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-   -   My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope (https://www.healthboards.com/boards/abuse-support/1049697-my-gf-needs-recover-past-emotional-abuse-i-dont-know-how-cope.html)

scott316 06-22-2020 07:26 AM

My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
My friend and I met online at the beginning of the year and have been dating for four months and counting. Before COVID-19 hit, we were seeing each other multiple times a week after work, spending hours at a time together. We both realized we cared deeply for each other, and to bond seemed to grow quickly (very quickly for me).

I say friend, however, as we have agreed to take a step back to friends; however, we also made it clear that this wasn't because we wanted to, but because she realized she wasn't ready for a relationship yet due to unresolved emotional pain from her past relationship (emotionally abusive ex). She has been out of her past relationship for over a year, but did not realize the extent of the lingering effects until she finally met someone (me) with whom she connected and wanted a relationship. She realized she needed to deal with this pain first, as it was blocking her ability to emotionally commit to a relationship, the thought makes her sick and causes her to go emotionally numb. She said she needs to work through this pain, and find the person she used to be, before she will be able to open up to me and be able to allow herself to care for me like I do her.

The above happened about three and a half months into our relationship. During that time I connected with her to an extreme I never expected. The time apart (at first due to covid limiting our meetings to only two since the shutdown started, and then to the above step back) made me feel more confident that I wanted to be with her, rather than grow doubts or make me feel ready to walk away.

I told her how I felt, and she made it clear that she still cares about me, but her emotions shut down when she tries to think about perusing more. This is why she needs to work through her pain. She said she understands if I would want to date other people, even though it would hurt to lose me, as she doesn't feel right making me wait. I told her I wanted to wait as long as I could, as I truly believe this was the relationship I was searching for; I feel like it is early to say this, but I feel like I love her.

I know she is trying hard to work through things, and she has sought out professional help to guide her, but I'm afraid of how long the healing process will be. She's expressed her intentions to see each other as friends, but so far no dates have been set to meet each other. We promised each other that if either one of us felt our feelings have changed (i.e.: we don't see a relationship in our future) we would tell the other immediately. We've talked every day via text since day one and continue to do so, with occasional phone calls mixed in (about once a week on average, I let her initiate when she feels comfortable). I don't want to push and cause her extra stress, especially as she made it clear she needs to work through this pain herself.

It would be easier on me to get through this if we kept seeing each other regularly (as friends, no relationship stuff). I'm a timid person by nature, and usually need to be led forward in a relationship anyway (not the stereotypical pushy guy), so I have no problems taking it slow. I would also hope that seeing each other regularly would help us figure out if our feelings for each other are meant to be more than just friends, without having to enter the complexities of a relationship. However, it seems like this may be slow in coming. I think her feelings are not letting her separate me from a potential boyfriend, even though we made promises to keep things as friends (and she recognizes that I never push her).

I know I want to support her through this, and I know I don't want to lose any chance we may have to be together. I know that for a fact. However, that doesn't make this easier on me. I wake up every morning feeling a pain in my chest, I just miss her so badly. Some days it is so bad I cry, which is not something that I'm used to, I'm not usually this emotional. I think about her every minute of the day. At my best I have faith it will work out and I can function. At my worst I have anxiety that keeps me from focusing on anything other than her and the "what if" scenarios.

I've expressed how I feel about her, and that this is hard on me, but I have not told her the extent of it. I've tried to express some of it so maybe we can work out something, but she takes it hard on herself and says she feels bad for what she is doing to me. I don't want her to feel that, as it isn't her fault (her abusive ex is the only one at fault here). I want her to focus on healing.

I'm here looking for advice on how I can handle this. Hoping that there are those of you who have experienced this from either my side or hers, and can share advice on how to approach this in a way that is healthiest for her, but also makes things easier on me.
- How can I try to support her through this, without her feeling like she is not doing it herself? I always make myself available when she wants to talk/vent/etc., and try to be just a good listener which seems to help, but are there other ways?
- How can I manage my emotional stress while waiting? Especially since the unknown time frame terrifies me, along with the fear she'll change her mind about how she feels about me during the healing process.
- Is there a way I can express my feelings to her, and how important seeing her is, without upsetting her? Or should I just continue to let her guide the way on this? I feel like letting her lead is best, but it is hard.
- I know this probably can't be answered, but is there a time frame I should prepare myself for here?

It's been over a month since we last met in person, and that last meeting we parted ways not knowing it would be the last time we saw each other for over a month. I care about her deeply and am looking for ways to manage my emotional pain and stress, while still being there for her and giving her time, as I understand that this is even harder on her. I'd be eternally grateful for anyone that can provide some guidance to me here.

quincy 06-22-2020 08:10 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
From what I read...she's said no to relationship and for you to move on without her if you want. Keep in contact if you wish, but without ANY expectations...it would not be fair for her, nor in your favour and seen as selfish, to expect meeting to ease your anxiety regarding waiting. Sounds as though she needs a trusted friend. If you can't do it, be honest with yourself and her. A tough go, but it's a choice to act on what you feel and want.

q

Mstrunn 06-22-2020 01:18 PM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
First of all I am not a Doctor, however, my sister suffered abuse when she was young and still feels the after affects of that to some extent, I also was a victim of violence and had the same symptoms my sister and your "friend". I am elated that you stated that your friend has sought professional counseling, that is a great and brave step. you are doing what you can at this point, be supportive, listen to her, speaking out is KEY for victims but only at their discretion, let her tell you, don't push, be there for her through any tears or laughter, and be patient, I know it hurts you want a relationship but at this juncture she is NOT ready and it would end with disaster, do what you are doing let her come to you I know first hand how hard it is, but the more you push the further she will retreat to her safe place. Spend time with some of your other friends, exercise, eat healthy, spend some time on you, and for God's sake, no alcohol you may do and say things you might regret, I've been there too. Good luck and keep me posted if that helps.

scott316 06-25-2020 05:50 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
Thank you Mstrunn, it really helps to hear your first hand perspective. I'm sorry for what you and your sister went through, but thank you for sharing your insight and experiences. I really do care about her, and I've been doing better at not trying to fix anything (it's my nature) and instead just listening. She's expressed her appreciation that I'm so understanding and can be there for her, mentioning at some of the harder times I was the only one she reached out to, and I really want to continue to be there for her no matter what. This is hard on me, but I know it doesn't even compare to how hard it is on her.

Your words definitely brought me some peace, knowing that I'm taking the right approach here. Only God knows what the future holds, but I'm going to do my best to have faith and keep taking it one day at a time.

Thank you again.

scott316 06-25-2020 06:03 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
Thank you, quincy, for taking the time to read and share your advice. I agree that I need to keep my expectations to nothing more than what she and I discussed (I didn't cover everything, even anonymously I feel a need for some trust/privacy), and I need to be that trusted friend that she needs right now. She's already thanked me for being understanding, being there for her when she needs me, and not giving up on her. She feels comfortable confiding in me, and I'm learning to take comfort in that; I think I'm strong enough to focus on being that trusted friend. I'm going to keep focusing on that, and hopefully things keep getting better day by day (so far they seem to be, for both of us).

Thanks for sharing your advice.

Mstrunn 06-25-2020 06:08 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
You're welcome glad I could help!

scott316 06-29-2020 08:17 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
[QUOTE=Mstrunn;5503997]You're welcome glad I could help![/QUOTE]

I'm sorry to bug you again Mstrunn, but I was hoping maybe you (or anyone) could share some more insight into this situation. Especially how to handle being there in the worst of times. All of this is hard, but occasionally there will be a time like I just experienced. She was feeling down last night, sent me a message saying she was sad with no details. I inquired a bit about what was wrong and she said "just life". I tried a bit to be encouraging and let her know she would get through it, to no avail. Eventually she apologized for being depressed, I told her she never had to be sorry for feeling down, and then we said goodnight. This morning I shot a text to see how she was doing. Seems like her mood got worse, she told me she was done and gives up. I asked her to please not say that and to not give up and told her it will get better (I spent time living with/supporting a suicidal depressed friend, so statements like this are familiar hit me hard and close to home). This resulted in me being told she'll say and feel what she wants and she's tired of people telling her what she can and can't feel. I of course didn't mean it this way and tried to explain myself. She told me she just feels like she is constantly told what to do. This was all over text, so I can't really tell if that was her trying to explain herself or tell me she wasn't angry at me, or if she was actually mad at me. She cut off the conversation saying she had to leave for work and didn't reply to me after that (I just wished her a good day).

I just don't know how to handle these situations. When she reaches out just saying she is sad but doesn't want to tell me details/talk about it, what do I say/do? When she tells me she gives up, but gets mad if I ask her to not give up, what to I say/do? Since she ignored the last thing I said to her, do I check in tonight after work, or leave her alone until she reaches out again (I'm feeling like I should leave her alone, she doesn't live alone so it isn't a concern that she'll be alone, just that I won't bother her)?

I know she is going through a lot, but I just don't know what to do anymore. I feel like when she is this upset, she lashes out at my attempts to support her. Clearly I can't say things that sound like I'm telling her what to do, but what else do I say (I can't/won't just ignore her)? It just feels like she reaches out when she is upset because she wants me to know/be there, but at the same time there is nothing I can do or that she'll let me do. Am I helping and it just doesn't feel that way? Or do I need to stop doing certain things/say things differently? It's so hard to tell, since most of our conversations of this type are through text.

I feel lost and in pain. And to make it worse, it's a pain a feel like I can't let her know exists or it will make things harder on her. I'm trying to be strong, and I know this will be hard, but each day I think I have things under control (like I just finished telling myself this morning), I feel like I get knocked back down. Do I just need to toughen up and try not to take things personally?

rosequartz 06-30-2020 08:08 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
Scott I'm sorry to tell you this, but this woman is unable to have a healthy relationship with anyone at this point. Whether intentional or not, you are becoming her emotional tampon ... not a good thing to be. I'm scared that you are going to end up getting hurt out of this. I know you feel sorry for her, but you won't be able to rescue her. You want more than she is willing or able to give. You say you will be a friend, but you are hoping for more. This just isn't going to work out. I'm sorry

scott316 06-30-2020 09:05 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
[QUOTE=rosequartz;5504067]Scott I'm sorry to tell you this, but this woman is unable to have a healthy relationship with anyone at this point. Whether intentional or not, you are becoming her emotional tampon ... not a good thing to be. I'm scared that you are going to end up getting hurt out of this. I know you feel sorry for her, but you won't be able to rescue her. You want more than she is willing or able to give. You say you will be a friend, but you are hoping for more. This just isn't going to work out. I'm sorry[/QUOTE]

Thank you for your honest feedback, and for your sympathy. I know this isn't a good situation, and it's even harder because I saw what could be there for us, before she realized she wasn't ready. And at the same time, we agreed to step back to just be friends, but with the spoken hope that I'll be able to wait for her. The way things are going, I know it must be easier for her to push the thoughts of the relationship/feelings for me to the side, as she isn't ready and has other priorities that have taken her focus (and I say this knowing what she is going through is very hard, so I am not making light of her situation). For me, I know I'll not be able to just be friends without hoping for more, while agreeing to wait as well, as that agreement by nature admits I'm looking for more.

I've set myself a timeline which I'm giving for her to improve, as I'm not ready to move on right now. But at the end of that timeline I'm preparing myself to have the difficult conversation that needs to be had.

rosequartz 06-30-2020 09:49 AM

Re: My GF needs to recover from past emotional abuse and I don't know how to cope
 
that sounds like a well thought out plan. I'm glad you are giving yourself a timeline. Best of luck to you Scott


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