Abu­sive part­ner needs help in a hurry

What dys­func­tional cou­ple call love is re­ally co-de­pen­dency

The Buffalo News - - WEDDINGS - – Abu­sive Mess – Stuck Mom

Dear Carolyn: I’m a mess. I’ve been with my part­ner for over four years and I’ve been emo­tion­ally abu­sive in the way that I keep break­ing up with her and then get­ting back to­gether just to break up again. I think I’ve done it at least 10 times, start­ing around eight months in.

Usu­ally she talks me into stay­ing with her, but on at least two oc­ca­sions I’ve changed my mind and asked to be taken back. It’s ter­ri­ble for her self-es­teem. Also, I am re­sent­ful to­ward her. Small things re­ally irk me, like her ob­ses­sion with child­ish things, and her at-times-poor English.

She is a beau­ti­ful, lov­ing, car­ing, sup­port­ive per­son and we share many in­ter­ests. But I have to stop my­self oc­ca­sion­ally from treat­ing her like a child. I am in my early 30s and she is mid/late 20s. I be­come cold at times and em­bar­rassed by her in pub­lic, which I feel aw­ful about.

She loves me so much – why can’t I just love her back un­con­di­tion­ally, and with the re­spect a per­son de­serves? We often both make progress in our com­mu­ni­ca­tion and un­der­stand­ing, but I feel trapped in this cy­cle of los­ing con­trol and run­ning away from the re­la­tion­ship, mak­ing up, suf­fer­ing through heal­ing to­gether and then leav­ing again when things seem to be go­ing well.

I can’t think of any way to break the cy­cle other than to leave for good, but I know she would rather I stay and try to work on my is­sues, even though I will likely hurt her again. I love her and would miss her like crazy but at the same time she drives me up the wall. Help.

When you feel – and there­fore are, for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses – un­able to stop your­self from hurt­ing some­one, then you need to get good ther­a­peu­tic care. I don’t con­sider this open to de­bate. Look up rep­utable ther­a­pists, pick some, call. To­day.

To help the process along, I would like to chal­lenge a cou­ple of as­sump­tions you’ve made:

• “She loves me so much.” She has a strong at­tach­ment to you for sure, but what you de­scribe is de­pen­dency. Hers on you, yours on her. Mis­tak­ing that for love is one of the rea­sons you’re on your fourth year of mis­ery to­gether and star­ing hope­lessly at more.

• “Why can’t I just love her back?” The “why” doesn’t mat­ter af­ter the “what” of your not lov­ing her. It’s the end of any in­quiry, not the be­gin­ning.

• “I know she would rather I stay.” Do you? Even if she is telling you that ex­plic­itly, it is a con­di­tional (and there­fore ill-ad­vised) pref­er­ence, that you’ll stay and trans­form into the part­ner she wants you to be. Since you have abun­dant proof that won’t hap­pen and zero proof it will, you can hon­estly project that you won’t meet her con­di­tions – and so rea­son­ably con­clude she doesn’t want you to stay. Not on the terms you’re able to of­fer her.

• Im­plied through­out is that her en­joy­ing, lov­ing and want­ing you are rea­sons for you to stay. No. Those would be rea­sons for her to stay. Her rea­sons govern her, and your rea­sons govern you, and any over­lap is a bound­ary is­sue.

Good is­sues for ther­apy all, by no co­in­ci­dence – es­pe­cially the last.

Dear Carolyn: My hus­band had two kids by his first wife, one with me. Our child, early 30s, is en­gaged to be mar­ried. She has had no con­tact with his older child; none of us has. His sec­ond child also only con­tacts Dad when drama oc­curs, maybe one or two times a year, caus­ing up­roar.

Our daugh­ter doesn’t want to in­vite ei­ther half sib­ling to the wed­ding. Dad is push­ing for her to in­vite the sec­ond one. I side with my daugh­ter be­cause noth­ing good ever comes from this con­tact.

What say you? She hasn’t had any con­tact with this sib­ling in prob­a­bly two to three years. For what it’s worth, this sib­ling is 15 years older.

Your daugh­ter is an adult who can in­vite, or not in­vite, any­one she wants to her wed­ding. Not just a new adult, ei­ther, but a sea­soned one – not that it changes my point.

Her de­ci­sions may come with con­se­quences, but those are for her (and her in­tended) to an­tic­i­pate, ac­cept and ab­sorb. There­fore, you are not “stuck.” You are in an ex­cel­lent po­si­tion, though, to re­mind your daugh­ter and hus­band both that she is an adult who can in­vite, or not in­vite, any­one she wants to her wed­ding, and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for any con­se­quences.

Any fur­ther dis­cus­sion of this sib­ling’s in­clu­sion is for your daugh­ter and hus­band to have be­tween them.

If you have his at­ten­tion, though, then I also rec­om­mend rec­om­mend­ing to him that he drop it. He has stated his po­si­tion clearly on a de­ci­sion that’s not his to make. It would likely serve all of you best if he rec­og­nized that by say­ing his piece, he’s done his part ap­pro­pri­ately and in full.

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