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Author Topic: Double abuse? Please Help...
SeriouslyTroubled
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Dear Scarleteen
I've seen a lot of articles dealing with abuse, but all ot them were written from the victim's perspective. I didn't find anything dealing with the abuser, and nothing even close to the situation I'm in.

I have a friend, a very good friend, and I know she has feelings for me. We've had this kind of romantic frienship, maybe something more, for several years, but since we're both very troubled and emotional individuals, it wasn't working out very well. I suffer from severe depression and she wanted to help me recover from it, but now she has a depression too. And she thinks it's my fault.

We fought a lot, and we blamed each other a lot. We couldn't get support from our families, homosexual relationships are still not viewed as normal in this country (our families do accept homosexuals, but I did not know how would they react to such revelation). Since our relationship became toxic, at least in the „romantic” parts, I wanted to end it and for us to give each other some time and freedom, to learn to appreciate our friendship again. I thought that little separation would be beneficial for both of us. And she agreed with me.
Later I became romantically interested in one of my male friends. I told my friend (let's call her B) about it and she encouraged me to try and make a relationship with him. I thought she was happy for me, and soon I talked to this guy and we became a (long-distance) couple.
But then, everything between me and B changed. She became even more depressed, she blamed me a lot, she told me I had ruined her life... She often says she'd isolated herself from her friends for me, and that I „ran away with someone else”. But the truth is that I'd never wanted her to isolate herself from anyone. In fact I tried to encourage her to open up to people, but she just didn't want to. She said that I was enough for her. And now... Well, now she says that she lost everything because of me, that she feels worthless and used.
I even stopped telling her about my boyfriend, because she immediately becomes upset when she hears about us being close. Sometimes she has hysteria attacks or verbally attacks me.

And I just wanted to know... Is it possible for people to mutually abuse each other?
I checked out the „Blinders Off” article here, and did the checkup for B and myself. Some of things from there are exactly what she blames me for, but I don't know if it's even possible for me to abuse her without wanting or trying. A lot of the answers in the checkup apply to me, too.
And I feel that my depression is worse than before. The situation is really too much for me to handle.

I really want to know if I should feel guilty for all of this (especially for being with my current boyfriend) and isolate myself from everyone. I don't want to ruin anyone's life, but if I'm a subconscious abuser, what should I do?

Sorry for this long textwall in broken English, but I feel I really need some help...

[ 06-09-2011, 10:11 AM: Message edited by: SeriouslyTroubled ]

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Heather
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By all means, being a victim of abuse and perpetrating abuse are not mutually exclusive. In other words, sometimes more than one person in a relationship is abusive, in any of the ways people can be abusive.

I'm not quite sure what you mean about being "subconsciously" abusive. Abuse is about behaviors, not thoughts. It's about things we do.

However, I hear you talking about this person verbally attacking you and emotionally manipulating you. I don't see you, in what you've said so far, saying you are doing these things. I see you saying you asked for some space, severed your romantic relationship, and after that, pursued one with someone else because you wanted to (not to try and do this person harm).

Is there something I'm missing?

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SeriouslyTroubled
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By "subcosciously" I meant being an abuser, but not realizing or wanting it.
I've never wanted to hurt B, but I felt that this relationship at this time and in this conditions hurt both of us. Sometimes it was nice, and we helped each other a lot (we still do, when we can...), but the romantic aspect just wasn't working. I am also aware of my very difficult character and the severity of my ilness.
I know she had a lot of expectations. I did not know then (she didn't tell me about the expectations, because she thought it would scare me). She encouraged me to pursue a relationship with my current boyfriend because she wanted me to say no - it was kind of a test. I thought she was supportive, and yes, the part of her really was, but the other part just wanted for me to be with no one.

We talked about it a lot. She thought that true love could solve every problem, and me "running away" means that I've never had feelings for her.
I do have some, but I know we're not suited to be together, not as we are now.
I'm afraid that the guilt will destroy my current relationship, and my friendship with B... Or maybe B will want to destroy it. I feel really insecure.

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Heather
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People who don't abuse other people aren't abusers. Again, abuse is about actions and behaviors.

So, have you tried to control or manipulate her? have you verbally abused her -- things like name-calling, for instance, lots of yelling, etc?

If this person tried to manipulate you by encouraging you to pursue a relationship, that's on her, not on you.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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We both yelled at each other a lot during out arguments, but there wasn't any manipulation or control. Just normal arguments, like all couples sometimes have...
Although she said lately that I try to "dominate" her by disagreeing with her. When I try to tell her that she does something bad and I feel sad about it, she always becomes angry at me for "being like a tyrant".

She said the whole relationship is my fault, because she "believed in me and got nothing from it". She also says she feel worthless now, and that she'll never be truly happy without me, because she doesn't want someone other than me. I know she has self-esteem problems about feeling unworthy for love and that she saw me as an only chance for her to be successful in love (and self-worth). But when I try to talk with her about it, she accuses me of trying to shift a blame to her.

I feel this situation makes me weak, very weak and emotionally unstable, and I fear my current boyfriend will leave me because it'll be to much too handle for him. I didn't tell him about my romantic relationship with B, because I don't want him to think bad of her (they don't know each other yet, I'm afraid she'll hate him). He only knows that sometimes I'm sad because of my friend. I don't know what to do anymore...

[ 06-09-2011, 11:02 AM: Message edited by: SeriouslyTroubled ]

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Heather
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So, it sounds to me like this person has been abusive, manipulative and controlling, and you've internalized some of that abuse, believing you are the cause of it because she has manipulated you well.

This is, unfortunately, very common. It's a big reason why people who are being abused or controlled by others don't leave and separate from them: because they become convinced what the person abusing them is saying is true, rather than -- what it really is -- what the abuser has found to be effective in controlling the person they are abusing.

None of this is about being weak. It's about being human and about what happens in the dynamics of abuse. It's really amazing, sadly so, how easy it is for anyone to wind up stuck in these kinds of patterns. The good news is, you can get unstuck, it just might take some time and some help and support.

No one cannot be whole or happy except with one person. Not only is that an outright lie, if and when that truly was the case, that would be the sign of a very unhealthy person who would only be enabled by that other person, not earnestly helped. If she feels worthless now, it's likely because she always has. And her treating you this way, and you being there for it, is only going to make her feel more so, not less. A lot of people don't realize that getting out of abuse not only helps the victim, it is much more likely to help the abuser than staying is.

Have you thought about getting away from this person, period? If not, can I ask how you think your relationship with her is good for YOU at all?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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I thought about further separation, and we talked about it too. She sometimes agree with me, and sometimes says that she feels that I just do what's convenient for me, and not really want to help her.

I't like there are two people inside her. One who is great friend, who is nice and supportive, and really cares about our friendship... And the second is, well, the one who currently shows up more.

I know she's a great person and want to help her, but... There's one more problem. When I visit my boyfriend, she always calls, because she feels forgotten and lonely. We then argue a lot, and one time she acted like she wanted to kill herself. I'm afraid to leave her, because I don't want her to harm herself (she has a history of cutting too).
And, well... She has no one besides me. And I don't want her to be alone.
Eh, I feel just stupid now...

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Heather
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You really can't talk to an abusive/controlling person about separation and make any kind of agreement in good faith. They're almost never going to agree that's best, because separation usually means they lose control, which is what they want.

So, I was asking about your OWN thoughts and feelings and decisions, not about hers or what she said about them. These are decisions you're going to have to make on your own, because someone who is manipulative/controlling cannot make sound joint decisions in your best interest.

Here's something else: you can't help this person. They have made clear they aim to manipulate and control you. Not only does enabling that help them keep harming both of you, not helping anyone, someone like this needs help you're both not likely qualified to provide, and also aren't in the right relationship to provide. They need help from someone they are both not abusing and not in an intimate relationship with.

If you sincerely feel this person will self-harm without you in their life, then the best thing to do is to call someone who CAN really help. You can't: you just don't have that capacity. All you can do, because of the position they have put you in and because of your history with them, is enable them, which just keeps her from actually getting better AND keeps you in harm's way.

(You're not stupid. I promise.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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I feel that's the exact thing I needed to hear all this time...
It's good to know that I'm not the one who's guilty and responsible for all of this, although I know I'll have a hard time adjusting to that thought. Thank you, Heather...

I tried talking with her parents and warn them about her suicide tendencies, but they just ignored me. Her father even said that I'm a bad friend, because I betrayed her by telling him that.
Do you think I should find some other forms of help for her? I don't know where can I find such help, we don't have any abuse/suicide hotlines here in Poland (or maybe we have, I just don't know any).
And I'm afraid she'll feel betrayed. But... Her life is more important than this, am I right?...

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Heather
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So, sounds like it's possible -- as is often the case -- that some of the way she is has likely been learned from her family. However, those aren't the only options.

here's the thing: in order to really get away from and stay away from abusive people, the very first thing you need to do is to stop putting them first. Let's first talk about YOU and getting you what YOU need, okay? Then we can talk about helping this person who may not even need the help you think she does, because some of this may just be the way she figured out how to manipulate you. Abusive people that threaten suicide or other self-harm if someone leaves them almost never, ever follow through. That's rarely a statement in earnest. Instead, threats like that are usually empty and said in order to control others.

You also can't control how she or someone else feels. Not only is that not your place with anyone, period, again, the idea you can is most likely about buying into the way you have been manipulated.

So, starting with you: what do YOU need in order to separate from this person, or even just get some time and space so you can think about that and make your own plans around it?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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By the way, this organization in Poland -- http://fdn.pl/-- is a help resource around child abuse. Obviously, that's different than what you are dealing with, however, if you were to contact them, I bet they will be able to connect you with the resources you need to get help with intimate partner abuse.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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I need to separate... uh, it will be hard. I don't know how.
We meet almost every day at the university, and contact through the internet a lot.
I wanted to be alone during the vacations. But she doesn't want to be alone, and she tries to guilt-trip me into taking her with me...
I want to spend some time with my boyfriend too. I know she'll be jealous. Should I tell him about all of this?...

And I'll definitely check out this link. Didn't know that I can try to get contacts from such organizations... Thank you!

[ 06-09-2011, 11:54 AM: Message edited by: SeriouslyTroubled ]

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Heather
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I do think it's important you tell someone you can trust, so this isn't something you're holding alone. Do you feel close to this boyfriend? Has he been caring and supportive of you? If so, he may be a good person to tell.

Again, one thing you clearly need to stop doing is trying to negotiate with her/ You can't negotiate with someone abusive. So, if a vacation is a way to take space, then you just need to take it, no negotiating. To spend time with your boyfriend, just spend that time. Again, you cannot control her feelings or emotions, and you are also not responsible for them. having other close relationships in your life is something you, like everyone else, is entitled to do. We are all entitled to more than one relationship in our lives.

You can also make a point of slowing or stopping contact with her in the place you can control that, like when you're on the internet.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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Okay, I think I know what to do now... I'll try to make our contact less frequent, I will have my vacation, and I'll talk with my boyfriend about it.
And I try to worry less. It is really beyond my control and I should defend my health, right?

I think I feel a bit better. Thank you so much, Heather.

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Heather
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Want to maybe go over the things that ARE in your control?

(And you're so welcome. I'm glad to help however I can.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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Well, if you can... I'll be grateful.
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Heather
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Sure thing.

For starters, you can control if you continue to be abused, controlled and manipulated or not. Being involved with this person is a choice, and you can choose not to be.

You can choose to insist on healthy boundaries if you choose not to fully separate from this person. For instance, you can make clear that what you do on your vacations or with whom you spend your time is 100% up to you, not up to her, and not something you're going to negotiate with her or want her input on when that time doesn't involve her being included (like, making plans WITH her, where the person you're spending time with is her).

You have control over giving this person tools to help themselves, which she may or may not use (which is outside of your control), tools which are likely to actually help, rather than enabling her, which isn't going to help at all. You can gather organizations, individuals and resources which can help her, give them to her, and encourage her to use them (then let it go, as that is her choice, out of your control).

You can also start to take control over the impact what she says to you has. You can start to remind yourself that when she tried to guilt-trip you, claims you are responsible for her harming herself in any way or her unhappiness, that those are not truths, they are manipulations. You can control knowing the truth of the situation, which is that you cannot control whether someone harms themselves or not, whether or not they are happy, whether or not they are lonely.

You can't do anything about how things have been in the past, but you can control how things go from here. Again, these dynamics don't have to continue, because you have the ability to choose to no longer engage in them.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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It feels really empowering, reading all this things. I think I'll need some time for this to sink in, but the situation doesn't seem so twisted and overwhelming now.
I'm glad I posted it here despite all my doubts and fears. It was really worth it.

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Heather
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I'm glad you took a step to ask for some help! [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SeriouslyTroubled
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Hi Heather, sorry for bothering you again, but the situation with B is slipping out of my control now...

I tried to establish some boundaries and make clear that we need some time apart. And it worked, but...
Last Friday we got into an argument again (at college, I can't avoid her there). She threw a tantrum and I was afraid she'd hurt herself, so i tried to contact her parents, who were at the trip to another city... She took it as a blackmail (I don't know if it's a right word here, sorry...) and took my mobile. I managed to reclaim it and walk away, but since I was still worried, I phoned her mother. I didn't say much – just asked her to talk with B. I thought she would take it seriously.
Now B is mad at me, and her parents hate me, because they think it's all my fault, and that by contacting them I just try to shift the responsibility to someone else. B told me again about me ruining her life and giving her depression (and many other things like these). Now she wants a separation too, but she manipulated the whole situation to appear as a victim.
I wanted us to give each other time to think about our friendship, but I know she won't – she'll just blame me for everything and feed her hatred for me to the point where we can't be friends anymore.

I don't know what to do. I just wanted a separation and now I'm in a place of the guilty. Everyone hates me and I don't have anybody to talk to (my boyfriend is still away). I can't stand the thought that I lost my best friend. I cry all the time and feel horrible with myself. What should I do now?...
And sorry for being so hopeless...

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Heather
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You're not bothering me at all. No worries.

I think you handled this whole situation really well.

The thing you have to know about an abusive person is that they're rarely going to react to people trying to help them the same way emotionally healthy, non-abusive people will react. I would not interpret her reaction as a signal you did anything wrong.

I'm also going to assume that like most people, she learned to be dysfunctional somewhere, and for most, that place is usually at home. I don't know what your experiences have been like with her parents before, but I'm guessing they're probably not the most functional people, either.

I know that this has got to feel like a tremendous loss for you, no doubt. But what I also know is that this person isn't likely to be a healthy person, and someone who treats you well, until/unless they get help and take a lot of time to work on changing their behavior. That doesn't seem at all likely any time soon, so while this separation hurts, it's probably a boon for you. If this person is just walking right out of your life, you get to get away from these dynamics much more easily than if they held on while you tried to walk away.

That doesn't mean you don't get to feel loss and grief: losing a best friend IS a huge deal, even when the relationship had gone really bad. But can we maybe talk about letting go of guilt around this? You can't control how she or her parents think or feel, and again, I don't see you having done anything here but doing what you could to get this person care she obviously needs.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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