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Thread: Relationship hijacked by traumatized client of more than 10 years

  1. #1

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    Relationship hijacked by traumatized client of more than 10 years

    I (M52) was in a relationship with a woman (42) for 3 years and I really believed I would spend the rest of my life with her. She is renting a house and living with her adult daughter and her boyfriend plus her 17 year old son. I have a pretty unconventional lifestyle (vegan, minimalist, organic, no car, etc.) and she expressed a desire to become more environmentally conscious as well. However, her kids were raised pretty standard American and to avoid me feeling too judgemental about the wastefulness, or the kids becoming resentful of me when I am pushing for less wastefulness, we decided to wait to live together on my own property in my own tiny house until her son turns 18 and she will be an empty nester. After having some difficult conversations about this it felt like we were in a good place about it.

    In the fall of 2019 my partner, let's call her Ruth, who is a trauma therapist, told me that I should meet her client, let's call her Lisa (42). Lisa had been Ruth's client for more than a decade and Ruth told me that Lisa was the most traumatized person she ever met! Even though Ruth was still Lisa's therapist, they started to hang out together. Ruth and I love going on outdoor adventures and Lisa started to join us on a lot of those trips. At the beginning of covid Lisa was invited to be part of Ruth's family pod, because Lisa didn't have anyone else in town to be close with. Lisa is a therapist herself as well for traumatized kids and Lisa started to hang out at Ruth's house more and more, while I was working my seasonal job with a conflicting work schedule with Ruth's, so Ruth and I didn't have much time together during the work week. I brought up several times that I needed some alone time with Ruth as well and she kept on reassuring me that I was her person and her priority. Ruth also acknowledged that Lisa was too dependent on her and that the dynamic between them wasn't particularly healthy (Lisa has Ruth saved as "mom" in her contacts). I believe that Lisa is completely in love with Ruth and wants to use Ruth as an example of a good human being to model her life after, after all the traumatic experiences she has had.

    In the meantime Ruth was a bit freaked out at the beginning of covid and decided to buy a handgun for protection. She talked about that with Lisa, but didn't bring it up with me until she had bought the gun already. This was an indication that Lisa was becoming more of a partner to Ruth than me.

    Because Ruth realized that the situation with Lisa was becoming unethical, she decided to officially stop being Lisa's therapist, although she still counseled Lisa unofficially for at least a couple of hours every week. Ruth was compensated for that by Lisa helping out in the household and buying groceries for the family. Sometime last June Lisa started renting a room in the house, although she still kept her own place too (only because she had a dog there). I slowly became more and more frustrated with feeling like a third wheel in this situation.

    In July we went with the 3 of us on a backpacking trip. On the drive down small things kept on happening that made me feel more and more excluded, which made me somewhat irritable. This irritability caused an argument on this trip twice, during which I blamed Ruth for something pretty minor. This made her feel attacked and unsafe, mostly because of her own trauma background (she was in an abusive relationship with her ex for 20 years). At night, Ruth checked in with Lisa and they talked privately for a while, after which Ruth came into my tent. We processed the whole night and made some progress, even though I was shocked at some of the things she said to me. For example, she told me that she started drinking more after I once mentioned carefully that she might consider drinking a little less, but she just kept it hidden from me instead. It sounded like she was already not feeling safe with me for quite a while, even though less than a week before the fateful incident she told me that she was very happy to be with somebody who communicates well and is safe. After a night of processing she said she wasn't ready to break up with me yet. However, we had to invite Lisa into the tent and tell her what happened. As soon as Lisa came in she started calling me names right away (shamer, blamer, abuser, domestic violence perpetrator, narcissist and somebody who doesn't care one iota about other people's feelings). When I tried to respond I got shut down with remarks like "you can't claim ignorance as an excuse" and "you don't get to defend yourself, that is what all abusers do to deflect". Even though Ruth had just expressed to me that she wasn't ready to break up with me, she immediately fell in line with Lisa's way of thinking. It felt like an abusive ganging up on me (and that by 2 professional trauma therapists!): I was completely prevented from saying anything in my defense, while I was told in no uncertain terms that I am an incorrigible abuser who is doomed to a life of intense therapy to even have a chance to become a better human being. The conclusion was drawn and there was no space to create any other perspective on the situation than through the lens of trauma prevention and abuse, which means getting rid of me as soon as possible and not uttering another word to me on the long drive home, because suddenly I am not a safe person anymore. I suddenly had become Ruth's abusive ex.

    The next day I received an email from Ruth stating that I can't contact her in any form, ever. If I do, they would file a restraining order against me. I do believe that this is mostly Lisa's sentiment. Ruth and I seriously never had an argument before this happened and I felt completely solid in the relationship. In June of 2019, Ruth came with me to The Netherlands for a 2.5 week visit at my parent's expense to say goodbye to my dying mother. I felt so supported by her and everybody loved her. She said goodbye to my mother with tears in her eyes and promised my mother she would take care of me.

    This break up happened in the second half of July. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that 2 such minor incidents caused such a severe punishment. I am still in denial and completely heartbroken. Ruth's brother and his girlfriend did reach out to me about a week after the incident via text and told me they didn't believe that I am an abuser and asked me what happened. I sent them a long email with my explanation of what happened and expressed my concern about Lisa's influence on Ruth. Ruth's mother read that email as well. About a week later I was going to meet in a park with the 3 of them (mother, brother and brother's girlfriend) to talk more about what happened and the dynamic at play between Ruth and Lisa. However, somehow Ruth must have heard about that plan and decided to cut them out of her life as well, after which the family decided to stop communicating with me.

    Even after all this, I am still completely in love with Ruth and keep on hoping that she will come to realize that she treated me poorly and will want me back. Is this unreasonable, especially given the fact that Lisa and Ruth might now not just be emotional partners, but sexual partners as well? Given the fact that Ruth and Lisa are professional therapists, did they step completely out of line with allowing their relationship to develop like this? If so, do I have an obligation to bring them to the therapists ethics board, even though I have no desire to create more problems in Ruth's life (and I do believe she actually is a good therapist) and I firmly believe that Lisa is not malicious, but just acting from her damage? I feel like I want to force a family intervention, but I guess it is really not my place to do that.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Lambert's Avatar
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    First off, I am so sorry this happened. It doesn't sound like you deserved the mean girl treatment. As hard as this is, I don't think you have much choice. Right or wrong, in their collective minds, it's them against you. And anything you do will only aggravate them and the situation, continuing to paint you, in their eyes as the bad guy.

    I would not report anyone to any boards. Yes, what Ruth did was unethical but she stopped being her therapist. Adults are free to do what they want. Have relationships with whomever they choose.

    From an outsider perspective, she is allowed to end things with you for whatever reasons she wants. Does it hurt? Yes. Is it wrong in your eyes? Yes.

    In your shoes, I'd work on accepting this situation. Get into your own therapy. Please know, that I am close to your age and had equally horrible ending to a relationship without closure or a clear understanding of why. I was also completely shut out without recourse. And it broke my heart and my spirit. It was a dark time but I did get through it. And you can to.

    In time, Ruth may see things differently, but I wouldn't count on it. Also in time, you may see her differently, as well.

  3. #3
    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    Neither of the two of them were your therapist so I'd stay out of it. This was a romantic/personal issue with your long time partner. Ruth has a choice in how she wants to behave but what do you gain for yourself as a jilted lover? Vindication that you're really not an abuser? Not crazy? You should know that in yourself, in what you're capable or not capable of and rest easy in the idea that if someone can treat you this way or be brainwashed so easily, you are better off without that person in the long run.

    I'd take the opportunity, the silence and the peace and quiet to process everything and don't write any more letters about anybody to anybody else. Don't do that anymore or stoop to that level. Ruth's family is not your family and turning her support network against her is not right. The break up is fresh. Keep it simple and ask for time and some privacy while you collect your thoughts. Don't respond to rude or prying questions in the thick of everything while you process things. Of course everyone ​wants to know.

    I hope you find peace in all this. There is absolutely no easy road in healing after a break up, especially when there are third parties, or there's so much confusion like this. Leave it alone and don't do anymore. Take a time out for you. No more trying to change outcomes or getting people to believe you. Let go of all the offenses and bad behaviour of others. You can do it. Cry it out, yell in a pillow, talk to yourself. Do whatever you have to do to get it out of your system without hurting anyone. Then let it all go.

  4. #4
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    I'm really sorry this happened to you, it's terrible. I must say it really was very unethical of a therapist become friends with her patient and develop such a close relationship before ending their relationship as client and therapist. This is extremely unethical on Ruth's part and unprofessional. I think unfortunately you were being pushed out of the relationship because the relationship between Ruth and Lisa wasn't just friendship. I find it very suspicious that Ruth would become so close with a patient unless it was for romantic purposes. For friendship I don't think Ruth would jeopardise her reputation or career. They must have been in love with each other all along. Just personally if I was you, I wouldn't bring this up to the ethics board. I mean, yeah, you'd get revenge but it wouldn't change the fact that Ruth doesn't want to be with you. Maybe Ruth is also actually unhinged because what, she cut her partner and family off to date her patient? That's like something straight out of a soap opera TV show!

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Ruth sounds quite unethical and like a horrible quack. Avoid her. Lisa also seems to have too many problems and was betrayed by Ruth. Stay away from both of them.
    Originally Posted by sleeuwe
    She is renting a house and living with her adult daughter and her boyfriend plus her 17 year old son.

    Ruth, who is a trauma therapist, told me that I should meet her client, let's call her Lisa


    The next day I received an email from Ruth stating that I can't contact her in any form, ever. If I do, they would file a restraining order against me.

  7. #6
    Platinum Member DancingFool's Avatar
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    I'm sorry this happened and I can only imagine how absolutely bewildering this situation is for you. Big internet hugs to you.

    The thing is that as tempting as it is to blame Lisa, the harsh reality is that Ruth is and has always been an equal participant. Ruth crossed the lines from therapist to personal friend, Ruth invited Lisa into her life and home, Ruth invited Lisa into YOUR relationship as well and disregarded your feelings despite you trying to talk to her about that. None of that is Lisa's doing. The more you remove Ruth off her pedestal of all good and great and face up to the fact that she might not be all that, the easier it might be to process and start accepting the break up.

    What these two women did to you was ironically the definition of abuse and gaslighting. Thankfully, it sounds more like a short blast rather than long term exposure. How do you deal with that? You step far away. You know you are not an abuser and trust that those who know you, know that as well. I realize that such an accusation was shocking to you and you instinctively defended yourself by writing out that letter to her family. Thing is that this is where you need to learn to go against that instinct and don't defend at all. Let who you are, what people know stand on its own and trust in that. Problem with defending is that you'll end up looking exactly like what you are accused of - crazy, controlling, etc, etc, etc.

    This goes for trying to report them to the licensing board as well. It will play perfectly into their narrative of you - controlling, vindictive, abuser trying to harm them in the worst way possible. Made even worse by the fact that Ruth did actually make an ethical choice to sever the professional aspect of their relationship - a correct thing to do so you don't actually have a leg to stand on there. Not legally anyway.

    Better to spend some time healing and perhaps reflecting on what red flags about Ruth and her personality and issues you might have missed or simply ignored because you were in love, so that you don't miss them ever again. Otherwise, on days you are tempted to do something, say something remind yourself of the saying - don't wrestle with pigs.....

  8. #7
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    Are either of these women actually licensed, practicing therapists? Currently practicing on any one aside from each other?

    They both display such poor boundaries and toxic behaviour that I sure as hell hope not. Neither sounds like they're in an any place to be counselling others, especially on such serious issues as trauma.

    In short, this Lisa woman isn't the only problem. Ruth is, too. She bought a handgun for protection from Covid...what does she intend to do, shoot at the air and destroy particles? Shoot people who sneeze in her general direction? I ask because there's something seriously not making sense in her thought patterns, and it speaks to an overall tone of dysfunction that Lisa couldn't have created. Ruth is not exactly balanced, either.

    I think these two are a couple, and you were the unwitting third wheel. Why on earth would you and Ruth need to tell Lisa "what had happened" after you nearly ended your relationship? It's none of her business and that alone should have sent alarm bells clanging in your head, OP.

    In time, you will see what a mixed-up and troubled woman Ruth herself is. You've dodged a huge bullet.

  9. #8
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    "She bought a handgun for protection from Covid...what does she intend to do, shoot at the air and destroy particles?" LOL! This is great!

    Ruth is the problem. Both women sound very unstable. I would see this break up as a blessing in disguise.

  10. #9
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    My advice to you is to put these messed-up, unhealthily enmeshed women behind you - and run like the wind. As MissCanuck says, you've dodged a huge bullet. Someone with healthy boundaries keeps their personal life and professional ones separate, especially with a very needy client like Lisa.

    Hopefully there will come a time when you look back and realise what a sordid soap opera it all was, and feel grateful that you're not mixed up in it any more. Until then, don't even consider any further contact/interventions/reporting to professional bodies because that will keep you mired in it - and effectively prevent any healing.

  11. #10
    Super Moderator HeartGoesOn's Avatar
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    My question is, after all of these shenanigans why would you want Ruth back?

    As the saying goes, "Past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour."

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