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Relationships and Dating Ask here for advice on dates, break-ups and other relationship concerns.

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separated in an abusive relationship - September 15th 2020, 04:56 AM

I just broke up with my girlfriend of over a year. The reason I did it is because a lot of her mental issues would get vented at me. She has depression, an eating disorder, anxiety, and what she describes as "emotional dysregulation"- emotional reactions that can tend to be pretty extreme or aggressive. I will say that 90% of our relationship was great- but 10% of it consisted of her lashing out at me, usually when I didn't deserve it.
Recently, this manifested in her cussing me out over text while I was having a good day and she wasn't. She said, "I f*cking hate you" out of nowhere just because I posted a picture of me on the beach. I had no idea what was going on, but instead of talking to me, she kept freaking out and refusing to tell me what was wrong.
Keep in mind, stuff like this has happened before, but never this bad. I can usually brush it off. I'll just accept that she has issues and calm her down. But this time really hurt and I finally saw this for what it was- a cycle of emotional abuse. It's not exactly the worst abuse ever, but it still counts, and I was going to leave before it got worse.
The breakup wasn't great. In spite of those freakouts, this girl loves me and I know it. And I love her too. And here's the thing: if she had given me the apology the day before that she gave me after I said we were over, I wouldnt have broken up with her. She typically just made excuses the other times and she realized she crossed the line. She also had a treatment plan ready and admitted that she was being abusive to me. If she had done all that over the phone the day before, I wouldn't have broken up with her. I know that it can be a part of the cycle of abuse for a partner to break down and apologize before falling back into abusive habits, so I accepted a bargain that she begged for: we'd break up for six months (I originally said a year) and she'd have to be treated and able to treat me better at the end of that for me to reconsider. She also said that I could date other people if I wanted to. I understand that its not easy and she might not be 100% by that time, but she promised with everything she had that she would be better and win me back. I'd never seen her actually motivated to get treatment at any other time during our relationship when it was just for herself, so maybe this time would be different.

If you read this whole thing, bravo. Do you think this was a good idea? It's day 2 and I miss her already. I hope she can fix this.
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Re: separated in an abusive relationship - September 15th 2020, 01:22 PM

Hi Robert,

Thank you so much for reaching out.

As much as people with mental health conditions need our care and sympathy, we definitely cannot underestimate the toll it takes on those who are close-by (e.g. close friends, romantic partners, family, etc.). The past year must definitely have been an overwhelming time for you. It's nice to know that you have had some great times with her; I'm sure she cherishes them too.

From your description of things, it appears that whatever recently happened was perhaps for the best, for both you and her. Yes, it has been an emotional rollercoaster, but it seems to have culminated in your girlfriend finally deciding to seek treatment properly and in you getting some personal space. Sometimes, relationships need a break. There are many couples out there who go on a "hiatus" of sorts where they take a break of a few months to sort out things in their own lives before getting back together with the same person. It's something people probably don't talk about much, but it is necessary in many relationships.

It is important that your girlfriend is getting treated, and we can be hopeful that her situation improves in 6 months' time. It is not unexpected to think that her rather abusive behaviour stems from her underlying mental health issues, so once she progresses with her treatment, she might become a different person and treat you better.

In the coming six months, I think you could take the time to unwind from the relationship. No doubt you miss her, but take this time to divert your mind to other pursuits and give your own mind a break. If you both have agreed to still be in touch over the next six months, I think it would be very nice if you could check in on her progress every once in a while to see how she is progressing with her treatment. She will definitely appreciate your care and be motivated to work hard on recovering.

My ex-best friend had depression and possibly bipolar disorder (I don't know how far she has recovered because I haven't been in touch with her at all). In the time we were friends, she was incredibly toxic, possibly because of those underlying conditions. I got roped in to so many of her arguments with people whom I was close to; which unnecessarily ruined my relationships with those people. She created a huge fiasco in my college, which might have landed me in huge trouble (but luckily got averted somehow) because I was brainwashed into listening to only her side of the story. She distanced me from other people and only had negative things to speak. My life was peaceful before I became friends with her, but all of a sudden it became so complicated. So, for my own sake, I distanced myself from her. I didn't want to tell her on the face that she had ruined my peace of mind because I knew she wouldn't take it well, so I started giving her the cold shoulder. After that, I got the chance to mend my relationships with those people with whom it had been broken. I managed to get my life back on track and things became better again. Looking back, it was perhaps quite selfish of me to have "ditched" her when I knew that she had mental health issues. But at the same time, I knew I was being unfair to myself if I kept being by her side. The reality is, sometimes we have to act in a way that is best for us. In your case, it appears that your decision to put a break in your relationship benefits your girl too, so let's be optimistic

Stay strong, I can imagine that this must be such a confusing and tough time, but better days will come. They always do, because it's always darkest before dawn

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
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Re: separated in an abusive relationship - September 15th 2020, 10:59 PM

Mallika offered some great advice, I just want to add a couple of things. Often someone with abusive behavior, especially if they have mental health struggles, is at least somewhat codependent. Based on a couple of things you said I think that might be the case here. I want to stress that if this is going to work you're going to have to stop being codependent on one another. You need to have very, very firm boundaries with her.

Honestly I think you should go a short period of time with no contact or minimal communication in order to break that strong hold, but that's just me. I just know it can kind of be like a drug; you feel like you NEED your partner and nothing is okay without them. That cannot be the case or this won't work. You seem pretty stable on your end but this is something she has to understand, and even though you're solid you need to make sure she is too.

I want to say one more thing and I am debating how to say it, but I am going to try. I believe, based on personal experience, that the future of your relationship cannot be the only thing that motivates her to get better. The reason I'm hesitant to say this is because sometimes having an external goal or motivator does cause people to make great changes that do sometimes last. But relationships are not always stable, and maybe you don't want to hear it, but they do end. Even if this is your happily after ever and y'all stick to it, when tough times happen she might revert to old behavior patterns because the foundation isn't solid. She needs to be doing this, to some degree, for herself. That is the only way this will truly work out in the end. She has to want to change not just for y'all's sake, but for her own joy and stability.

She probably won't be perfect because new patterns of behavior take time and continuous repetition, but I hope that in six months y'all are able to come back together as healthier, stable people with a good, solid foundation for your relationship. Good luck.
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Re: separated in an abusive relationship - September 16th 2020, 10:47 AM

I don't see what you did was bad. You love her and she loves you, as you've said. However, what she was doing wasn't fair on you. She knew she was doing wrong yet couldn't help stop herself from doing it. I think the distance between the two of you will help both you and her. She can focus on getting the help she needs, and perhaps an 'official' goal to work towards (getting back together with you) and you can have time apart to be free of her behaviour.

Sometimes two people have to be apart in order to be drawn closer together.

Life is for living, not for losing.
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