Saturday, June 5, 2010

Abusive Boyfriend Question

I receive questions all the time from individuals around the world dealing with the subject of abuse and I've decided to post some of them on my blog in order to help people understand how prevalent this is and hopefully provide some direction for others who are dealing with abuse in their relationships. I am saddened by the number of questions that come in, especially from young people in dating relationships who are putting up with violence and abusive behaviors. People who are in your lives are their by privilege, not right and if they do not treat you well, then they lose the privilege to be in your life. This is illustrated by the following question:

"I have been living with my boyfriend on and off for 3 1/2 years. He has broken up with me 4 times and the last time we broke up he ended up in prison.[4 months] When he got out he contacted me and wanted to move in right away. I wasn't ready for that, but I allowed him to move in. Since then, I have no friends and we have been evicted from our apartment that I rented for 2 years from my brother. Now, I don't talk to my family. I have been financially supporting this man for over a year now. When we got evicted it wasn't because we didn't pay rent, it was because my brother said he was tired of looking at us and my brother punched my boyfriend in the mouth. My son who is 13 & I and my boyfriend were broke and homeless for several days. His family wouldn't help us. We ended up going to another state from where we were living and staying with an old friend of mine for 3 weeks. My boyfriend has a job now and does give me the check every week but he makes sure he gets most of it spent on him and I am still paying all the bills with my money. Anytime we argue I am scared to talk and he says he doesn't tell me anything because I will question him. He also finds a way to blame my son for things that doesn't have anything to do with the argument. Just today, I called him at work and he started yelling at me telling me he would have to quit his job to make me happy and be with me. He said he didn't get much sleep last night and then he started telling me he was sorry he wasn't a _______ [like my deceased husband]so he could talk to me all the time. I always feel like I am doing everything to make him happy I even went to couples counseling with him for several months. I just don't know what to do anymore. I cry on and off all the time and I am very emotional. I know I can't afford to stay here because my bills are so much more than what I was paying my brother. I also have to travel back and forth from state to state every couple of months because my boyfriend is on probation. This has cost me so much, not to mention the long drive. When my boyfriend starts on me about my son I take up for my son , but I don't understand why he has to bring my son into the argument. He yells at me I don't do what he tells me too and he doesn't know why I can't it things through my head, when he tells me something. He says he doesn't need anyone but me, but then he gets calls from people at work. I don't know what to do anymore."

There are several things here that should be mentioned as red flags. This individual didn't pay attention to herself and allowed this person to move back in with her when she didn't really want to do that. The other thing that stands out is that she has moved into a position of financial support for this individual and yet is expecting him to take care of her. The two are diametrically opposed. Takers are not givers. Abusers like this prey upon a woman's nurturing and care giving side. Women need to be wise in these kinds of situations and not move into taking care of someone who is able to take care of themselves. If they do, then then without an agreement as to when the "help" will end, they find themselves being taken advantage of as well as being abused. When money enters into a relationship between friends and/or family, it creates what is a called a dual relationship. Dual relationships occur when one type of relationship overlaps with another type of relationship. In this case it would be a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship that is overlaid by a debtor/creditor type of relationship. How do these individuals know, without specific agreements and expectations, which relationship is being engaged in at the time? The boyfriend might be speaking to the girlfriend and expecting mercy from his girlfriend and the girlfriend is looking at him as a debtor and expecting him to pay his bill.

As a counselor, it is much easier to see. If I have a counselor/client relationship with an employee, then how does that employee know who s/he is talking to at any specific time? How difficult would it be for you, as my employee, to discuss things in the counseling session that might effect how I see you as an employee and how difficult might it be for me to know specific things about you, the client/employee, such as if you have a theft problem that you want to work on and not have that effect my employer/employee relationship with you? It would be difficult. Human beings don't tend to compartmentalize things that well.

When we lose boundaries with one another, we move into different levels of relationship that most of the time the people aren't ready for. Our society as a whole is losing its ability to see boundaries, treat each other with respect and look at each other as valuable. When that happens, people move into these types of relationships expecting something other than what they are bound to get.

Here was my answer to this individual:

"I am so sorry to hear that you are in such a tough situation. Emotional and verbal abuse are very difficult to defend against and it sounds as though he is somewhat controlling as well. This is a bad combination and it doesn't allow anyone in the relationship to thrive and grow as they should.

You said that you don't know what to do anymore, which I assume is asking me for some direction as to your next course of action. Basically, there are only a few options at your fingertips, the most important one being to lay down appropriate boundaries and enforce them. Your boyfriend made the decision to do whatever he did to end up in prison and he has to accept the consequences. That means if you don't have the money to go to Louisiana to see him, he either needs to send you the money to come or you don't go. If he treats you inappropriately, you need to put boundaries in place that keep him from doing that and if he doesn't respect them, then you remove yourself from the situation. You are not responsible for his behavior or his responses and if he is not able to treat you with respect or honor, then he doesn't get the privilege of being in your really is as simple as that. Abusers can only abuse if they have a victim who allows them to do that.

Another option would be to engage in couples counseling although I realize that you have already gone down that road. Since this was unsuccessful, that should tell you something about his ability to become what is needed in this relationship. One person cannot work on a relationship.

There are several red flags here, which are also boundaries that need to be enforced. First is the financial. You have placed yourself in a position with this man that you are taking care of him financially and then expecting him to give back to you. When a person engages in financial support of another person, one they are not married to especially, it is for the express reason of giving them a hand back up into a position of being able to take care of themselves. It is not designed to be long term and there should be agreements about it, such as how much support is needed, whether the money will be paid back or not and over what period of time the support lasts. There should be a reasonable amount of time given and when that boundary is reached, the support ends. Both parties know the time frame.

It is never advisable to get into financial debt or give loans to family or friends...that is what is called engaging in a dual relationship and those relationships have built in problems that take great maturity and understanding to overcome. In this situation you are providing financial support and also have the privilege of being abused as well. What do you see wrong with that picture?

The next red flag is that you didn't value yourself enough to follow the instinct you had in not letting this person move back in with you. Abusive relationships have the side effect of eroding your confidence level in yourself away, resulting in this kind of behavior. That alone is a reason to stay out of them.

In closing, I want to tell you that his issues, his ability to be happy or not happy have nothing to do with you. If he isn't happy, there are choices that he can make in his own life to rectify that problem. You have no control over that aspect of his life, but you have control of it in your own. Abusers will blame, ridicule and define you in ways that are very negative rather than take responsibility for their own actions and reactions. You don't have to allow this kind of behavior around you or your son.

Please go to my website , go to Library and under the category of Abuse, download the article on the "Cycle of Domestic Violence". You may see some things in that cycle that are familiar to you."

No comments: