I have been going out with my girlfriend (She’s 23, I’m 29 btw) for 6 months now. And she is such a smiley, happy, caring and loving person.
She told me right at the start of our relationship that, she was abused by her dad when she was younger and has gone through some bad relationships in the past. She said that subconsciously she hates men, and that she would probably start to push me away.
She didn’t start to push me away until about a month into our relationship, and it comes in various different forms and phases. Sometimes she pushes me away everyday, sometimes not at all for about a week. When she pushes me away, it’s not so much by what she says, but by the way that she talks and acts. She doesn't notice it when she does, but to me it is so obvious that she isn’t being herself. It feels as if she throws up barriers and talks to me like I’m not even her boyfriend. It’s such a weird feeling, but it’s like she just severs our connection and I don’t even recognise her!
That in itself isn't the bad bit. Obviously I get pushed away by this, and it affects me. I have gone through different ways of dealing with it, through telling her straight away, to just walking away. It still bothers me, but no-where near as much as it used to.
Something always gets said, and when it does is where the problems start. She doesn't blow up straight away, but it’s like something changes inside her. I can actually see in her eyes, its like she switches off, and it starts her down the path of getting annoyed then angry and depressed.
I never shout at her about pushing me away, as I know that it isn’t her fault, but she gets so annoyed at me and twists everything I say, over exaggerates and accuses me of so many things. Basically starting a massive argument and trying to turn everything back round on to me. (We have talked about this, and it’s because when she’s like that she only sees the bad, and even little things remind her of her past relationships)
Sometimes I argue back with her, and that is the worst thing I can possibly do, as that just makes her worse! The best thing I can do, is to keep my calm, express what I think is wrong and then just leave her to it, but sometimes it’s not that easy :)
Afterwards she gets really down and I have to spend a lot of time, apologising for arguing and telling her that everything is getting better and just making her feel better about herself. In the end, she always apologises for behaving like she has.
Things have got so much better, in the 5 months that this has happened, and she has even caught herself a few times. She once started having a go at me for no reason at all, saying lots of bad things about me, so I just hugged her and wouldn’t let go, and she snapped out of it, and realised what she had done. She says that at the time it always ‘Feels’ like I’m having a go at her, even though she knows I’m not. She has also said that it feels likes she’s watching herself have a go at me, trying not to.
All that said, she loves me even more now, and we do talk a lot about all of this, and she can be really understanding and accepting of how hard it is on me. We love each other so much, and are both prepared to do whatever it takes.
I’m just wondering if anyone else has experienced anything like this, or has any tips, for either me or my girlfriend on how to cope with all of this, and what is the best way to tackle it?
I commend you for trying to stay and help her through these "episodes", however, I also believe that if she doesn't get help and therapy this relationship will not last. The ball is in her court...she knows what she's doing is wrong but yet she hasn't gotten the help she needs. She would rather you "prove" your love for her...ie: staying around and putting up with it. Think about it...this isn't a great way to live. Walking on eggshells and this is only after 6 mths! Imagine 6 yrs! What a rollercoaster.
With all that said...if it were me I would set some kind of timeline---
I would beg her to seek the help she needs because without it she will be miserable the rest of her life. If she is unwilling to do what needs to be done to get better then I think I would be thinking of other options. Please understand relationships are very hard to deal with under the best conditions and to me this is a very difficult situation. Good luck.
Your girlfriend is still living like a victim, even though she's an adult now. IMO she needs to see a therapist/counsellor and learn how to overcome that. There are many people who go through abuse (sexual, physical, etc.) as children, and if they are truly willing to deal with it constructively, they can/do go on to live "normal" lives where they aren't exploding on a daily basis because of their past. I'm not trying to say it's easy - but your girlfriend needs help to realize that she has more choices than to (as green eyed lady said) make you "prove" your love by tolerating verbally abusive behavior.
The previous posters have covered some excellent points. Be supportive but do NOT accept unreasonable behavior. That will encourage her to continue living like a victim instead of taking charge of these issues from her past. I also agree that your relationship will either be set to fall apart, or to be very painful. If you plan on having a family with this girl, do you want your kids to see that (for some reason) mommy is entitled to put daddy down? Abuse is a terrible thing because it has this way of staying in families for generations through responsive behaviors like these. That's why intervention is so important.
Try being firm on a timeline to find a good counsellor, but don't be too rigid on seeing measureable improvement. Counselling takes time to wear down a person's walls and slowly help them re-construct. If your girlfriend has never sought counselling to address this before, I imagine it will take at least a year or two for real changes to happen.
As her boyfriend, I think all you can do is tell her that you're concerned and are willing to support her through getting help. It's ultimately her choice to take the next step. Abuse or not, she is still an adult who is responsible for her actions and how she treats you.
Cheers for the replies. Few things that spring to mind...
She hasn't had any type of therapy at all, i have mentioned it in the past to her, but she always seemed very reluctant to see anybody. She told me last week that she doesnt really remember much of what happened to her, and reckons that her way of coping was to block out the memories of what happened, but she knows that worse things probably happened than she remembered. The reason she doesnt want to see anyone is because it will probably uncover these memories that she has buried, and she really doesnt want to go through that at all :(
She has also said to me before that she spent quite a few years feeling bad about herslelf, and blaming herself for what happened and got very depressed about it (not leaving the house for months), and spent a lot of time drinking. But she said, something changed in her, that she realised she could either behave like a victim or not, and she chose not to be a victim.
When she is normal, and not depressed/pushing me away, she is very aware of what she does, and is extremely appologetic and caring towards me. She knows what she is doing and is really trying to fix it herself.
All of this has got a lot better, and she doesnt push me away as much, and when she does, she comes back round a lot quicker.Both of us feel that our relationship is getting stronger because of this, and we are becoming even more closer to each other that we thought possible. We are however both just tired of this and really dont want it to continue any longer, cause it is dragging us both down.
At the risk of sounding pretentious... a broken bone doesn't heal if you keep trying to use it. Giving it lots of rest sometimes isn't enough either. Some things only heal when someone skillful goes in and re-sets the broken parts. That way not only will the bone heal, but it will be useful again. I think the hearts of abuse victims work a lot like this. It may be painful and scary to have that broken limb looked at, prodded, even broken again, but it's short-term pain for long-term gain. The triumph of standing straight one day free of pain, in the end, far outweighs the grievances that healing sometimes entails.
Besides, a good counsellor won't be asking your girlfriend to talk about all the nitty gritty details. It won't be a play-by-play recollection of what happened. A good counsellor will certainly ask questions to get a picture of what happened, but will be far more focussed on how your girlfriend copes with those memories, rather than the memories themselves.
As long as your girlfriend is still living in fear of her childhood experiences, then to some extent, she is still living like a victim. "I'm sorry for getting mad at you again" is probably pretty analogous to "I'm sorry terrible things happened to me that make me act this way." That's still victimspeak. Even though she says she's working on it, which in all honesty I believe she is trying anything she can think of alone to better handle her emotions, some things just can't be done alone. For some people there's just too much fear and shame in asking to real help. Your girlfriend's efforts obviously aren't resolving the problems - they're modifying the frequency and duration of her outbursts, but they're not resolving them. Believe it or not, as a victim of abuse, your girlfriend doesn't have to live like a ticking emotional timebomb for the rest of her life. But as I said before, it's up to her to pro-actively do something about it. Just my (elaborate) two cents.
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