to the abuser. You may find yourself changing the way you dress or changing the music you listen to, etc. This slowly erodes your personality and transforms you into the person they want you to be. This eats away at your self-esteem until your insecurity reaches the height where you are too afraid to leave your abuser.
DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, FEAR, HOPELESSNESS AND UNHAPPINESS
“You got me poppin pills in it”
“Couldn’t believe I was home alone, contemplating overdosin”
“… don’t yell at me”
These abusers drive you into deep pain and depression. It may leave you thinking that you have no other escape but to take your own life. Alternatively, you may choose to numb your pain with substance abuse. The manipulation makes you dependent on them; you may feel you cannot live without them, causing yourself anxiety and fear if they threaten to leave you. Not to mention the pain that comes from the insulting, cheating, swearing, etc.
HOPE, HEALING AND RECOVERY
“Your darkest hour comes before your dawn”
There is hope! You can leave the vicious cycle of abuse and walk into a better life. The ‘dawn’ reflects the truth that is exposed after you experience your deepest hurt. Once you learn the truth about your abuse, you can make the decision (though difficult) to leave your abuser and begin your healing process.
This song is powerful and thought-provoking. The narrative is flawless in depicting the characteristics of an abuser. The thought-processes and emotions of the abused partner is portrayed in an equally accurate way. I will be keeping this song on my playlist for a long time!