Jump to content

How can I help her?


oldenoughtoknow

Recommended Posts

I've posted about my GF (currently a 9 month relationship) in a few other forums. But after a recent event, I think I need some insight from this forum. Sorry for the length...

 

My GF is 47. She comes from a very normal family and she always says she had a very good childhood. She was emotionally and physically abused by her first husband who she met at college when she was in her early twenties. He didn't start out this way, but it quickly progressed shortly after they were married. This included hitting her and slamming her against walls, and he controlled nearly all of her activities - she could never go out with friends, she couldn't go jogging by herself, she couldn't even buy her own car, even though they could easily afford one - he drove her to work and picked her up. She divorced him when the physical abuse escalated, after slightly over one year of marriage.

 

Since then, she has been through two other marriages (also short term), both to doormat men who would let her do whatever she wanted. She has said many times that she never had a single argument with her other two husbands. She has also said she feels they were both "rebounds" from her first husband's abuse. She eventually grew incredibly bored with them and had to leave, and she feels terrible for "breaking their hearts." She has also dated several men who really didn't care about her. She has said that she falls in love "too hard and too fast," but then realized that none of these men were never going to do more than casually date her.

 

We get along amazingly well. My biggest concern up to now has been regarding her past relationship history, and whether she's "relationship ready." I want a relationship for life (I know there are no guarantees in life, but with her history...). One ongoing issue/argument we've been having is when she has night business meetings. They are usually close to an hour's drive away, and I know that she drinks at these functions. I've asked her to call me before she leaves on her way home. Out of more than a dozen times, she's actually done this once. I always get upset with her and an argument ensues when she gets home. She tells me that she's never had to tell anyone about her whereabouts ever before (apparently, she means since her first husband). She always apologizes, but I can tell she doesn't "get it," because she tells me that she apologized and I should get over it. I usually tell her something along the lines of "if you don't want me to worry about your safety or well being, then I won't. But that's not the kind of relationship I want." Then she tells she does want me to be concerned and care for her, and that is the relationship she wants, and then she cries profusely.

 

This same scenario happened again three nights ago. We had a late night argument, she apologized as usual but she remained very indignant. I told her I wanted her to leave (go to her house). She started screaming ultimatums, to the effect that if she left, it was over between us. I told her I don't respond to ultimatums. She went into the "get over it" speech yet again, and I told her she wasn't going to turn this around to be my problem. You screwed up, again. You hurt me - you made me worry about you all night - you showed a lack of regard for my feelings - don't you dare try to make this my problem - stop feeling sorry for yourself and own your mistake. Then she said I drive her nuts, said I was acting like a "****," and she punched me in the arm (hard)! I didn't know what to do, so I left the room and walked outside to diffuse the situation, but she followed me. We argued some more. I told her she's not getting it. I'm not putting us both through this because I'm a ****, and you know better than that. This is a simple issue of common courtesy and respect, and you are being very selfish. Then I had bit of a revelation, and I told her that it feels like she's not letting me completely in - she hasn't opened her heart enough to feel the pain she's putting me through with this - that's why she continues to ignore my request. Then she starts sobbing and said "I don't know how to do this. I suck at this. I wish you would just beat the **** out of me."

 

OMG! I didn't know at all what to do with this...I told her that I would never raise a hand to her, and that it is also unacceptable that she hit me. I told her "I love you, and I'm like no other man you've ever met. I'm not a doormat, I'm not controlling, I'm not abusive, and I don't just want to get in your pants. I don't want anymore half-***ed relationships - I'm sick of them - I want it all. You are the love of my life, but you have to let me into your life. I am not going to hurt you."

 

I've never dated anyone who has gone through such abuse. Does this sound normal, almost 25 years later? She is going to counseling. But...she wishes I would beat her? What the **** does that mean? Why would she ever wish that on herself again? Did I respond well?

 

Can anyone give me any insight into this from their own experience? What is she going through? What is she feeling? Am I on the right track? Does she continue to do this for power, control, self-preservation, or retaliation to men in general? Or...? I love her. What can I do to help her?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, she has to help herself or learn the hard way. No amount of prodding or love can MAKE someone do this. I tried all I could to help my ex, and the only way that seemed to have any real effect was leaving. I'm not telling YOU to do so. If you decide to ride it out and be supportive, more power to you. But look out for YOU. People in loving relationships do NOT hit each other. They should be hitting ON each other

 

I hate that it had to come to that, and part of me hated myself for doing it. But if she wasn't going to change (and yes, I, too heard "get over it" and "it's your problem" more times than I care to remember), there was no other option. Sorry if this is kinda of a down response.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hhmmm.....i don't know that you can help her. i think she needs a lot of professional help. after 9 months, you shouldn't be going through this. she is really hurting from that abusive relationship, but...her not calling and drinking and driving? not cool. for anyone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think she'd rather deal with physical pain than emotional pain. That's what her comment "Id rather you beat the #$%$ out me" meant.

 

And I think that you are doing all the right things to support her.

 

Thank you Catdancer. I hadn't thought of it like that. The extreme, lingering extent of her past abuse issue is all pretty new to me. I can understand why abuse victims would have trouble completely opening their hearts and making themselves vulnerable again. Why do you think she continues to ignore my request for such a basic common courtesy?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One ongoing issue/argument we've been having is when she has night business meetings. They are usually close to an hour's drive away, and I know that she drinks at these functions. I've asked her to call me before she leaves on her way home.

What is the purpose of you wanting her to do this? Is it because if she is over the limit you will drive to pick her up?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe because it reminds her of when she had to account for every action of hers to her first abusive ex? So she instinctively resists it because of the feeling it evokes.

 

Sometimes funny things can cause "flashbacks" and they can be confusing for the victim ("Why am I getting so worked up and frightened?") and for the victim's new relationship ("Why can`t she just do this simple thing?"). I know, as a former victim myself, I`ve overreacted to some incidents because they just sparked an emotional response that is out of proportion to the actual incident. It is because the incident reminded my subconcious of an incident with the ex that was bad enough that my body just gets flooded with fight or flight chemicals.

 

My current guy knows about this, and I do make an effort to calm myself down and talk to him. I guess your girlfriend has trouble figuring out what is going on when she acts in a certain way?

 

I think she needs counselling to help sort things out. Its hard to act rationally when your body is acting irrationally and you are emotional. Sometimes just understanding what is going on can help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, she has to help herself or learn the hard way. No amount of prodding or love can MAKE someone do this. I tried all I could to help my ex, and the only way that seemed to have any real effect was leaving. I'm not telling YOU to do so. If you decide to ride it out and be supportive, more power to you. But look out for YOU. People in loving relationships do NOT hit each other. They should be hitting ON each other

 

I hate that it had to come to that, and part of me hated myself for doing it. But if she wasn't going to change (and yes, I, too heard "get over it" and "it's your problem" more times than I care to remember), there was no other option. Sorry if this is kinda of a down response.

 

Thank you Seymore, but I don't know quite what to do with this. I'm certainly not worried about being a physical abuse victim at this point. For one thing, I'm 190lbs and she's 110. But if it continues, that would definitely become another story.

 

The part of her hitting me that caused my revelation was linked to something you mentioned - leaving. Early in our relationship, she told me that in her past, whenever a problem would come up, she would flee. Boy, does that make sense now. I dealt with that by telling her that I believe relationships are a leap of faith - we both have to want to be here, and if you want to leave, there's very little I can do about it - you can't beg someone to love you - it doesn't work that way. After I told her that, she had the strangest look on her face. And since that speech, when we've had small disagreements, I've seen her get upset and get up to leave, but she sits back down and continues the difficult conversation. I think she's trying.

 

The other thing I've noticed is that she is very attuned to my mood. If I come home after a bad day at work and am a little grumpy, she doesn't offer much in the way of care or support to help my mood. Instead, she suggests that "maybe I should just go home." I can almost palpably feel her withdraw emotionally.

 

That really makes me think more about Catdancer's comment...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you Catdancer. I hadn't thought of it like that. The extreme, lingering extent of her past abuse issue is all pretty new to me. I can understand why abuse victims would have trouble completely opening their hearts and making themselves vulnerable again. Why do you think she continues to ignore my request for such a basic common courtesy?

 

It maybe that she doesnt know how. She has gone from one extreme to the other. From absolutely no freedom and completely controlled, to 2 husbands that she had free reign over and turned the tides to control them. Do you see? She cant find a medium. You are the medium and she's never experienced it before. It's very hard for abuse victims to have a real healthy relationship because they dont know how.

 

Counseling will help her. Being honest with her and confronting her when she is indignant are good things. Otherwise she will try to reign over you and control the situation.

 

This is a tough one and many many kudos to you for trying to help her. I'd talk to her in a comfortable relaxed atmosphere and ask her if she really knows how to be in a healthy relationship. She may take offense at first, but I bet that her answer will be no. That will at least open the door so that you two can talk about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What you need to do is find every reserve of patience you can find. I was in a similar relationship and it can be extremely draining. On top of it all, she was bipolar and she refused to see the doc about it.

 

The fact she's seeing a counselor is heartening. I'd suggest you find a "couple's" counselor as well. You'll need someone to vent your frustrations with and get sage advise on how to deal with the relationship.

 

Hang in there. I know exactly how you feel, and hopefully you guys can get through this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is the purpose of you wanting her to do this? Is it because if she is over the limit you will drive to pick her up?

 

 

I was wondering the same thing?

 

and i agree with Catdancer that she is probably resistant to calling you because she doesn't want to lose any of her freedom.

 

Look, if she drinks, she is an adult and its her responsibility to be responsible when she is driving and its her responsibility to contact you or someone if she does drink too.

 

If there is another reason you would like her to call.. have you expressed to her why its so important to you?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not about being worried about being hit. I'd imagine you could hold your own. It's just not right, period.

 

I bolded that part because I went through this as well. And if I was at her house, it was sometimes "Why don't you just go home." Very little understanding or talking involved.

 

I would be very careful about thinking about taking this relationship too seriously until she proves she's getting her act together. Abuse is damaging to a person, and I'd imagine her past left her in a very confused and distressed state. Just proceed cautiously.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is the purpose of you wanting her to do this? Is it because if she is over the limit you will drive to pick her up?

 

It's not that she would be out somewhere drunk...not at all. We both get up early in the morning, usually before 6 am. So we go to bed early, usually before 10 pm. Her business dinner meetings are usually over by 7 pm, but can last sometimes to 10 pm, and then she has an hour's drive. She has a sports car. She likes to drive fast (although she is cautious at night or after having anything to drink). The travel is often down known treacherous two lane country roads. And she doesn't have good night vision.

 

So it's not that I would ever have to pick her up from being too drunk to drive. She's a very responsible person. But still, adding even one drink with the above conditions isn't the greatest. I just don't want to worry if she's okay until potentially 11 pm, when I should have been calm and in bed an hour earlier. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask, and she readily agrees...it's getting her to do it that's the issue.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, you said her first husband was controlling...not saying you are, but she may be reading your concern as trying to control her or having flashbacks of the last guy who controlled her. Don't worry so much about her. She's a big girl. If she wants to drive recklessly, there's nothing you can do about that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not about being worried about being hit. I'd imagine you could hold your own. It's just not right, period.

 

I bolded that part because I went through this as well. And if I was at her house, it was sometimes "Why don't you just go home." Very little understanding or talking involved.

 

I would be very careful about thinking about taking this relationship too seriously until she proves she's getting her act together. Abuse is damaging to a person, and I'd imagine her past left her in a very confused and distressed state. Just proceed cautiously.

 

OP--you are dealing with an abuse victim. When her first husband came home grumpy, moody or in a foul way...who do you think paid for it?? She did. For her it is self defense to shy away from confrontation when you are in a bad mood and try to diffuse the situation by asking you to leave. She isnt being manipulative or anything, she is trying to protect herself. And I know you'll say that you'd never hurt her and she knows that. But it is a primal response ingrained in her from being abused. In a way, she cant help it. It's like throwing a hand out to catch yourself when you fall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OP--you are dealing with an abuse victim. When her first husband came home grumpy, moody or in a foul way...who do you think paid for it?? She did. For her it is self defense to shy away from confrontation when you are in a bad mood and try to diffuse the situation by asking you to leave. She isnt being manipulative or anything, she is trying to protect herself. And I know you'll say that you'd never hurt her and she knows that. But it is a primal response ingrained in her from being abused. In a way, she cant help it. It's like throwing a hand out to catch yourself when you fall.

 

Exactly. It's almost like a Pavlovian response. Certain words, other people's moods, all of those can act as triggers for her shields to go up. You can be as nice as you want and loving as you want, but only she can learn that you are not those people and her shields can come down.

 

Again, best of luck, and I mean that most sincerely. I tried being understanding, loving and compassionate, but I just couldn't seem to get anywhere. Being a doormat was what kept the most peace.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, thank you Catdancer. I have kind of figured the medium part out already. And she is going to counseling every week. The surprising thing you mentioned was with my confronting her. She has said so many times that is what she loves about me. I'm nice to her, I care for her, but "I call her on her sh**." I'm like no one she's ever met.

 

I can tell she's really trying. And some of the things I've confronted her with, I've really seen progress - like her "fleeing" impulse I mentioned in another response. And yes, she has said more than a few times, that she too "wants it all," and that's her focus in counseling, because she doesn't believe she does know how to be in a healthy relationship. She wants to be, but has obviously chosen men who were wrong for her since her abusive first husband. I have reassured her that my marriage and past relationships have also failed, so we can both learn how to be in a healthy relationship together. Yes, we will both make mistakes, but as long as we both stay committed to the relationship and each other's happiness, we can get there.

 

My posts in other forums have been dealing with my insecurity over this very issue - am I "the one," or is that what she says to all the boys. And yes, the power struggles with her are constant. It can be draining, but I'm up to the challenge so far.

 

Thank you. That is incredible insight. Just what I was hoping for...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, Pavlov conditioned the dog to salivate whenever he rang a bell. The food being present no longer mattered - it was the bell.

 

For an abuse victim, the bell is grumpiness or anger. To the abuse victim, they have been conditioned to think grumpy = pain for me. Its an automatic response and it takes some time for it to fade, if ever.

 

I don`t deal with anger in other people very well at all. The sound of a raised voice, even if its not at me, makes me cry. It just happens. And I think I have healed rather well from my experiences, but there are still some automatic responses my body just seems to do. Those conditioned responses are hard to shake.

 

I like the idea of couples counselling. Its great that she is getting counselling herself, but couples might help you understand each other better and find ways of handling things TOGETHER.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, Catdancer, Seymore and Aurian. When I read your posts, all I could think of was "Duh!" I don't know how I couldn't have put that one together. It's so obvious now.

 

I guess she otherwise appears to be such a happy, successful and together person, I never put together that her abusive first husband had lingering scars of any consequence. That is, until three days ago.

 

Amazing advice and insight. This will really help me, both with her and in plotting my future course. Thank you very much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And remember - be CAREFUL. If you find yourself saying "I can't say this to her, I can't do that around her" out of fear that she'll be triggered again, you may find yourself walking on eggshells, or she may say "He's adapting to my behavior, I don't need this therapy anymore". Be strong.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She should not have hit you no matter what anyone has ever done to her. Tell her that if this happens again you are through.

 

On the other point I actually agree with her. If you don't live together then there is no requirement to let the other person know your whereabouts at all times. She is not on a leash and neither are you.

 

If you care about her so much that not hearing from her would keep you up at night then maybe you ought to think about making your relationship official with at least a plan and a time frame to live together. You can ask her if this would change her attitude.

 

Even if none of that has any effect, you may just either have to accept that she is not willing to live up to this expectation of yours or find yourself a woman who is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our relationship is definitely "official." We had our first date just over 9 months ago. We became exclusive just over 8 months ago. And we have been "effectively" living together for just over 7 months. By that, I mean that we are together constantly. We spend every night together. The only time we are apart is when we both go to our stressful jobs each day, or for a few hours each weekend when we both go to our separate houses to take care of housekeeping and miscellaneous chores.

 

We have talked at length about moving in actually together, and renting/selling one or the other's house. We agreed that we will plot that course after we've been together for a year. We have also talked at length about getting married someday. She is somewhat reluctant, simply because of her past. I haven't pushed it at all. It's like we both know that there is something about us that just works. We both have our own issues from our past, but we are certain that we can work them out together.

 

It has been quite a weekend. I talked to her yesterday (Saturday) about what I learned from this thread (on Friday). I don't have time to get into it right now, but I will be posting more tomorrow. Thank you, everyone, for your insight.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My GF had an appointment with her counselor on Saturday. After I digested your suggestions, I sat down and talked with her beforehand so she could possibly bring up my observations with her counselor. She was pretty rattled as I was going through my connections, with her not calling when she's out, her reaction when I'm in a bad mood, and a handful of other issues that we've had that all fit together perfectly with your advice.

 

She said that she had mostly avoided talking with her counselor about her first husband because she didn't want to give him the satisfaction of still having an effect on her life. But she agreed with everything I presented, and later said that her counselor agreed as well.

 

Since her appointment, she has still been very upset. She has told me that she is always on the verge of tears. She has said that she feels like she just wants to be alone, but she doesn't think that is the right thing for her. And she said that she "didn't want to upset me," but she also feels very withdrawn - like the walls have gone back up. I told her that I love her, and I'm here for her, and we will work this out together.

 

So, we are far from out of the woods. But with my new perspective and her new understanding and willingness to work on the real issues, I feel very hopeful that this will turn into the relationship we both want. Thank you all so much for your help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to update. Since this weekend, and all of the nice exchange of words and hope for the future, my GF seems to have turned up the control valve.

 

Tuesday was my birthday. We had standing plans to go out to dinner at 6:30, and she was going to bring a cake. I had no contact with her all day (we usually text at least once or twice) - no "happy birthday" wishes. Her first text was at 5:45, asking what dinner plans were and that she was still at work. I responded with a question mark. She said she was asking what time? I asked her if 6:30 didn't work anymore. No response, then she shows up 1/2 hour late with no cake. I know texting is a bad way to communicate, but this isn't the way you treat someone you love on their birthday.

 

Of course, we didn't make it to dinner. We argued for hours instead. She kept telling me she's trying to work on her issues. She made mistakes. I kept telling her that her actions are showing that it's getting worse. And I don't think these are mistakes. She kept trying to turn our arguments around to this being my problem. Of course, I don't let her get away with that one. Nearing the end of the night, the final blow was my birthday card. We have always written a paragraph or two when we give each other a card, rather than just signing the bottom of an otherwise devoid Hallmark symbol. As she handed me the card, she said "you aren't going to like this...I didn't write anything." That's when I knew, and I told her, nothing that happened this day was a mistake.

 

She continually asked if I was going to break up with her. She kept asking if I still loved her. She kept saying that I told her I would be patient with her. I told her I would try, but if things are going to get worse, I'm not going to stick around much longer. Is this a normal response, once an abuse victim is "outed?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...