dear sharideth – i think i was dating an abuser

Dear Sharideth,

I just came out of an abusive relationship.  I didn’t really think of it as actually abusive until I read this article and identified my situation in all of it.

Psychology Today: Are You Dating An Abuser?

I did know it wasn’t healthy.  We have been together off and on for three years and I love him, but when things were bad, things were really bad.  The final straw was that he cheated on me and is now trying to make me feel guilty for his actions.  Like it’s somehow my fault or just the result of my flaws in the relationship.

We are still in communication.  He texts me constantly and I’m conflicted because I still care about him.  There’s things I feel I need him to know, but he either can’t understand or is refusing not to and I don’t think I can let it go until I get that closure from him.

Any help you can give me would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Hurting and Abused?

dear HAB,

the article you sent me is a good one.  the information is accurate and well organized.  it is also written by professionals, which i am not; a point i really need to make clear to you and that i need you to understand before you read any further, because i’m going to first and foremost recommend you see a counselor.  i will privately help you find one in your area, but i believe there are probably things you need to talk to someone about that are beyond me.

what i can help with is the break up and how to handle yourself now that the relationship is over.  i’ve already written a couple of different break up blogs*, but i think i need to revamp some of what i’ve said to better suit the seriousness of your situation.  here’s are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself until you can get sorted out.

1.  come to terms with it being over – if the relationship truly fell in the category of abusive, you need to let it go.  stop the back and forth.  you will be unable to move on in any other way until you accept this and define that boundary for yourself.  he has no say in whether it’s done.  that is solely up to you.  it only takes one person to cut it off and that’s going to have to be you.

2.  block him from communication – he knows what buttons to push to get at you and he’s using all of them.  the easiest way for that to stop is to cut off his access to you.  block him from your phone.  delete him from Facebook and set your privacy to kill.  i understand that your feelings that still linger for him are telling you not to do this, but feelings lie to us all the time about what’s good for us.

3.  do not seek out information about him – no more asking his friends where he is or stalking his Facebook page.  the urge to do so can be overwhelming, but you’re going to have to fight it.  he will find out you’re still checking on him and find a way to use that against you.

4.  find your own closure – he won’t give that to you.  even if he would, he can’t.  that has to come from you.  you make your own stops and starts.  no one else should ever be given that kind of power over you.  it takes your choices away from you.  you are the only one telling yourself you “can’t” move on until you somehow get him to give you whatever it is you think you need.  your “can’t” is really a “won’t” and you need to take responsibility for your own future.  it’s empowering and freeing.

5.  find a support group – surround yourself with people you trust to look out for what’s best for you even if you don’t like what they say.  maybe especially if you don’t like what they say.  friends who will say “no” for you when you feel too weak to do it yourself.  you already know who they are, so let them lend their strength.

above all else, look for the hope of a new day.  keep your eyes focused on what’s before you instead of what is behind and fight your way to freedom.  a half step is still progress, so don’t feel discouraged when things move slow.  any move forward is a win.

has anybody been through this and come out the other side?  still heading to the other side?  i’d like to hear your story.

any other encouragement or advice for our friend?

i would encourage anyone who thinks you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship to read the Psychology Today article with as much objectivity as you can muster.  if you see yourself in even part of it, talk to someone you trust who is wise and objective.

*other break up stuff:

how to survive a break up

how to get over her

there’s nothing worse than a bad break up

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28 comments on “dear sharideth – i think i was dating an abuser

  1. Alise says:

    I highly recommend the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. Someone close to me is in an abusive relationship & this book has helped me understand things that I don’t really get about it. I think it might help give some insight in helping to avoid this kind of relationship in the future.

    Much love to you as you sort through this.

    • thanks, Alise. i depend on you for the quality resources.

    • That’s great advice on a great resource. This book has segments written as if spoken directly to a women who is trying to figure out if she has been abused. There are also many online resources such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (http://www.ncadv.org/). Leaving an abuser is often the most dangerous time.

      It’s hard to severe all ties with someone you once loved. It’s hard to accept that the issues are that of the abuser and not your own. There is NOTHING you can do to change them and the desire to change an abuser is a large part of the cycle. Take care of yourself and remember: You deserve to be truly loved.

  2. kp says:

    The best advice is to leave it cut and dry, or off and on for three years turns into 8 years. Trust me, I KNOW. You’re going to start remembering more good times than bad when you look back, and you have to remind yourself of the bad. That you are not being treated the way a person deserves to be treated. Regardless of how much you care for this person, or how much their life is messed up and they are misunderstood, if they respected you, or knew how to respect themselves, they wouldn’t treat you like that.

    Please be one of the people who beats the cycle. We are rare, and it is so worth it.

  3. Wonder_aloud says:

    Block him from your cellphone *sounds* easy, but I’ve yet to actually figure out *how*.

    • all cell phones have a number blocking function. you might have to call your carrier to help you out or google it for your model. it usually pretty easy and only take a second.

      once you do it, you won’t even know if he tries to contact you. very liberating.

      • Wonder_aloud says:

        If anyone has any clue how to block it on an iPhone. I’d appreciate it. The only thing I’m finding online is that I’ll have to call AT&T and have them put parental controls on my phone for $5 a month.

  4. MichelleK41 says:

    I have a friend who removes or blocks past dates from her cell, but yet she still has the numbers memorized and utilizes them. Block and remove is a good start, but you will also have to fight the urge to make the call yourself. I’d def. seek counseling, nothing wrong with asking for help, counseling did wonderful things for me. Counseling and go cold turkey, cut him off completely on his end and yours.

  5. Amen to everything said above….also please please please please do not jump into a new relationship to distract you or ease the pain or quell the fear of being alone. Until you learn to love and respect yourself and develop personal boundaries (yay, counseling!), no matter how hard you try, the loser-abusers will keep weaseling into your life.

  6. susan says:

    I visibly blanched when I read this one. And then the PT article…oh boy that was scary and confronting.
    I’m that woman. I’ve been with that man. several times.
    I’ve done counselling and plenty of it. I consider myself smart and emotionally literate.
    And so from hard won experience I would suggest two things –
    1. make a list of all the reasons why that person is bad for you. a physical list. and keep it handy. every time you get the urge to text or FB stalk…or get a text from him…pull it out. remind yourself, daily, why you are no longer in a relationship with him.
    2. enlist the help of a trusted friend or two to be your conscience pokers (accountability partners for those who want a more spiritual term). Ask them to check in with you often about this.

    As for counselling and blocking numbers etc. No brainers.

    Good wishes. this can be a hard road and not always a straight one. but i beleive it is possible to identify and avoid these people. You have to trust in yourself first though, before you can ever be ready to put trust in someone else.

    I love the bit in that article:
    The problem is not that you attract only resentful, angry, or abusive suitors; it’s that, by and large, you have not been receptive to the gentler, more respectful men you also attract. This is not due to your temperament or personality; it’s a normal defensive reaction. After you’ve been hurt, of course you’ll put up subtle barriers for self-protection. Non-abusive men will recognize and respect those barriers

    I was recently given this advice by the husband of one of my CP’s and it turned on a light for me.

  7. Jenn says:

    I opted to change my cell number and I am very judicial with who gets that number.
    I shut down my blogs – started new ones and decided to keep my name off as much as I could.
    I took myself off the Internet for a while.
    I blocked him from Facebook and everything else I wanted to keep.
    I also made the situation clear with my friends – they could be his friend but he was abusive and I don’t want any contact from him – in the end he ended up breaking communication with anyone who would still be my friend.
    And I got help – therapy was really helped me walk through the rest – because with all those changes he did manage to get a hold of me about 4 months after we broke up and while it rattled me I was able to stand my ground.

  8. SK says:

    Wow everyone has given some amazing advice here.

    I was in a relationship like this a few years ago – seems like a lifetime ago now. The biggest things that helped me were cutting off all communication/FB stalking/ANY FORM OF CONTACT no matter what he does to try & provoke you, and learning to love myself and to be comfortable by myself. If you can’t love yourself, then you can’t love someone else or allow someone else to love you the way you deserve. It’s a difficult journey but SO worth it.

  9. I would tack a note onto the part about closure. If he’s an abuser, and he recognizes you’re waiting for closure, he will be absolutely certain he never gives it to you because that keeps you in his control even if you’re not present with him. He’ll actively resist seeing or understanding what you want him to see if that keeps you thinking about him and operating your life in reaction to him. He’ll alternate moments that make you think you’re getting through to him with moments that rip your heart apart, to keep you on the hook. Abusers are controllers. Motivations and methods vary but control is at the heart of abuse. So you need to take the hook out yourself, because he won’t as long as he thinks he can reel you back in.

    Realize that the only outcome you are responsible for in this situation is yours. Not his. You’re not responsible to fix him, to help him, to educate him, to save him, or even to punish him. You’re not in a position to do any of those. Do what gets you to safety and on the road to a healthy recovery. Leave him responsible for his own outcome. You can’t make it happen and you can’t hold yourself hostage waiting for it.

    • Jenn says:

      Amen to this – please understand that you can when you’re ready to, forgive him without ever needing to talk to him or reconcile. There will be people who will tell you that you need to, or it’s the “Christian” thing to do – please do not listen to them.

      • Agreed. Forgiving someone and putting yourself into danger are two different things. Forgiveness is about not holding a grudge or hatred within yourself and allowing it to fester. It’s about allowing God to clean up what goes on inside you in reaction to the person and the situation. Forgive them, pray that God will work in their lives and protect others from them, but be wise.

        I won’t say God will never call you to reach out to an abuser, but it had best be something that’s a direct call from Him to you that you’ve vetted for consistency with His will and His Word not only that you should do it but HOW you should go about it. It should be a matter of careful prayer not only before but during. Even there, it is never about you fixing the abuser. You can’t, and you aren’t meant to do so. No human being can fix a person who doesn’t want to be fixed or isn’t willing to do what’s necessary to be fixed.

  10. jennw2ns says:

    Hooo boy. Interesting timing.

    The two men I dated before the man I am going to marry next week were both abusers. The second was easy to label because he started into the abuse almost immediately. “We” only lasted a month. (Also, warning signs when you–perhaps foolishly–admit to having codependent tendencies and the guy says, “Oh, good” and is not being ironic.)

    The first guy was also my first relationship (at the ripe old age of 36) and I really loved him and we did the on-and-off thing for 3-4 years, too. I think one of the things that’s so tough about cutting these types of relationships off is that we feel that if we admit we’re being emotionally abused, we’re admitting this one we love is a “bad person.” At least, that’s how it is/was for me. And doing that seems to discount all the good things we know about this person (sometimes it feels like privileged information, because not everybody else realises these good things about them), as well as implying that we have faulty love-gauges or something. I think we should be able to admit abuse while also maintaining that the one we love is deeply wounded and perhaps not capable of a healthy relationship, but not necessarily evil, and that the fact that we love him is not actually a sign that there is something wrong with us.

    The other tough thing came in my case with the fact that I cut off the “relationship” finally and eventually started dating other people, but we tried to remain “friends.” Evidently his definition of “friends” was a little different than mine, and when I finally did start dating my now-fiance seriously, my ex and I had a really difficult, terrible final conversation. This should have brought closure, but in fact it just left me feeling guilty for a relationship I had been out of for at least a year. Everybody above is right–no one external to me should have such control over my own emotions. I’ve been getting very excited about my upcoming marriage and I deeply love my (very respectful) fiance, but today I found my emotions turned topsy turvy again when the ex wrote me a rather hostile email. In fairness, he hasn’t bothered me since our falling out, but I don’t think his timing on this one was accidental. Thankfully, although it did elicit a few tears, I am “moved on” enough that I can ultimately let it go. But I wish I would have cut all contact years ago.

    Realistically, no matter how much my husband and I love each other and grow together, I suspect there will always be a tiny part of me that still has feelings for the first guy–because he was the first guy. But if I could do any of this over again I would say what has been said a few times above, which is: cold turkey. Don’t pretend you can still be friends. Delete all that stuff that’s deletable. Unfriend. No more emails. I think particularly for a Christian who has the hope of a God who can enact the impossible, it’s difficult to give up hope in difficult people. But sometimes we just need to turn them over to God completely and realise it’s not our battle.

  11. iedarla says:

    The advice you are receiving here is sound and accurate. There is nothing for me to add other than You will NEVER have closure from him. He will just tell you what YOU want to hear in order to continue controlling the situation. Cut him off…. Period!

  12. […] dear sharideth – i think i was dating an abuser […]

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