Ending a violent relationship
I have just ended an 8 year relationship. I was involved with a man that was abusive to me both physically and mentally during the entire length of our relationship. I have just recently moved (again) to my own apartment. This has been a pattern for me during our time together. I will leave him, move out, and try to go on with my life. I have even moved out of state to try and start over, but I kept going back to him.
Then last year, he asked me to marry him, and I moved in again, thinking things would change. They did not. In the back of my mind, I always knew that nothing would change. I also know that part of the reason I kept going back is my low self-esteem, and my own history of growing up in an abusive family, which contributes to my co-dependent behavior. It took me almost a year to get myself mentally ready to move out.
For some reason, it was harder this time to end this relationship then any other time. I have gone through some very major periods of serious depression, and managed to pull myself out of it, but again it was very difficult to get back on track. My ex-boyfriend is still contacting me, and wants to stay in my life, but for my own safety and mental sanity, it is not possible. He will not accept that this relationship is over, and I really don't blame him for that as I have gone back again and again over the last 8 years. I am very afraid that I will not be able to keep myself from seeing him again, and if I do, it would be the worst possible mistake I could make. (I have not seen a counselor, because of 2 reasons, I really can't afford to, and I feel very uncomfortable talking to someone I don't know about my problems, but I am writing this letter as a start.)
What can I do to keep myself from repeating my previous patterns, and going back to this destcructive relationship? Is counseling the only option I have to help keep me strong during this transition?
You know a lot about yourself. You refer to your behavior of repeating this destructive relationship pattern as "codependent behavior." You know exactly what behaviors need to change. You know that you must change these behaviors immediately. You know that you must change your behavior for good. You know that you need help to do this. That's a lot to know! It doesn't surprise me that it took 8 years to learn all that! You say, "I am writing this letter as a start," so it seems that you are already beginning to make the necessary changes. This is hopeful!
After spending so many years in this abusive relationship, I can imagine that even reaching out to an online counselor must've been hard. Looking at how it was (to write your email to Queendom) might give you an idea of what it will be like to commit further to your own health and well being. Chances are good that you will "feel very uncomfortable talking to someone I don't know," about your problems every step of the way.
You are accustomed to and familiar with physical and emotional abuse, Plus, the factors which have exacerbated the violence have not changed and have, instead, probably increased. (By that I mean that this man has not gone through a domestic violence program to deal with his own issues. If he drinks or takes drugs, he hasn't gone through drug/alcohol treatment. He has not identified and acknowledged the source of his incredible anger and pain, and gone through counseling to work through these feelings appropriately.) A decision to see him again might be worse than "the worst possible mistake," in that you could be severely injured or even die.
Domestic violence is like that. It escalates over time, so that, despite everyone's best intentions to "try one more time," terrible abuse can occur and people can get injured and even die. You are dealing with a life-and-death issue; that's how important it is for you to get whatever help you need. (Aside: Do you still feel you "can't afford" counseling?) You might look into whatever low-fee counseling is available in your area, especially at women's crisis centers. They may offer abuse-survivor groups, and you would definitely be helped by attending CoDA and other support groups. You need to allow yourself the support and encouragement of others who have faced similar fears and insecurities. But, don't waste a moment. You've been waiting for 8 years to be this brave. Go girl!
Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/