Today Christine answers a letter that comes from women who has been in a 2-year, emotionally abusive relationship wondering if it is time to draw a line with her lover and just how she should go about doing that….
Where do you draw the line between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one? Am I in an emotionally abusive relationship? I have been with a girl for 2 years. She wasn't my first girlfriend but she was the first girl I slept with, the first girl I lasted longer than a few months with, the first girl I actually planned a future together with.
Over those 2 years, we broke up about twenty times. Whenever we fight, she never lets me finish a sentence. She would call me two-faced and hypocritical beyond reason and when I try to explain or argue calmly, she calls me defensive and justifying of my actions, urging me to admit my wrongs. She gets angry when I cry, saying that I make her feel guilty. She doesn't touch me She says I victimize myself and I always end up apologizing and begging for her to stop hurting me.
After these fights, she always comes back to me. She is sweet and apologetic, she plans a dinner or brings me flowers. She would touch me and hold me and kiss me. She would do everything I wished she'd done before and I'd really feel the love.
She gave me an ultimatum between my family and her and I chose my family. We have not been talking since.
She is a very jealous person. I have realized how much I had neglected my friends because of the fact that she acts upset when I spend spare time with anyone else but her.
I have changed the way I dress. I used to be very careless and messy but as she would stop talking to me when she notices that I am careless or messy. One moment she will be all over me and holding my hand and talking to me happily - the other she would be ignoring me and talking to her friends.
She says that if we stay broken up, she does not want to be my friend. She rang yesterday, saying that she still had feelings for me, and I know that I do as well. Logically, I know that in many ways we are incompatible. But in my heart, I hope that if I try hard enough, if I try harder, maybe I can make this work. Or should I say goodbye to this relationship? I feel as though I could never care for someone more than I cared for her, I fear that I would look for her in every other woman I might meet.
On the Edge
Dear On the Edge,
In his book, "The Road Less Traveled," psychiatrist M. Scott Peck defines love as; "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or an other's spiritual growth." With this definition in mind, its hard to conceive that someone who is so emotionally abusive can also claim to love you at the same time. This woman, despite caring about you I'm sure, is emotionally abusing you, no question, and it's is a very confusing and stressful situation to be in.
I've been in your position before so I know how hard it is to confuse what feels like loving attention with controlling tactics. For me it was important to understand that all the endless arguments, the hot and cold behavior and the constant criticism, had nothing to do with me but were my partner's problems and that there was nothing I could do to change the relationship, no matter how hard I tried.
It sounds like your partner has experienced a lot of pain in her life that she is having a hard time processing. It sounds like she needs a lot of attention, a lot of reassurance and a lot of control over things in order to make her feel secure. It also sounds like she is seeking all these things in her interaction with you. She needs you to dress and act in the ways that she thinks make you look like a presentable partner for her. She needs you to ignore your own social and family life in order to be available at her whim. She needs you to stop expressing your true thoughts and feelings so she can believe that how she treats you isn't hurtful or abusive. When she doesn't let you finish your thoughts, when she insists you are victimizing yourself when you cry and when she is so quick to criticize and call you a hypocrite, she is avoiding changing her own behavior or facing her own pain and taking it out on you.
It is so difficult to let go of our first relationships. The first women we fall for often come to define our sexuality and it's a pivotal relationship in our lives. Let this girl be the one who you began to explore your sexuality with and more importantly, let her be the one who began to teach you that you deserve to be loved and loved truly. But first, you'll have to let her go so you can heal the wounds she's inflicted and get on to bigger and truer love.