Taking back an abusive ex?

Questions and discussion about sexual or other abuse or assault, and support and help for survivors.
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This area of the boards is expressly for support and help for those who are currently in or have survived abuse or assault. It is also for those seeking information or discussion about abuse or assault. Please make every effort in this space to be supportive and sensitive. Posts in this area may or do describe abuse or assault explicitly.

This area of the boards is also not an area where those who are themselves abusing anyone or who have abused or assaulted someone may post about doing that or seek support. We are not qualified to provide that kind of help, and that also would make a space like this feel profoundly unsafe for those who are being or who have been abused. If you have both been abused and are abusing, we can only discuss harm done to you: we cannot discuss you yourself doing harm to others. If you are someone engaging in abuse who would like help, you can start by seeking out a mental healthcare provider.
Sam W
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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Sam W » Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:05 am

Hi Belcano,

When you talk to your counselor about this, I would definitely mention that you're not certain what kind of boundaries you're even supposed to start with. As Heather said, you're in the driver's seat when it comes to if or how you reach out to your ex. But if the goal of that exercise is to help you with boundaries, it doesn't make a ton of sense (or feel entirely safe) to reach out to your ex prior to getting in some solid practice setting boundaries elsewhere.

I'd also encourage you to share those feelings of this being a big, life altering thing with your therapist. One thing they might be able to help you with is to re-frame the situation a bit. When we frame a choice or a change as this giant, life altering thing that will change everything forever, it can often up our anxiety.

It sucks that you're feeling alone right now. Have you had any luck keeping up positive social connections during social distancing?

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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Belcano » Thu Apr 02, 2020 8:17 pm

Update...

My counselor is no longer advising me to reach out to Hailey. We both fear she has gotten I to a cycle of substance abuse. Back when we were together she replaced coping using her eating disorder and would abuse her anti anxiety medications. Recently she reached out to a friend of mine asking if he would buy hallucinogens. She has a very addictive personality and when put in a situation where there are drugs, she will take them. The thought of it makes me so sad. I wish she wasnt in that situation. But those are the decisions she is making, and I cant put myself in that kind of situation. I wish her the best, but if that's the direction she is going to go, theres nothing I can do. I only hope she knows where this will head, and makes a change for the better.

Belcano
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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Belcano » Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:21 pm

In response to Sam..

I big part of it is the anxiety she gives me. Theres been so much going on lately, the virus, economic instability, a recent earthquake; I've just been so worried about her. She has a really hard time taking care of herself, and every day I'm afraid if what kind of situation she's going to put herself in. Especially now that she's surrounding herself with drugs. It just gives me a lot of anxiety and my counselor thought reaching out would help ease it. The idea was to let her know that I was still here, and that might have put my mind at ease knowing she still has support. I am still here for her. I want to help her. But we think it's for the best that I don't reach out. Not right now.

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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Jacob » Fri Apr 03, 2020 6:38 am

Belcano wrote:I am still here for her. I want to help her. But we think it's for the best that I don't reach out. Not right now.


This sounds like the right call. It sounds like the impact of offering that help would be very limited for her, but massive for you.

The virus stuff heightens so many of the problems we are dealing with as individuals. At the best of times, it is really incredible difficult to deny someone who is suffering and as self-destructive as this.

Having been in that position a bunch of times, it's one of the hardest decisions to make. It has been helpful for me to just remember that I am not an appropriate person to help, but that I know I care deeply for them and that I'm doing the best thing for everyone involved to have that boundary.
"In between two tall mountains there's a place they call lonesome.
Don't see why they call it lonesome.
I'm never lonesome when I go there." Connie Converse - Talkin' Like You

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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Siân » Fri Apr 03, 2020 6:47 am

EDIT: just saw Jacob and I posted simultaneously, but I'll leave this up anyway so you can have double the support :)

Hi Belcano,

Yeah, it's really tough when you care about someone and want to be there for them - even though you know it would be the wrong thing for you. I get that it might be hard to believe right now, but the person responsible for making sure Hailey is okay right now is Hailey. You are totally right when you say "those are the decisions she is making, and I cant put myself in that kind of situation".

For what it's worth, I think that you're making the right decision when you choose to prioritise looking after yourself over reaching out to someone who a) abused you and b) you probably *can't* make everything better for.

So what are you doing for self care right now? And do you and your counsellor have ideas for other ways to work on setting boundaries that don't involve making yourself vulnerable to Hailey again?

Belcano
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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Belcano » Sat Apr 11, 2020 1:13 am

Update...

I broke down. I texted her. I couldn't not do it. It hasn't been long, and I havent heard from her yet, but I feel like theres a lot of anxiety gone. I'm anxious to see what she says.. but it's not as bad as it was before. Thank you all for the support. I'm sorry if I've disappointed any of you.

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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Sam W » Sat Apr 11, 2020 8:28 am

Hi Belcano,

I'm promise you none of us are disappointed in you. Something we know from both doing this work and from the research out there about abuse is that it's very hard to make a clean break on the first try. Obviously, we encourage people to try to do that anyway and do our best to help them do so, but we're never going to think less of someone for having trouble letting go of an abusive ex.

I want to circle back to a few things Siân asked. How have you been doing in terms of self-care over the last few days? And how has the working on boundaries during therapy been going? Do you feel like you have tools that will help you if Hailey does respond?

Belcano
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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Belcano » Wed Apr 22, 2020 7:17 pm

She responded. It wasnt worth it. All I did was try to offer an olive branch, and she demeaned me and put me down. This is the worst I've felt in a long time. I didn't even feel this bad after we broke up. It's like what I did meant nothing, and I did so much. I'm talking to my counselor about it tomorrow. I'm also going to try to get extra sessions. I really dont feel well right now.

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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Heather » Thu Apr 23, 2020 7:41 am

I'm really sorry to hear this, and I'm so sorry you're feeling this way. Since this is something your counselor suggested, I do think she's likely someone to talk to about this, particularly since I'm still not sure we understand what her goal for you was with suggesting you do this in the first place.

That said, can you maybe at least recognize that this person's opinions of you just aren't credible? In other words, it sounds like they are just someone abusive and cruel, full-stop, which means that the things they say to you are probably just said in order for them to try and keep or get more power and control, rather than being accurate in any way. That doesn't make the hurt go away, of course, but it might help keep it from taking root.
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

Belcano
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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Belcano » Fri May 08, 2020 11:03 pm

Its just made it really hard. The only self worth I have is when I'm caring for and loving someone. I put my all into my relationships because its the only thing I feel like gives me value. It hurt when she left, but at least I could think that at least I treated her the best I could. But after what she said, any shred of self worth is gone. I don't have any value in myself anymore. She took it all and yet she still has my heart. I don't know what to do.

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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Sam W » Sat May 09, 2020 7:29 am

Hi Belcano,

It can be so incredibly painful when someone we put a lot of energy into and showed a lot of vulnerability towards us cruel to us. And, sadly, when someone is abusive they are often very good at knowing which buttons to push to make you feel like crap. It sounds like that's exactly what she did. I want to second what Heather said above: it may help to frame the things she says as just not credible, because they're designed to be cruel. And that's not the same as being truthful, even if abusive people can be very good at convincing you it is.

Have you had a chance to speak to your therapist about this at all?

Can you say a little more about why you feel like relationships (and it sounds like maybe romantic relationships in particular) are the only things that give you value? Where do you think that message comes from?

Belcano
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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Belcano » Wed May 20, 2020 12:01 am

I was going to talk to my therapist last Thursday, but she was sick and had to cancel. I see her this Thursday.
I think the reason I define my worth that way, is because I never had any self worth until I was with someone. And I don't know, it just kind of stuck. Lately I've been trying to get back out there again, and I've met up with some people; but I always still end up thinking of Hailey and feeling guilty. I'm sorry, I feel like I just kind of have a redundant issue, and I don't want to take away your time. But I appreciate you all. You've given me a lot of advice that I've taken to heart. Its still really hard, and sometimes I feel like its getting worse, but it has to just get better right?

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Re: Taking back an abusive ex?

Unread postby Heather » Wed May 20, 2020 12:21 pm

You're not wasting anyone's time, Belcano, I promise. We're all happy to give you support as you work your way through this, and we know how complex, challenging and rough it can be. We also know how easy it can be to get stuck and that it can take a good deal of time sometimes to get unstuck.

It will get better. In so many ways, abusive people prey on our dependencies, and so once we disconnect from them, we can start disconnecting those dependencies, too. They're kind of the glue that really keeps us attached to those people and those relationships (that and the power and control they've got us in), and the longer you're away, the less sticky that glue usually gets. But it sure can take a while sometimes. I'm sorry for that, I know it's so hard.

You know, my own sense of self has a lot to do with my relationship with others, too, so I understand this kind of struggle. I know that opportunities for this are more limited during the pandemic, but something I figured out early in life that helped me was finding healthy venues for that, like helping others, rather than just intimate relationships. That could look like tutoring, working at a food bank, volunteering on a hotline, helping neighbors...so many things. I wonder if that might be something you'd be into exploring?
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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