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Relationship hijacked by traumatized client of more than 10 years


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I was in a relationship with a woman 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. 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.

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