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Is her excessive temper a red flag for our wedding or can it be overcome?
August 31, 2010 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I am months away from a wedding with deep reservations about my future wife's temperament, which often becomes physically violent. How do I persist?

I've been engaged to a charming woman I fell in love for about a year and a half. After a couple delays, we finally set a wedding date in winter.

The relationship has been mostly good. We are both faithful Christians and share a lot of common values and interests. She's helped me grow immensely both in becoming more responsible and in spending time developing worthwhile skills (as opposed to sitting around and watching TV, for instance). I love her faithfully for all of her qualities, but with one concern.

I have some deep reservations about her ability to be a capable mother. Most of these reservations stem from her inability to control her temper.

She often (several times a month) has fits of rage over otherwise minor arguments. In most of these cases she throws things around the room and hits her head with her fist. I always try to stop her from hurting herself although she responds by biting and scratching.

In one instance she pulled a carving knife and said she would kill one of us if I got close. I called her bluff and approached her, and took the knife out of her hand. Thankfully, this extreme instance has only happened once. However, her hot temperament otherwise manifests itself as screaming, stomping, slapping, and door slamming a few times a month.

I concede that some of these arguments are the result of my own actions or words, and take full responsibility for these "normal" disagreements. I know I am a jerk and not understanding of her, but I am trying to do better. But I feel the way she deals with her anger is abnormal and unreasonable, and clouds my better judgment when I have to be careful about what I say to her.

I can, for the most part, handle these outbursts. However, as she has always been this way, I don't see this changing any time soon. My primary concern is her own health - she is exhausted and needs the the following day off from work to recover after these outbursts.

My second concern lies in the future. We want to have children. I consider having children to be a both the honor and responsibility of a married couple. However, I see no feasible way to raise children in a household where violent outbursts occur as often as they do.

I am scared for the future because she knows she acts this way, and has no desire to be this way, but she can't help herself. She insists against any therapy, and I don't want to resort to forcing any medication on her. I am scared because I don't see another relationship as being much different - they all require work and face their own challenges. I've been with her as long as I have because I know she has a pure and simple desire to be happy and free of burdens. They simply overwhelm her and expose her worst.

Everything would be great if I could find a way to keep her temper under control. But with every day that passes it's harder and harder to love someone who treats me this way, and who may treat our children the same way. A marriage is a covenant and a sacrament, and an engagement is nearly as binding, and I don't want to give up on it. I just want her to be happy first and foremost. I can deal with anything else that comes my way.

We have a house together, which complicates things. But that's small beans when I consider how our future will be shaped. What are you thoughts about this situation?

Thank you for reading this far. It is cathartic to throw my thoughts into the wind. I have an e-mail at askmefi0831@gmail.com should anybody wish to send a private message.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (371 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think that if you were a female friend asking this very question, I would tell you that you're in an abusive relationship and that you both need counseling, or need to get out.

You're not a female friend, but my answer is exactly the same.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 12:02 PM on August 31, 2010 [76 favorites]


Would she be amenable to couple's counseling, with a therapist or your religious-leader-of-choice? It sounds like you need neutral ground to bring this up with her, and to help her determine what sort of things she may want to explore to change this behavior in the future. She definitely needs some help, though, because she's expressing her anger in nonproductive and dangerous ways.
posted by scarykarrey at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2010


A marriage is a covenant and a sacrament, and an engagement is nearly as binding, and I don't want to give up on it. I just want her to be happy first and foremost. I can deal with anything else that comes my way.

If you continue down that path, get used to being a battered husband, most likely with abused kids.
posted by rodgerd at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2010 [22 favorites]


What you describe sounds like a severe undiagnosed mental illness. I too would be concerned about this woman hurting herself or others. She needs professional help as soon as possible. Forget the wedding for now; getting her disease treated is much, much more important.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2010 [33 favorites]


Dude, you are enabling and encouraging her by staying with her despite this behavior. And whatever she is doing now is nothing compared to what you will endure later in the relationship, when your options to exit are more limited.

While she probably could use professional help, what she definitely needs is a reality check. And the reality is that nobody should tolerate that kind of behavior from someone else.

I have, sadly, been there and done that -- for longer than you have. It does not get better.
posted by eas98 at 12:06 PM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Everything would be great if I could find a way to keep her temper under control.

I believe you, but this sort of thing is called a deal-breaker for a reason. It would be a deal-breaker for me, and it ought to be a deal-breaker for you. Violence and threats of violence are where we must always draw the line. It is far, far easier to break off an engagement this far ahead than to do it close to the date as your fears grow stronger, and less painful than divorcing later, certainly if that comes after children. (An engagement, contrary to what you say, is nowhere near as binding as a marriage; if you're feeling that there is some external obligation not to break off the engagement, I urge you to do it because, to be blunt, the thought of you subjecting your future children to a violent mother because you feel that marriage is a sacrament is somewhat frightening to me.) As you say, it doesn't sound like her behaviour is going to change. You should end things now.
posted by Dasein at 12:06 PM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Everything would be great if I could find a way to keep her temper under control.

You know this is impossible, right? Not difficult, not hard or unlikely or ill advised, but actually something that you can not ever do.
posted by anti social order at 12:07 PM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


You can't control her temper, only she can do that. She can also control her behavior when she loses her temper. This is no environment to raise a child in. Whether or not it's an environment you want to live in is a question only you can answer.

If she refuses therapy, seems like she would probably refuse medication as well. Perhaps self help books could be useful, but that seems like a long and arduous process.

You said, "I don't see another relationship as being much different." While it is true that all relationships require work, not everyone is willing (or able) to do the required work. From what you have said, it seems as though she may be one of those types of folk.

I have found couples counseling very useful in learning how to resolve conflicts, but it sounds as though that is off the table as well.

Honestly, it seems like you are in a bad relationship and should just get out.
posted by elmay at 12:08 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


A marriage is a covenant and a sacrament, and an engagement is nearly as binding, and I don't want to give up on it.

It's a covenant and a sacrament to both of you which means that both of you have to treat it in the same serious way. If she is saying that getting help/treatment for her abusive behavior is off the table, then she is not meeting you and your concerns as a partner. It is okay to make physical abuse a dealbreaker in a relationship. It is also okay to try to work through this issue so that you can both get to a place where you feel safe and comfortable in the relationship. What, to me, is not okay is bringing a child into a volatile and out of control situation where they might be in danger KNOWING that this is a very real possibility. If your wife has outbursts that cause her to miss work, she needs to find a way to manage this whether she is in or not in a relationship with you.

If I were in your shoes, I'd basically say that having children is off the table until she finds a way to manage her temper, her self-harm and her knife wielding responses to arguments. She can deal with this information however she sees fit. If her family knows about this behavior perhaps you can work with them to find an approach that she does not find threatening.
posted by jessamyn at 12:09 PM on August 31, 2010 [30 favorites]


Biting, scratching, throwing things, PULLING A KNIFE ON YOU = not OK. Your fiance does not sound healthy.

If I were in your shoes, I'd basically say that having children is off the table until she finds a way to manage her temper, her self-harm and her knife wielding responses to arguments. If it were me, I'd take the wedding off the table, too - your future children are one thing, but what about you? Even if you never had children, you don't deserve to be treated this way.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:10 PM on August 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


In one instance she pulled a carving knife and said she would kill one of us if I got close.

Get out. Get her counseling. Get yourself some counseling.

You're going to get lots of different types of advice. But they're all going to point in the same direction.

This is NOT going to end well without professional help.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:11 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't see another relationship as being much different - they all require work and face their own challenges.

I feel for you (who isn't a little irrational when love is involved?), but this is insane. All relationships have difficulties, but 99% of the time those don't involve violence and threats of murder or suicide.

Please listen to Dasein.
posted by ripley_ at 12:11 PM on August 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


She insists against any therapy

Do not get married until she stops insisting.

I realize that you're thinking of her health and happiness, but this isn't the sort of thing you can fix. It has to be her decision, and her effort; the best you can do is hold her hand while she works on it herself. If she's unwilling to work on it, you can do nothing.

She can, and almost certainly will, continue to damage you while you fail to fix her. Getting married in this sort of circumstance is not going to help anyone.
posted by jon1270 at 12:12 PM on August 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


Friend, she is abusive and violent. It doesn't matter if you said something boneheaded, a normal adult doesn't respond to boneheaded commentary by screaming, pulling her hair out, threatening with knives, biting and punching.

You're rationalizing and normalizing something that isn't normal. And that's totally understandable-- people don't want to believe that people they love are unhealthy. And it's so easy to lose sight of what is reasonable when your whole life is grounded in the unreasonable.

At the very least, postpone the wedding, and insist on counseling. But honestly? I'd consider this a dealbreaker. Every relationship has its challenges- my husband will never stop refolding towels after I fold them, I seem to be incapable of going a week without buying a book.

But neither of us in 15 years, has ever raised our voices, threatened violence, or harmed ourselves. That kind of explosive temper is not normal, and even if you feel like YOU can handle it, your potential children cannot. Love can't undo the damage done by a mercurial, abusive parent.
posted by headspace at 12:13 PM on August 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


Thankfully, this extreme instance has only happened once.

How many times would you consider too many?

Would your opinion have been different BEFORE this happened, if you heard that one of your friends had experienced this?
posted by hermitosis at 12:13 PM on August 31, 2010


I am not being very empathetic to you or her here but this kind of behavior is what I consider to be "completely crazy". I have encountered this in a couple of relationships and I just find it utterly alien and dangerous. It seems to me like a complete, intentional abandonment of self-control and in my cases it was also marked by an extremely devious tendency to manipulate others with the temper; they know that if they start to show signs of becoming angry, people will begin to walk on eggshells around them and they'll get their way at least on the points people don't feel like fighting over.

I did eventually achieve some understanding of why people behave like this and it's probably got to do with having been mistreated or having undergone emotional trauma in the past, but nonetheless I stay as far away from people like this as I can. It seems like an exceptional phenomenon to me and one that you wouldn't encounter in the majority of relationships; I've met other people with short tempers who are much more disciplined and exert much more self-control, and can manage to at least be somewhat reasonable when they're angry.
posted by XMLicious at 12:14 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Forget the wedding for now; getting her disease treated is much, much more important.

Absolutely. Clearly you care about her and want her to get better, but you can't do it on your own, if at all. Don't call it a bad temper; that writes it off as something normal. She needs a clinical psychologist, possibly in conjunction with a psychiatrist, to no longer be a danger to herself and others. Her sickness will not get better on its own, and if things keep going the way they are, it could very well be worse by the time you have children.

If necessary, tell her you can't agree to the wedding until she gets on the path to wellness-- regular therapy, possibly with medication. Postpone again if she stops going or stops taking her pills. It's really what's best for you as a couple, and it might be the ultimatum she needs.
posted by supercres at 12:15 PM on August 31, 2010


Everything would be great if I could find a way to keep her temper under control.

She is the one who is responsible for doing this. Her inability to do so has consequences, not the least of which being that probably no one will want to marry her until she gets learns to handle herself.
posted by hermitosis at 12:15 PM on August 31, 2010


A marriage is a covenant and a sacrament, and an engagement is nearly as binding, and I don't want to give up on it.

Surely the point of an engagement, even one treated as very nearly binding, is that it is not yet the full sacrament of marriage. It may be broken with sufficient cause. You are describing sufficient cause. In order to respect the sacrament of marriage won't you have to have your doubts (of this sort, these are not mundane doubts) put to rest?

she is exhausted and needs the the following day off from work to recover after these outbursts.

This sentence really stood out to me for some reason. As egregious as her angry behavior is, and it is very egregious, I cannot conceive of being so "exhausted" by having been angry the evening before that I cannot go to work the next day.

I would agree that a psychological evaluation is indicated here.
posted by OmieWise at 12:16 PM on August 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


Do not marry this woman. You are standing on the edge of an abyss. Once you fall off, you are doomed. Step back now.
posted by grizzled at 12:16 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why does she insist against therapy? It sounds like she is either a) accustomed to using any means necessary to getting her way, even if it's irrational and physically draining or dangerous, or b) she has mental illness. In neither case should you let this continue.

I am absolutely not diagnosing her with any sort of mental disorder here, but the main criterion for a) disclosing something to authorities or b) admitting someone to a hospital, both against their will, is that she is a danger to herself or others. She is biting and kicking. She is threatening with a knife. That is very dangerous for herself. That is very dangerous to others (namely you).

What would happen with children, who not only couldn't defend themselves but couldn't possibly understand what is going on with her? She's the person who is supposed to love and protect them above all others! She's acting like the person she's supposed to protect her children from.

You MUST change your situation. You can only change your own behavior. It's up to her to decide if she wants to change, but you must keep yourself safe above all else.
posted by Madamina at 12:16 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


If she refuses therapy, slowly and carefully back away.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 12:17 PM on August 31, 2010


Run, don't walk.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:17 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know I am a jerk and not understanding of her, but I am trying to do better.

Your wife's out-of-control temper is not your fault.

I can, for the most part, handle these outbursts.

No, you can't, over time. But even if you could, do you want to? Why are you accepting these outbursts as somehow a normal part of a healthy relationship? They're not.

You're heading for a lifetime of being a battered spouse.

I suspect your perspective on this is informed by your religious upbringing, which is telling you that the man is the head of the household, that you're the responsible one, and you have a duty to suck it up and "handle these outbursts". Wherever it's coming from, it's wrong. A healthy relationship is a partnership of equal, mature adults. Your wife has no excuse for not being a mature adult, able to control her temper, and you have no obligation to excuse her immaturity (if it is just immaturity and not some deeper psychological problem).

You need to either help your future wife end this pattern of behaviour, or not marry her.
posted by fatbird at 12:18 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


How are you going to feel down the road when you discover she's acting this way around your children? Because I'm afraid it's when, not if. Sure, a commitment to another adult is to be taken seriously. But what about your commitment to a child who did not ask you to bring him/her into the world? Please don't do this.
posted by BibiRose at 12:22 PM on August 31, 2010


It might help to talk to a therapist by yourself.

Does your church have a program for people intending to marry? I know the Roman Catholic church has had programs like this. If so, it might be a way to get into a couples' counseling environment with her in a less threatening way.

While all relationships need work, no relationship needs one person pulling a knife on the other, or any other kind of physical violence.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:22 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


You were able to take the carving knife out of her hand.

What would a 5-year-old be able to do?

How would she react to her mother threatening to kill herself?

Could you imagine yourself, as a kindergartener, watching your mother hit herself with her fist?

Think of a toddler or small child you know--imagine them being slapped in anger a few times a month.

I know people who grew up in similar home who tried to kill themselves before their tenth birthday. Think about it.

Doesn't matter why, what her intentions are, or what she wants. Your choice is essentially to stay with this woman, OR have children. And if you stay with her there is always the chance of an accidental pregnancy.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:22 PM on August 31, 2010 [59 favorites]


Boy,this is difficult. I can't come up with a glib response. I have to admit I am impressed by the apparent maturity and foresight of your post. There are several questions I would ask. Are these outbursts in anyway associated with using drugs/alcohol. If the answer is yes then a partial solution is evident. Do they always follow an prolonged/extended argument (a predictable pattern) or do they occur without much apparent provocation. Do they occur only when she is fatigued. Has she ever actually hurt anyone, including herself. How is she functioning in other important parts of her life: education/job, ability to maintain enduring friendships, ability to form relationships (acquaintances) with coworkers, neighbors, fellow worshipers etc. Is this a life long pattern or is it limited to the relationship with you or other SOs. To the best of your knowledge what is her ability to form and maintain relations with pets--has she ever abused a pet. Depending on how you answer some of these it takes you to another level of consideration. For me, I think, if the outbursts are limited to you, are predictable, not associated with drugs/alcohol, not part of a life long pattern and the quality of her day to day life is good/fulfilling I would feel much more optimistic. If you have substantial doubts about any of these it is certainly appropriate to insist on counseling for anger management. The other question I meant to ask--are there other indications of a lack of impulse control--throwing objects but not during a fight with you, kicking/punching "things", storming out of a room, inappropriate ranting/raving, spontaneously throwing away/destroying things that are valuable to her out of frustration/. You get the idea.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:23 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Does she ever say things like "Look what you made me do!"?

The way you talk about knowing that these extreme reactions are "the result of my own actions or words" and that you are "a jerk" for even talking about resolving them, makes me think she probably does. And you know what?

That is a giant red flag waving in your face right there. Because neither she nor you can make the other do anything. Each of you are responsible for your own choices and actions, and right now, she's choosing to do things like pull a knife on you and refuse therapy.

My vote is to tell her that the wedding is off unless she is willing to work through these issues with a counselor. If she balks, you leave.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:24 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was in a situation like that once.

If she won't go to therapy, you don't have much choice. She needs help, but you can't make her.

Cut your losses and run. (how I wish there were askme 16 years ago....)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:26 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


"She insists against any therapy"

This is mental illness protecting itself. It WANTS to keep going, it WANTS to keep her mentally ill, so it refuses treatment.

"I am scared because I don't see another relationship as being much different - they all require work and face their own challenges. "

They do, but not like this. And, frankly, if your partner refuses to see there's a challenge or there's work to be done (that is, that SHE NEEDS HELP, and you need help too), there's not much of a relationship there at all, is there? As the half of the couple that needs therapy, MY primary goal is BEING HEALTHY FOR MY FAMILY and getting whatever help I need to do that.

You are not even in her picture. She is being selfish. Probably it's part and parcel of whatever's going on with her, but YOU are not important to her. Her illness is important to her. Her drama is important to her. But you? Her family? Not important to her, or she would agree to get help.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


I forget which mefite mentioned in a recent thread how, as a result of her mother snapping at her for sniffling when she had a cold as a child still apologizes to her partners to this day when she sniffs when she has a cold, but it was a comment that stuck with me. Having an irrational, screaming, violent parent with possibly untreated mental issues is inexcusably painful for children. You have the power at this point to prevent that possibility from becoming a certainty. Either she gets help - and yes, she needs to capitulate on the therapy issue - or you're done. It's one thing to willingly, knowingly continue in a relationship with someone who has anger issues; it's another thing entirely to involve children who essentially have no rights or options until things get really, really bad.

Please don't do this to yourself and your future children. She needs help, and if you can't convince her to get help you need to save yourself first. She will take down everyone tied to her.
posted by 8dot3 at 12:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


Here's a cautionary tale about marrying someone who has demonstrated mental health issues, and would in charge of caring for your children.
posted by fatbird at 12:29 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Start with her doctor. The lack of control and the exhaustion may point to organic brain damage. She needs a comprehensive general and neurological workup *and* a psych eval.

If she's unwilling to discover the roots of her suffering-- surely, she's suffering as you are-- and take responsibility for managing it, she's not going to be an acceptable wife, parent, or partner.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:30 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, man. A relationship does NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. It is not normal. it is not healthy. It is not because of anything you're doing wrong - and I can say this knowing NOTHING about you whatsoever. While you seem fairly rational and level-headed, I don't care if you are, in fact, the scum of the earth: her behavior is not normal, healthy or in any way excusable.

This question hit a nerve for me, because your fiance's behavior is remarkably similar to my boyfriend's ex-wife's. She tried (and thankfully failed) to mortally injure him a number of times. Eventually, he left, and she went on to make ANOTHER man a miserable wreck.

Either she makes drastic changes and gets immediate therapy, or for your own sake, you REALLY need to bolt. A relationship can and should be so more more than walking on eggshells and fearing for your life. I wish you the best.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:31 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


A rule I have lived by is that as a first-worlder the only real, unrecoverable mistakes you can make in life are to become addicted to alcohol or drugs, or to have children before you're ready or with the wrong person. And the drugs thing is actually something you can kind of come back from if you're lucky.
posted by XMLicious at 12:33 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


But with every day that passes it's harder and harder to love someone who treats me this way, and who may treat our children the same way.

Imagine how will you feel 10 years from now if you marry her and she continues to behave like this? She needs to address this before you bind your life to hers.
posted by cecic at 12:35 PM on August 31, 2010


A red flag is a hint that something may go wrong in the future. A red flag would be excessive anger. This is not a red flag. This is A WOMAN THREATENING YOU WITH A KNIFE.

If I were you I would consider breaking up. If the only thing holding me back was some half-formed idea about engagement being binding, I would absolutely break up.

If I decided I really didn't want to break up, it would be ultimatum time. Inform her that there will be no wedding until she has not only started going to therapy, but changed enough that you are confident she does not pose a risk to you or your future children. Perhaps it would be helpful to get a priest/minister/whatever to help with this. Surely they would agree!

Also, I would consider not trying to "call her bluff" the next time she pulls a knife on you. Remove yourself from the situation and don't come back until you think it's safe. Maybe she isn't bluffing. You already know that she can't or won't control her anger.

A final note: lots of abusive people seem to convince people that it's all okay because they're "good Christians." There was another AskMe question this month, I believe, where a "good Christian" was being abusive. Being a Christian is not negatively correlated with abuse or violence. Go visit your nearest prison and you'll find hundreds of them.
posted by callmejay at 12:36 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


One more thing: while therapy is probably the best bet at helping her get better, there are no guarantees and I would consider marrying her a big risk regardless of whether she goes.
posted by callmejay at 12:40 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stop now, halt, go no further. Do NOT go on with the marriage until and if changes are made.

I am "that crazy woman". My previous relationships could have written your post. Your fiance is mentally ill, and in need of medication AND therapy. The road ahead for her to become acceptably functional is long and hard. You might be the one who can see her through that journey, or you might not. It will NOT get better without extensive therapy, hard work on her part, and likely, meds.

Do NOT bring children into the mix, or even consider it, until she is stable. The children will suffer, and so will your fiance/wife, even if no physical harm occurs.

I have been stable for decades now, but only because I recognized there was a problem and sought help myself until I found the solutions.

Memail me for more input, if you want.
posted by batikrose at 12:42 PM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Imagine your future child, wounded and battered, asking you, "Daddy, why? What did I do to deserve this?"

Can you answer that question?

Then that's the answer to this MeFi question.
posted by kidelo at 12:45 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am the original poster. I made a new account for the purpose of responding to this thread, as my old username is identifiable.

The response you have collectively provided is overwhelming. I was writing my thoughts expecting to hear a few "you'll get through it" responses, but this was far different from what I expected.

To clear up a few questions, there is no issue with drinking or substance abuse. Her weakness is that she takes on the burdens of everybody around her, and as a result takes conflict between other people very personally. She also strives for perfection and can obsess over small mistakes. I feel her outbursts are the combination of these many burdens and personal stress taking a toll on her health, and who wouldn't be able to contain this pain? Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

The situation has been very difficult for me to accept for a few reasons. One is that I don't want to cast the blame on her. I thought I was a patient, considerate, and humble person before entering into this relationship, and since then I've learned that I have great lengths to go before being able to call myself these things. So I accept that as part of a normal relationship, I have to make some concessions to improve myself.

I'm concerned she will hurt herself, or worse, if we were to break up. I have met her family numerous times (her mother stayed at our home once), and these outbursts have occurred in their presence as well. They (her parents) were genuinely sorry, and told me that I was the only one who could calm her down. So I feel that I have accepted a responsibility for her well-being, but feel discouraged at the idea that I may not be up to the task.

Her stance against therapy is that I offered to seek therapy for myself to improve our relationship (and reduce the frequency of our arguments). She does not want others to know about our personal affairs, which is a reasonable stance. But I don't think there's any other way to tell her that I can't keep this up. I don't want to abandon her.

The overwhelming response is that she needs to see professional help, or I need to end the relationship. I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.
posted by fermt at 12:46 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


She often (several times a month) has fits of rage over otherwise minor arguments. In most of these cases she throws things around the room and hits her head with her fist. I always try to stop her from hurting herself although she responds by biting and scratching.

It sounds like someone needs to tell you something that you haven't been told: this is not normal, and this is not an expected part of a romantic (or platonic) relationship with another person. Other relationships aren't like this.

I can, for the most part, handle these outbursts.

When I hear stuff like this, it's like hearing a hostage tell outside negotiators or rescuers that you can "handle" his captors. At a certain point, yes, a hostage can probably learn to weather any storms of his captors, avoid getting killed, and learn to be cooperative and get on their good side, but he's still a hostage.
posted by deanc at 12:47 PM on August 31, 2010


She deserves sympathy and respect, and it sounds like you're giving her that. But you're right that this kind of behavior can't continue--and that's for you as well as for any future children you might have, and for her, too. I recently went through a period of extreme irritability and emotional volatility that turned out to be related to a medication I was on, and I can tell you that feeling like you might lose control and hit one of your children is terrible.

You can't keep her temper under control. This is not a thing you will ever be able to fix. Something is driving this, and it's important to figure out what. It could be hormonal, it could be anxiety, it could be feeling overwhelmed by life, it could be childhood stuff that has left her feeling like any conflict threatens the relationship, so she over-reacts in an attempt to control the conflict, it could be something else entirely.

The only way to figure it out, though, is for her to come clean with at least a doctor, if not a doctor and a therapist, and ask for help figuring out underlying causes and effective techniques for self-care and improved self-control.

Please do not marry a woman who is not willing to take responsibility for changing this behavior. Especially since marriage means so much to you. The continuation of your engagement, and marriage, should be contingent on her taking steps to address this. You're right that all relationships require work (my partner and I joke that we've been together 17 years, 15 of them happy--we've had to work on some very hard stuff a couple of times), but most relationships don't have one person in them who threatens violence to herself and others, and in every relationship both people have to be willing to work to solve problems. My partner and I treat it as an axiom that no relationship problem is caused by only one of us, even if it seems like it is. The obvious corollary is that no relationship problem can be solved by only one partner; both have to be willing to look honestly at their piece of it, and work on improving it.

The combination of violent outbursts and unwillingness to take responsibility is pretty much a deal-breaker. She is the only one who can make this better. You can love her, you can support her in whatever steps she takes, but you cannot make the relationship good all by yourself.

Blessings, and good luck.
posted by not that girl at 12:50 PM on August 31, 2010


You are helping no one by refusing to address this. Whatever the source of the arguments, her reactions are not good.

Nor are you required, despite your love, to subject yourself to this. One can love someone and know that that person is not right for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:52 PM on August 31, 2010


I'm sorry to read your response, because it sounds more than ever as if you have assumed the burden for her bad behavior. There's no one who can make you understand that your stance is one assumed by many, many abused people. You should pay attention to the unanimity of the responses here.
posted by OmieWise at 12:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [21 favorites]


I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.

It's not a zero-sum game. It's not the case that your shortcomings justify some amount of psychotic behaviour on her part. The standards of behaviour for an adult are individual--they're standards whether or not the partner meets them as well.

Seriously, repeat this to yourself until it sinks in: My shortcomings do not justify her behaviour.

Understand this: People rationalizing their own bad behaviour will try to get their victims to accept responsibility for it. This is a classic pattern in spousal abuse, and it's absolutely wrong.
posted by fatbird at 12:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [36 favorites]


I agree that it's ultimatum time. If you're concerned for your safety, I would deliver the ultimatum in a public place or at your place or church with someone else present and have an escape plan (bag packed and a friend you can stay with) if it doesn't go well. I also think either during the ultimatum or your first session with your therapist, you should come up with a contract of sorts. In it, you can include things like, "the following items are non-negotiable: If you start hurting yourself or threaten to hurt yourself or me, I'm calling 911." And stick to your guns. Good luck.
posted by kat518 at 12:54 PM on August 31, 2010


Please don't marry her. Absolutely please don't have a child with her.

There are women out there who will love you to bits in the best possible ways. Women who will agree to seek help in dealing with troubles more minor. Women better in touch with their emotions. Women who won't blame you for their actions.

Regardless of whether she seeks counseling, seeing someone will likely be a big help to you.
posted by bilabial at 12:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Among the points already made by other posters, please consider that many mental illnesses have a hereditary component. If she declines to treat her own, she may react similarly negatively to the prospect of treatment for any children that share her illness, and her own behavior would almost certainly exacerbate their condition and perhaps cause it to manifest very early in life.
posted by biggity at 12:55 PM on August 31, 2010


I will put this in the plainest terms I can manage.

She needs therapy. She needs a lot of therapy. She needs to deal with an incredibly good therapist for years before she can even be in a relationship, let alone have children. Please note that I didn't say "should." She needs to.

This isn't something the two of you can handle on your own. This isn't something she can work through via self-control and personal reflection. And this isn't something that is ever going to stop, without serious treatment. It will get worse. It will get so very much worse.

An engagement is something you take seriously, and that's good, but I assure you that as covenants go it is not as binding as marriage vows. Please try to believe that, and here's why.

If she refuses therapy and won't budge on that, then you need to leave. I know you don't want to, and I know you believe there's got to be another way and I am telling you from my own experience, and the unfortunate experience of several others, that there is not. It may well be the hardest thing you will ever have to do but if she won't seek treatment for this, then you have to leave. She will do all this, and worse, to any children the two of you have. There is no "may" about it; she will do this to your kids as well. Someone upthread mentioned that one cannot rule out infanticide. This is not hyperbole.

The hardest thing before that is going to be accepting that you have no control over this. It is not your fault, you aren't bringing it on yourself, you aren't causing her to lash out this way and there is nothing you can do once she pitches a fit. It's not on you and it's not about you. If she isn't willing to get help, then you cannot help her.

Remember the serenity prayer, I guess. It is a binary choice. She seeks treatment, or you leave. Any other outcome, anything shy of that ultimatum (and following up on it as well) means you will spend the rest of your life being abused a few times a month, and it means feeding your own innocent children to the wolves. Somewhere in you is the strength to do what needs to be done. Spend a while with yourself and find it.

Good luck, and God bless.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:55 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I would under no circumstances accept this behavior from anyone, and that goes double for someone I love or claims to love me.

Love is not an excuse for unacceptable behavior in my book, it is a reason to expect a higher standard.

At the very least therapy is needed all the way around, and if that's not going to happen I would exit the relationship as quickly and as soon as possible.
posted by iamabot at 12:56 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Please, please, please call in the deal-breaker. You are very right that marriage is important and binding, and engagements can be as well. But you shouldn't have to martyr yourself for those beliefs, either. You should go to counseling on your own. I'd suggest speaking with a religious figure of your concerns, but I'm not entirely positive in this situation that is best. But please get counseling for yourself, even if she won't go. You don't deserve this type of treatment. No one does. Please know that, and please know you can't fix her. You can support her if she wants to fix herself, but she has to do the work. It doesn't sound like she's willing, and it may take losing you for her to realize how much work she has to do. Then again, she still may not see it. But that's not your problem.

Please seek help. For yourself.

(As for the Andrea Yates reference, please know that she had post partum psychosis (something like only 1 - 2% of childbearing women suffer from this and there can be no indicators beforehand) and was not diagnosed with a mental illness until after giving birth, that there was no way to predict her illness, and that her husband and pastor were just as culpable in what happened to those kids because she even said she didn't want more children and they hounded her with "duty to God" business. Not to mention the screw up in her meds by the psychiatrist. I don't think it's remotely applicable to the situation at hand where you know your future wife has some serious issues that require some serious help. Yes, things could have been prevented in the Yates case, but there was no way for them to have known prior to the marriage that she would suffer from PPP. You have some warning that your possible wife may have issues with small children, so use the Yates example as you see fit, but the scenarios are completely different.)
posted by zizzle at 12:56 PM on August 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


Her weakness is that she takes on the burdens of everybody around her, and as a result takes conflict between other people very personally. She also strives for perfection and can obsess over small mistakes. I feel her outbursts are the combination of these many burdens and personal stress taking a toll on her health, and who wouldn't be able to contain this pain?

So you realize that your wife is NOT HAPPY being this way, right? She has poor coping mechanisms for everyday life and relationships. She's in pain and has been for a very long time. Just look at it from that perspective for a moment. That's even more reason for you get help for her.

Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

My parents both threw things, smashed things, and hit me and my sibling in anger. We were not a healthy family. My parents were either unable or unwilling to acknowledge that and get help for all of us. They used to tell exactly what you just said - that this is how normal families are - but I knew it wasn't true.

young rope-rider above mentions knowing some kids who grew up like that and tried to kill themselves before their tenth birthday. That's no lie. I'm not the kids rope-rider knew, but I was suicidal at age ten. Don't do that to your future children.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:59 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


A marriage is a covenant and a sacrament, and an engagement is nearly as binding, and I don't want to give up on it.

If you reallyreallyreally believe that a marriage (and by extension, an engagement) is a covenant, then you need to be attacking this like it was a totally serious problem (because it is). Attempting to calm her down herself when she is acting in a way that is soooooo very far removed from what is considered average behavior is NOT treating this like it's a serious problem, it's treating it like something that you think you yourself can handle (which you can't).

You may be able to DEAL with her behavior, but you're doing absolutely NOTHING to fix her behavior, and if THAT'S what you need to be doing, if you believe that marriage is a covenant. When she is not freaking out, she deserves to know that you are having extreme reservations about forming a life with her because of her temper. You need to have a frank discussion with her that examines why she doesn't want therapy and where you examine why you don't want to suggest meds for someone who so clearly needs them.

Talking about this with her doesn't mean you're giving up on the marriage, it means you care enough about the marriage to treat this is a big fucking deal, because that is exactly what it is. Suggesting therapy/meds doesn't mean you don't love her, it means that you love her enough to realize that sometimes we don't want to do stuff that we totally need to do.

Setting up a series of things that she HAS to do before/durin/after the wedding does NOT make you a bad person. You can set dealbreakers for yourself and still take marriage seriously.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


The easy thing to do is to let the situation continue on as it has. It isn't humble, loving, or compassionate to not address your fiancee's problems, but it is easier. It's tremendously difficult to do the work to address something like this.

When asked why it took her 10 years to leave her abusive husband, my mother says "People don't change until the pain to change is less than the pain to stay the same." In her case, the pain to change came in the form of a raging, mentally ill, drug addicted husband who had started being physically violent toward her children instead of just to her. Please don't let your situation progress like this.

The hard, loving, compassionate thing to do is put the wedding on indefinite hold and help your fiancee get the help she needs. Therapy for both of you is the first step. If you love her, talk to your pastor, talk to her family and start the process of helping her get better.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


The overwhelming response is that she needs to see professional help, or I need to end the relationship. I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.

What difference does it make if it's her fault? If her horrifying temper is her own fault, you can't fix that- and she doesn't want to. If her horrifying temper is YOUR fault, the right way to fix that is to get as far from her as possible.

But I don't believe it's your fault, and I don't believe your shortcomings have made her act this way. Her parents aren't surprised, and they are taking the cowardly route out by putting the burden on you to fix what they themselves could not.

Everybody has shortcomings. Everybody. Every single person in the world. But nobody can make someone else abuse them, and you are being abused. Just because she can come up with good reasons why it's your fault doesn't mean it's actually your fault.

And I guarantee you that NONE of this will be an innocent child's fault-- but this behavior will not stop with you.
posted by headspace at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

If a family is healthy except for one large cancerous tumour on the family life, then it's not a healthy family. It's an unhealthy family, and needs to be treated as such.
posted by fatbird at 1:02 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't get married to her. She is violent and abusive. If she won't get help, then you need to leave. End of story.
posted by ErikaB at 1:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"One is that I don't want to cast the blame on her."
It's not her. She's sick. It's the mental illness. If she was an alcoholic, it would be the alcoholism. If she was schizophrenic, it'd be the schizophrenia.

"So I feel that I have accepted a responsibility for her well-being, but feel discouraged at the idea that I may not be up to the task."
Bringing a partner chicken soup when they are sick or taking them to a doctor is one thing. You are her partner, not her doctor, therapist, or babysitter.

"She does not want others to know about our personal affairs, which is a reasonable stance."
Tough. I don't go to a doctor and make him guess what prescriptions I'm taking.

I don't know you but I'm certain that you're not perfect but you didn't make her like this. It's not your fault. Neither of you can do anything about the past but learn from it. If you love her, you need to get her help or leave.
posted by kat518 at 1:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


And whoah! Stop right there with this being your fault in amy way. Stop, please stop, thinking that you must stick around because nobody else can calm her down.

Keeping/getting a KNIFE out of her hand is a terrible sysiphean task to set for yourself. You will get her calmed down today, but these melt downs will likely become more common and more intense. Each day your rock will be back at the bottom of the hill, and all your strength will be devoted to pushing it to the top.

You deserve better than this, and so does she. However, you cannot protect her from herself, but you can (and I believe, must) protect yourself.
posted by bilabial at 1:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) As others have said above, you cannot control her temper. Only she can do that.

2) You need to make her getting her temper under control (not hiding it from you but actually getting it under control) a condition of you continuing with the marriage. If she questions this, simply make the point that you feel marriage is about having children, and that no child would currently be safe in your home.

3) If she won't see a therapist or a doctor, talk with your pastor. Have her talk with your pastor.

4) I am going to advise you not to leave the relationship if everything else is ok. IF you can get her to somehow seek treatment, I think you can help her and ultimately have a happy life together. I have a close friend who went through something like this, and in her case it was just as you describe - a normal, personable, friendly, sane woman one minute, and then she'd have a "rage attack" and be just as you describe - including the self harm. Afterwards she would feel drained, embarrassed, vulnerable, and just want to shut herself in her room and speak to no one. In her case, this was ultimately treatable with medication and was not actually a "mental illness" (ie: not a brain chemistry problem) but rather a symptom of another physical issue that was treatable.

5) You wrote "I don't see another relationship as being much different - they all require work and face their own challenges." - certainly all relationships have challenges, but most are not as ... severe ... as this one. Have you ever seen another person act like this? Most people don't. She has something very serious going on, and you and she need to treat is seriously before you move forward in your relationship.

6) How much do you know about her family? Her life before she met you? Has she always done this, or did it start as an adult? Being loving and supportive of her in her struggle to find a way to find the courage to get treatment is going to be a big part of her finding that courage.
posted by anastasiav at 1:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

I think most people get to grow up in families where the occasional throwing of things is a completely abberant behavior pattern and totally unacceptable. Speaking as a child who grew up in a family where someone had a temper problem [and where no one ever physically harmed me] I watched my dad get so angry at my mom once (she was scrappy, they would fight a lot) that he went out on the porch and smashed a chair to pieces.

Even though he never laid a hand on me, while he was in the house I was always afraid that he would kill us if we made him angry because he was unpredictable and unmanageable. I grew up afraid of being killed by my own family member. My mother used his anger and our fear of it to keep us in line. It was a shitty way to grow up. I'm now an adult with a zero-tolerance for out-of-control acting out in my adult life. It's somewhat limiting (there are many otherwise great people with temper/violence problems) but it feels good to say "this nonsense stops here." You have the ability to say that now, to your finacee. It sounds like her parents already see her as beyond their control and are looking to you to "save" her.

She needs to decide to make changes. It doesn't matter how strong you are, you are not resonsible for her behavior or her refusal to seek help, no matter how much you care about her and support her.
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on August 31, 2010 [41 favorites]


Her weakness is that she takes on the burdens of everybody around her, and as a result takes conflict between other people very personally. She also strives for perfection and can obsess over small mistakes. I feel her outbursts are the combination of these many burdens and personal stress taking a toll on her health, and who wouldn't be able to contain this pain? Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

No.

Please don't. This is breaking my heart.

You have been conditioned to believe that what is happening is normal, understandable, or acceptable. It is none of these things. Her outbursts have an incredibly deep-seated cause which she herself may not be able to identify or understand, and they are not a response, normal or otherwise, to her surroundings.

Reading your followup made a lot of things clearer, not the least of which is this: The hardest part in all of this is going to be in letting go of your belief that she is your responsibility, or that you would be abandoning her by leaving. None of this is the case. It will take you a good long while to accept this for real, but you cannot control this situation, and I boldface this again: Unless she genuinely wants to get professional help, you cannot help her. You will never be able to. There is no wiggle room there. There are no mitigating factors which could possibly change this. The only way you could ever help her - really help her and not just enable this behavior and allow it to get worse - would be if she herself were to agree to enter therapy. If she won't, you can't.

This has got to be hard, and I am so, so sorry.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:05 PM on August 31, 2010 [23 favorites]


They (her parents) were genuinely sorry, and told me that I was the only one who could calm her down. So I feel that I have accepted a responsibility for her well-being, but feel discouraged at the idea that I may not be up to the task.

It's quite possible that they told you that and thought "Yay! Not our problem anymore! Now someone else can take the shit we put up with for so many years!"

I'm so sorry that you are discouraged; but, know that you can't fix everyone in this world. Right up until he died, I was convinced that I could save my drug-addicted boyfriend. Even after he was dead, I sat in the hospital and said "you know, all you had to do was not take those pills! It would have been so easy! Now you can't do anything."
posted by Melismata at 1:05 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your impression seems to be that "all relationships have problems, and this is just one run-of-the-mill relationship problem." You also seem to be blaming yourself for it. That's what battered spouses are conditioned to do. The things your fiancee does are NOT normal.

Reading this post made me angry at your fiancee for refusing to seek help. Her excuse about not wanting other people to know about your problems is bullshit. It's a therapist. It's going to be confidential.

If she won't get into counseling, go by yourself. Maybe a counselor can help you see the danger you are in.

I really, really hope you will consider leaving this woman unless she consents to getting help. I know other people with anger management issues like hers have been helped by dialectical behavior therapy with an experienced therapist. But she has to give enough of a damn to work at it, and right now it doesn't sound like she does.
posted by xenophile at 1:06 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


You seem to be describing a person who has breaks with reality and during these breaks is violent and abusive (not a medical opinion, etc.). am I right? I feel terrible for you. You're being abused by someone you love (or did love). I try not to pile onto answers where I don't have anything new to add, but here I just wanted to make the list as long as possible of people who are pointing this out to you. You're being abused. This isn't going to change. What if it was a woman who described her boyfriend's actions this way? If you were my friend I'd tell you to break it off and get away. This is only going to get worse.

Good luck. This isn't your fault.
posted by Buffaload at 1:07 PM on August 31, 2010


All the answers since you're response are saying the same thing, and I agree with them all.
We all have shortcomings and faults, but you are not the cause of hers.
This is black and white - she is not in a marry-able state, it's not your fault, but it is your responsibility to take care of yourself.
Get. Out. Now.
posted by BillBishop at 1:08 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


A classic tactic of an abuser is to make their victim feel responsible for them and to make the victim feel like the abuse is their fault. I've lived this, it's so hard to see until you aren't in the situation anymore. My heart broke reading this. Please, know this is not normal, and it is not okay. It is never okay for someone to be treated the way she is treating you. You are not responsible for her. It's not okay for her family to make you feel like you are.
posted by Zophi at 1:09 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


There are so few things in relationships that are actually black and white, but this is one of the few. Physical violence, whatever the reason, is absolutely unacceptable and should never be tolerated. This is one of the few things where I would say a zero tolerance policy is warranted.

And before people pile on with DTMFA...This can be fixed if your fiancee is willing to learn and work at it. But yeah, she's going to need a lot of counseling and you should put off the wedding until she understands that this absolutely unacceptable behavior that will not be tolerated by you.
posted by bananafish at 1:09 PM on August 31, 2010


I am very impressed by the depth of feeling, concern, and love you have for this person. Nearly every point you make revolves around her, her health, and her happiness. And your trepidation expresses itself as a question of how you meet the challenge of supporting a difficult burden.

As others have said however, she needs serious help. And she will resist seeing that while you are in the picture. Certainly do not marry her under these circumstances. And in fact, under these circumstances, you may have to leave in order for her to realize she has a problem. But that self-awareness is the necessary first step and is one that you cannot force her take.

Not every relationship is like this, They do all require work, but not this kind of work, and not this kind of self-abnegation. This illness will devour all of your kindness and you and leave her no better.

At the evry least, seek counseling yourself for the best answer for your health and sanity. She should do the same. Good luck.
posted by Verdant at 1:12 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's clearly a consensus here about what you should do, and I urge you to listen to it. Since that's been covered, I thought I'd chime in and address your concerns about the commitment you've made, specifically:

A marriage is a covenant and a sacrament, and an engagement is nearly as binding, and I don't want to give up on it.

Now, I should say that I don't share your beliefs. But several of my close friends do, so I'm approaching this in a spirit of respect and understanding, and I hope you'll take it the same way. Surely the most important difference between a marriage and an engagement from your perspective is that a marriage is a commitment that the two of you make before God, but an engagement is a commitment that you've made to each other. As such, an engagement should certainly be taken seriously, as all promises should, but does not need to be granted the same sacred status as a marriage vow. If your reason is good enough, and I think it is here, you can call off an engagement without violating any sacred covenants. I strongly suggest you do not get married, and put yourself in a position that you won't be able to leave without compromising your beliefs.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:12 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dude, if you guys can't have respectful conflict then your marriage will fail. Escalating anger has been identified by independent teams of leading marriage researchers to be toxic to marriage. It doesn't matter how great you are otherwise or how strong your love is. It's not called one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for nothing.

Sure, you may have your faults too and don't want to seem like you're zeroing in on her faults. Faults are not the issue here. Behavior is the issue. If you throw things and threaten people when you are angry then you need anger management classes too.

Get some anger management classes. Go take a PREP class or do a couple's retreat. Check out rageaholics anonymous.

The most merciful thing you can do is to hold it off until she agrees to get help. Agree to go with her. Not saying end it. In fact, stay engaged. "Engaged" means you are in a period of preparation. Treat this work you both need to do (learning de-escalation and "softening" strategies, conflict management skills, etc.) as preparation.

Once you both know what respectful and healthy conflict looks like, then you can set a behavioral goal. Maybe the wedding can be back on once, say, you have gone six months with no relapse of the problem behavior. In other words, you stick with her, but reject the behavior and agreee to work with her as a team.
posted by cross_impact at 1:13 PM on August 31, 2010 [18 favorites]


Her weakness is that she takes on the burdens of everybody around her, and as a result takes conflict between other people very personally. She also strives for perfection and can obsess over small mistakes. ... So I feel that I have accepted a responsibility for her well-being, but feel discouraged at the idea that I may not be up to the task.

Wow, you guys are ALL ABOUT inappropriately taking on other people's burdens. Some burdens you just can't carry for other people (like their well-being, HOLY SHIT), and you can't take on ANY burden for others unless you're at least functionally healthy. You mention Christianity; it's entirely possible your BOTH using Christianity to hide behind how inappropriate these responsibilities are for you to be taking on, and a pastoral counselor will tell you that. I went to seminary, and I've seen this kind of thing in people who are devout but not mentally healthy -- there's a "Jesus complex," a desire to avoid fixing oneself by constantly saving others, and then to push off all criticism of oneself by saying, "Look how much I do for others! Look how I hurt for others! Look how I bleed for others!" It SEEMS like a really giving, caring person, but in fact it's enormously self-destructive. And it's deceptive, too, in a way, since it's primarily a way to deflect from the unhealthiness of the person doing the saving.

Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

I sometimes ball up wads of paper and throw them at the garbage can to relieve tension? But no, I don't throw STUFF, and certainly not at PEOPLE.

The situation has been very difficult for me to accept for a few reasons. One is that I don't want to cast the blame on her.

Do you BLAME diabetics for being diabetic? Do you BLAME someone with a heart murmur for having a heart murmur? Mental illness is an issue of sickness, not blame.

I thought I was a patient, considerate, and humble person before entering into this relationship, and since then I've learned that I have great lengths to go before being able to call myself these things. So I accept that as part of a normal relationship, I have to make some concessions to improve myself.

This is the one thing you've reiterated that's actually throwing up the "abuse" red flags for me. On the one hand, we mostly all learn when we get into relationships that we have to self-improve and become better people. On the other hand, if she is deflecting responsibility for HER behavior by pointing out repeatedly that YOU suck and that SHE can't be better unless YOU'RE better, or, worse, that YOU are the reason she's in bad shape? That's messed up, and that's part of a pattern that does often go along with emotional and sometimes physical abuse.

I'm concerned she will hurt herself, or worse, if we were to break up.

This is a common type form of manipulation.

Her stance against therapy is that I offered to seek therapy for myself to improve our relationship (and reduce the frequency of our arguments). She does not want others to know about our personal affairs, which is a reasonable stance.

Again, this is the mental illness protecting itself. Your response should be, "Look, either we see a therapist, who is bound by confidentiality, and let one person into our personal affairs, OR WE DON'T HAVE ANY PERSONAL AFFAIRS."

I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.

IT IS NOT A MATTER OF FAULT. It is a matter of getting help for someone who desperately needs it. She is in excruciating mental pain such that she has to act it out physically. SHE NEEDS HELP. SHE NEEDS CARE. You are not a professional and CANNOT provide the kind of help she needs! If you have a major shortcoming here, it's that you're refusing to see that the woman you love is in incredible pain and desperately needs professional aide to help her find her way out of that.

(Which is the charitable interpretation, by the way -- that she's got some mental illness or related issues going on. The uncharitable interpretation is that she's deliberately, manipulatively, abusively doing this on purpose with full cognizance of the inappropriateness of it.)

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:13 PM on August 31, 2010 [19 favorites]


Your follow up post increases my concern for her and for you. As many others have pointed out o well--this calls for a complete psychiatric work up, counseling and may be medication. Yes, you both have to look at yourself but it a very serious mistake ( and extremely counterproductive) for you to take on the responsibility for her behavior(s). No matter how you feel, or what you have learned about yourself in your relationship with her, she has her own problems separate from any you might bring into the relationship. This is not a deal breaker--but it does mean--do not get married until you see a sustained and meaningful change in her behavior. I do wish you well in this difficult situation. This does not mean the end but it absolutely indicates the need for a new beginning with an equal commitment from both of you to accept full responsibility for your own behavior.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:15 PM on August 31, 2010


The overwhelming response is that she needs to see professional help, or I need to end the relationship. I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.

The whole "but it's not her fault!" thing is a red herring. Whether or not it's her fault is completely irrelevant. It's not about figuring out who is to blame, it's about saying "Here are all the things that are wrong with the relationship. And here is how we would like our relationship to be. Let's draw a line from A to B and figure out what we need to do in order to have the life that we want." And yes, it's not exactly fair that the majority of the things that will have to be done will be things that she has to do. But would you rather your marriage be fair, or would you rather your marriage be free from violent chaos?
posted by 23skidoo at 1:16 PM on August 31, 2010


As the son of a man with anger management issues who was prone to outbursts, verbal abuse, and, on one occasion, physical abuse, I can only say this:

Do not have children with this woman until she gets professional help for her anger management issues.

I am relatively fucked up from having to live my whole life until I was 18 dealing with his unpredictable outbursts. And I haven't lived under the same roof as the man for 15 years.
posted by brand-gnu at 1:18 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.

That stood out.

We all have our shortcomings and people reasonably react by getting anywhere from irked to really displeased when our shortcomings manifest themselves.

What couldn't be further from reasonable are the ways she reacts--which are 100 percent her responsibility and (because you used the word) fault.
posted by ambient2 at 1:19 PM on August 31, 2010


OP, thanks for responding in-thread, but your response has me seriously worried. You are pretty clearly in an abusive relationship, and like many people in abusive relationships, the abuser has convinced you that it's your fault, that your shortcomings are triggering the abusive behaviour and that your demands to change are unreasonable. These responses are particularly worrying:

I feel her outbursts are the combination of these many burdens and personal stress taking a toll on her health, and who wouldn't be able to contain this pain? Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?


Her outbursts are not the result of transient stress. They are the result of the much more deep-seated and problematic personality disorder of some kind. They are not normal. The behaviour you've described is not the equivalent of throwing a pencil at a wall in frustration over homework. Normal people do not hit themselves or threaten others with knives. They just don't.

The situation has been very difficult for me to accept for a few reasons. One is that I don't want to cast the blame on her. I thought I was a patient, considerate, and humble person before entering into this relationship, and since then I've learned that I have great lengths to go before being able to call myself these things. I don't want to abandon her.

I don't know you, but I would bet a lot of money that you ARE a patient, humble person. You haven't "learned" anything about yourself - it sounds more like she's destroyed your self-esteem. You will benefit from therapy to recover your own sense of self, but you need to get out of this relationship first. A relationship is not a charity mission - leaving one that is not fulfilling your needs and desires is not abandoning the other person (see esp. my point above about an engagement not involving the same commitment as marriage). You are entitled to be selfish in choosing who you marry, because marriages are supposed to be happy, and because children are not happy when their parents were in an unhappy marriage.

I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.

It's not about fault in a moral sense; maybe her brain is wired in such a way that she is not making a conscious choice to be violent. Get away from the language of fault; it's not the point. The point is that she is not good for you, and that's not going to change. In a broader sense, it is her fault, in that you are not the reason for this relationship not going well, and you absolutely should not feel bad about saying that. Your shortcomings are not the issue here; again, this is the classic thought-pattern of an abused partner. You need to get the hell out of this, and you need to get yourself some therapy.
posted by Dasein at 1:19 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Twelve years ago I was in a relationship. We were both faithful Christians. Before we married she used hit me. We talked through that issue and it did get somewhat better. After we married she got "sick" (quotes because she did little to try and get better other than legal drugs). She used to cut herself for no reason, accuse me a cheating without cause or provocation, and tell me that even though I never left the house outside of work to support our household that I was never there for her. She/we went to therapy for her depression and she didn't think it was a problem so she stopped going. We had a daughter who sadly got to witness her mother in one of these fits of rage cutting herself on the arm with a knife. Fortunately I was able to call a neighbor to come down and pick my daughter up so I could try to deal with my then wife's outburst. But I'll never forget the fear in my babies voice as she was pleading with her mommy to not cut herself. Toward the end of my marriage I was depressed and suicidal because no amount of praying, fasting, talking helped her or me feel better about the state of life.

I walked on eggshells for 4 years to not bring up subjects that would send her over the edge. Your fiancee's stance of not seeking therapy is NOT reasonable because the Bible states specifically that when you have problems are are to seek counsel. Based on what I am reading you are very much like I was in my marriage. The sad part is that you don't quite see that are being controlled and abused and she is using the Bible to do it. I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say that she was more active in the Church than you were before your relationship. Am I right?

2 years ago we separated and last year we divorced. I was in an abusive relationship before we even got married and I didn't know it. YOU are in an abusive relationship before you are married and I can only BEG you not to marry her. I don't doubt that she has some good qualities that you love and admire. I just know that I wouldn't want anyone to deal with the abuse that I had to deal with. During that time I prayed for guidance on how to be a better husband and partner and I read so much of myself in your statement of I know I am a jerk and not understanding of her, but I am trying to do better. But I feel the way she deals with her anger is abnormal and unreasonable, and clouds my better judgment when I have to be careful about what I say to her that I am literally almost in tears sitting at my desk at work.

The problem is in the end when you finally reach your breaking point and leave, it won't be her that everyone blames for the divorce even though they are well aware of her outburts. It'll be you for not being the "strong Christian man and leader of your household." It's not worth it and to reiterate what someone said previously, relationships DO NOT have to be that way. I am available to you offline because you are living the life I lived. Mefi mail me and I'll send you my personal Email and phone number if you ever want to or need to discuss it further.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 1:19 PM on August 31, 2010 [116 favorites]


Fermt, your follow-up reminded me of something my own therapist has stressed to me, again and again, and it's this:

Perfectionism is a form of self-abuse. When you begin to extend this need for perfection into controlling others' behavior, it becomes manipulation and emotional blackmail. It can mimic other things, like depression, manic-depressive episodes, workaholism, eating disorders and the like.

Moreover, perfectionism is highly touted as a "positive" trait in Americans and is frequently a comorbid condition in individuals that don't realize it's the root issue of their other emotional and physical behaviors, so they treat the "symptoms" while dismissing the illness.

After all, who wouldn't want to be as perfect as they possibly can? Answer: sane people who know that the pursuit of perfection is the equivalent of Sisyphus rolling that goddamn boulder up a hill, and stopped pushing it after 4 or 5 failed attempts.

It's not always easy to diagnose mental illness, nor should we here on AskMe; but perhaps this article would be helpful in determining whether your fiancee is, in fact, suffering this way.

And FYI, nobody is perfect. Nobody "deserves" to live in alternating states of fear and exhaustion, and your efforts to justify her behavior by saying you have your own shortcomings reeks of feeling as though you are being paid back in kind for having imperfections of your own.

No matter how damaged you think you are, this is not something you have to tolerate. Even if your faults include physical, verbal or sexual abuse, addiction, relying on her financially, etc. that is something for YOU to work on, not justify by being abused in a romantic relationship with your fiancee. She can't fix you and you can't fix her, either. Only professionals can.

To reiterate: Nobody DESERVES to live in fear within a relationship, and NO, healthy families do not endure family members throwing things. You'd teach a 4-year-old not to throw things or scream to the point of exhaustion, right? Why should you expect an adult to be any different? (Reality shows are NOT reality, if that's where this idea comes from.)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:20 PM on August 31, 2010 [19 favorites]


Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

No. They don't.

Listen to the collective, unified voice here that is telling you unanimously that marrying this woman is a terrible idea. For whatever reason (temper, illness, personality) she is unable to control her behavior and possibly doesn't want to. Even dating her sounds like a terrible idea. She is not healthy enough right now to be in a romantic relationship.

Listen to yourself. You're already talking like a battered partner, because you are one. I worked at a domestic violence shelter for two years, and your story rings so, so familiar. I frequently heard abused people say things like "they don't mean it, it must be my fault, I did something to set off his/her anger (yes, women are abusers, too), no one is perfect, I have my faults too, it was just that one time." Believe me. It will escalate. She means it, because she isn't doing a single thing to stop it.

Look at this checklist under "Signs that you're in an abusive relationship." I can check off at least six of those things, just from your original post. Call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233), even if you just need a sounding board. They'll talk things through with you and help you get some clarity.

As for the binding aspect of an engagement: you have not yet entered into a covenant with her and with God. It may feel like it, but you haven't. Do not let her, or her parents, or yourself make you feel like you're responsible for "fixing" her; that is something that only she can do herself. It's not up to you as the man or the head of the household (if that is what you're thinking; I can't tell) to make everything ok here, or to just bear it. You haven't made any decision so binding that it can't be undone. Think of it this way: Why would a loving and just God want you to be involved in a relationship that harms you physically and emotionally?
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:22 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think you've been in this situation for too long and can't see how toxic it is. Particularly:

I feel her outbursts are the combination of these many burdens and personal stress taking a toll on her health

If I know I get angry and violent when I drink, but don't take concrete steps to limit or eliminate my drinking, I am choosing to get angry and violent. Likewise, if your wife knows she gets out of control with rage when she lets her stress level build up, but doesn't take concrete steps to address that stress (therapy, medication, exercise, whatever works), she is choosing to get out of control with rage.

Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

No, not on a monthly basis. Sure, most healthy people do get out-of-control angry once in a great while--but they recognize it. They say, "Wow, what is going on with me? What is wrong with me? How can I make sure I never do that again?" Not because anger is a terrible thing, but because out of control rage is a terrible, abusive thing to expose your family to. In healthy families, children are exposed to appropriate anger, not out of control rage: Mom and Dad may argue, but they do not throw things or become violent against themselves, each other, or the kids.

I thought I was a patient, considerate, and humble person before entering into this relationship, and since then I've learned that I have great lengths to go before being able to call myself these things.

Even if this were true, the healthy thing for her to do when you fall short on, say, patience, would be to say, "Fermt, why are you speaking to me that way?" or even an angry, "Snap out of it, Fermt! You're acting like a jerk!" but not to hit herself and claw at you and threaten you with a knife.

She does not want others to know about our personal affairs, which is a reasonable stance.

No, it is not a reasonable stance. A therapist isn't someone in your social circle, a therapist is a professional with an ethical obligation to maintain your privacy. Does your fiancee object to your seeing a physician because she doesn't want anyone else to see you nude?

I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings.

So, if you're not perfect, you have no right to hold her to a standard of decent behavior? That's not Christian, and that's not love, that's masochistic. It's not ok for her to carry on with out of control rage, violent and erratic behavior, and fear of getting help. Even if you are sometimes impatient or whatever, her extreme rage is a serious problem, and you have every right to address it. Sure, she might say, "Oh yeah? Well YOU are impatient all the time..." to which you can say, "Yes, I know I'm imperfect, but I recognize that patience is an area where I struggle and I am trying to become more patient by doing X, Y, and Z; rage is an area where you struggle and it matters to me that you take steps to address it."
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:23 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have been reading through every response carefully, and they are all so insightful to me. The response is more than I could have expected, although the responses only raise more internal conflict. I don't want to feel like I am leaving out anything and making the wrong choice, so here is one more issue that I feel I should have mentioned in the original post, and one that I anticipate would come up if I mention therapy again.

She knows she is being unreasonable after-the-fact, she just completely loses control of herself. She is apologetic for what she did and cries for being so misbehaved. She told me that she's grateful for my ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.

The issue is that this happens repeatedly, and happens like clockwork. I know she is sorry and that she doesn't want to be this way. She has a number of numerous other medical problems (both minor and significant but none life-threatening), some of which I think stem from the effects of her temperament on her body. So she acknowledges that she is being unreasonable but doesn't seem to be able, or otherwise very willing to change it. It doesn't seem to affect the frequency or duration this happens though.

As a result, perhaps there should be some responsibility on my part to help her change. Is THAT grounds for ending a relationship? I think I am trying to find a dissenting tide amidst the wave because I am so reluctant to give up something that was, and could still be so good.
posted by fermt at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2010


You are being abused. You are also in denial. So, the only thing I will add to the pile on of advice is to seek your own therapy (in secret if necessary) immediately to give you the courage to leave this woman and find someone who will be a great mom and a great wife.

This is in no way normal in a relationship, and normal relationship issues do not even compare with having a knife pulled on you.

She does not want others to know about our personal affairs, which is a reasonable stance.

It's not at all reasonable, she just knows that if someone else hears what is happening she will need to change it, and she doesn't want to (or is scared to, who know)

Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

Not really. I had a terrible temper as a child and threw things, but I was a small kid. And my parents spent a LOT of time explaining why it wasn't acceptable to have temper tantrums (and helping me improve my impulse control), likely because they didn't want me to grow up to terrorize my family. I can now count on one hand the number of times I have raised my voice in anger over the last year, and throwing things hasn't been in the equation since the teenage years.

For example, my mom has a pretty bad temper and did ONCE throw something and it is something my siblings STILL think about and are still a bit mad at her for. Our family wasn't exactly healthy, but this behavior is way more extreme and is going to lead to serious consequences.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"She often (several times a month) has fits of rage over otherwise minor arguments. In most of these cases she throws things around the room and hits her head with her fist. I always try to stop her from hurting herself although she responds by biting and scratching. In one instance she pulled a carving knife and said she would kill one of us if I got close."

You do not want children with this person; your future children would not want a parent like this (I would question if they would even survive in a situation like this).
Get out and get away from this "relationship", it's bad for everyone involved.
posted by blueberry at 1:29 PM on August 31, 2010


You may be doing everything you can to stay out of her way, not make her mad, comfort her when she's upset, etc. You may do this because you want to minimize her outbursts, or their effects. Unfortunately, your behavior (which, again, is the only thing you can change about this situation) is actually helping her keep on going in that dangerous direction. There are fewer negative consequences for her; she has no reason to change when you're not only putting up with her abusive behavior but rewarding her by giving her exactly what she wants!

Something that I realized with my own relationships is that we get so used to a particular situation that we have no concept of what "normal" really is. You might mention something in conversation that you think is "par for the course," or even funny to you by this point, and the other person's jaw drops open. You're so used to the endless cycle of coping and pleading and protecting and staying out of her way that you don't realize that this is not okay, and this is not what a healthy relationship is like.

Even if you find the perfect partner, you'll live with this legacy for years -- flinching at the first hint of conflict, beating yourself up over what you wish you had done better or what you shouldn't have done at all. My relationships were nowhere near as tough as yours, and I still apologize profusely when I tell someone that they have spinach in their teeth! That's no way to live.
posted by Madamina at 1:31 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


she acknowledges that she is being unreasonable but doesn't seem to be able, or otherwise very willing to change it. It doesn't seem to affect the frequency or duration this happens though. As a result, perhaps there should be some responsibility on my part to help her change.

I don't understand the jump in logic. She cannot or will not control herself, so it should be your responsiblity to do what she cannot? How can you control someone who cannot control herself? Jump to the ending: you can't.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:31 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes

I've never seen anyone but a child do this, and it's not okay for children either.

They (her parents) were genuinely sorry, and told me that I was the only one who could calm her down. So I feel that I have accepted a responsibility for her well-being, but feel discouraged at the idea that I may not be up to the task.

I had a roommate once who had huge anger issues, among other things. When she wasn't angry at me she'd want to be best friends. She told me that before college she'd only ever been "that way" with her parents. But I was randomly assigned to live with her, so I got to be the one to deal with her explosions.

I don't think you're the only one who can calm her down. (Her parents seem to have managed before you.) If she's anything like my roommate was then, she'll take things out on whoever is closest to her at the moment. I think as partners you have a responsibility to each other to provide various things important to your well-being; a safe home environment is really a minimum. But I don't think anyone can take responsibility for their partner's actual moods.

For what it's worth, even my roommate never threw anything around me.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 1:34 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


She knows she is being unreasonable after-the-fact, she just completely loses control of herself. She is apologetic for what she did and cries for being so misbehaved. She told me that she's grateful for my ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.

This is CLASSICALLY abusive behavior. The rage, followed by the apologies and tears and promises and the song of "it's only because I love you so much." Followed again by the rage. (Do her parents behave this way to her? This behavior is often learned at an abusive parent's knee.)

I think you find this mitigating, something that makes her behavior less bad? But this is actually the point in the thread where I go, "No. Do not have children with her."

Dear Abby always says something like, "Go to therapy, and if she won't go with you, go without her." If you're not at a point where you can make the leap out of this relationship, YOU need to go to therapy. Invite her. Tell her its couples' therapy and it's important to you that she come. When she refuses, GO ALONE. (To your own therapist, maybe -- some couples therapists won't see individual halves of the couple individually.) Tell her it's non-negotiable, you're going. She can come if she wants, but you're going. The therapist will help you see this situation for what it is far better than we can ... and there's a slim possibility that she might take the ultimatum and go with you, or that she might observe you going and decide it's not that bad and agree to go.

So, insist on therapy. If she won't go, go alone. But go.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:36 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


She is apologetic for what she did and cries for being so misbehaved. She told me that she's grateful for my ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.

The issue is that this happens repeatedly, and happens like clockwork. I know she is sorry and that she doesn't want to be this way... So she acknowledges that she is being unreasonable but doesn't seem to be able, or otherwise very willing to change it. It doesn't seem to affect the frequency or duration this happens though.


Do you see the internal contradictions in what she's telling you? If she were actually sorry, she would be embracing change because she would want to stop hurting you. That's not what's happening. She's crying because that's what makes you stay. She's praising your staying so you can feel good about the suffering she's inflicting. She's not expressing genuine regret; she's just manipulating you into sticking around for more of the same.

This is not to say that she's enjoying hurting you; rather, she can't even see you.
posted by jon1270 at 1:36 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


She knows she is being unreasonable after-the-fact, she just completely loses control of herself. She is apologetic for what she did and cries for being so misbehaved. She told me that she's grateful for my ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.

There's a reason why there are TV movies, books, and films all called some variation of "But he loves me." Just because she thanks you for being a punching bag doesn't mean you should be that punching bag.

What if she DOES stab you next time? Can she apologize enough for stabbing you? Can she apologize to your parents and friends enough if she murders you? The reason why you're not getting even a single voice speaking up for her behavior is because her behavior is wrongabusive.

Apologizing for abuse is one of the most classic, most hallmark symptoms of being in an abusive relationship.

The fact that she knows it's wrong and keeps on doing it should be a huge red flag for you. The fact that she's crying (begging for sympathy) because she mistreated you should be a huge red flag.

You're being abused. I know it's hard sometimes for men to admit that, but you are being abused, period. You can't fix someone who doesn't care if they hurt you. All you can do is save yourself.
posted by headspace at 1:37 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


She knows she is being unreasonable after-the-fact, she just completely loses control of herself. She is apologetic for what she did and cries for being so misbehaved. She told me that she's grateful for my ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.

Let's take a look at the cycle of violence. First is the tension-building stage, where tension mounts and you start walking on eggshells, trying to avoid doing anything she might get upset about. Then the abusive event occurs. Then, in the third stage, she's remorseful, you feel guilty, she promises not to do it again, and may even do nice things like buy you a gift or make you breakfast in bed, whatever. And then it happens again.

And again.

As a result, perhaps there should be some responsibility on my part to help her change. Is THAT grounds for ending a relationship? I think I am trying to find a dissenting tide amidst the wave because I am so reluctant to give up something that was, and could still be so good.

I don't follow your logic. What could possibly make this your job to fix? The fact that she is either unable or (and you must consider this as a possibility) unwilling to change is not something you can fix.

Furthermore, this is already not good. And until she seeks counseling and becomes a healthy, whole person, it will continue to not be good. Don't be swayed by promises of her changing, and it most certainly won't happen quickly. I'm talking years of counseling and hard work on her part, while you're living your own life and not hanging around like an emotional punching bag for her to work out her problems on.
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:38 PM on August 31, 2010


She knows she is being unreasonable after-the-fact, she just completely loses control of herself. She is apologetic for what she did and cries for being so misbehaved. She told me that she's grateful for my ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.

I absolutely don't doubt that when she is not having a violent outburst, she is a wonderful and loving person. But that isn't the problem. It doesn't matter how sorry she is after it happens if she isn't making any tangible effort to stop it from happening. I have no doubt that she doesn't want to be this way, but again, it doesn't matter.

Her measure will not be in how she feels about these outbursts, but what she does about them. And right now, she's not doing anything at all.

As a result, perhaps there should be some responsibility on my part to help her change. Is THAT grounds for ending a relationship? I think I am trying to find a dissenting tide amidst the wave because I am so reluctant to give up something that was, and could still be so good.

You have no responsibility to help her change. You're a good man, with a good heart, and the world needs more people who are willing to go the distance, but this isn't about that. It's about the fact that she will not do anything to change. And if she won't, you can't help her. Think about the notion of being equally yoked...except one of you isn't yoked at all. You're the only one pulling the cart, friend, and she's not helping - in fact she's actually kind of pulling it backwards - and it doesn't mean you have a responsibility to pull harder. It means the cart's going nowhere and you're going to kill yourself trying to get it to wherever you think it's going.

Please believe that I understand how badly you want to hear dissent. Some have said that it may be worthwhile to stay if she actually gets help, and I agree with this. Hence why the ultimatum must be: She gets help, or you leave.

Both she and her family are trying to make you believe that you owe her something. You do not. You are paid in full. Your current approach isn't working and it will get worse for you.

If you don't mind me asking, had you done much dating before you were with her?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:38 PM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Dear Abby also said, "People are on their best behavior BEFORE marriage." Once she has you, she won't feel the need to restrain herself so much.
posted by Melismata at 1:39 PM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


As a result, perhaps there should be some responsibility on my part to help her change. Is THAT grounds for ending a relationship? I think I am trying to find a dissenting tide amidst the wave because I am so reluctant to give up something that was, and could still be so good.

"IF" you want to take the stance of being there and walking through this ... and you need to make this choice carefully and with much counsel (i.e. pastor, minister, therapist), make a concrete list of what needs to change before marriage is a viable option. Stay engaged for the duration, and try to be there for the healing journey IF SHE IS WILLING TO MAKE IT HERSELF!!!

Please memail me, and the man who also offered offline support. I have been on one side of this (actually both to be honest) and he has been on the other. Do not disregard the unanimous voice you are hearing. And don't keep the problem secret, talk to your Pastor. This is bigger than you are. Don't try to handle it by yourself.
posted by batikrose at 1:39 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your responsibility to her is to make the very best decisions, you can, for yourself. The more i read the more concerned. I am very confident she has an increasingly manifest serious mental illness. Without intervention it will not go into remission and probably become more disabling. As I have said--it does not mean the end but it does mean a serious commitment by both of you to address this issue fully and forthrightly before getting married. And that means--a sustained period free from the inappropriate,menacing,threating and self injurious behavior. As hard as it is to accept--regret and remorse does absolutely nothing to turn the behavior around and in fact increases the probability it will occur in the future. While I am not one of the "leave now" I do urge extreme caution, no children and no marriage until the issues are resolved and gone.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2010


Btw -- "this behavior is way more extreme and is going to lead to serious consequences."

Serious consequences like (assuming you're in the US), the first time your child mentions your wife's behavior to a trusted teacher, DCFS will be there to investigate your family and possibly remove your children. Teachers are mandatory reporters and have to report all suspicions of child neglect or abuse. Your kids will probably not be out in the world very long before they start telling concerned adults, "Mommy threatened daddy with a knife" or "Mommy had a screaming fit and threw things."

Assuming you side with your children against your wife, which is a shitty position to find yourself in, you will then be fighting to prove to the state that you're a fit parent who can protect them against their mother (by acquiring separate residences and limiting her contact with them) if you want to be the custodial parent, and the state will be asking, "If your wife has been doing this for YEARS, why did you subject your children to this all this time?" and will have questions about your fitness as a parent as a result.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


she is exhausted and needs the the following day off from work to recover after these outbursts.

This sentence really stood out to me for some reason. As egregious as her angry behavior is, and it is very egregious, I cannot conceive of being so "exhausted" by having been angry the evening before that I cannot go to work the next day.

I would agree that a psychological evaluation is indicated here.
posted by OmieWise at 12:16 PM


This is absolutely a key observation and insight for me (and one I would have completely missed out on left to my own devices).

I have a handful of friends and acquaintances, and a few members of a large extended family of in-laws over several generations who show this pattern of behavior, all of whom have seizure disorders. And with the in-laws, it's also associated with intense religiosity and musical talent. Actual seizures tend to leave them bedridden.

If she won't go to a psychologist or psychiatrist, maybe you could get her to a neurologist.
posted by jamjam at 1:41 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You may not have gotten to my initial response but I feel compelled to respond to your, As a result, perhaps there should be some responsibility on my part to help her change. comment.

The answer is no. She is an adult and she has to take personal responsibility of her actions. When we feel that we love someone we ignore the obvious signs. I hope upon hope that we get through to you. Can she get better? Absolutely. I'm just trying to convey that she needs to get through this and you can't do it for her.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


We dated for about six months before I proposed. We had frequent arguments over insensitive things that I said but I accepted I was at fault most of the time. There wasn't as much violence at this time, although it has certainly increased over the last year since we purchased a house. That was one reason I think working through these arguments is par for the course.

I have a lot of thinking to do, but thank you so much, for all for your responses. I will be thinking over every one of them until I have an epiphany. I know everything points toward seeking help, but it's so difficult given our history. I don't want to hurt or shame her (and my own) family and deal with the potential hassle of selling the house, but I have to strongly weigh that against the possibility of my future, and the future of our children. It's so difficult to let go because I see glimpses of the wonderful future that could lie ahead, and it feels like an excuse to give up on it.

The opinion against this reality is so strong that I really need to consider everything carefully.
posted by fermt at 1:49 PM on August 31, 2010


Fermt, you're looking for a dissenting tide because you want to stay with your fiancee. Be it out of love, perceived obligation, religious doctrine, or a misplaced sense of responsibility, it doesn't in the end matter if this is your intent.

You can stay with your fiancee. You can't stay in this relationship. She needs to seriously change her attitude towards mental illness and counseling, and accept that she needs help from a professional, who will then determine whether that help consists of anger management, therapy, medication, or a combination thereof. It is a disease, it is affecting her mind, her judgment, her behavior. And she is the only one who can take charge.

It has nothing to do with whose fault it is, who's airing whose laundry in public, who made what commitment to whom. She needs to get help for herself, and if you love her and, most importantly, if you love yourself, you will make sure to communicate this to her. She needs to take control of her problem, or there is no way for the two of you to be together.

You say her parents were "sorry" at her outburst, and they commended your ability to handle it. She is their daughter. Talk to them about it. Tell them how worried you are for her, how uncertain of your future together, how terrified at the prospect of children being subjected to the same behavior. Enlist their help, if they will give it, appeal to their love for their child. Tell your pastor. Tell your friends. Get their advice, get their help, sit down and talk to her about how incredibly dangerous her behavior is.

If all this fails, then yes. You need to break off the engagement, and you need to let her know exactly why you are breaking off the engagement. Her physical and emotional well being are not your responsibility, nor your cross to bear.
posted by lydhre at 1:50 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


If she genuinely feels that, after-the-fact, what she did was wrong...and yet she does it AGAIN and AGAIN...and she still refuses to seek help...

That's even worse, you know. She knows she is hurting you, regularly and frequently, and she's not doing a damned thing to change it. How is that love?
posted by galadriel at 1:51 PM on August 31, 2010 [13 favorites]


She told me that she's grateful for my ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.

What would happen if, in response to this, you said, "I love you, but I'm not willing to put up with everything you do when you're enraged, and I'm not willing to put up with how out of control you get. I will stand by you while you get help for your anger, but you need to get help for your anger"?

Your responsibility to help her isn't to take her abuse for as long as she feels like doling it out, but to say, out of love and concern, "Your pattern of behavior is seriously unhealthy, and you need to find a way to change it." And if she won't take steps to change her behavior, your responsibility to yourself (and to any future kids you'll be modeling adult behavior for) is to leave the relationship. It's not a failure of your commitment if she won't seek help and won't change her behavior. You cannot love her out of this rage, or make changes for her so that she doesn't have to: she needs to change her behavior in order for the two of you to have a relationship.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:53 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have to pile on here.

This is a classic abusive relationship. No one should ever raise their hand in anger toward the ones they love for any reason, no excuses.

There is definitely a heightened sensitivity to abusive relationships here on AskMe. People here have lived through it, and there are lots of similar questions in the site history. (If you're still on the fence, read through some of them.) There are a significant number of people here who have gone through being abused.

When you see this many people telling you that you're being abused in your relationship, it's for real. If you've read down this far, SERIOUS alarm bells should be going off in your head right now.

I also feel that you should get out of this relationship. For you. Don't worry about her.
posted by Citrus at 1:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought I was a patient, considerate, and humble person before entering into this relationship, and since then I've learned that I have great lengths to go before being able to call myself these things. So I accept that as part of a normal relationship, I have to make some concessions to improve myself.

Respectfully, I suggest that you look into getting some therapy for yourself regardless of what happens with her. As others have said, she seems to have convinced you that you're responsible for her her abusive behavior, and you're not able to see it.

So I feel that I have accepted a responsibility for her well-being, but feel discouraged at the idea that I may not be up to the task.

Would expect to be responsible for her well-being if she had a physical illness and refused treatment?
posted by Mavri at 1:54 PM on August 31, 2010


Sometimes bad stuff happens that isn't anybody's fault. Kids get all kinds of horrible diseases, they had nothing to do with them. Good people get into horrible accidents.

My point is that you should not try to assign fault, or assume that it has to be your fault OR her fault that your relationship didn't work out. She doesn't have to be a bad person for you to leave this relationship. You don't have to be a bad person to leave this relationship. Sometimes these things just happen and they're senseless and pointless and sad, and there's nothing you can do but take care of yourself.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:57 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

Good God, no!

Were you raised this way? I feel concerned for the child version of you. There was plenty of yelling and anger in my family growing up, and I wouldn't consider that it was a terribly healthy one, but we didn't deal with what you are dealing with. I'm by no means sheltered. But this makes me wonder whether there is something in your own background that makes you feel responsible for others' behavior.

Please at least seek counseling for yourself to explore why you are NOT seeing her behavior as a deal-breaker.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:00 PM on August 31, 2010


You don't want to throw away a potentially great future together. Fine. Completely understandable. But please, please listen to the responses here. You need help. You cannot deal with this on your own. Get therapy. Get her a physical workup. This behavior is not normal. It is either mental, or a manifestation of a physical problem. You love her and want to make it work. That is fine! Think of her as ill and in denial. Find a way to force her to agree to figure out what is wrong with her.

I've read every response above and I don't think anyone has said this directly - this is not her TEMPER or TEMPERAMENT. It's not "just who she is." There is something going on. People who have bad tempers don't grab knives and threaten to kill themselves - they scream, yell, sure, throw things at walls once in a while - but your fiancée isn't displaying a "bad temper." She's displaying a mental or physical problem, and if you love her and want to stay with her, it is your job to help her figure out what it is.

I wanted to keep it short and sweet, but i hope i don't sound brusque. I feel for you and want you to know that it shouldn't be like this for you.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I am scared because I don't see another relationship as being much different - they all require work and face their own challenges.

The vast majority of "challenges" within relationships do not involve carving knives.

Just as everyone else has written: Honestly, guy, STOP, do not pass go, do not collect that $200.

Really, there are two issues here:

1) she's mentally ill, and requires a great deal of help-- help she's apparently unwilling to accept, and which, bluntly, you can't give her;

2) your belief that she's the best you can do. I'm ordinarily loathe to bring this into the conversation, but, really, there's a ton of excellent free dating advice online. Just Google-- almost any of the more detailed, systematic approaches work very, very well for meeting and quickly attracting new women.

The world is very likely full of intelligent, attractive, Christian women who wish to have kids; either meet some new women, or demand that she get serious and sustained psychiatric help.

To echo what is the obvious wisdom here:

She's a danger to your future children, to you, and to herself.

Get her psychological help, or get gone.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe your worries about selling the house, telling friends etc, are just ways of distracting yourself from the deeper pain of facing the possibility that this relationship may not actually work out. It's an awful thing to have to come to terms with, but do you actually want to stay with her? Because it's ok to want out of this, really it is.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2010


loathe
loath
posted by darth_tedious at 2:19 PM on August 31, 2010


I stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship for far too many years because I had a similar outlook to yours -- I saw how great things could be for us, and I saw all of his great qualities. I also tried to be reasonable and shoulder part of the blame for his outbursts, and tried to be more responsible about my own behaviour. I tried for years to improve myself and improve him to just get his temper under control, because everything else with him was great.

But it really wasn't great. Despite all of his wonderful qualities (and there were many), it just kept getting worse. Over the years, the fights and my resulting self-flagellation wore down my self esteem and sense of self-worth so completely that it took me years after we broke up to even realise how much I had lost. After going to counselling for a while and hearing from someone else how insane my relationship was (like you're hearing right now), I finally got the courage to break it off. It was so impossibly hard to give up on that relationship, but I just had to admit defeat and forgive myself for not being able to make it work.

I know that standing up and talking about these issues with your fiancee is going to be incredibly hard. I know potentially breaking off an engagement would be very, very difficult for you and for the families involved. But it's even more awful to potentially have to leave your wife because she's gone mad and tried to kill your child. Or you. That's going to be even more dreadful than having to sell a house, because then you're even more bound to one another.

You are not responsible for your fiancee's well-being -- no adult should expect another adult to shoulder her burdens as their own, without any effort on her part. It doesn't matter that she feels bad -- i'm sure she does, but it's not acceptable that she is allowing you to feel as if you have a part to play in her own issue. This is not a healthy relationship. Please forgive yourself, and go to therapy. And please, please make those incredibly difficult steps to get your fiancee into therapy, and if she won't go, please don't marry her.
posted by ukdanae at 2:24 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


I grew up in Hell. My entire childhood was of pain and suffering. Every minute, of every day.

My mother sounds exactly like your fiance. Someone up above mentioned organic brain damage... many many years after I had ceased relations with my mother, someone mentioned the same possibility to me. It was the first explanation that made sense. The second was a suggestion she may have had Boderline Personality Disorder.

I've just turned 40 and I still experience PTSD from time to time. The crazy in my home growing up was absolutely that bad. My mother refused all help and denied she was sick when we were growing up. My understanding is she refuses any real treatment or diagnosis to this day.

My parents divorced when I was 19 years old. The same year, my mother tried to kill me. Previous to that, she scape-goated me at every turn. I was the excuse for almost every outburst. She humiliated me in public and private. She ruined every friendship, every school function, family events, dance recitals... the list is fucking endless. She took me to shrinks and claimed I was the problem. No one could protect me or my brother, no one could control her. Heck, the adults in my life couldn't protect themselves! Years later, my dad told me a story about a marriage counseling process they were attempting when I was about 16 years old... after a few sessions, the therapist called in a colleague of hers (male) to help facilitate because my mother (5' and 120 lbs) was too much for her to handle. My dad did practically nothing concrete to ever really help himself or his children.

My mom is/was also a really really good person. Just like your fiance. But she lost control often. THIS GOT WORSE AS SHE GOT OLDER. When she was around 38 or so, I remember desperately trying to get someone to get her help. I remember knowing if it didn't happen soon, she would never get well.

She never got well. She has a tormented life I would not wish on my worst enemy.

She has always been somewhat functional and remains so today. She has a job that can't fire her. She is alone. She's always engaged in some drama and new friends never stick around.

She is probably the most dangerous person I have ever known and I will never ever be 100% OK because I was her favorite victim for 20 years. Her illness robbed me of love, safety, and opportunity.

---------

I know this person you love has redeeming qualities. My mother has them in spades.

Right now, you share a roof and a bed with someone who could likely one day kill you or your children. Even if the violence never gets that far, the emotional toll on you and your family will be insurmountable. Not to mention the staggering cost on your career. If you are a reliable employee now, you won't be as your partner's illness progresses.

You and any children you have with her will walk on eggshells every second of every day, hoping to avoid the next completely unavoidable outburst.

(These outbursts are especially terrifying when they occur as she is driving a car with you in the passenger seat, or say holding an infant child - pretty much in any situation where her rage and impulsiveness could result in grave bodily harm or death.)

----------


I fear it is likely your fiance could be mis-diagnosed at first, even if she was willing to accept and undertake the true process of getting treatment. I don't know if medication can help this sort of illness, depending on the cause. Should your fiance agree to treatment, be wary of anyone who would prescribe medication without continued evaluation and treatment.

But you've told us she is not willing to seek treatment. If you give her an ultimatum (get help or else) she will likely feign compliance to get you to the alter. My mom saw some counselor/therapist guy for a few years that she had completely fooled. How that man never recommended my obviously crazy mother for serious psychiatric assessment, I will never know. I assume every week she put on a big act, never confessing how often and truly she lost control whenever she wasn't in his office. But just going to "therapy" every week made it OK for her to continue abusing us.

My point? Real help takes real work.

And sure my mom was sorry enough sometimes after her outbursts. But never enough to follow through and get real treatment. As her illness progressed, and she kept getting away with the behavior (to a point), she started re-writing events to soothe her conscience. In this way, she persists. It's become a big part of how she gets by day-to-day.

Frankly, your situation seems headed in a similar trajectory without a miracle of some kind.

-------------

I hope you get that miracle. I do.

-------------

In the meantime, you should talk to psychiatric professionals (a few, at least) and get their advice. Not therapists, but doctors. You need some sort of clinical and educated idea of what you are dealing with so that you can make the right decisions.

Please don't put your head in the sand.

My dad did that. By the time my brother and I were in our mid-thirties, our relationships with each other and our father completely disintegrated. No one talks to anyone anymore.

That's how much it eventually hurts. Any and all reminders must be avoided, even family.


Please be aware I am not confusing my mother with your fiance. Rather, your story matches the stories I heard as a young adult from my father and others about the early years of my parents' marriage. You've only been together a year and a half. You don't know this woman as well as you think. Not if she has pulled a knife on your in the first 18 months of your relationship. No way.


I wish you the very best as you move forward. I think it is truly brave of you to acknowledge what's going on in your relationship with this woman.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 2:25 PM on August 31, 2010 [124 favorites]


I've weighed in briefly above, and fully agree with the consensus.

I want to add one thing, from personal experience in a similar relationship: She is probably a terrific person in many ways. You like her and love her and care for her and possibly even respect her for traits that don't come through in this sort of discussion. This makes it hard for you to see her clearly and perceive your situation accurately. Maybe you have needs she fills. Maybe you have fears she helps assuage.

But this is still an untenable situation.

For your sake and hers, please try to regain some objectivity.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 2:28 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


She knows she is being unreasonable after-the-fact... She is apologetic for what she did and cries for being so misbehaved. The issue is that this happens repeatedly, and happens like clockwork. I know she is sorry and that she doesn't want to be this way.It doesn't seem to affect the frequency or duration this happens though.

Oh Fermt. Your posts and the follow ups break my heart. You are in an abusive relationship and what you describe is the classic cycle of abuse. Your situation is not unique, it is not special, it is not different. It is garden variety abuse.

I know about this from extensive volunteer work with a domestic violance shelter and (sadly) from personal experience. Whatever the reasons she is abusive, she IS abusive and it is NOT YOUR FAULT. I was in a short lived marriage that I wish like hell I had never entered into. I could have written a post similar to yours, but not nearly as violent and scary as yours. I get where you are coming from, I really do. You don't want to give up if there is a small chance that you could have done something, anything.

But you can't, no matter what you do, you can't. I am sorry because I know you don't want to hear that but I pray that you do. Please get out of this relationship for your own sake and for the sake of your unborn children. I have a son now with Mr. Murrey and I thank God every day that I did not have children with my abusive ex. Even the thought of anyone hurting or even terrifying a sweet, innocent bundle of purity, joy and light is utterly heartbreaking.

Memail me if you need support. But please take the centuries of wisdom gathered and learned the hard way from me and my fellow Mefites. You deserve so much better and I am afraid this relationship will end the "easy" way (now) or the hard way (through divorce, with kids, worse...).
posted by murrey at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Here's the deal, I'm going to admit something that I really don't want to, but hopefully it will help you out. I'm a woman, I have an extremely violent temper. Much like your fiancee, I have, in the past, taken the burden of the world upon my shoulders and I have inevitably been disappointed and hurt. When I was hurt by the world, or those that I loved, I have had strong powerful urges to physically hurt, maim or completely destroy those who caused the pain, or even those random folks that happen to be in my way.

I was raised with an angry father and mother. I saw my father take a chainsaw to a couch because it wouldn't fit in the door. I saw my mother lay in the floor and scream and cry because the milk had gone bad.

But here's the positive, I have never hit a loved one in anger (maybe once or twice while goofing off). I have never thrown things at people (other than dodge ball). I have not raised my voice in anger at a partner since I was old enough to realize that the drama could end with me. (Roughly at age 15.) I have never threatened to hurt myself or the one I love. I have the rage, the anger, and the violence in me. I understand it's siren call. The moment after you let it it out, it feels quite beautiful, that release is one of the best and most seductive out ther. But I refuse to ever let it out. Because that is not what a loving, caring person does. That's what an insenstive selfish child does. A child throws a temper tantrum and threatens to hurt himself or others, a child refuses to get help, a child refuses to take responsibility, a child "can't help it". An adult can, even if it's something as small as agreeing to therapy.

I beg you, do not marry this woman. Do not have children with her. Do not continue the cycle of violence and create another generation who broken people who refuse to ignore the siren song of rage.
posted by teleri025 at 2:32 PM on August 31, 2010 [22 favorites]


Nthing everyone above who said this is an abusive relationship. And wanted to point out that you could be a complete, total saint and, unless you were Gd himself, SHE WOULD STILL BE THIS WAY. You didn't create it, you can't control it and you can't cure it, as they say in Al-Anon and Codependents Anonymous (which, though it gets some stuff very very wrong, might be incredibly useful for you).

To explain, I am opposed to the concept of "co-dependency" because it is often stretched beyond belief and used to pathologize normal helping and altruism. But what you are doing is one of the few instances in which I believe the concept has some meaning: you are believing that *you* are the problem because *she* can't control herself. Your genuine and admirable religious belief in being kind and humble may be obscuring this fact.

Yes, normal people sometimes throw things when they are angry-- maybe once in an entire relationship because someone cheated on them!!!! No, normal people *never* threaten others with a knife-- *even if someone cheated on them* (though that might come close to a good excuse if it only happened once and there was really never any real threat). Basically, this woman has serious mental health problems, would make an absolutely appalling mother (and some of this stuff could have genetic roots) and may never be well.

I'm sorry and I know that sounds terribly, terribly harsh-- and I wouldn't say it if she sounded at all willing to get help, but this kind of thing is not something that suddenly appears and then resolves (if there were drugs involved, it might actually be easier because without them to exacerbate the problem, she might have better self-control. If her self-control is this poor without drug misuse, it may be much more serious). Even with willingness, prayer and help, she may not be able to get better-- but without willingness and help, prayer isn't likely to do it here.

and to respond to this:

This is mental illness protecting itself. It WANTS to keep going, it WANTS to keep her mentally ill, so it refuses treatment.

That simply isn't true. Mental illness does not have a consciousness and a will. Nor does addiction. It may sometimes be helpful to personify them-- but mental problems do not have agency and cannot wish to avoid recovery. *People* fear change and are ambivalent, that's all.
posted by Maias at 2:32 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Loving someone is not about putting up with everything your beloved can do to you, and it's not about sacrificing yourself. It does involve trying to help your beloved become the person she wants to be and have the life she wants to live. And sometimes, in order to help someone, you have to tell them things they don't want to hear, and you have to do things that upset them. Right now, I'm sure your fiance wants to start a happy family and be a good wife and mother. But that's not the path she's on, and by accepting her abusive behavior and continuing to plan a wedding with her, you're not helping her. There is really, really nothing you can possibly do to give her the happy family she hopes for unless and until she herself begins working to change how she reacts to stress and conflict. What she currently, immediately wants is to continue to hide her bad behavior and have you tolerate her abuse so she can pretend it's not that serious. But what she needs is a reality check. She needs to understand that she cannot continue to act out this way and raise a healthy, happy child, and that right now she is abusing the man she claims to love. She needs to understand that her current behavior and choices are antithetical to the achievement of her own goals. And she is not going to get that as long as you let her keep on doing what she's doing without consequences.

The most kind and loving thing you can do for your fiance is to make it starkly clear to her that she has to change in order to have the life she wants. You can't do the changing for her. You can only be honest with her about what's going on and what the consequences of her actions will be. That will certainly involve putting off the wedding until she gets the medical help or counseling that she needs, and may even involve ending your romantic relationship with her if she refuses to do her part. Obviously this will be difficult and painful for both of you. But all of that -- even selling the house -- will be much, much easier and less painful for both of you than waiting for ten years until you're dealing with a divorce, traumatized, damaged children, and possibly serious bodily harm to you, her, or your children.
posted by unsub at 2:33 PM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?
No. Children throw things in anger - it's called a "tantrum." Mature, healthy adults do not. They are supposed to learn better ways to express their anger as they grow up. And you know what? A child who sees a parent throw and smash things in a rage will either grow up A) a nervous wreck, because it's scary as heck to see an adult, especially your mom or dad, lose control like that, or B) thinking that such violent behavior is acceptable and normal. To be honest, your "it's my fault" attitude makes me think that you grew up with a mother with a hair-trigger temper and a father who blamed her unreasonable behavior on himself.

We had frequent arguments over insensitive things that I said but I accepted I was at fault most of the time.
She's already got you brainwashed/cowed into thinking her behavior is your fault. It isn't. And her parents? They (her parents) were genuinely sorry, and told me that I was the only one who could calm her down. She's not a maverick pony, she's a grown-up woman and shouldn't need someone who can "calm her down." Her parents are passing the buck - they're tired of walking on eggshells around her and worrying about her hurting herself, so they've saddled you - probably the first boyfriend she's ever had that put up with her temper - with that responsibility. Don't let them emotionally blackmail you that way. This a potential wife you're talking about, not a charity case that needs you to save her.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:34 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


This too is a sock puppet account. Let me tell you a little about depression.

I have a loving family; a good marriage, a loving daughter, parents that aren't that close, but I still knew they loved me, and I them. I have a house, a well-paid job. What more could a man want?

Well, I hated my job. I'd been doing it for years, and the stress of it was slowly killing me. But I didn't realise it. Without going into detail, what I did, and dealing with the outcome of it was more than I could bear. But I didn't realise it. I just plodded on, trying to deal with my feelings, bottling them up, trying to hide them from everyone. It wouldn't be professional, now would it?

The most insidious thing about depression is you don't realise you're depressed. It creeps up on you - and the worst thing is, it saps your ability to think and act rationally, so the very thing that would stop you being depressed is taken from you by your own mind. One way I described it at the time was being two men. The sensible, rational, logical 'real' me, and the emotionally overwrought man who I couldn't control and seemed to constantly be challenging me for control.

Remember, for a moment, the angriest you've ever been. Your hands twitch, wanting to punch something, your jaw clenches with the effort of not howling with rage. Now remember when you've hated someone - hated them so badly that if looks could kill, they'd be a pile of dust on the floor. Now remember when you've felt most apathetic; perhaps that bad bout of flu where you could barely crawl to the toilet and back, and all you wanted was for it all to end.

Now try to imagine feeling all of those, flying from one to the other - day, after day, after day. You have an emotional beast inside you, that you can't control and it gets harder every day just trying to hang onto what sanity you have left. Of course, you have good days. Ones where you sit and play with your kid, or just watch a good comedy. You laugh, a bit, you smile for your family. But those moments are thin, fleeting. It's almost like someone else is living them, and you're just a passenger inside your own head, along for the ride.

All that anger, and hate, and frustration, and loathing? Well, where does it go? In some cases, it gets turned outwards, and people get stabbed. In many cases, including mine, it went inwards. I was useless. A bit fat, doughy lump of useless human being. Worthless. A chunk of meat wasting oxygen. I was crap at my job, crap as a father, rubbish as a husband. Everything I did turned to shit. Nobody should love such a weak-willed, stupid, stupid man. Any day, I'd get fired. And then we'd lose the house, my wife would hate me, and my kid would end up living in the gutter. And it'd be all my fault. What's the point of any of this shit? Why the fuck am I here? What can I do? There's no way out, no-one would hire me even if I left. I'm screwed. I'm sooo screwed. And it's all my fault. Here I am, whinging and a better, stronger man would shake off this stupid state of mind and fix things!

Depression is treatable. It's an illness. It can be treated, like other illnesses.

The hardest part, the absolute hardest part though is realising that you need it, and accepting that you're *deserving* of help. You'll kick and scream, you'll refuse all help. Because to admit you need it? That's more than you can bear. It's kicking away the last crutch that you hold onto, that you're normal really, that it's something you can cope with on your own.

Admitting you can't cope - that things are beyond your ability to control - was the absolute, hardest, most difficult stretch. It's one of, if not THE hardest things I've ever done in my life.

I hid it from everyone, even myself.

Now? I'm in treatment. I'm working on the underlying causes, I'm on medication, and I've been through a round of therapy, and am still working through CBT. Life still isn't rosy, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I don't know if your fiancee is depressed. I'm certainly not qualified to tell you that. You're a good man for trying to help her. Ultimately though, if she does have a mental illness, she will need help. And she'll need to admit that to herself that she needs it. Hopefully it will come before she goes too far.

For your own sake, and for hers - she needs help. From a qualified professional.
posted by MysteryMeat at 2:35 PM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


I think there's also some perspective that you're not seeing here. To your point that we all have shortcomings and faults, yes, absolutely. For example, I'm a horrible slob, am sometimes too much of a know-it-all, and can be an infuriating procrastinator. These are the sorts of challenges one deals with in a relationship with other humans, all of whom are flawed and imperfect. I've never pulled a knife on anyone or thrown something at them. The closest I have ever come is telling my partner "I'm going to leave the room now because I feel like throwing something at you", which was a statement of feeling, not an impulsive acting-out behavior - there's a world of difference. Healthy adults have coping mechanisms to communicate and work through anger without violence. This is more than a shortcoming or a flaw. It is a disorder and an illness that requires professional help.
posted by judith at 2:42 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pulling a knife is a dealbreaker. Run.
posted by unSane at 2:44 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


fermt, I saw your update.

-My mother does not drink or do drugs. Never did.

-My mother's family was both aware of and down-played her behavior. As described, she got worse and worse over the years.


Frankly, it is troubling that your fiance's family is so blithe about her well-being. You would do well to keep their inappropriate attitude about their daughter's well-being in the forefront of your considerations as you move forward with a plan.

Is it possible your future in-laws have a taboo against mental health professionals and this has contributed to the problem? They may not be your allies in this situation.

If anything, your fiance's family sounds heavily invested in passing off the problem of their daughter's mental health onto your shoulders. (Oh how I wish that didn't sound familiar to me...)


While it is admirable and courageous of you to want to take on this burden, please seek competent psychiatric care for your fiance. Do not let any doctor rule out physical causes for her illness without thorough testing.
posted by jbenben at 2:50 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am contemplating the possibility of approaching her with the topic of therapy. She has previously insisted (in anger) that I do not seek therapy for myself or she will leave. I am not prepared to deal with the potential fallout, or the more likely response of anger/breakup/makeup.

We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?
posted by fermt at 2:55 PM on August 31, 2010


I am contemplating the possibility of approaching her with the topic of therapy. She has previously insisted (in anger) that I do not seek therapy for myself or she will leave. I am not prepared to deal with the potential fallout, or the more likely response of anger/breakup/makeup.

fermt, it sounds as if you think you are trapped in this situation. You're not. The fallout of telling her that she needs to see a doctor is far, far less than the fallout of not dealing with this problem and ignoring it. You're just postponing the really big fallout until later.

We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?

Others might be able to give you better advice, but the short answer is that this is what lawyers are for.
posted by ukdanae at 3:00 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Protecting your self is far more important than protecting a financial investment, however large.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:00 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


She has previously insisted (in anger) that I do not seek therapy for myself or she will leave.

This is unacceptable controlling behavior that is well outside of the bounds of what one human being should be able to require of another.

We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?

I think you go into it not wanting to walk away from the house, but being clear that taking a financial hit of some sort in the short term would be better than taking an emotional hit for you and the rest of your family for the rest of everyone else's lives. You want to work this out. You have many suggestions and approaches available to you. My suggestion to you is that you move forward cautiously but that you take other longer term relationship plans [marriage, children] off of the table until you can feel comfortable that your finacee is working on her own issues. Currently, she is not. I am sorry about that.

At some level, the house issue is one that money can solve. Your relationship issue is not.
posted by jessamyn at 3:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [20 favorites]


> We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?

Talk to a lawyer and an accountant now; it's far better than having to talk to the sheriff, the doctors, and the Child Protection folks later.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:02 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


She has previously insisted (in anger) that I do not seek therapy for myself or she will leave.

Then say to her, "go ahead." See what happens. Chances are she'll come back to you begging for forgiveness.
posted by Melismata at 3:06 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Her weakness is that she takes on the burdens of everybody around her, and as a result takes conflict between other people very personally.

How much time have you spend around infants? They're pretty much the definition of a burden, and yes, can cause intense feelings of conflict because they keep crying and you do not know why and what does this child want and what am I doing wrong and oh god JUST STOP CRYING!!

Infants are also very small, and very very helpless. It only takes a few seconds of losing control (in the manner you describe your fiance as doing) to hurt one seriously.

Please do not have any children with this person until you are sure her anger is under control. I don't really care if you stay with her or not, but please don't hand the care of a child over to her.
posted by frobozz at 3:07 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hi, fermt. I was in a similar relationship, engaged to a woman with a violent temper. I had problems myself, and was aware of the role I was playing in exacerbating our conflicts. I wasn't religious myself, but she came from a culture in which calling off an engagement would cause her a lot of shame. I found it impossible to break the relationship off, because of the emotional disturbance it would cause her when I proposed to do so. So I understand why breaking off the relationship is such a difficult thing for your to consider, and it breaks my heart to see someone else going through this.

For what it's worth, though, life is so much better since I ended the relationship five years ago. (I told her I don't want to have kids — after all, what kind of sadist would I be, to want to be involved in raising kids with a mother like that? No kids was a dealbreaker for her.) I'm at peace now, and in a peaceful relationship with a peaceful person. And isn't that the point of Christian values, at least in the here-and-now: to lead a peaceful life, without regret?
posted by Estragon at 3:09 PM on August 31, 2010


"Then say to her, "go ahead." See what happens. Chances are she'll come back to you begging for forgiveness."

I think this is one of the shortest possible outcomes. I think it would effectively be over with those words.

She does not want me to seek therapy because she feels it is wasteful to pay somebody else to tell you what to do.
posted by fermt at 3:10 PM on August 31, 2010


She does not want me to seek therapy because she feels it is wasteful to pay somebody else to tell you what to do.

That's not what therapy is. But you knew that, didn't you?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:11 PM on August 31, 2010


Houses are just money.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 3:12 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


First steps first. The house can wait. In the end of the day, it's just a thing, a piece of property. Contracts are made, and they can be unmade. That problem can be solved, if it needs to be solved, another day.

I too asked a question about how to deal with my stress, and got a lot of answers I did not expect. Others gave me a different perspective, and the answers shocked me into realising I was trying to bear the unbearable. That the question I had asked was not my problem; that my real problem was far more fundamental than I had thought.

I'm not a religious man, but I did find talking to a chaplain helped me. Is there someone in your church, a priest you trust you could talk to? If you're concerned about word getting about, is there another church outside your own you could visit, and ask for advice?

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that what we fear, what we feel is a unique problem is anything but. There are people - doctors, therapists, priests - who see all the frailities of the human condition, and can give thoughtful advice based on much experience and training - which to be fair to askmefi, is not something many of us here can claim.

I do know it needs to be a calm conversation, one not started in frustration and anger. One where you lay out your own fears and worries, and ask her to come along with in trying to solve them. But first, you need to seek further advice for yourself, to help you come to terms with what I'm sure is a bit of a shock to you!
posted by MysteryMeat at 3:12 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay so you opened up with We are both faithful Christians and share a lot of common values and interests, so I'm going to bring it back to your attention.

Prov. 12:15 - "a wise man is he who listens to counsel"

That is where your conversation starts AND ends. If she won't go and refuses to let you go she is intentionally isolating you to control the situation because she knows you are laid back and would rather be happy than right.

Quite frankly I think you are using the house as an excuse to not deal with the situation. Stop it, man up and deal with this very serious situation. I'm sorry if I sound harsh but I lived the life you are trying to make every excuse to stay in with the overwhelming response to the contrary. Tough decisions have to be made. You either need to decide that you really don't mind being in an abusive relationship or that you do because quite frankly you are asking questions, receiving response and being foolish by not heeding the counsel.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 3:13 PM on August 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think it would effectively be over with those words.
You say that like it's a bad thing… Why not find out what her deal breakers are?
posted by Estragon at 3:17 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"She has previously insisted (in anger) that I do not seek therapy for myself or she will leave. I am not prepared to deal with the potential fallout, or the more likely response of anger/breakup/makeup."

Is it necessary to point out that if you marry her, you'll be dealing with anger/breakup/makeup your entire life? You can deal with it now trying to get the help you both need, or you can deal with it later, but this is the life you're signing up for with her.

And, I'm not sure this has been emphasized enough in this thread (assuming she is ill) -- the kindest, most loving, most generous thing you can POSSIBLY do for her is to do what you can to see SHE GETS HELP. Even if that comes at the expense of your relationship. I can tell you want what's best for her. She is in a place where you are not competent to provide the help she needs. (And, no, you can't make her get help. That's not on you. At some point she has to say, "Yes. I need help.")

The cruelest thing you could do to her is put her in a position to hurt herself, hurt her spouse, and hurt her children, day after day after day, for the rest of your lives, by allowing her to go ahead with this self-destructive and other-destructive behavior, justifying it to yourself as "she's a great person, really, just sometimes ..."

We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?

People do it every day. You sell it and split the proceeds. You buy her out. She buys you out. You sign off your interest to get out. You sue each other. There are many options. It's just a house.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:17 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


She does not want me to seek therapy because she feels it is wasteful to pay somebody else to tell you what to do.

No, man. I'm sorry, that maybe what she tells you, but that's not why she doesn't want you to go. It's either because she is ashamed of her behavior and doesn't want to you to tell anyone at all or because she knows/suspects that a therapist will advise you that her behavior is unacceptable and she sees that as a threat to her control over you.

If she thought it was a just a waste of money, she wouldn't threaten to leave you over it.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [20 favorites]


You are concerned about bringing shame on your family. What would bring more shame on your family -- an unfortunate but very necessary split from your fiancee before a wedding, which would be both fiscally prudent and smart, or potentially putting yourself, your future children, your financial future and the lives of others in harm's way by marrying this person?

She pulled a knife on you. She wants to hurt you, even if she doesn't act on it right now. Better a little bit of shame than a whole lot of sorrow and grief.
posted by Madamina at 3:32 PM on August 31, 2010


She does not want others to know about our personal affairs, which is a reasonable stance

That's what abusers say all the time. My exhusband offered me that excuse, as well as the waste of money one.

Fermt, you are engaged. Did you not have to go through some kind of religious counseling as part of getting engaged?

Since you are both deeply religious, I would urge you to speak with someone in the ministry. They may be able to help you speak with her. If nothing else, they may be able to counsel *you* and point you in the direction of help that will be compatible with your religious beliefs.

To be cruel, her parents are telling you what they are telling you because they are happy that she is someone else's responsibility now.

If the situation was reversed, and your fiancee was posting these things about you, we would all be urging her to call the local battered woman's shelter.
posted by micawber at 3:32 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


> She does not want me to seek therapy because she feels it is wasteful to pay somebody else to tell you what to do.

Her way of looking at the world--her internal structure of belief, perception, and feeling-- has caused her to use violence on a loved one.

It seems to get undesirable results... including physical violence and, again, a carving knife.

Why are you relying on her beliefs and feelings to make a judgment about the safety of your future kids... when you know her feelings are an unreliable and unsafe compass?
posted by darth_tedious at 3:33 PM on August 31, 2010


- the kindest, most loving, most generous thing you can POSSIBLY do for her is to do what you can to see SHE GETS HELP. Even if that comes at the expense of your relationship. I can tell you want what's best for her. She is in a place where you are not competent to provide the help she needs. (And, no, you can't make her get help. That's not on you. At some point she has to say, "Yes. I need help.")

I have to agree with everyone else. If she is unwilling to consider counseling or seek out help then what does that say about your relationship or how you communicate. Clearly she does not see things the way you do but even if this is the case (abuse aside) as someone who is potentially your life partner she should be willing to consider your point of view regardless of the issue at hand. The fact that this issue is physical and emotional abuse makes it even more important.
posted by Fizz at 3:33 PM on August 31, 2010


Don't other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families?

No, they don't. My family was by no means perfect and my parents had plenty of shortcomings both as parents and as people but there was very little shouting, nobody was ever hit, knives were used in cooking only and nothing was ever thrown.

Reading your posts I just want to put my arms around you and give you a hug and let you cry and take your hand and lead you away from that horrible place you find yourself in. Please find somebody who can help you give yourself a hug, cry as much as you need to and get up and find a way out of this situation. If a miracle happens your fiance may follow you. But you need to lead the way for yourself. You deserve to be happy, not in this hell.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:34 PM on August 31, 2010


As far as the house goes, you have three options:

1. Agree to sell the house and divide any monies or debts accordingly.

2. Insist that she or you keeps the house while the other person works out a fair payment, a buyout amount, and sign papers agreeing to that.

3. Walk away. You can sign a thing called a quitclaim deed and revoke your rights to ownership of the property entirely.

I waited a year after I resolved to divorce a few years ago because I didn't know how to walk away from a house and a dead, painful relationship. He owned the house entirely.

We tried counseling, he refused to cooperate - probably like your fiancee will - he's simply cross his arms and smugly deliver no-answer replies to our therapist. She advised that we divorce or that I accept this was how things would be, probably forever, and I could stay in the marriage but I'd have to ACCEPT that he was the way he was (and so was I) and give up hope of changing things.

Therapy is not what you think, nor is it what your fiancee thinks. It's going to vary, a lot, based on the type of therapy you get and the individual therapist.

I went through many therapists before it worked for me. My mother is very much like your fiancee - a violent temper, nothing is her fault, she's always sorry. Well, at 60 she finally got a good therapist and the person I speak with now on the phone is a mother, not some person I tolerate and fear angering at every turn.

Change is possible. Help is out there. The house is, as everyone else says, money and that's all. It seems like you are putting up these difficulties like road blocks to give you reasons to stay in this relationship, and hey, they are valid things to worry about.

However, if your own doom was coming up the road behind you and increasing speed, you bet your ass you'd be doing everything you could to climb over, under, go around these blocks or blow them the hell up.

It's going to be easier to do that now than down the road when there's a kid and a custody battle involved, or wedding presents to return, or you have to sit there and explain to your kid's teacher where he or she learned to scream, bite other kids, or self-harm in class. Because it's inevitable. I KNOW: I was a violent, inappropriate, angry kid who did weird things, like strip naked on the playground, because I didn't have good parenting and what parenting I did get involved mostly accusations, screaming, loud make-up sex that I could hear through the door and gratuitous apologies in the form of presents or frequent crying bouts.

I thought once I was married, it was my duty as a Christian to make things work. Guess what? You are WRONG about that. When you are living with someone who makes you responsible for their bad behavior, that person is not treating others in a Christian manner.

Better to fail as a fiance than as a husband, father and son-in-law. Damage piles up, as does guilt, debt and regret - either she gets help now or you walk away, period.

Any decent therapist will tell you the exact same thing. As far as sharing your business goes, no therapist will discuss your issues with anyone. It's unethical and illegal in most places (with the exception of admission of a crime). Your fiance has nothing to worry about if either of you gets therapy if you promise not to discuss it with anyone and she trusts you.

And if she doesn't trust you, why would she marry you? Really think about what you're saying here in regards to salvaging things. If she won't do what it takes to stop her from behaving in ways that shame her and make her cry, LIKE CLOCKWORK, how can she possibly be happy? This isn't just about you, it's about her, too. If she won't do what it takes to be happy and functional, you shouldn't do everything in your power to enable it. That's what love is - helping others to stop hurting themselves, and she's refusing to let you do it!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


If she really cares about you and knows that she has these out-of-control episodes that harm you, why is she still with you? Knowing that she will continue to harm you, over and over again?

Because she doesn't WANT to hurt you, or because she feels bad about it, she thinks it is okay to put you in danger again and again and again. And yes, if she's pulled a knife on you, and slapped you, and she is truly out of control of her behavior, YOU ARE IN DANGER.

Don't rely on the fact that you're bigger and stronger than her to protect you. In fact, that puts you at a DISadvantage in some ways--if you have to restrain her because she's threatening to stab you, and she ends up with marks or bruises, guess who ends up in jail? You.

Possible physical injury to you and your children, definite emotional problems for you and your children, financial difficulties from missed work or damaged property, POTENTIAL JAIL TIME or police involvement in your life...

Compared to that, splittling up a house doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

She probably will go nuts when you break up, though, so go see a therapist and a lawyer and get your ducks in a row before you do it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:55 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also see people insisting that she get help/therapy--this can be yet another excuse or distraction from the real issue which is, her behavior. You have the right to react to her behavior, not her intentions. That means that even if she does go to therapy, you have the right to leave her if her behavior is not healthy for both of you.

You have the right to leave for any reason, actually. Your life, your body, your time are your own.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:06 PM on August 31, 2010


I admire the love and compassion everyone has for you FERMT. We all get the love you have for this women and your selflessness.

I, like many, grew up abused. I am 30 and am only now realizing what it was - abuse. All the hitting, yelling, bullying, terror wasn't normal. It was abuse. And that abuse has effected my life in every way possible.

Unfortunately, no matter how strongly people are telling you how abusive your relationship is, you can't see it. So, in some ways I wonder if we are wasting our time? (not to say anything negative about you, but because of how distorted your perspective is).

I'm wondering a few things:

#1 - How much of your NEED to stay with her is based upon your belief that she is the BEST WOMEN out there? In another words, what has your dating history been? Do you believe that there are a lot of "fishes in the sea" or do you think "she's the only one"?

#2 - What role does your Christian belief play in this? Do you believe, as someone else suggested, that it is "your job to save her"? OR, "God will work this out"?

#3 - How much of you staying in the relationship is out of fear of not offending anyone or causing drama?

#4 - Do you understand the SEVERE repercussions of having children with this women will be?

#5 - Do you understand how this women has already effected your self-esteem? And will only continue to damage how you feel about yourself?
posted by learninguntilidie at 4:06 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermt - There's a reason you're getting a unanimous response. That doesn't happen too often here. Listen to what everybody above has told you.

That said, I'll add some additional considerations, in case your fiancée promises to do better and you're tempted to believe those promises and stay with her.

All indications are that your fiancée has a serious mental (or possibly neurological) illness. (As someone mentioned above, that's the charitable interpretation. The alternative is worse.)

It is possible to have a successful marriage to someone with a serious mental illness, where you are both happy and you can provide the loving support the other person may need to help cope with their illness. However, there are some important requirements for this to be possible.

1) The partner with the illness has to be fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to manage their illness. That means going to therapy. It means taking her meds. It means doing the hard work required to move towards improvement.

Right now, your fiancée is refusing to even consider making that commitment or starting that process. Realistically, you would need to see her not only agree to the commitment, but actually carry through with actions (therapy, etc) for at least a year before you could have any confidence that you could trust her to be holding up her end of the deal.

2) The supportive partner has to not only be super-patient, stable, loving, calm, and so on, but also needs to have a clear understanding of what is sane and normal and what boundaries must be maintained.

This does not describe you. You may have the love and patience, but you have lost sight of what is acceptable behavior. You've started blaming yourself for her actions. What this means is that instead of you helping her to become more sane, she's inducing you to think in crazy terms.

3) You must protect your own safety - physically and emotionally. The purpose of a marriage is for both partners to look out for each other, to grow stronger, and happier and wiser together. As things stand now, if you stay with your fiancée, she will damage you. Probably physically and definitely emotionally. If you have children together, she will hurt them even worse.

It's possible that if she devotes herself to therapy and taking responsibility for getting herself under control, that she may someday reach a point where you can safely be together and have a happy relationship. Unless and until that happens, staying together will only hurt you and not help her.
posted by tdismukes at 4:10 PM on August 31, 2010 [17 favorites]


First of all, jbenben's narrative should be taken very, very seriously.

I have seen similar patterns in relatives as the one he describes, and it's very difficult on everyone in the family, even those who are not in the immediate family. With my relatives the husband was a very passive enabler, sometimes even witnessing his wife abusing a child and not intervening. Age makes it get worse and worse.

I know you see potential in her many good attributes. She may be funny and smart and charming when things are going well. That may be the moment when you imagine your sunny future together. This is you imagining the relationship you want, and it is amazing that you can imagine it, and therefore create it some day. It's also amazing that you reached out for help, because it shows you are likely ready to start on the road towards that positive future.

However, your fiance may not be that future. The reality is that this person needs serious help. I get the sense you haven't dated a lot before her, or maybe you have a family where this behavior is considered acceptable, but I KNOW you have a better relationship in your future if you want it.

She has previously insisted (in anger) that I do not seek therapy for myself or she will leave. I am not prepared to deal with the potential fallout, or the more likely response of anger/breakup/makeup.

I think you're going to the get the same reaction this time - what will you say? "300 internet strangers said you are abusing me?" I don't anticipate that will be received well. Again, I would strongly suggest you go by yourself and discuss this whole situation to get your own clarity on what YOU want. You need to be in a safe place with yourself before even thinking about her.

We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?

I understand that where you are sitting right now these financial and practical issues seem daunting. Believe me, the house seems like a big problem now, but the future nightmare many have laid out for this relationship makes any short term financial hit pale in comparison.

And, as both of your names are on the mortgage, presumably you can sell the house and split the money.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:15 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just one question ... if your sister came to you and told you her fiance had pulled a knife on her out of anger, and frequently (3x a month is FREQUENT for a rage!) had violent tantrums, what would you advise her to do?
posted by batikrose at 4:28 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


My situation was nowhere near as bad as jbenben's was - my mother aimed almost all her violence against herself. But even when you're not being hit, watching your mother hit herself and yell that she's going to kill herself - that breaks something in a kid. I remember sobbing and screaming, begging her not to kill herself on more than one occasion. I'm finding it hard to put into words the effect that this has had on me.

I'm desperately trying not to repeat the pattern with my partner. Children learn from what they see - and if violence, self-harm and threats are what they see, then that's what they will repeat (my mother's mother was deeply abusive; my mother at least reduced the level of violence transmitted down the generations).

But my mother never pulled a knife on anyone. Screwing up your children, leaving them with horrible memories for life is the best case scenario for where you're going at the moment. This is without going into what this is going to do to you.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:37 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Her weakness is that she takes on the burdens of everybody around her, and as a result takes conflict between other people very personally. She also strives for perfection and can obsess over small mistakes.

This is a long shot and I'm not a therapist or psychologist or anything but have you ever heard of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)? It's a diagnosis that's distinct from OCD - it's not the same thing. The general description of OCPD could be similar to some of the behavior you're describing so it might be interesting to read up on it. There are support groups for the spouses and other loved ones of people with OCPD.
posted by XMLicious at 4:42 PM on August 31, 2010


Run for your life.
posted by LarryC at 4:48 PM on August 31, 2010


I agree with everything that has been said so far, and here's one more thing to think about: let's say you do take on the responsibility of "helping" her change (and how are you going to do that exactly?)... what happens, god forbid, if something happens to you? What if you have a family? Are your children then forced into the role of helping their mother control her anger? If you truly want to have a future with this woman, you need to stop thinking of ways that you can "fix" her or pacify her, and realize that she is responsible for her own well-being. This is not something that you can do for her.
posted by lucysparrow at 5:02 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are 20 billion responses here but I am not sure any are like this:

I was chased around the house by my knife-wielding mother. She threw things at me. She was prone to "screaming, stomping, slapping, and door slamming a few times a month."

She turned out to be bipolar, but she wasn't taking medication until my later teen years. By then I had severe anxiety issues and was suicidal.

My mother's illness is well-managed now, and we get along great. I have forgiven her for everything, but I wouldn't wish my childhood on anyone. If you don't want to get help for you, for whatever reason, get help for your future children. They are not capable of leaving. They are not capable of understanding her behavior, and they will blame themselves. Your children will wonder why they are not good enough for Mommy, why they make Mommy mad, and they will conclude they are not lovable.
posted by desjardins at 5:04 PM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


I know you feel obliged to defend her and explain her side of the story, and I know it hurts to see us piling on her like this, but honestly... the more we learn about her, the harder it is to give her any benefit of the doubt.

She does not want others to know about our personal affairs.

She does not want me to seek therapy because she feels it is wasteful to pay somebody else to tell you what to do.


This - refusing to hear an unbiased 3rd party opinion and forbidding you from seeking therapy for yourself - is not about being embarrassed or financially prudent. This is a textbook, classic control tactic. Emotional blackmail designed to isolate you from anyone who would see her abusive behavior for what it is. She had conditioned you to believe that what you've endured is normal. Now that you've begun questioning whether this is normal, it's absolutely in her interests to discredit the very people who may be in a position to tell you what normal really is.

I don't doubt that she may have one or several undiagnosed psychological disorders as well. But there's no rule that says mental illness and plain abusiveness are exclusive of one another. I'm starting to wonder if the abuse may be a separate issue altogether. Maybe there are treatments that can help her, but that possibility remains completely irrelevant until SHE is willing to accept it, and then there is still the possibility that at the end of the day, mental illness or not, she will keep abusing you simply because it does something for her and you are willing to put up with it.

I'm sorry, fermt. You can't help her. You can't take care of her. You're not able to. As of now, you are merely withstanding her, and barely at that. And it's only going to get worse...it already has. Doing nothing clearly isn't the answer. The two things you can do now are get help for yourself, and attempt to get help for her. The only option of the two that is actually within your control is getting help for yourself. Her threats are an attempt to take away the one thing left for you to save yourself and this relationship. Please don't lose sight of the fact that this is still your choice. It is not completely hopeless, there is still this one last thing you can try. But if you choose not to try, then you, your fiancee, and this relationship truly are doomed.

And please remember, I'm not suggesting that your fiancee has done any of this consciously as part of some premeditated scheme to make you her patsy. But unintentional abuse is abuse all the same. And you're in no position to help her until you've helped yourself.

*Not that making cruel threats out of spite is excusable, ever.
posted by keep it under cover at 5:17 PM on August 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


She does not want me to seek therapy because she feels it is wasteful to pay somebody else to tell you what to do.

Talking to a priest or other religious figure at your place of worship doesn't cost anything. What would her excuse be then?
posted by MsMolly at 5:38 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Talking to a priest or other religious figure at your place of worship doesn't cost anything. What would her excuse be then?

This: "She does not want others to know about our personal affairs"

To which OP should remind her of Prov. 12:15 - "a wise man is he who listens to counsel" as cited by ThomasBrobber, and also that pride is one of the seven deadly sins.
posted by keep it under cover at 5:54 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It has all been said. Just do this: Picture your toddler child. Picture that child bruised, broken and staring at you with soulless, deadened eyes. Picture that happening often. Close your eyes and see it. Because...it will happen. Jesus....are you seriously even asking this question without knowing the answer?
posted by Pennyblack at 6:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


We have a house together, which complicates thing

Are you living together? You know, as a Christian, that is forbidden before marriage. If that is what is standing in the way of her wanting to get counselling, you need to move out NOW.

As to the rest-you cannot change her-she has to want to change herself, with the help and grace of God. If she is unwilling to get help, she is not a person who is ready for marriage.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:07 PM on August 31, 2010


Fermt, I hope you are still reading. My earlier comment might have seemed throwaway but there are no circumstances in which knifeplay is acceptable. If my wife did anything like this I would call the police, move out, and take the kids with me.

You did a brave thing by giving voice to your misgivings in this AskMe and it suggests that you know in our heart that this stuff is not normal or acceptable. It sounds as though your self-esteem has been reduced to almost zero by your experience with this woman so far.

That is not what loving relationships are about.

Of course people have problems in their marriages. They yell and curse, occasionally. They do not pull knives or threaten self harm.

I agree with those who focus on the behavior. It's not a question of blame, or even diagnosis. The behavior is unacceptable. I mean, so far beyond the realm of acceptable that if the police were called one of you would end up in custody. It is not going to get better. This is your life and hers. The idea of bringing children into it is ghastly and inconceivable. If you marry this woman in the present circumstances you are dooming both of you, plus your children, to a life of terrible unhappiness, and perhaps worse.
posted by unSane at 6:08 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just want you to know that you can have a happy relationship without any of these worries. There are women out there who will love you and forgive your faults (or discuss them with you calmly to help you improve), not yell at you, never throw things in anger, and never hit you. You can be in a relationship where you're not afraid of messing something up, or disagreeing with your significant other. Even if your girlfriend or wife is stressed out, she won't take it out on you, and will instead discuss things with you with the goal of making things better for both her and you. You can be engaged and be excited for the wedding, counting down the days until it happens.

There is nothing that you could have done that would make you deserve to be yelled at or threatened the way you have been. It is not your responsibility to make others happy, and it is not your responsibility to fix them when they are unhappy. You can, however, take responsibility for your own happiness, and her anger and violence is making you unhappy. I know you feel like you would be abandoning her if you left her now, and that would also make you unhappy, but there is nothing you can do to make her happy at this point, and if she refuses any type of therapy, leaving her is the only way that you can keep yourself from continuing to be miserable and possibly getting her to reevaluate her own situation.

I would suggest talking to your priest or minister about your problems. Talking to a real person who can address your questions as you think of them can be extremely helpful.

I want you to be happy. You're putting yourself under a lot of stress now, and that continued stress isn't helping you, and it isn't helping your fiance. Leaving her doesn't make you a bad person! Breaking an engagement doesn't make you a bad person!
posted by that girl at 6:11 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Please, fermt, if you can't bring yourself to leave this woman even though she is endangering your life -- please, PLEASE, I'm literally begging you, don't have children with her. No child deserves to be brought into this world only to suffer abuse at the hands of their own mother, and I guarantee you that if your fiancee does not get help she will abuse your children. She is already abusing you. She will hurt your children, and then you'll be dealing with her anger, your children's (totally justified) anger and hurt and feelings of betrayal, and the cops. And children's services. And family court, when they take your kids away from you because you've provided an abusive home for them. And then imagine your family's anger and sadness and feelings of betrayal, because you never reached out to them for help when you had all the chances in the world to ask for it. Your future children's grandparents will be confused, hurt, and angry that you let someone hurt their precious grandchildren when you could have put a stop to it before it even began.

Please don't let this happen. All you have to do is take one step. Talk to your priest, pastor, minister, whatever applies. Ask them for help. There is no shame in asking for help. There is only shame in telling yourself you have no options when you have a world of options open to you.
posted by palomar at 6:25 PM on August 31, 2010


I am scared because I don't see another relationship as being much different

This here means you are down the rabbit hole. Sorry to be blunt. Tattoo what that girl said above on your forehead.

It is possible to love someone and conclude you cannot be with them, and for that to be the best decision for both of you.
posted by unSane at 6:26 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do not have children with this woman unless you want them to spend at least part of their lives hating you for bringing them into this situation.

This is not an attack, or a throwaway comment. You should seriously think about whether or not you want your children to hate you because you chose to bring them into this mess.

How do I know that they will? Because I did.
posted by winna at 6:35 PM on August 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


Fermt, I want to add: when you do talk to her about therapy, or if you break up with her, please make sure you do so in a safe space, especially away from the knives.

If I were in your position, I would just leave without doing anything that might trigger an attack. I'm scared for you, and I hope you'll keep us posted on how things are going, and let us know you are okay.
posted by xenophile at 6:54 PM on August 31, 2010


I agree with everything above, but I have a few things to add:

We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?

A long time ago someone gave me very good advice: "Money problems are the easiest to solve. You can always get more money." This was from a man whose baby daughter had been born missing a huge portion of her brain. He had plenty of money but none of it could make his daughter whole. I never forgot that, and it's served me well.

Worst case scenario: you have bad credit for a while. You rent instead of own. You don't get good interest rates. You eat mac n cheese and drive a shitty car. Whatever. None of that will kill you. But a knife-wielding crazy wife just might.

But even when you're not being hit, watching your mother hit herself and yell that she's going to kill herself - that breaks something in a kid. I remember sobbing and screaming, begging her not to kill herself on more than one occasion. I'm finding it hard to put into words the effect that this has had on me.

My mother is basically narcissistic. She is abusive at worst, and at best she is merely cold and manipulative. One of the stories she always told about her childhood is a memory of her own emotionally unstable mother threatening to kill herself, with her and her siblings gathered around her crying and begging her not to do it. My grandmother was a wonderful person, but she was mentally ill, and almost all of her kids (my aunts and uncles) are really screwed up because of it, which screwed up my and my siblings' and cousins' lives. It just goes on and on.

I'm sorry you're going through this, fermt. It must be really, really difficult, and I wish you all the best.
posted by cottonswab at 7:00 PM on August 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


"I don't know if I can accept that it's her fault when I know I have had my own shortcomings."

You have no shortcomings that justify taking this kind of behavior; no one does. I haven't read all your notes, so perhaps you've talked already about your family of origin, but I suspect your family of origin may have had some issues surrounding the expression of anger as well, which makes you believe that violent anger is normal and acceptable, and possibly -- please, please forgive the couch psychology -- possibly makes you seek it out.

If you can't talk to a therapist, can you talk to your pastor? Ask them what they think about raising children with a crazy mother. Ask them how well that tends to turn out.

Normal is: no violence. No hitting. No self-inflicted violence. No threats of violence against you. No violence or threats of violence against you, herself, pets, or loved objects. You are being abused.
posted by endless_forms at 7:12 PM on August 31, 2010


She's mentally ill and abusive. She needs therapy and/or medication. If she refuses treatment, you need to get the hell out of the relationship, the sooner the better. Without professional medical intervention, this is going to get worse and worse and worse. Guaranteed.
posted by EarBucket at 7:23 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You might also consider reading your post and your comments again, imagining that it is not you talking about your fiancee', but your child, talking about her mother.

Is this what you want for your children?
posted by endless_forms at 7:31 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am scared because I don't see another relationship as being much different

Fermt, you must take care of yourself. That comes first, above all else. Noone who truly, honestly, and fairly loves you would ever demand that you sacrifice your own well-being for their benefit.

What you said above, I've been there. I know it. That fear paralyzed me. It took me a long time to realize that I had lost perspective. You have a relationship dynamic that is familiar to you, it's what you know. You can't imagine another relationship because you're in this one. BUT EVERY RELATIONSHIP IS DIFFERENT. Please, for your own well being, find someone you can talk to. A priest, a therapist, someone who's recognized as a counselor.

A good counselor will not tell you what to do. What they will do is give you a forum to talk about your feelings, to talk about what's going on, and to start to process it all in a safe, confidential space. Remember the priest-penitent relationship? Anything you say to a priest or a licensed therapist will be kept in confidence. You are not airing your dirty laundry, you're trying to understand the situation that you're in.

While your sentiment about wanting to follow through in your commitments, to be the strong one, to tough it all out is admirable, you must remind yourself - you will never be able to make any progress towards *any* kind of resolution, with or without her, unless you can take care of yourself.
posted by swngnmonk at 7:31 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Normal is: no violence. No hitting. No self-inflicted violence. No threats of violence against you. No violence or threats of violence against you, herself, pets, or loved objects. You are being abused.

Yep. This is, really, truly, honestly, normal. I come from a family which argues a LOT, passionately and often irrationally, and even occasionally (but not frequently) drunkenly, over many decades, but none of this was ever violated. None. This is baseline acceptable behavior. I have been in a couple of relationships where this was violated in *very* minor ways, and I got out as fast as my legs would take me (and never regretted it a second).

Genuine disagreement is only possible when no-one is afraid of violence.
posted by unSane at 8:01 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're doing a good and brave thing in starting to face this now, rather than hiding your head in the sand. When you need courage, concentrate on the fact that this will only get harder to deal with over time if you ignore it -- I know it seems hard now (with the house and the wedding plans etc) but it will get so much harder if you don't deal with it now.

You are strong enough to face it now, and do what you need to do.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:03 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been with her as long as I have because I know she has a pure and simple desire to be happy and free of burdens.

This is part of her problem. Life comes with burdens. Events and people cannot be perfectly controlled. As long as she demands life be happy and free of burdens, she will rail in anger and impotence.

Please understand that even if she had never pulled a knife, and never pulls a knife in the future, her behavior is still abusive and beyond the pale.

The stress she is under now is nothing, nothing compared to the stress she will be under if you have children. And as a poster upthread said, it will take only a few seconds' worth of a lapse, the tiniest slip, for irrevocable damage to be done.

Many of us have come here to tell you this is not normal or okay, hoping that at some point we'll tip the scale or one of us will say something in just the right way to convince you. Many more are reading but not commenting because it has already been said. Others still are reading but not commenting because their experience tells them this: frequently, another aspect of abusive relationships is that the person being abused will rationalize, self-blame, defend and stick around for months or years until it finally, if ever, becomes too much, and nothing their friends and family say or do will convince them otherwise until far too much damage has been done.

I know none of these things we've said is what you wanted to hear. There is no easy path for you, but the most nightmarish one for everybody would be for you to stick it out as things are.

I wish you the best.
posted by moira at 8:24 PM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have read through the comments to date, and I don't think I see this stated quite so clearly anywhere:

You can't change her. You can't. It's not something you can do. As much as you crave a difference in her, you can't personally make it come to pass. As much as you think your future together could be a joyful, peaceful, good thing...only she, with what will be VERY hard work, can make her part of that come to pass. You can't force that change; it has to come from her.

You don't control her. Her actions are her own. Whatever she does, it is because she is doing it, not because you have "made" her do it in some way. Is there ANYthing that could make *you* act differently from the way you do? Could being angry at her somehow *make* you pull a knife on her? You control you. SHE controls her.

You can't change her. You don't control her. You can't make her be what you need her to be, no matter how hard you try or how very badly you need it.

We're worried about you, fermt. Be safe.
posted by galadriel at 8:26 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Other people upthread have stated their warnings much better than I could. It's unanimous that throwing things is not normal in relationships, but I'd like to remind you what is normal.

It's normal to argue with your partner, to say insensitive things, and to act selfishly sometimes. Healthy relationships have mechanisms to deal with that - I'd say "hey, teasing me about that is really hurtful" or "this argument is getting to heated and I can't continue right now". And in healthy relationships, the offending partner takes steps not to make the same mistakes again. You have been acting as a healthy partner, but you cannot have a relationship with only one healthy person. I'm bringing this up because you are blaming yourself for her outbursts, and have lost your sense of normal. It is not normal to be a saint - the beauty of relationships is being accepted for who you are. She is not accepting you for the wonderful, but occasionally flawed person you are - she is making you into the whipping boy for her own bad behavior.

Since you mention living together, if you are having sex I would remind you to be very, very careful about family planning - and much of the power lies in her hands. Her behavior means that you two are far far away from ever being able to raise a healthy child.
posted by fermezporte at 8:59 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I keep thinking about this thread when I'm away from my computer. Fermt, your post struck a nerve with me because I was once in a relationship with a man who had been abused by his female partner before me. He got out quickly but he was still scarred by the experience. She escalated to actual hitting and kicking, as well as tons of emotional abuse similar to what your fiancee's doing to you, such as refusing to see a counselor and blaming him for everything.

He had, I later found out, lied to her about many things. Still, this didn't justify his ex being violent. You've done nothing, NOTHING, to warrant your fiancee's behavior.

I'm not a psychiatrist, but people upthread have mentioned a couple of things I wanted to address. One person said someone they knew had seizure disorder that manifested as temper tantrums. Someone else brought up borderline personality disorder, and someone else, bipolar disorder. This last disease is what my ex's ex was diagnosed with. She and her family were in denial about it. She wasn't on meds, and her family tried to foist her off on my ex, telling him he had to "handle her."

Anyway, I'm pointing out that your fiancee may have something diagnosable and treatable. If it's medically treatable and she gets the correct prescription and agrees to take it faithfully, she may improve. But it may be something counseling alone cannot fix.

But these are all ifs. This portends such stress for you, such trouble. Are you ready to devote years to helping your fiancee acknowledge she needs help, find the right help, and go through a lengthy recovery process? All the while being strong despite the abuse she heaps on you? Risking bringing children into the mix?

If I were religious, I would be praying that you bail. But I'm not, so I'm entreating you to put yourself first.

And seriously, please let us know how this works out.
posted by xenophile at 9:04 PM on August 31, 2010


The phrase "relationships are work" is something that a lot of people in really shitty relationships say to justify their inertia. A good relationship is a respite, a place of safety and comfort, a place where you're at your best.

It would be wrong -- not an innocent mistake, but a grave and terrible sin -- to place a small, innocent, helpless human being under her care, with what you know about her. You would create someone for whom this woman would be the form and pattern of what the world is. That child would know the world as a chaotic, frightening, unpredictable place with no safety, no comfort, no joy unalloyed by fear that it will all crumble in an instant. No devotions outside this act could make up for it.
posted by palliser at 9:20 PM on August 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


A marriage is a covenant and a sacrament, and an engagement is nearly as binding,...

Marriage yes, but in my, and all Christian traditions I know of, engagement is not. That is N O T. Engagement is a prepararatory period, where you are not just committed to each other, but publically committed to taking it to the next step. Otherwise the marriage would not be such a big deal, and religion and law would focus on engagement instead.

Yes you can, and lots do, end the engagement. It might be embarrasing, and disappointing to you, but I think you already know what you have to do. If not, re-read what you have written, you will see the answer clearly.

I suspect you have not told anyone about this - first up change that, and select a suitable confidant just so you can unload with them a brother, sister, friend. And do take steps to protect yourself, have some family/good friends on-side and prepped, and when you take the step, take a holiday or go visit some rellos. It sounds like you could do with putting some distance between you and this situation, sometimes that helps to see more clearly too.
posted by GeeEmm at 9:57 PM on August 31, 2010


A late thought: Surely you are not the only person in the world who has seen this aspect of her personality? Her parents/family, workmates?

I wonder if there are not a lot of people watching and wondering, and who would not be surprised if the wedding did not go ahead.
posted by GeeEmm at 10:02 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I am contemplating the possibility of approaching her with the topic of therapy. She has previously insisted (in anger) that I do not seek therapy for myself or she will leave. I am not prepared to deal with the potential fallout, or the more likely response of anger/breakup/makeup.

We share a house. Both our names are on the mortgage. How do I even begin to walk into a conversation ready to walk away from the house?"

You're probably overwhelmed. A lot of us have been there; you're not alone.

Here's my advice:

1. Go see a therapist or a pastor. This is none of your abuser's business, and you need to take care of you.
2. Go see your banker and make sure your financial affairs are in order.
3. Go see a lawyer about the house.

I had an abusive mom who acted exactly like this, and I used to defend her by saying "she's mentally ill, it's not her fault." It took decades to realize that, well, it was her fault - by not getting that illness treated in the first place.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:42 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think I am trying to find a dissenting tide amidst the wave because I am so reluctant to give up something that was, and could still be so good.

"S/he's/the relationship's got so much potential" is a common reason people stay and stay in unhealthy relationships. They keep hoping and trying and being disappointed but getting sucked back in by the apologies and promises that things will change. And nothing changes, not for the better, not reliably or consistently. Make decisions based on the here and now:

she acknowledges that she is being unreasonable but doesn't seem to be able, or otherwise very willing to change it.

perhaps there should be some responsibility on my part to help her change. Is THAT grounds for ending a relationship?

If she's not interested in trying things (a medical evaluation, therapy) that could help her break the problem patterns of behaviour, then what responsibility could you possibly have to "help her" take actions that she unequivocally rejects?

I'm concerned she will hurt herself, or worse, if we were to break up.

Some suggestions and advice from AskMes about partners who threaten to self-harm.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:15 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermt: I've followed Ask Metafilter since it went live, what, seven years ago? I've got 4000 comments on Metafilter and something like 2000 answers on Ask Meta. I say that only to establish that I spend far too much time on Metafilter.

I have never, ever, in all those years seen a thread of this length involving this many answers with such rock solid unanimity. Never. I hope you recognize how unprecedented it is for the answers in such a lengthy thread to speak in one voice like this, and I hope you understand the implications of that.

I'm not going to pile on and add to all the other answers. I will just say that I hope you do more than "take it under advisement" or use these answers as food for thought. I understand how difficult things must be for you and how hard the choices you're facing are. Please don't let that fear lead you into a situation that will be much harder to deal with.
posted by Justinian at 11:51 PM on August 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


Saying plus one would be so astoundingly flippant I will just re-iterate what everyone has said.

Your girlfriend is not acting in a manner which is stable, sane, normal or excusable.

Without undertaking some sort of reparative action she is a threat to your life and that of any children you have.

Her ultimatums, apologies, tantrums, crying, refusal to seek help and prevention of you doing the same are controlling behaviour. This is absolutely, 100% the case. There is no wiggle room. She is not misunderstood. She is not acting out of any interest other then controlling you.

Your self blame, any problems you have, any issues you may contribute, any flaws you have and any personality quirks that don't contribute to making things stable are not excuses for her behaviour.

You are exhibiting clear signs of a victim of domestic abuse. You are blaming yourself. You are clinging to excuses, some of which are not valid. You are taking her actions and making them 'reasonable'. In short, you are a textbook case of an abuse victim.

Those are the facts. The conclusion is that she must change, via support, therapy, medication, diagnosis, whatever is required. God helps those who help themselves, not those who decry all attempts at support or those whose suffering boyfriends make excuses for them.

I personally, would leave. I don't believe she will fundamentally change, nor that she will become a stable, safe mother for children. You may stay with her but only if there is no doubt whatsoever that she is a changed person.

Best of luck. Please look after yourself and increase the greater good... That's a happy future for you and any children, not a miserable, abused one for everyone except the miserable, abuseful party.
posted by Quadlex at 12:32 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, just adding to the chorus.

I made a metatalk comment a few months ago regarding the evolution of patterns of domestic violence that you may find helpful. You can read it here.

On a personal note, I'll say this about the experience of being raised by a person with mental health issues:

My mother is a wonderful woman. WONDERFUL. I am not being sarcastic, my mom is aces, my mom is the bomb. All my friends (and nearly all my exes) envy me my mom. And they're right to.

But my amazing, amazing, amazing mom dealt with a lot of depression/self hatred/suicidal ideation issues when I was a very young kid. And though it's the last thing she ever wanted, she passed it all on to me. From the time I was eight, and for nearly twenty years going forward, I don't think I had a fully non-suicidal week. Looking back now, it seems (for lack of a better word) insane. What in hell was I off about? Mean girls, cellulite, stupid-ass boyfriend issues, a lack of SPECTACULAR ARTISTIC SUCCESS RIGHT THIS SECOND? It was dumb, dumb, dumb, but it seriously life-threatening.

The issues that triggered my mom's badness-- those weren't dumb at all. Marriage to a guy with roaring PTSD, her mother developing Alzheimer's, herself getting cancer, etc.-- you can't blame her for dancing on the edge a little. But as a wee one, I mimicked the (maladaptive) ways that she dealt with the Very Real Shit in her life, and I used them to deal with the (trivial, My Little Pony-grade) shit in mine. And when I grew up, and came into some Very Real Shit of my own, I did it more. So much more. I kind of can't believe I'm alive sometimes.

This is a roundabout way of saying: If you allow your kids to grow up around this behavior, not only will they face being frightened and hurt by it, they may learn it, and adopt it. Your kids may grow up to pull kitchen knives on the people who love them. Is it guaranteed that such will come to pass? Absolutely not. But the risk is there, and you should think about it very, very carefully before you go further with this relationship.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:49 AM on September 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fermt, I am going to tell you good news, and something to make you feel better. But first, the Fact.

Your current relationship will end.

It can be now, when the going is good, or after you have traumatised children, or after you get stabbed, or after so many horrific stories others have posted here from their memories. I too could add to them. I was in such an abusive relationship, and it ended by what I now consider a miscalculation from my abuser. Just so you know how it ends if you put up with it all and make all the reasonable and unreasonable promises to help her, I was kicked out of the house for making too loud crunching noises while eating breakfast cereal, and let me tell you friend, I was eating it as carefully as if I were eating a grenade. And with that I was left destitute and completely alone in a foreign country in which I knew no one other than her and her friends. From our later conversations, she seems to have expected me to beg my way back in, but instead I begged friends (whom I had neglected and moved apart from) for financial help and flew home.

Now the good news.

The next women you meet and date will seem unbelievably cool and nice and put together. They might be normal women, with their troubles and tasks and sometimes yes their stupid shit like every single one of us also has some stupid shit occasionally. And yet, she will seem wonderful, for your standards have been so enormously lowered during this relationship that every single woman you find will seem an enchanted princess.

At the time, dazzled as you will be, you will still need to take care that you do not marry the first one and that you apply reasonable criteria to choosing your life partner. But every single healthy woman you date will seem a never ending garden of joys and tranquility and companionship.

And the best part is, if you ever find another crazy, you will smell it miles away.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:35 AM on September 1, 2010 [25 favorites]


I am not going to pile on. But I want you to know that you are not alone and I am sure, that the community here if not individuals would start pulling for you. You are on the right step, you asked for counsel. Don't be afraid or shy to ask for help. Really, take up the offers upthread from folks who have been where you are now to talk. Take offers like mine, for a hand up in any other way possible.

No one, adult or child, should be hurting the way you are hurting.
posted by jadepearl at 9:01 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermt, you do not deserve this. You haven't done anything to deserve being abused in this way. No personality flaw you have is deserving of physical or emotional abuse.

When I was doing domestic violence counseling, I met a woman who killed her husband. She had been married to him, in an incredibly abusive relationship, for seventeen years. She finally shot him after he threatened to kill their daughter. When the police came, she was so isolated from the world that she didn't know who the president was.

After she got out of jail, she told me "It took me killing my husband to realize that no one deserves to be hit. After I shot my husband, the police arrested me, and I went to jail. But no one hit me. Even after I killed someone, no one hit me."
posted by freshwater at 9:03 AM on September 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


"Then say to her, "go ahead." See what happens. Chances are she'll come back to you begging for forgiveness."

I think this is one of the shortest possible outcomes. I think it would effectively be over with those words.

She does not want me to seek therapy because she feels it is wasteful to pay somebody else to tell you what to do.



Everyone here keeps piling on the advice to end this relationship or postpone the marriage indefinitely until your fiance is better because your follow-ups keep pilling on classic evidece of an abusive relationship. I would usually never advise this, but you need to listen to a bunch of internet strangers because you are too lost in the situation yourself.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:16 AM on September 1, 2010


They (her parents) were genuinely sorry, and told me that I was the only one who could calm her down. So I feel that I have accepted a responsibility for her well-being

I'm coming to this thread late, fermt, and rather than simply join the chorus of people urging you to take care of yourself, I'm going to address this point directly, because I suspect it plays an enormous role in your feelings about this situation.

It sounds as if you feel that your girlfriend's parents expect you to look after her, and you feel ashamed to disappoint them.

Obviously I don't know what was said or implied. But if the family thinks you can reliably "calm her down," they were mistaken. It's an understandable error, and a sad, hopeful one. Imagine the gusts of relief they must have felt to think that there was a solution to their daughter's crazy, violent behavior. It was probably a deeply moving moment for all of you, and I imagine it would have felt heady and wonderful to feel trusted in that way.

Clearly your girlfriend has family who love her. This will stand her in good stead if she eventually decides to seek the help she needs. Unless she not only seeks help but succeeds in changing her violent behavior, she's in no condition to marry anyone, much less to bring children into the world.

Clearly you love her too. But the rest is wishful thinking. No miracle occurred. Of course you couldn't really "calm her down," you still can't, and you won't be able to. The specific responsibility you felt you assumed was fundamentally flawed, too. No adult can take responsibility for another adult's behavior.

You're a good man, fermt. Talk to a pastor, a counsellor, a lawyer. Do what you need to do to be safe.
posted by tangerine at 11:26 AM on September 1, 2010


I weighed all of the thoughts presented to me here, as well as a few that were sent to my throwaway e-mail. They were all insightful, if not acting as one voice amplified through a megaphone.

I had a heart to heart talk with her about her anger, about seeking counseling, about how unhappy I was dealing with her anger, and how dangerous it is to herself and to those around her (particularly children).

She was in denial and asked if I loved her unconditionally, or if I only loved her when she wasn't angry. I expressed that I loved her unconditionally and that I wanted what was best for our future, and that while the way she expressed anger was not intolerable to me, it was difficult to bear and made me despondent. I stated that there are many acceptable ways of showing anger, but actions that physically harm herself, those around her, or any property, are patently unacceptable. I believe deep down she knows this to be true.

Ultimately, the conversation came to a point where she asked me I loved her enough to help her change who she was. I understood there were two ways I could interpret this question. The first was that she was manipulating my emotions into making me feel guilty about leaving. The second was that she truly wanted to know if the love I had shown her over the last two years was real, or if I am withdrawing it because of her actions.

This was the point in the conversation which I was free to walk away without answering the question. There were two possibilities - walk away to a presumably "better", but otherwise unknown future, with the regret of abandoning what could have been. Or, stay in a certain, but tumultuous relationship with the looming danger of household objects being defenestrated.

I accepted a third possibility - that the love I experienced and the love that I shared is not contingent on the way that I feel. That the reason I wanted to leave the relationship was because I had questions about our future, and did not want to deal with the prospect of finding the answers when they could be spoon fed to me by another woman.

Therefore, I believed the second interpretation. Love is a feeling, but it is also a choice. The two are mutually exclusive. A relationship will prosper as long as either is present. Sometimes you will feel in love and not have to make the choice. There will certainly be times when do you not feel loved and you must instead choose to love, which is by far the more difficult to do. I believe a relationship is not about comparison shopping, or test driving for the person that minimizes the amount of time you must choose to love. There is no relationship that will make you "happiest" - when you have found what you want, you can stop looking. I choose to love my fiance when she is unlovable because I found what I wanted. I don't believe there are actions that show somebody does not love you - there is only an absence of actions that show somebody does love you. There is no darkness, only the absence of light.

This thread, and community, have shown me that many actions are unacceptable. But even if a mental illness is the cause for them, the response is not to detach and abandon. As I choose to love, I am choosing to take a stronger stance against her violent behavior and will seek other avenues of dealing with it, which will probably involve friends and professionals as needed. The wedding will go on, but children will naturally be out of the question until we are both undoubtedly confident in our ability to raise them in a nurturing, non-hostile environment. I have decided that being a battered and abused husband is also a choice, and will be avoided as long as I retain (or obtain) the right perspective and possess the fortitude to stand up to it when it is happening.

The knife incident was far beyond any possible standard of acceptable behavior, and if anything like it happens again I will call the police. But until that happens, I choose to believe her heart's intent was not to harm, and that other external forces are causing her to behave that way to scare me. I may be putting myself in danger, and I will certainly avoid putting anyone else (least of all children) in that position - but I will not discount the fact that she does not want to behave that way, and that treatment and healing are very much possible regardless of what she says. I have realized that while I am not directly responsible for her well-being, it does not mean I will let her be the sole decider of what is good for her health.

The stories shared here are enlightening because some of the outcomes were terrifying, and I empathize with their misery. I had a childhood with distraught parents that ended up divorcing. The divorce happened because both parents gave up on each other and we were knowingly raised in such an environment. I realize I possess naivety for walking into a position of danger given past history. But I cannot, in good conscience, abandon a situation that is not hopeless in fear of something that may not happen, when there is so much good to look forward to.

Thank you all again for sharing all of your thoughts. I read every one of them multiple times, and hope to share my experiences again in the future.
posted by fermt at 11:34 AM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


DID SHE SAY THAT SHE WOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP?
posted by magstheaxe at 11:49 AM on September 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


"DID SHE SAY THAT SHE WOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP?"

Not yet. I have decided that I will make this decision for her if there is no immediate improvement in our situation.
posted by fermt at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2010


She asked you if you are willing to help her change. She is once again putting the responsibility for her actions onto you. Did she make any commitment to changing herself?

The way you have relayed this conversation makes it sound like she is setting you up (consciously or not). Because she is putting the burden on you to help her change, if no change occurs and you decide you need to leave, she will likely say that it's your fault that she didn't change.

As you've reported it, this conversation indicates no progression from her previous actions. I wish you luck with the choice you've made, but I want to reiterate that it is her responsibility to change, and not your responsibility to change her. Make this clear to her: that you will support her as she makes an effort to change, but that the change is her responsibility.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:02 PM on September 1, 2010 [26 favorites]


Also, regarding unconditional love: love without conditions is unhealthy. Love without conditions is an enabling activity, because if one is loved without conditions, one does not need to act in a way that engenders love.

A person can only love him or herself unconditionally. And this seems to be at the crux of your wife's problem: whatever is causing her to feel this way, she is unable to love herself because of what she sees as her failure to carry the burdens of others. Because she doesn't love herself, she relies on you for that unconditional love, but that kind of love is a love no one can give her.

Hardly anything in our lives is unconditional, and love least of all. Think about why you love her in the first place: perhaps it's because of the care she shows for others, or the way she treats you when she is happy.

Those things? Those reasons? They are the conditions which define the conditional love that you have for her. Now, one of the great things about love is that it evolves, and that the conditions you begin with are not the same throughout a relationship—one reason you may have fallen in love is because she is physically beautiful to you, but that kind of condition may be unimportant as a relationship grows deeper.

There are, however, conditions that are non-negotiable: I love you because I know I am safe with you. I love you because I know you will not abuse me. I love you because I know that you love yourself and will do what it takes to take care of yourself.

Should you love your wife deeply, and without regard for superficial conditions like appearance, or occasional mistakes, or annoying habits? Of course. But loving without superficial conditions is not the same thing as unconditional love, and you and your wife should both understand that. Each of you needs to love yourself before you can love each other.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:21 PM on September 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


My apologies: I've been saying "your wife" when I should be saying "your fiancee." Please pardon the slip.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:29 PM on September 1, 2010


The wedding will go on, but children will naturally be out of the question until we are both undoubtedly confident in our ability to raise them in a nurturing, non-hostile environment.

Consider the possibility that this environment may never exist in your household, and that you may never feel safe/confident about having children with your wife. You (and she) need to be comfortable with that possible outcome if you want to get married. Personally, I would not get married until a nurturing, non-hostile environment can be assured.
posted by deanc at 12:30 PM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ultimately, the conversation came to a point where she asked me I loved her enough to help her change who she was.

Surely the important question is whether she loves you enough to try to change who she is, by taking actual concrete steps.

I think everyone here can appreciate how much courage it took to tackle this with your fiancée, but unless she agrees to take concrete steps such as seeking professional help, she has simply managed to kick the ball into the long grass.
posted by unSane at 12:31 PM on September 1, 2010 [18 favorites]


""DID SHE SAY THAT SHE WOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP?"

Not yet. I have decided that I will make this decision for her if there is no immediate improvement in our situation."

Fermt, this is not a decision you can make for her -- it is a decision she is going to have to make herself. The most you can do if you feel she is a danger to herself or others is to have her evaluated in a psych ward on a 72 hour hold. If she doesn't want professional help, it is not going to work.

I really think that if you want to stay with this woman, you should seek some sort of couples counseling (at least) -- either through your church or from a secular therapist. While she needs a reality check, I think you do too because it seems like you think you have a lot of control over her behavior and moods, and frankly, you don't.
posted by elmay at 12:53 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermt, you're a good person. I just want to address your most recent statement, though.

""DID SHE SAY THAT SHE WOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP?"

Not yet. I have decided that I will make this decision for her if there is no immediate improvement in our situation."


As someone who has been in a relationship with a mentally ill person, and has also been to therapy for issues of my own, this is a seriously flawed plan. I'll tell you why.

1. The situation may improve in the short term. Over time, though, the person usually starts to slip back into their old habits. It's fairly inevitable without some kind of outside help.

2. You can't "decide to make a decision" for someone else. Your partner needs to recognize that she has a problem that is affecting her closest relationships, and make the choice on her own to seek help.

I'm not suggesting that you abandon the situation, since your love and commitment to this woman is clear. What I do suggest is that therapy for you is an immediate need, and non-negotiable.

Your love for this person may never subside, but all the love in the world is never enough to fix someone's severe mental issues, as much as I wish it was.
posted by HopperFan at 12:55 PM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


deanc: Surely the important question is whether she loves you enough to try to change who she is, by taking actual concrete steps.

This, a million times.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:09 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


[folks, can we keep the reaction comments within the range of what is okay for AskMe, please?]
posted by jessamyn at 1:28 PM on September 1, 2010


fermt, your last comment is really depressing and doesn't sound like much help is going to come for either of you with the approach you've laid out. You described two tough roads ahead and made up a third way that doesn't solve problems and sounds like the lazy way out.

To put this more directly: your spouse is sick and hurting, likely suffering from something that requires medication to mellow out her temper. If my spouse was sick and hurting, I would do everything in my power to make things better, because I love them. I would walk miles on bloodied knees to deliver her to help, the kind of stuff you see in movies.

You must start thinking of her mental state in the same way you'd think of a friend or family member that broke their arm (but is claiming they don't need x-rays or to see a doctor). If you really love her, you'll do everything in your power to get her the help she needs because without professional therapy, it's like relying on friends and family to set a broken bone. You really need a doctor here.
posted by mathowie at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2010 [33 favorites]


The knife incident was far beyond any possible standard of acceptable behavior, and if anything like it happens again I will call the police.

I know you believe this. I know this. You really do.

But you won't.

She'll convince you not to, when it happens. Or something different will happen and you'll convince yourself that it's not as bad as pulling a knife. And you'll tell her she needs to go to therapy, and you'll back down, and it won't feel like backing down. It will feel like you're moving forward, and you won't be.

You've been told this a number of times and you're likely to be told it again: The fits and violence are not something you're allowing to happen through inaction. You cannot change it, you cannot fix it. If she will not seek treatment, this won't get fixed. Love can do a lot, but it can't fix this. You're ignoring the thing everyone has told you: You can't fix this and if she won't go to therapy, you need to leave. After your conversation with her, she isn't going to therapy, you're going ahead with the wedding, and nothing has actually changed.

I got a horrific sinking feeling, reading what you wrote, and I can't really shake it. So I ask this:

Sooner or later, she is going to threaten your life, or her own, during one of these fits. It probably won't be long before it happens, if she has a tantrum a few times a month. It's what she did during the knife incident and she will do it again.

When that happens, and you don't call the police on her, I am asking you to please think about what you've been told here. I'm asking that you ask yourself how it is that I am able to predict both that she will threaten one of your lives despite your attempts to improve things, and that you won't call the police when it happens.

When it happens, ask yourself if there is the possibility that the information you've been given here was right. Consider the possibility that it may be time to take the advice you've been given more seriously. This degree of unanimity is unprecedented on this site, and there's a reason for that.

I don't mean to disparage the love you have for your fiancee. Please understand that this isn't about the quality of your love, it's about something that is bigger than you or your ability to help.

I sincerely hope for nothing but the best possible ending to this for you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Ultimately, the conversation came to a point where she asked me I loved her enough to help her change who she was.

So she deflected the blame of her inappropriate behavior and compared it to the level of love you should have for her? And you see nothing wrong with this? Is it your behavior or hers that needs serious professional help to fix?

The wedding will go on, but children will naturally be out of the question until we are both undoubtedly confident in our ability to raise them in a nurturing, non-hostile environment.

Unless of course she decides not to take her birth control pills, alters the condoms, . I'm sorry but you are being foolish. You say you are Christian and I quote scripture and it's ignored. Sadly, because you refuse to both SEEK and HEED counsel you are going to be stuck in this situation with no foreseeable way out. You asked for advice but gave no logical reason other than "love" that you should stay. I too made the choice to be an abused husband and it broke me mentally and almost drove me to kill myself. You too will end up broken mentally and all I can say is I told you so. You don't see it now but you will and you'll regret being so foolish.

The knife incident was far beyond any possible standard of acceptable behavior, and if anything like it happens again I will call the police. But until that happens, I choose to believe her heart's intent was not to harm, and that other external forces are causing her to behave that way to scare me.

You won't even call your pastor to ask for counsel. You think you are REALLY going to call the police and have them take her to the hospital's mental ward for a suicide watch. You are kidding yourself. How do I know you ask? Been there done that and I really wish I had called the police because then at least she'd be forced to talk to someone about it. I wish you the best but I guess, like me, you are going to have to learn the hard way.

posted by ThomasBrobber at 1:37 PM on September 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


"She was in denial and asked if I loved her unconditionally, or if I only loved her when she wasn't angry."

"Love is a feeling, but it is also a choice. The two are mutually exclusive. A relationship will prosper as long as either is present."


You can love someone unconditionally, but that is not sufficient for a relationship to prosper. A relationship can still be harmful and destructive for one or both partners, even if both partners love each other.

"I have realized that while I am not directly responsible for her well-being, it does not mean I will let her be the sole decider of what is good for her health."

"DID SHE SAY THAT SHE WOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP?"

"Not yet. I have decided that I will make this decision for her if there is no immediate improvement in our situation."


This is not reality-based. It is equivalent to saying "the next time she pulls a knife, I will melt it with my heat vision." You can "decide" for her to seek professional help all you like, it will not make her actually do so.

"other external forces are causing her to behave that way to scare me."

No. She may be stressed out by external factors (as are we all), but they do not force her to behave violently. Bear in mind that you will both be dealing with external stressors all your lives. Helping her avoid responsibility by declaring that those stressors "forced" her to become violent will never lead to any changes in her behavior.

"But I cannot, in good conscience, abandon a situation that is not hopeless in fear of something that may not happen, when there is so much good to look forward to."

The unacceptable behavior is already happening.

"Ultimately, the conversation came to a point where she asked me I loved her enough to help her change who she was."

Unless she is willing to seek professional help on her own accord, it doesn't matter whether you love her enough to help her change. You will not be able to help her change without her doing the vast majority of the work, any more than you could lift the Statue of Liberty off it's foundations just by loving it enough.

I'm not saying that you should stop loving her. I am saying that going through with this marriage will be harmful for you and not helpful for her, unless and until she makes some major changes.
posted by tdismukes at 1:50 PM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm holding back tears as I read through these responses at work.

There's a dark spot in my heart that doesn't want to put up with it. I know that I am both in denial that she needs professional help, and find it impossible to walk away from another human being after everything we've been through and said to each other. When I proposed to her I vowed to care for her and see her through the pain that I had glimpsed up to that point in time.

Walking away from the current situation feels like a monumental failure of character and feels tantamount to leaving a wounded and crying baby on the street to die. I am petrified by both compassion and heartache and can't walk away from her when she cries and tells me "if I want to leave then just leave." I just don't have the ability to walk away when I know there might be other options.

I want to seek counseling and/or talk to a pastor. The fact that it seems nearly impossible to negotiate with her means I would have to do it in secret, which is all the more heartbreaking to me. But the fact is, I know what they will tell me, and it will probably be some rendition of what was stated here. I simply can't get away from the fact that I feel shouldered with caring for her health. She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her. I know this is both noble to reach for and untenable.

This is already one of the longest threads I've ever seen and the response is unimaginable to me. This began as a post to throw my concerns into the sea but I didn't expect a ship full of bottles to come back. I know what the unanimous voice is saying. I just can't shake the feeling that my situation is unique, being misunderstood, and can be salvaged.
posted by fermt at 1:52 PM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Like so many others here, I am shaking my head sadly, on the verge of tears for you and your fiance. I have wanted to ask age, but deemed it somewhat irrelevant, but now I will ... my assumption is that both of you are under 25 or thereabouts. What does this matter? You have very little life experience to base decisions on.

I was one of those who said that walking the journey with her might be an option for you, but it is so irresponsible and immature for you to make a decision of this calibre without even consulting your spiritual leader! This says to me that you are afraid of being held accountable, and afraid of seeking the wisdom advised in the Bible. Sad mistake for a person who purports to be a strong Christian. It saddens me to see the over-confidence of youth pushing aside Biblical wisdom (i.e. seek counsel), and the life experience of elders.

For w hat it is worth, 1) you cannot make any decisions FOR her. 2) She is still asking you to prove your love to her, while not wanting to show any love to you, and 3) despite Godly counsel, Wise counsel from those with life experience, and evidence to the contrary, you are choosing to believe that you are mighty and powerful enough to change another person.

Just one question more ... why are you so afraid to do as the Bible says and seek the counsel (with full disclosure) of your spiritual leader?
posted by batikrose at 1:53 PM on September 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


There were two possibilities - walk away to a presumably "better", but otherwise unknown future, with the regret of abandoning what could have been.

You know, one of the best passages in the Gospel of Mark is chapter 5, where Jesus cures the demon-possessed man. The crucial point is at the end of the story, starting with verse 15:
[15 ]When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. [16] Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. [17] Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
Why are people afraid when they're seeing a demon-possessed man dressed and in his right mind? Why is it that after Jesus came into their town and solved one of their problems that they asked him to leave? The reason is because people who are in a trap become used to their trap. Their trap is safe. Their trap is familiar. You have your little tricks to deal with the trap and keep yourself safe. You know what to expect in the trap. Freedom is scary. You sound like what you fear most -- more than a lifetime of being abused (mentally and physically) and having to grapple with a person with severe psychiatric issues -- is a fear of the unknown. CautionToTheWind understands things pretty well-- while you might fear the unknown, what you will really find is that there are many, many people out there who don't abuse you and aren't suffering from deep medical and psychiatric issues that they refuse to treat. What you need to stop doing is setting yourself up for a situation where you don't want to be free. Because it sounds like you're trying to come up with an excuse to stay in a situation that's familiar, above all else.
posted by deanc at 1:54 PM on September 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


One more thought ... make yourself a copy of this thread, and put it away in a safe spot. Put a timeline on it. Come back and read it in five years, providing you are able to. It just may be a real eye opener to you at that time.
posted by batikrose at 1:56 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


External forces are causing her to behave that way to scare me.

For a long time, before people knew what mental illnesses are and how to treat them, their best guess was that it was demonic possession. They tried to drive the demons out. They knew that their loved ones were in there, but they were acting in ways that weren't normal.

Would you let this demon live in your otherwise wonderful partner, acting up whenever it felt like it, doing damage to herself and others, or would you try to arrange for an exorcism ASAP, even if the demon inside her doesn't want to leave?

We don't live back then. Now we know that there are other options. Try to think of your fiancée as possessed, and if you want to stay with her, love her, and help her, it's time to get her the help she needs.

You cannot let her keep winning these arguments! Does she love you enough to trust that you have her best interests in mind? That you are looking out for her at a time when she can't look out for herself?

(i'm not saying mental illness=demons, just trying to make a point)
posted by coupdefoudre at 1:57 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you stay with her it really needs to be because you love her surpassingly - not because you think she can change or because you think you'll be able to handle anything that comes. You have to be willing to go to Hell for her and be willing to live in chains and misery, perhaps with knowledge that you were responsible for allowing her to harm others, possibly more than you are able to take - never saved or redeemed. You may find yourself knowing that she never got better because you didn't show her steel.

If you're willing to do all that, well that's an impressive amount of love. But don't fool yourself about anything; this isn't a fairy tale, definitely not one with a happy ending.
posted by XMLicious at 1:59 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Walking away from the current situation feels like a monumental failure of character and feels tantamount to leaving a wounded and crying baby on the street to die.

Not at all, dude. She is an adult, and she is refusing to seek therapy and expressly forbid you from seeking help. That's not a helpless baby, that's a controlling adult acting like a real jerk to you.

Instead of thinking about your last two years as a wasted effort or some flavor of an incredible investment not worth walking away from, instead think of it this way: You have spent two years with someone that has deep problems that make certain a marriage will be painful and child raising will be dangerous for all involved. Those are two years you could have spent instead being blissfully happy with someone that is more even keeled. Every day you spend with her is a day you are not finding someone new and finding true happiness.
posted by mathowie at 2:01 PM on September 1, 2010 [25 favorites]


You are not Jesus. You cannot make the blind man see. You are not even a psychologist.

That is a really important thing to remember. Keep yourself humble. Know your own abilities and capabilities. You do not have the capacity to change another person. You are not the only person who can help her. Be humble.

She is not a wounded and crying baby. She is an adult. I know that you are compassionate and kind and I commend you for that, but she is sane enough to get help. She is sane enough to work on this herself.

I can say, on a personal note, that I have had mental health issues before and I had a fiance who tried to be there for me, help me, etc. It didn't help. I didn't improve until he left me and I had to take responsibility for my own behavior.

It also helped to be out of an intimate relationship for a while. If intimate relationships "trigger" her rages, then it might be better for her if you separate, even if it's not what she wants right now.

Again, these are things that really require the help of a mental health professional.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just can't shake the feeling that my situation is unique, being misunderstood, and can be salvaged.

This is what it feels like when you are in an abusive relationship. The abuse warps your mind and makes you doubt what you know to be true.
posted by Zophi at 2:03 PM on September 1, 2010 [15 favorites]


I should also mention that I agree with you about love being an action.

I am not someone who thinks that you should jump from relationship to relationship.

However, one of the most loving things anyone ever did for me was tell me that he loved me but that he didn't want to talk to me again because I was hurting him.

I am so thankful that he kept me from harming him further. Kept me from feeling that guilt. Kept himself safe. Allowed me time and perspective to come to terms with my problems and heal.

So cutting off contact with me was, in and of itself, was a loving action.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:08 PM on September 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her. I know this is both noble to reach for and untenable.

This isn't really how things work in the Gospels. Take the example of the prodigal son, which is a parable about the relationship between God (the father) and humanity (the prodigal son). The prodigal son does something extremely stupid, wasting his inheritance and then finding himself living in a horrible situation. He doesn't say to his father, "if you loved me enough, you would make sure that I get out of living in the mud with the swine." What happens is that the prodigal son realizes how much worse is life is because of the decisions he made and then goes back to his father and says, all I want is to be your servant so that I might have some relief of the terrible life I chose for myself. Now I think people make a big mistake in trying to place themselves in the position of the father in the parable, because as so many AskMeFi posts show, taking your ne'er-do-well, lazy, self-destructive child back to live with you frequently causes a big mess. However, when your fiancée plays the "Jesus card," you have to remind her (and yourself), that the first part of a "redemption story" is "repentence." The fallen are not supposed to be laying around making demands of the Savior to love them enough to motivate them to repent. Your fiancée has to be the one to choose to get psychiatric help and be placed under medical evaluation and supervision.

There are millions of people who have marriages that don't involve abuse and knife-pulling. You can have that, too if you're willing to choose that by taking the risk of your fiancée getting medical treatment (which she might fail to follow through on), and by extension the risk that you might have to find a new relationship. It sounds like it's worth going out there and trying to find a new relationship when the alternative is somebody who is abusing you and isn't helping herself fix those problems.
posted by deanc at 2:10 PM on September 1, 2010 [28 favorites]


There's a dark spot in my heart that doesn't want to put up with it. I know that I am both in denial that she needs professional help, and find it impossible to walk away from another human being after everything we've been through and said to each other. When I proposed to her I vowed to care for her and see her through the pain that I had glimpsed up to that point in time.

Not to harp on a familiar point, but I think that therapy for yourself would be a worthwhile thing as well. A constant thread in what you say has been that it would be a really good idea to square up with reality your ideas about what are your responsibilities, and what it is within your power to do.

Right now there is a conflict between what you desperately want to be true, and what reality is screaming into your face. Leaving would make you feel guilty, would make you feel like you failed. Therapy would help with that. Basically there's a whole tangled mess of issues here and you need to separate out what you can and can't do anything about.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:11 PM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I proposed to her I vowed to care for her and see her through the pain that I had glimpsed up to that point in time.

You cannot care for her by pledging to love her *literally* no matter what. That isn't care, that isn't love. That's telling someone "do whatever you want; I am your rug and I will always be here." That isn't loving. You can see her through the pain, and you can care for her - but you have to decide what you are able - physically, emotionally, spiritually ABLE - to do. You have limits and it is loving for you to acknowledge them, push them when you need to for growth, and do not over commit yourself.

I'm speaking from a lot of painful experiences here. Love itself isn't the sole answer here. Love alone isn't enough. Nor is commitment or dedication. The two of you are entering a partnership together, and that means that each of your problems will need work by each of you. If she is unable or unwilling to commit to that, it is NOT up to you to pull her weight all by yourself.
posted by lriG rorriM at 2:17 PM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I want to seek counseling and/or talk to a pastor. The fact that it seems nearly impossible to negotiate with her means I would have to do it in secret, which is all the more heartbreaking to me. But the fact is, I know what they will tell me, and it will probably be some rendition of what was stated here. I simply can't get away from the fact that I feel shouldered with caring for her health. She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her. I know this is both noble to reach for and untenable.

She is manipulating you by using scripture. Fact is you CAN NOT love her as Jesus does. it's not possible, can't even try, not even comparable. Because what she is saying, and I really want you to hear me on this, is that YOUR LOVE is GREATER than the LOVE OF JESUS. Does that sound right to you? I didn't put words into your mouth or hers but emphasized what she said to you.

Walking away from the current situation feels like a monumental failure of character and feels tantamount to leaving a wounded and crying baby on the street to die.

No, stop making excuses for an ADULT. She is not a baby and while she may definitely be wounded and she may definitely cry it is not your responsibility to make her better. You help but SHE has to do the heavy lifting not you.

I just can't shake the feeling that my situation is unique, being misunderstood, and can be salvaged.

I'd like you to go back and reread each of my posts in your thread and then come back and tell me that your situation is unique. That's not to sound snide or rude but I've read every word you have typed and can match it step for step, stride for stride with the marriage that I had. My initial offer still stands of email and phone to discuss further.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 2:19 PM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


"DID SHE SAY THAT SHE WOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP?"

Not yet. I have decided that I will make this decision for her if there is no immediate improvement in our situation.


fermt:

I'm going to speak to you in Evangelical Christian, because I suspect that like me, you're part of that community, and maybe I can get through to you that way. I don't expect the other MeFites to understand, but I hope you will.




Your fiancée is possessed by a Demon. Period. The signs could not be any clearer. The Demon is sitting on her soul and filling it with despair and rage, and as a result she's acting out her pain and her confusion, and continuing to fall short in her walk with Christ.

What more, the Demon is now coming after you.

Peter writes "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) And right now that Demon has set its sights on devouring you. Why do you think it's pushing so hard for marriage? It's the Demon who will be taking those vows with you in the church on your wedding day, not your fiancée. And once you've taken those vows with it, it will be able to summon other demons to attack you (and, eventually, your children).

Satan is the Father of Lies, and that means all demons are expert liars. Her Demon is already playing mind-games with you in an effort to throw you into some kind of mental torment and sever your spiritual connection with the Lord. Just looking at your posts, I can see the lies the Demon has filled your head with:

*That an engagement is as binding as a marriage (with that one, you’re less likely to leave and more likely to exchange vow with the demon)
*That your “shortcomings” are just as bad has her outbursts
*That you caused her outbursts with your “shortcomings”
*That you can handle the outbursts
*That her behavior is normal and justified (demons love this one, it’s the first one they sell you on)
*That other people throw things in anger sometimes but have otherwise healthy families
*That she can’t get better until you fix what’s wrong with you
*That you are responsible for helping her to change
*That this is an issue of blaming her (and of course you don’t want to do that)
*That you don’t deserve any better
*That it’s reasonable not to tell anyone else about the abuse…oh, excuse me, your personal affairs
*that she's grateful for your ability to put up with everything she does, however crazy she gets.
*That loving her means sticking around
*That it “could still be so good” if you would just stay with her
*That she will hurt herself if you break up

YOU MUST NOT FALL FOR IT. These are lies, lies, lies and the longer you continue to believe them, the more power the Demon has over you.

Here's the thing to keep in mind. Right now, only your fiancée is hog-tied by her Demon. That means that that she's the only one who can break its hold.

That doesn't mean you can't be supportive. You and her parents and family and friends can be there to hand her the tools to free herself, but she has got to throw off those shackles herself or she will never be free of the Demon.

Take a stand against the Demon. Call off the wedding. Tell your fiancée that you love her, but either she gets professional help or she never sees you again. And mean it.

I warn you now: when you do this, the Demon will go into overdrive. It’s not used to dealing with someone smart enough to figure out its plan, so initially it will panic. It will cause your fiancée to explode like she’s never exploded before. It will rage, fight, scream, cry, hit you, hit herself, any number of things.

That’s the easy part.

Because once the Demon calms down, it will become the most manipulative creature you’ve ever seen in your life. It will release its hold on your fiancée just long enough to fill her with lies, and because your fiancée will have undergone the spiritual equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome, she will believe those lies, and act on them, and team up with the Demon against you. THAT is the hardest part of all, seeing your own loved choose to side with the Demon. A lot of relationships don’t survive it—and can you blame them, really, when someone they love deliberately chooses to embrace annihilation? The person who does can still throw off the demon, but oh, God, she chosen to travel through Hell to do it, and is gonna take you with her. When that day comes—and it will—seek out a support group. There are any number of Christian-based organizations that are there for you in that darkest hour.

Whatever you do, don’t believe the demon. At night, pray for healing with your fiancée, and in the day march her butt to psychiatric sessions. At night, help your fiancée take the Word of God into her heart, and in the daytime help her take whatever medications the doctor prescribes. At night, tell her you love her, and in the daytime be prepared to call a real estate agent and sell the house at the drop of a hat if the demon uses her to resist.

Cancel the wedding. Insist on therapy. Stay vigilant, and always stay one step ahead. Stand your ground. Above all, rebuke the Demon by not giving in to what he wants. Every time you stand against the Demon, that’s another tool your fiancée can use to free herself from its influence.

Good luck and God bless you.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:21 PM on September 1, 2010 [78 favorites]


I'm going to address this from the religious perspective, since your faith is clearly very important to you -- especially when you need strength.

"She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her."

You are not Jesus. You strive to be Christ-like every day, but Jesus has strength far beyond what normal humans do. That's what separates Him from others. You KNOW there's no such level as "enough."

Ask yourself this question: is she striving to be Christ-like in her own actions? Does she love YOU enough? Switch the roles in everything she has said. Is she doing all of the things for you that she wants you to do for her?

She's been telling you a lot of stuff, but do her actions back that up? Has she changed or shown any inkling to do so? Or is she expecting you to do all the work? By walking away from her, you are giving her the power to do what she can only do on her own. And if she values her faith as well, she needs to work this out with God and no one else.

Most troubling is that she's preying on the relationship you have with God, which is perhaps even more important to you than your relationship with her or even yourself. That's what abusers do: they get between you and the things or people or beliefs that are most important to you and twist around what others say or do. That is absolutely not okay.

Your relationship with God lasts for longer than she has been in your life, and it will continue well after she is gone.

"I just can't shake the feeling that my situation is unique, being misunderstood, and can be salvaged."

I think that the chorus of voices show that this is not a unique situation. To take care of others, you must first take care of yourself.

Fermt, we are here for you. We can help you with any of the difficulties you might face, including finding a lawyer to help you with your home and finding a confidential source of pastoral or non-pastoral counseling.
posted by Madamina at 2:21 PM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I simply can't get away from the fact that I feel shouldered with caring for her health. She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her.

I know your tradition uses the phrase "unequally yoked" to mean something different-- namely, the marriage of a Christian and a non-Christian, and the challenges that kind of relationship can pose-- but you're unequally yoked here in a different way.

You're being asked to be a perfect avatar of Christlike love and compassion every single day, 24/7, for the rest of your life... with no expectation that your fiancee will ever attempt the same for you, or that her trying to mend her ways is even on the table.

You don't get miracles by asking other people to perform them for you, without fail, every day of their lives. You get a miracle by being in a state where you can receive it, and your fiancee's not there yet. She needs to do a great deal of work to set her house in order, of her own free will.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:31 PM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


"She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her. I know this is both noble to reach for and untenable."

I want to say this in the most loving, Christ-like way possible, drawing on my four years of divinity school training, but all I can come up with is: BULL. SHIT.

In fact, any pastor who's going to perform your marriage, who speaks to you about your relationship, who finds out about this will refuse to perform the marriage. It is THAT unhealthy and unchristian. Which leaves you with two choices: Be honest about your relationship and find that any wise and loving pastor will refuse to marry you, or lie about it. Which are you going to choose? She is either incredibly abusive and controlling, extremely mentally ill, or religiously very confused (to the point of creating actual idols) -- or some combination thereof. ALLOWING HER TO CONTINUE IN THIS RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU IS NOT GOOD FOR HER MENTAL, EMOTIONAL, OR SPIRITUAL HEALTH. You are enabling her, helping her to be UNHEALTHY. No matter what she says about it "changing" her, all your are helping her do is get sicker. Unless and until she gets help, your relationship can only HARM her, not help her. You think you're helping her because she says, "Don't leave me, love me, you make things better" but you are enabling her to get worse and worse and worse. And it will get worse and worse and worse.

If it is the only thing that will make her happy and healthy and whole, are you willing to leave her? Do you love her enough to let the relationship go if you have to do that? If you want her healthy, you may have to leave her to ensure she gets help.

I have every hope for you that this works out. But unless she gets help, it can't work out and it won't work out, and if you stay with her, you will be participating in her downward spiral of mental, emotional, and spiritual illness. You are helping her destroy herself. (And she's destroying you in the process.) I don't know how to be more stark about it than that.

Go to counseling. With her or without her. But YOU need to go.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:34 PM on September 1, 2010 [20 favorites]


I want to seek counseling and/or talk to a pastor. The fact that it seems nearly impossible to negotiate with her means I would have to do it in secret, which is all the more heartbreaking to me.

Please do, your heart may be breaking but at the same time you will feel a burden lifted off your shoulders because you will feel less alone.

But the fact is, I know what they will tell me, and it will probably be some rendition of what was stated here.

Nevertheless the intensity of the response here is also helping you, even if you cannot bring yourself to do what we tell you. Talking to a real person will help you as well, even if you don't take their counsel either. Just having somebody you know you can go to and share this with reliably will be helpful.

Walking away from the current situation feels like a monumental failure of character and feels tantamount to leaving a wounded and crying baby on the street to die.

It may feel as if she is helpless and vulnerable like a baby but she is nothing like that - she's an adult woman, capable of holding down a job, getting her name on a mortgage -she would not die if you left and she does not depend on you the way an incapable person or child does on a carer.

She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her. I know this is both noble to reach for and untenable.

You talk about your choice in your ealier response. And every single one of your choices aims to find a way to make your relationship work, even if this is detrimental to your own emotional and physical wellbeing. Every single one of her choices, both her choice of words and every action she chooses to take aims to make you feel more like a failure and more guilty about wanting to be able to be in a nurturing relationship based on respect as opposed to the hell you're in.

Good luck - I sincerely hope that you will find the strength to save yourself, only she and God can save her.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:35 PM on September 1, 2010


But the fact is, I know what they will tell me, and it will probably be some rendition of what was stated here.

A therapist -- a good therapist -- won't tell you what to do. Instead, they will help you figure out for yourself what you want and how rationally to act to get that. Please don't feel intimidated to get help because you think you'll be told to do something you don't want.

Therapists and pastors are there to help you. They want you to be happy and whole. Right now, you don't seem happy and whole. You seem trembling and sad and scared and confused and overwhelmed. Please, let someone help you with that.
posted by meese at 3:04 PM on September 1, 2010


Fermt, by staying and enabling her, you are harming her. Walking away will be the biggest (and probably only) way that you might help her understand how serious this is. You are hurting her by helping her pretend this is okay.
posted by ukdanae at 3:11 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fermt, many have read and favorited and posted in our own unique voices hoping and praying that at least one of us would word things just right and you would have that "AHA!"moment and start protecting yourself since you are so deep in the weeds you can't see what is right in front of you.

I am sure that I am not alone when I say that reading your follow up about your plans to move forward with the marriage was crushing. I understand and wish you the best, but I am so very sad for you too.

One last thing...Many people have shown you great love and support out of deep concern and the fervent hope that we could help you, a stranger, through the weeds so you won't have to learn the hard(er) way like many of us have. Please go back and read each thoughfully written response. Please go back and read each sharing of very private, unfortunate details of our lives just so you know that you are not alone. Please go back and read each offer to talk or email directly outside of AskMe. Each is a gift to you from strangers. This is love given unconditionally.
posted by murrey at 3:16 PM on September 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


This feels like an impasse. Our next talk will decide the future of this relationship. She is devastated with me over our last conversation and (ostensibly) needs me to apologize and comfort her. Her reaction will be unbearable if I tell her that the relationship is over.
posted by fermt at 3:57 PM on September 1, 2010


Hang in there. You will have some bad days here but you don't have to bear it alone, and you will get through it.

Can you call your pastor right now/tonight? Can you call a good friend? Maybe you could go stay at a friend's house and tell her that she should stay with a different friend/her parents, while you're both working through what this will mean? Encourage her to find a source of comfort and talk-it-over from another trusted person.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:05 PM on September 1, 2010


Fermt: If you love her enough, in the way Jesus does, that means you'd have to die for her sins. Are you willing to die because you love her that much?

You're not the son of God. She is asking too much of you, and you do not love yourself enough to realize that.

Remember when God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his own son, Isaac? That's because God was testing him. She's not testing you here - she's asking you to sacrifice your life, your happiness, and your Christian values in order to hide and accept her ongoing abuse.

St. Alia made a good point upthread - you are living in sin with this woman right now. Jesus may have been seen in the company of Mary Magdalene, but we don't have passages in the New Testament detailing their cohabitation together, do we?

Her needs and demands are hypocritical and the one thing I really can't stand is a self-justifying hypocritical Christian. Sorry if this sounds mean, but we are still responding because this is, for all we know, an intervention aimed at saving your life from endless years of misery.

The original question has been answered; your fiancee's behavior is a deal-breaker and you are enabling her. I'm sorry you cannot accept this and I pray with all sincerity the next questions you ask are about counseling, domestic abuse, lawyers and so on.

I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that when the site's moderators and hundreds of other people, like jbenben and ThomasBrobber are pouring out their personal tales of suffering to you and BEGGING you to wake up, it is physically and emotionally painful for us to see you choosing to accept more abuse.

Please don't make our confessions and offers of personal counseling, etc. have been in vain.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:06 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got your MeMail and I'll be responding when I get home from work tonight. In my opinion you have nothing to apologize for. She is being overly sensitive and you MUST be able to have open and honest communication for your relationship to be successful.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 4:06 PM on September 1, 2010


Her reaction will be unbearable if I tell her that the relationship is over.

No, it will be bearable, but incredibly awful. But you should bear it, for her sake and for your own. Any other option is burying your head in the sand, and causing tenfold the pain later.
posted by ukdanae at 4:06 PM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tell her that you love her. This is true, and you are sincere about it. This part will be easy. Then you tell her that you are not sure she loves herself. She has threatened herself and you with violence. This is not the act of someone who values herself, or her relationship. She gives herself away and piles the burdens of others onto herself and does not take proper care of herself. *You* can not give her all the love she needs in the world. A portion of that has to come from within. She needs to learn how to love herself. Insist on therapy - with a pastor, a counselor, anyone. Tell her that you need to be reassured that she isn't going to leave you by killing herself (either during a violent rage or afterwards due to the crushing guilt), that a commitment to you means a commitment also to herself. Do not apologize for your feelings - do offer comfort. This is a fine line to walk. Good luck. *hugs*
posted by lriG rorriM at 4:07 PM on September 1, 2010


When I say this, I mean this in the nicest way possible, but what you're demonstrating is more like arrogance than love. And it's not entirely your fault, she's egging you on by asking you to be like Jesus.

We are not asking you to leave a crying baby on the street to die. A baby crying in the street hasn't been offered the option of going inside to a warm house with food. A baby hasn't turned down that option repeatedly. Your fiancee has.

Every day that this continues means it will be even harder to leave her the next day. It will be even harder for you to consider life without her. But it also means that she's getting sicker. It's like a cancer growing inside her. Letting her get sicker and pretending that unconditional love can make her better isn't kind, especially when you know professionals can help. It's cruel. By not making her seek help, you are actively preventing her from being her happiest, kindest, most wonderful self. That's not what husbands do. That's not love.

Proverbs 28:26 "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool but he who walks wisely will be delivered."
posted by kat518 at 4:08 PM on September 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


She is devastated with me over our last conversation and (ostensibly) needs me to apologize and comfort her.

If that is the case then either she did not hear what you said, or you did not say what you needed to.
posted by unSane at 4:12 PM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Remember that you can love her and feel compassion for her, while recognizing that the relationship between the two of you is untenable in its current state.

Think about it this way -- imagine you have a pet fish that you love very much. You take it out of the water, and say "I love this fish so much that I can keep it alive out of the water, if I just try hard enough".

But it doesn't work. Eventually you have to put the fish back in the water, if you really love it, because keeping it out of the water and just hoping that things will get better is crazy. Same situation here. Sometimes love means saying "this isn't working. We have to stop it because it's not okay for either of us."
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:14 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermt, it truly scares me to read your most recent responses.

"She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her. I know this is both noble to reach for and untenable."

1) You are not Jesus.

2) Jesus's love has not been enough to change her.

3) If Jesus's love is not enough, then your love is definitely not.

4) Unconditional love is not what she thinks it means. Really, it isn't. It's possible to love someone and hate their behavior. It's possible to love someone and want them to change. Ignoring or excusing all the terrible things that someone does is not love - that's willful blindness. That's being in love with a fantasy.

5) You're damn right that this is untenable, but where did you get the idea that this is noble in any sense of the word? There is nothing noble about enabling her to continue down this path of pain and destruction. There is nothing noble about shackling yourself to her so that you both go down in flames. You are not a martyr. There is absolutely no reward for this sacrifice, not for either of you. There is only more fear, desperation, and hopelessness.

6) Did you see what she just did there? She pushed all responsibility for herself back onto you. She has admitted to knowing that she needs to change. But instead of doing anything about it herself, it's up to YOU to love her enough to change her. If she doesn't change, it'll be YOUR FAULT for not loving her enough. I hope I don't need to explain why this is preposterous.

"I have decided that I will make this decision for her if there is no immediate improvement in our situation."

Will you really? I beg you, take a moment to actually think this through. What do you mean by "immediate improvement?" How long will you give her to start showing any improvement? To what degree? And what if the improvement is temporary? What if there isn't any improvement, or she gets better for a little while and then slips back into her old ways of behaving? How are you going to "make this decision for her?" Are you going to hogtie her and drag her kicking and screaming to a mental health facility? Are you going to wait until she threatens you again with serious injury or death and have the police drag her away kicking and screaming?

Because that's what it may come down to. Do you sincerely accept that responsibility? Or is this just a way to postpone having to make any actual decisions?

"I just can't shake the feeling that my situation is unique, being misunderstood, and can be salvaged."

The only thing that is even remotely unique about your situation is the degree to which the abuse and manipulation has escalated. And even that isn't so rare. Please know that most of us speak from experience, and the view is extremely clear from where we are. You feel misunderstood because your perception of reality has been so badly warped. This is not your fault either, it's an effect of the abuse.

"Walking away from the current situation feels like a monumental failure of character and feels tantamount to leaving a wounded and crying baby on the street to die."

She is not a helpless, innocent baby, she is a violent, controlling, manipulative adult. That she even has you thinking of her in those terms speaks to the degree to which she has manipulated your thinking.

"The wedding will go on, but children will naturally be out of the question until we are both undoubtedly confident in our ability to raise them in a nurturing, non-hostile environment"

I hope you are aware that accidents happen, and that as long as you are having sex with her, you are taking your chances. And I am not accusing your wife of doing this terrible thing that I am about to describe, but it is not unheard of for women with reluctant partners to sabotage the birth control.

So unless your marriage goes unconsummated, I personally have zero confidence in your assertion that children will not be brought into this terrible mess.
posted by keep it under cover at 4:17 PM on September 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Our next talk will decide the future of this relationship."

Yes, it could - if she refuses to let you seek help for saving it. I hope that isn't the case.

"She is devastated with me over our last conversation and (ostensibly) needs me to apologize and comfort her."


Shame on her. Seriously. I don't know if she truly realizes how manipulative this is, I suspect she doesn't.

"Her reaction will be unbearable if I tell her that the relationship is over."

But - you don't have to say that. What you say is something like "I love you, thank you for talking to me about this. I want our relationship to have the best chance for a happy and successful future, and that's why I think it's absolutely necessary to get some help to have any hope of achieving that. This is very important to me, and I hope it is to you, too."

If she refuses, she's the one who's pronouncing the relationship over, not you.
posted by HopperFan at 4:20 PM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm thinking happy thoughts for both of you. I recommend that you say something along the lines of "I love you but your anger has caused me to rethink our future together. When you pulled a knife on me, it made me feel scared, not only for myself but for our future family. I love you a lot but we both know that that is not the real you. This cannot go on. If you get help, I will support you. But if you do not get help, this is over. We will not get married. We will no longer live together. I love you and I will do anything that I can do to help you get better but I am not going to love you to death. Please get help."

Or something like that. Best wishes.
posted by kat518 at 4:23 PM on September 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


"...I am not going to love you to death"

YES, THIS. THIS says it all.
posted by keep it under cover at 4:28 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


True love would make her face the truth about herself.

True love would not enable the manipulation.

Look, if she is looking for your love to fix her THAT IS RANK IDOLATRY.

Read that again and again till it sinks in.

Both of you need to repent for moving in together before you got married, and one of you needs to move out. THEN both of you need to go for counseling-her to deal with these demons, figuratively or literally, and you to understand why you allowed her to treat you this way without consequenses.

None of us gets to do anything we like without consequences. Her actions definitely have consequences. And if you are any kind of man at all, and if you care for her one whit, you will lovingly but firmly make her face reality which is she either deals with her stuff responsibly or you two must part.

God will help you-He's awesome like that. I have seen Him do it again and again. But He does not smile on disobedience, and y'all need to take care of that immediately.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:31 PM on September 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


St. Alia has it exactly right. Please reread what she just said.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:45 PM on September 1, 2010


Her reaction will be unbearable if I tell her that the relationship is over.

A very wise woman told me this once:
"It may not be ok, but you (and she) will be ok." Our ability to bear things is greater than we know.
posted by MsMolly at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2010


Love can't flow in only one direction. Your love for her is clear, obvious and strong; her love for you is absent in all her statements and actions.
SHE needs to show YOU that she loves YOU unconditionally, by being willing to face her own actions and take her own responsibility for them.
If she isn't willing to admit that her behavior is wrong, then she doesn't love you enough to deserve you. A love like the one you are capable of feeling and showing, like you have been feeling and showing to all of us here, is a glorious seed; her selfishness is making a desert of the ground you are planting it in.

And yes, she's selfish. Getting upset over what other people choose to do can mean a big heart- it can also mean that she's expecting other people to behave as SHE wants them to, which is controlling. It can also be that she has a lot of rage in her looking for any excuse to come out which is something SHE HAS TO CHOOSE TO DEAL WITH. Deal with by seeking help, by acknowledging that her CHOICE of behavior when upset is something that is HER RESPONSIBILITY TO CONTROL. I see someone who feels no need to change her actions because they are succeeding - she wins the fight and gets to take the next day off work, how great is that?

We can't control our feelings but we choose how to act on them; her choices are selfish, and her manipulation of you (making you responsible for her actions) is selfish. She's setting you up for a big, long fall with this "love me enough" business - any time she wants to blow up, well, it;s your fault twice - once for eating the cereal too loud and again for not loving her enough. She is setting up fail conditions, and it's important that you see that.

One last word on selfish abusers - I once got an apology from an abuser who gave me a black eye: "I'm sorry you made me hit you." That person was a selfish, abusive person. That person did exactly the same thing to me as your fiancee is doing to you. It wasn't my fault that they chose to hit me. It's not your fault that she chooses not to control herself.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:59 PM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


find it impossible to walk away from another human being

Your story is heartbreaking. I've never been in an abusive relationship, but I have been in a relationship with an alcoholic, and part of what you're saying really resonates with me.

During that relationship, I kept thinking that if only I made him feel better-- if only I loved him so perfectly-- he would be OK-- and he would begin to love himself and get better. Because that was what the alcoholism was all about-- he hated himself, and didn't think he deserved to be happy, so he drank to make himself unhappy.

You fiancee isn't an alcoholic-- but deep down inside she hates herself. So, in order to reinforce that hate, she simultaneously pushes you away and tests you. She doesn't think she's truly lovable, so she doesn't ask for normal love from you-- she asks you to personify Jesus. Because she thinks that only someone like Jesus can truly love her. And the more horrible she is, the more insane she acts, the more she simultaneously hates herself and needs to test you.

What I finally learned, years ago, is that I wasn't helping my ex-- in fact, I was making him hate himself even more.

If you can't hear what everyone else is saying here-- all of which is true-- please believe this. You are harming this woman that you love by allowing her-- in fact, encouraging her by your failure to hold her accountable-- to act this way.

find it impossible to walk away from another human being

Holding her accountable, and demanding treatment-- that's not walking away. That's helping her. If she chooses to walk away because she cannot or will not allow you or herself to begin to heal, that's her choice. But your failure to stand up for what you are beginning to know is right is much more analogous to the crying baby than staying with her and allowing her to descend even farther into pain, anger, and self-hate.
posted by miss tea at 5:19 PM on September 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her.

You still can't change her, not if you love her with the purest of crystal-clear hearts, larger than the Earth, full of nothing but love for her. YOU can not force change in her, not with emotion nor with action.

I tell you this as yet another of the people responding who's been through an abusive relationship, where I tried, and tried, and tried to force change in my mother, who would agree to anything but then immediately revert as soon as the conversation was ended. If she isn't trying to change, she herself working for change, then she won't change. You can't *make* it happen unilaterally.

You can't make her be the person you need her to be. Only she can do that, and SHE has to put in the effort to do it.

And if she blames you for failing to change her, this is only another aspect of abuse.
posted by galadriel at 6:34 PM on September 1, 2010


I share the sinking feeling so many others have described, and I want to take a slightly different angle. It seems like you think of yourself, in this situation, as noble and self-sacrificing. I don't see you that way at all.

I see you as a dupe, someone to be pitied, who's being played for a fool. I don't say that accusingly - my heart breaks for you. But I think that believing yourself to be the hero in this situation is tremendously counterproductive, and I'd like nothing more than to see you wise up and take care of yourself.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:35 PM on September 1, 2010 [27 favorites]


I hope you are still reading this thread.
I want to ask you, especially since your last reply, to think about how you can keep yourself safe if she does react poorly to your discussion. If you need assistance in figuring out it out, and you are in the US, call 1 800 799 SAFE.
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:04 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


She is devastated with me over our last conversation and (ostensibly) needs me to apologize and comfort her.

I hope you understand the dynamic at play here. This is about power and control. Her having power and control, I mean. Not necessarily consciously; people don't usually sit around wondering how best they can exert power in this sort of context. But that's what it is. Apologizing to her because you started the very first hesitant steps to ending a pattern of abuse would send her a clear signal that she has all of the power and that you'll take whatever she dishes out and then thank her for it.

It's "THANK YOU SIR MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?".

Please be strong.
posted by Justinian at 9:27 PM on September 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


I want to seek counseling and/or talk to a pastor.

YES. PLEASE DO THIS.
posted by salvia at 12:49 AM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh honey, no.

If your unconditional love could change her, she would already have changed. The lack of love, devotion, compassion, caring and character isn't yours - it's hers. Your love can't fix this, you can't fix her and she has no right to try to make you responsible for her behavior.

I know it must be hard for you to hear your loved one discussed so negatively, and for strangers to imply that they know your life better than you do. And when you’ve invested this much time and effort into a relationship - house and all - it's difficult to see how you can just walk away.

But think about it. If you’re the one apologizing after getting a death threat from somebody who ‘loves’ you? You get to walk away, guilt free.

And if you want to protect yourself, be happy and stay healthy - you must. Please take care of yourself.

Please don't go through with this marriage. And for the first time in my life, I am seriously, strongly recommending abstinence.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:43 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look Fermt, I have sent you a memail containing my final arguments, parts of my private correspondence and my best wishes, so that you can see that nothing about your situation is special, that abuse is pretty much the same across contries, cultures and time, and that you are just another victim of it. You will see the exact same patterns of blaming and apologies BY THE VICTIM as you describe will be the main course in your next chat. That is as much as I can do for you, and I believe it is a lot considering I don't know you. I recognize myself in you and I wish someone had helped me as so many are helping you. It is quite possible I would have dismissed that help, as you are doing now. That is how insidious and damaging abuse is. And yes, you can be a victim even if you are a Man. Trust me, the invencibility of men is as much bullshit as the inferiority of women.

Best of luck to you.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:11 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


A couple things really stuck out to me:

Walking away from the current situation feels like a monumental failure of character and feels tantamount to leaving a wounded and crying baby on the street to die.

If you really feel she's a wounded and crying baby (which, as others have pointed out, is a flawed analogy), ask yourself what you would do with a wounded and crying baby. Have a talk and then hope things get better? Or like rush it to the hospital? She needs help, more help than you can give her. There is not going to be "immediate improvement" to the situation just because you guys had a talk. I mean, congratulations on talking to her because it's something that needed to be done, but it's not the ONLY thing that needed to be done. Therapy and meds are really needed. Immediately. Remember that wounded and crying baby.

She told me that if could strive to unconditionally love her enough, in the way Jesus does, it could change her.

I'm an atheist, so maybe I just don't get it. And I hope I'm being respectful when I say this: Why do either of you think that your unconditional love will be stronger and more powerful than Jesus's unconditional love? I mean, (and not to be glib at all) Jesus loves her unconditionally, and that really doesn't seem to be enough to get her through this. Unconditional love isn't really working in this situation.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:57 AM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


My dad was never violent to my mother (though he was emotionally abusive) but he was to me. Imagine your child is experiencing what you are now, and is feeling how you are feeling. I attempted to rationalize it as much as a child can, but I grew up frightened, unable to understand why it was happening, and then angry. I've lived away from home for ten years, my dad is now dead, but it affects me now still. When I read your question and your follow-up comment about breaking things, it reminded me so much of that - of my dad hitting me over the head, or kicking down doors, or pinning my brother up against the wall. Your comment about therapy reminded me of all the times I was told to shut up, not talk back, or say another word or I'd never be allowed to come home again. It's going to happen to your children just as it does to you, and more so given that children do not always behave in rational ways.

If it helps, I thought it was normal until I saw friends with their parents and realised not all families act that way. I won't have children myself for various reasons but a big part of this was first not wanting another child to go through the same thing as me, and then the fear that I might behave that way myself. Learned behaviour. My brother ended up in an abusive relationship once and so did I, more than likely because we were used to that environment and didn't realise that wasn't how relationships should be (and I realise you haven't suggested this is the case for you). I used to read articles about bullying and wonder when they would tell me what to do if I was related to the bully and couldn't just walk away. I never spoke to anyone about it because I was worried about what grown-ups might do - the worst rages were always when my mum was out of the house (my sister and brother would beg her not to leave them alone with him) and when I plucked up the courage over YEARS to talk to my mum about it she didn't have it in her either. I didn't realise this was abusive until I managed to speak to a counsellor about it when I was twenty-two - and I saw that counsellor because I was suffering from PTSD. For years I thought it was just something that happened and I got the bad luck of the draw. I still don;'t talk about it - there is a very small number of people who have ever been told - and I'm telling you this now because I hope it stops it from happening again to another little girl.

This is what is going to happen to you and your children if you let things continue as they are. And as breaking the vow of marriage is non-negotiable for you, you need to stop it NOW before you enter into the bond. Have you told your parents why you're thinking about doing this? Tell them everything, really. Print out this thread and mail it to them if yiu have to. They need to know because you need someone actually in your life to remind you you are doing the right thing.This does not make you a bad person or a bad Christian. I'm agnostic but I know that God would want you to act with compassion - for yourself, for this woman you love, and for the children you haven't had yet.
posted by mippy at 5:10 AM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


This was said a few comments up, but I want to highlight it: Jesus's love has not been enough to change her.

You won't be able to make a healthy decision about this situation until you fully understand that ultimately she is responsible for any changes in her behavior--faith, love from her family and friends, professional help, etc. can be supports she leans on while she does the hard work of changing herself, but no one can do that work for her, not even Jesus. Consider how important free will is in Christianity. She is not a wounded baby. She is a wounded adult. You can be filled with compassion and sadness for her, but you cannot override her free will, no matter how self-destructive or abusive she is.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:23 AM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


One of the classic hallmarks of an abuser is the fabulous ability to get the abuse victim to APOLOGIZE TO THE ABUSER when the victim tries to make any kind of protestations about the situation at hand. She is doing this. She is treating you in a way that is unacceptable to EVERY person in this thread - and my friend, we mefites don't agree on anything; I mean, we disagree on shit that we agree on just to be contentious - and she's got YOU thinking you are now in the wrong for not comforting HER.

Do you see what a brilliant manipulation this is? I'm not saying she is consciously saying to herself, "let me treat fermt like shit and pull a knife on him and get him to take responsibility for my actions and hell, why don't I see if I can even get him to apologize for it just to see if I can," but it's what she's doing.

Talk to someone. Pastor, friend, therapist, whoever. Do not sugar coat it. Tell them everything, all of the details that you have told us, and listen to what that person says. Do not defend, explain, protest, just listen. Ask them for advice. See what they say. Please do this. Please do not let her keep her temper in check for the next few months until you are married and in a place where you do not consider yourself in a place to turn back, which is what I suspect will happen if you do not push this as hard as you can NOW while you have more options.

She is not a helpless baby on the side of the road. She's a grown adult who has had people tiptoe around her tantrums her entire life, enabling her to continue this behavior.
posted by 8dot3 at 8:12 AM on September 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fermt,

I pray on my knees very rarely, but I have knelt and prayed for you. I asked God for guidance, and here is what I heard:

Do not be ashamed. Shame can be the voice of pride.

Do not be ashamed if you continue in this relationship, and you do not take the advice which is given, and you find that the relationship progresses much as has been predicted. Because then you might think, "I didn't take that good counsel, and now, I am getting what I deserve." This isn't about what you deserve; God's grace is not about what we deserve. Instead, think, "I sought counsel, and I didn't act on it, but it's helping me see now what's happening, and helping me do what's right."

Your fear of shame in front of your community -- of shaming your family with a broken engagement -- is the voice of pride. Do not be ashamed. If you are acting strongly and in your and your fiancee's best interests, then you should not be ashamed.

When Jesus died on the cross, he was naked, and hung between two common thieves, and people jeered at him and soldiers played dice for his clothes. If you're setting Jesus as your model, remind yourself that shame and humiliation are the world's rewards for goodness and justice.

The voice of this community, as I hear it, is growing frustrated, because WE cannot control YOU just as YOU cannot control your fiancee.

I pray that as time passes, you do not allow that voice of pride -- that sense of false shame -- to prevent you from making the RIGHT choice.

Pride is a deadly sin for a reason -- the deadly sins are like doors stuck open in your soul, allowing many other sins to come in; and they are like doors stuck shut in your soul, preventing grace from entering.

There's a scene in _The Last Battle_, where there are some very stubborn people who have just been brought through a stable door which leads, by the grace of god, to heaven. And they are so stubborn, they cannot see the beautiful vista in front of them; they can only see a stable made up in their minds. And the line is, "They are so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out." This is because of their sin of stubbornness and pride.

And for the love of GOD, talk to your pastor.
posted by endless_forms at 9:11 AM on September 2, 2010 [32 favorites]


We had another talk and I was able to find strength to state that her actions were unreasonable and required help.

Rather than share intimate details, this is where things stand. I find it remarkable I am sharing personal events with otherwise strangers, but the way you have all banded together, along with the many touching personal messages, is enormously supportive.

- She agreed that her actions are unreasonable, but that they are an act. She escalates anger out of choice because I am not receptive to her feelings. She said that if I were able to validate her feelings and acknowledge when she is hurt when she states things in a calm manner then she would not need to escalate. She agreed that if it happened again then we would go to seek counsel (a pastor).

- I stated that a violent household would lead to broken children. Whether or not the actions are simply an act, they are inappropriate in all but the most dire of circumstances. She responded "What if we don't have children? What if we don't get married? Would you still be with me if I acted the way I did?" I expressed that the way she acted in anger was intolerable to me and I could not be with her if she acted violently toward me with no will to change it.

-The end result is that she has offered me a peaceful and non-violent relationship but with no love, because she has lost her trust in me. It is heartbreaking to her to know that I think of her as capable of being so violent. She is devastated to know that I am capable of leaving her despite my earlier vows that I would always support her and be with her.

-I cannot help but think that I said the right things but in the wrong manner. She conceded that her actions were wrong and was willing to pursue help, and effectively accepting my "terms". But it's heartbreaking to her to know that I could think of her in the way I described that that an "ultimatum" for departure was possible. She trusted me as someone she could pour her feelings into and be a release for her world of anguish, and that I destroyed that by demanding she change herself or that I depart.

-I can tell she is really hurt. I hurt her feelings by being harsher and colder with my words than I had ever been, and she's not deserving of that. I had walked into the conversation with some tangible plan of leaving if it became violent or if she was unagreeable, but she was neither of those things. She accepted what I was telling her, and afterward, is devastated knowing how I feel about her.

-She wants me to cancel all parts of the wedding except the ceremony itself. She doesn't want any "loveless" memories of that day. I know she is just saying that because she is genuinely upset and doesn't want to think about a wedding. She will change her mind if I support her and regain her trust.

I no longer believe I am responsible for every aspect of her health and welfare. I certainly take _some_ responsibility, but cannot bear to leave the situation knowing that I am failing that portion. I am not sure I want to beg her forgiveness for my harsh words to see what lies ahead. I just cannot imagine turning my back on her.
posted by fermt at 10:23 AM on September 2, 2010


I give up. Enjoy hell.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 10:27 AM on September 2, 2010 [28 favorites]


I have never seen the Christians on Mefi come out in force like this. Please, please listen to what they have to say. I just want to emphasize this point: We are not made to go through life alone. The church is meant to function as a community of broken individuals, who through faith in God can come together with their pain and struggles and, hopefully, find some healing. Refusing to take your burdens to your pastor or other respected leaders in your community is a prideful thing to do. You are not Jesus. You cannot save people. You especially can't save somebody who refuses to seek the help she desperately needs. You do not display the glory of God in someone's life by trying to be God to them. If your faith is truly as important to you as you make it sound, do not try to be self-sufficient. Please call off the wedding until she, and especially you, get some help.

Oh God: on preview, I think I'm going to cry.
posted by pecknpah at 10:27 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermt, my heart breaks for you.
She's still turning things back on you, making you feel that you're behaving badly, still making everything your fault... be strong. Her choices are not your fault. She may be hurt that you "think of her as being capable of being so violent" but the truth is that she IS being that violent - this isn't you projecting something untrue on to her, this is you calmly and rationally describing her very real behavior.
I still don't see her accepting the reality of her choices and her actions.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:30 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only thing stopping me from leaving is this:

"Was it so bad that you had to leave? Was it so bad that regardless of the way she is acting, you could not accept responsibility for approaching things differently? Perhaps if you lived the last month committing to making things better, rather than forming an escape plan in the back of your mind, things would have been different."

I don't think I can answer this question with a truthful "yes". Before I was in this relationship, I was of the belief that no matter how many times somebody hits you, it doesn't make it right to hit them back. A doctor that has saved 1,000 lives does not have the right to allow the next one to die.

I am reading through all the response and asking myself, "Why don't you just leave?". I tell myself, "Because it's not 100% her fault. Even if I accept that she is irrationally blaming me, if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up, I cannot walk away from it."
posted by fermt at 10:34 AM on September 2, 2010


"She said that if I were able to validate her feelings and acknowledge when she is hurt when she states things in a calm manner then she would not need to escalate. ... The end result is that she has offered me a peaceful and non-violent relationship but with no love, because she has lost her trust in me. "

Know that this is ALSO an act. And truly, I doubt she's doing it on purpose; with her "violent reaction" act taken away, she retreats to her "you don't love me, now I can't love you" act. It will be hard for her to learn to respond to your honesty with honesty; she hasn't had to do it in a long damn time, and it will take a while for her to stop taking refuge in these "acts" and personas. It makes her very vulnerable to respond honestly, and she's not doing that yet. She's not willing or perhaps not able to make herself that vulnerable.

I still feel the temptation to go into an "act" when confronted with an ugly truth about myself. It takes a lot of maturity, self-control, and self-awareness to face something that painful honestly, without throwing up barriers by using a different persona or misdirecting ("you don't love me!") or putting on an act.

This is a different act (and a "better" one, I suppose, since it isn't violence or escalating rage), but it is still an act, and as such, it isn't her honest/true feelings, and it is (probably unintentionally) manipulative. The hope is to distract you from your honesty by getting you on a different topic (such as an argument about whether you actually love her or not). Keep being honest and don't be dragged off-point. (You don't have to be cruel about it, but don't let her drag you into a side debate. "Of course I love you. But we can't live like this." or whatever.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:34 AM on September 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


ThomasBrobber, your comments, as well as your personal messages have been very moving. There is no more that you can or need to do - I realize the decision to evaluate and weigh the collective voice is now mine.
posted by fermt at 10:36 AM on September 2, 2010


The end result is that she has offered me a peaceful and non-violent relationship but with no love, because she has lost her trust in me.

She is punishing you, in other words. No comment form her on how it is devastating for YOU to have someone who claims they love you threaten you with violence. She made it all about her and how she is the victim here.

I can tell she is really hurt. I hurt her feelings by being harsher and colder with my words than I had ever been, and she's not deserving of that.
And you are deserving of her tantrums? Of having KNIFE pulled on you? And she's STILL blaming you: She escalates anger out of choice because I am not receptive to her feelings.

This is bullshit. I've dated all kindsa people who were not receptive to my feelings and no matter how angry I got or how frustrated I was, I never hit anyone, threatened to hit them, threatened to hurt myself or anyone else. This is not how loving adults behave. This is not how adults behave, period.

Please talk to someone. Do not wait for anything to 'happen again'.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:36 AM on September 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


Adding:

She agreed that her actions are unreasonable, but that they are an act. She escalates anger out of choice because I am not receptive to her feelings.

THIS IS NOT TRUE.
Remember what you said earlier:
I have met her family numerous times (her mother stayed at our home once), and these outbursts have occurred in their presence as well. They (her parents) were genuinely sorry, and told me that I was the only one who could calm her down.

This anger, this violence, is a part of her nature. Her family knows it well. It's not something created by a failure on your part. As with all abusers, she wants to make it a justifiable reaction to something you've done wrong, because that would mean that her behavior is justifiable. It's not. She's making you the scapegoat not just for the violence itself, but also for its very justification.
You are not failing this relationship. She is.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:37 AM on September 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


I tell myself, "Because it's not 100% her fault. Even if I accept that she is irrationally blaming me, if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up, I cannot walk away from it."

Even if you know that by staying you may be making it worse?

And fremt, fremt, fremt, THERE IS NO FAULT HERE. I said waaaaaaaaay back up above, diabetics are not at FAULT for being diabetic. You don't BLAME them. She needs HELP, not to place blame. "I will stay in this relationship because it's partly my fault and I need to take responsibility" is not noble. It is enabling.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:38 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


First of all, well done to you for continuing to have these difficult conversations with her.

I'm sure she is very hurt and upset and even feels betrayed. She thought she had found someone who was willing to accept anything she threw at him, and now you've broken that promise to her. I can understand how upsetting this might be for her.

I imagine it's just as upsetting as it must be for a child when they are told that they can't hit someone and take their candy just because they want it.

Fermt, just because you promised to love her doesn't mean you made a sacred vow to be her doormat. And now she's upset with you and saying that she can't ever trust you again because you're essentially saying, "I don't want to be your doormat - i want to be treated and loved like an adult." She's now seeing her perfect imagined future of never having to deal with the awful, awful things in her life fading away, and she's desperately fighting to keep things the same, using every emotional manipulation that she can, and making empty promises to get help "next time" "if" it happens again.

I'm not saying she's evil or doing it on purpose. She's just very sick, and very unhappy, and very unwell and she's very afraid of having to deal with how sick and unhappy and unwell she is. You're scaring the crap out of her right now, and she's reacting like a caged animal. She will say anything that she can think of to keep everything on track. Look at the whole wedding thing - she's unable to trust you, she's so disappointed, so naturally, you'd think she'd want to call off the wedding, no? Surely trust is a huge prerequisite for marriage. but instead, she's just threatening to gut the wedding because she's just pressing buttons to try and make you feel awful so you will take it all back.

Nothing short of calling off your wedding will even come close to forcing her to deal with this, and even then it might not work. But if you really want to help her, do not marry her. That will just show her that you are willing to accept this behaviour forever. Actions speak louder than words.
posted by ukdanae at 10:38 AM on September 2, 2010 [22 favorites]


I am reading through all the response and asking myself, "Why don't you just leave?". I tell myself, "Because it's not 100% her fault. Even if I accept that she is irrationally blaming me, if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up, I cannot walk away from it."


No-one is at fault. Would it be her fault if she was born with diabetes? No. This is a sickness, Fermt, and nothing you do will make her better or worse. This has nothing to do with you, it is her sickness.
posted by ukdanae at 10:42 AM on September 2, 2010


fermt:
I can tell she is really hurt. I hurt her feelings by being harsher and colder with my words than I had ever been, and she's not deserving of that. I had walked into the conversation with some tangible plan of leaving if it became violent or if she was unagreeable, but she was neither of those things. She accepted what I was telling her, and afterward, is devastated knowing how I feel about her.
Lundy Bancroft (Why does he do that?: inside the minds of angry and controlling men)
In one important way, an abusive man works like a magician: His tricks largely rely on getting you to look off in the wrong direction, distracting your attention so that you won't notice where the real action is. He draws you into focusing on the turbulent world of his feelings to keep your eyes turned away from the true cause of his abusiveness, which lies in how he thinks. He leads you into a convoluted maze, making your relationship with him a labyrinth of twists and turns. He wants you to puzzle over him, to try to figure him out, as though he were a wonderful but broken machine for which you need only to find and fix the malfunctioning parts to bring it roaring to its full potential. His desire, though he may not admit it even to himself, is that you wrack your brain in this way so that you won't notice the patterns and logic of his behavior, the consciousness behind the craziness…

Above all, the abusive man wants to avoid having you zero in on his abusiveness itself. So he tries to fill your head up with excuses and distortions and keep you weighed down with self-doubt and self-blame. And, unfortunately, much of the society tends to follow unsuspectingly along behind him, helping him to close your eyes, and his own, to his problem.
Obviously, he's talking about abusive men, not women. But you owe it to yourself to consider the possibility that the same dynamic is at work in your relationship.
posted by Estragon at 10:47 AM on September 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


"Because it's not 100% her fault. Even if I accept that she is irrationally blaming me, if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up, I cannot walk away from it."

What if she stabbed you, or shot you, would you still not leave because you haven't always been as accommodating of her as she would like? The limit case (not so very farfetched in this case) can be illustrative because it might point you to where your logic is faulty.

I think we get it in this thread: you aren't going to leave. That's ok, it's your life and not ours, and leaving can take an inordinate amount of strength and courage. Perhaps now is not your time to have that to spare. It's utterly horrifying and frustrating, but it's ultimately your choice. But, your excuses for why you aren't going to leave, your willingness to accept that she's angry at you because you don't like it when she threatens you with bodily harm, those things are equivocations. They don't represent a truth, or a version of Christianity, or anything laudatory about your character.
posted by OmieWise at 10:54 AM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


"She escalates anger out of choice because I am not receptive to her feelings."

No. She escalates because she chooses to. There are a dozen other ways to react when you feel like you're not being heard. Flying into a rage is the mark of a small child or someone who's mentally ill.

"The end result is that she has offered me a peaceful and non-violent relationship but with no love, because she has lost her trust in me."

That's the worst example of spite that I've ever heard. You shared your concerns with her because of the trust and love between you, and she kicks you in the teeth.

"She trusted me as someone she could pour her feelings into and be a release for her world of anguish, and that I destroyed that by demanding she change herself or that I depart."

I don't know her, but come on. World of anguish? I've met people who have gone through hell, and were still the best and kindest examples of spouses/parents/siblings that I've ever seen. I doubt that this woman can even conceive of what anguish really means. Also, you should not be anyone's "release." She should be getting that through whatever personal means necessary - therapy would be a great idea, but her faith should be paramount here, too.

"...if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up, I cannot walk away from it."

No relationship problems are ever 100% the fault of one person. That's why it's called a relationship, "a state of connectedness between people." So if you don't give up, get help. Make the appointment with your pastor today.
posted by HopperFan at 10:56 AM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


fermt, after reading your last comments, it is clear this woman is abusing you. You will never be "good enough" for her; she will always find some way to keep you hanging on. That's why they call it abuse. I hope you will see the light someday and separate yourself from this woman.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:03 AM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


fermt, I am really impressed at how you've managed to broach these difficult topics with your fiancée. You are handling a difficult situation pretty well, considering the circumstances. However, there's something about this comment that doesn't quite sit well:

I am reading through all the response and asking myself, "Why don't you just leave?". I tell myself, "Because it's not 100% her fault. Even if I accept that she is irrationally blaming me, if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up, I cannot walk away from it."

I believe you're thinking about this in the wrong way. You're not committing some kind of immoral act by leaving. It doesn't even matter if it's 0.01% your fault, 10% your fault, or 50% your fault: some people just aren't good for each other. If you don't want to get into a loveless and/or abusive marriage, then you don't have to. Not only that, but it is ok to accept that you aren't the right person for her right now (or ever), and that she's not the right person for you.

fermt, were you a high-achieving student? Do you have some kind of big professional ambitions? If so, then I understand how you might think that doing something extremely difficult and at times painful for long periods of time might seem "worth it" for the "payoff" at the end. Thinking about romantic relationships that way is completely the wrong way to think about them. Read CautionToTheWind's posts again: other people are not like this and won't treat you this way.
posted by deanc at 11:06 AM on September 2, 2010 [13 favorites]


fermt, you are being abused. Once again, she has told you—WRONGLY—that her actions are your fault. That she calls them an "act" makes them worse, not better. It would be bad enough if she were doing it instinctively, but an act is something calculated, something put on.

Though she has already been violent, abuse does not have to be violent to be serious and require help.

Call your pastor, fermt. Please do it today. You do not need her permission. Just as she is responsible for her own choices, so are you responsible for yours. Please do what is best for both of you, and GET HELP.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:08 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, I am very proud (in a different sense) of you for having those hard conversations with her. I know it was incredibly difficult to do.
posted by endless_forms at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


You are being abused and manipulated by a monstrously selfish individual. Reading your increasingly convoluted rationalizing over and over again is making my heart hurt.
posted by Ndwright at 11:16 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am reading through all the response and asking myself, "Why don't you just leave?". I tell myself, "Because it's not 100% her fault.

Others have jumped on this sentence, and I'm going to, too.

Why does it matter who's at fault?

If your house is burning down with you inside it, you really don't need to stop to figure out who lit it on fire. If you're drowning, it really doesn't matter how you got pushed into the water. When something bad is happening, what's important is getting it to stop happening. Sure, later, after the fact, it's pretty important to figure out who set the fire, who pushed you in, who's at fault for the bad things. But that's later, afterward--it's a matter for reflection.

Right now, you're in a HouseOnFire situation. You and your fiancee are not communicating well. Even if she's right and this is all your fault, do you have the capacity to change yourself sufficiently to make things better? Do you know how to do that? No--and don't pretend you do. Changing yourself is a very hard thing, and time and again you've explained to us just how much your fiancee wants you to change. You need help. You need NEED to see someone who can help you and her work through this. You're in a burning house right now; get a fireman to help you get out.

Right now, all of our hearts are breaking for you. They're breaking because we understand what you're going through. We know how difficult your situation is. All we want is for your life to go well. All we want is for you to seek help--the help you want. (Your fiancee is the one stopping you from seeking council. Why is she forcing you to avoid something you want so much?) It doesn't matter who's at fault, it matters that you're suffering and struggling and you don't have the resources to make everything better on your own.

Please, don't wait. Please. Get some therapy, talk to a pastor. Now. NOW. Don't let it wait and become one of those far-off goals that are so easy to ignore. You just told us your fiancee does not love you, does not trust you--if you don't like that, please find someone who can help you resolve this problem.
posted by meese at 11:21 AM on September 2, 2010 [17 favorites]


"if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up..."

One gets the feeling that you could get your leg stuck in an illegal game trap on a trail in a public park, and blame yourself for having walked in the woods.

Besides which, marriage is not supposed to be an instrument of penance.
posted by jon1270 at 11:31 AM on September 2, 2010 [14 favorites]


ThomasBrobber, your comments, as well as your personal messages have been very moving. There is no more that you can or need to do - I realize the decision to evaluate and weigh the collective voice is now mine.

My frustration is that you aren't weighing it at all. Because if you were weighing it in any way, the scales would be so tipped to the side of "don't do it" that no words short of "I'm going to seek help" would even begin to move the balance. And then only a clean bill of health from a therapist or pastor would balance.

You still haven't spoken to your pastor. Don't take our overwhelming shouts as law and speak to your pastor and tell them what she has said. I mean really...she flat out said to you that your love could help her more than the love of Jesus and you see nothing wrong with that. I'm confident that your pastor will take issue with it.

You are brainwashed, as I was brainwashed and I am trying to beat it into my 20 year old self (you) who did not get this information before it was too late. You are so much like me it's sad and I just wish that you'd hear what was being said to you.

I would apologize for my previous comment but I truly believe that it will be a hellish experience for you which is sad because it doesn't have to be. It's your choice and no one can make it for you so I'll leave you with the one thing someone told me that changed my life once I realized what was happening. Keep this little gem in the back of your mind forever for when it gets to much because it will get to be too much... You know you can just leave right? Those 7 words changed my life more than anything else I've ever heard. Good luck Fermt. And my offer still stands for offline communication should you ever need it down the line.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 11:32 AM on September 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


From fermt, above:

"-The end result is that she has offered me a peaceful and non-violent relationship but with no love, because she has lost her trust in me. It is heartbreaking to her to know that I think of her as capable of being so violent. She is devastated to know that I am capable of leaving her despite my earlier vows that I would always support her and be with her."

Emphasis, mine.

No. Nope. Sorry. It's not that you "think" of her as violent. She IS. She absolutely has been violent towards you. Don't you think she is misinterpreting and rewriting history here to down-play the seriousness of her actions? Yes??

Also, offering to go through with the ceremony but promising you a "loveless" marriage is both emotional blackmail and emotionally abusive. Yuck. Not to mention, it's pointless to marry someone under those conditions.

--------

Your fiancee displays a galling lack of character and a true penchant for denial as you responsibly address your very relevant concerns about the relationship. I wonder (worry) how she handles conflicts of lesser importance, like what to watch on TV. Or is that type of thing how her deficiencies as a partner first came to your attention?

Be honest. Please.

--------

She's not marriage material at this stage of her life, regardless of the violent outbursts. She displays a shocking lack of care and character towards you.

--------

See a lawyer about the house. Find yourself a good therapist. RUN.

Good Luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:44 AM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also fermt, you are walking a fine line here on AskMe between truly grappling with a serious problem and being a drama-addict. As in, you've acclimated to the drama at home, and you're getting more of it here by going on and on and on without taking concrete steps.

You haven't consulted any doctors. You haven't spoken to your pastor.

Instead, you've spoken (repeatedly) to the one person to give you more irrationality and drama - your fiancee.

Not judging. Just pointing out a pattern for you to consider.

Fair enough?
posted by jbenben at 11:52 AM on September 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


She wants me to cancel all parts of the wedding except the ceremony itself. She doesn't want any "loveless" memories of that day. I know she is just saying that because she is genuinely upset and doesn't want to think about a wedding. She will change her mind if I support her and regain her trust.

No. She is saying that to manipulate you and you are falling into it. That's a very dramatic statement calculated to make you feel bad.

I can tell she is really hurt. I hurt her feelings by being harsher and colder with my words than I had ever been, and she's not deserving of that.

You are not hurting her. You are doing this out of love and concern for her. Yeah, it hurts to be confronted by somebody you love, but she needs to face her behavior and possible illness.

I just cannot imagine turning my back on her.

If you want to help her, stop enabling her. Make her face the consequences of her behavior. Marry her, and you'll be enabling her and damaging both of you.

Also, read this: Codependency.
posted by clearlydemon at 12:25 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


She's making you the bad guy in this and she is playing the victim. And clearly you are comfortable with that. It's a familiar role for you, isn't it? Looking for reason in insanity?

At first, I thought that she had some major mental health issues and that you were being a nice guy. But I have to tell you that after reading your updates, I think that your mental health is on shakier ground than hers. She displays psychotic behavior, yet you excuse it and CHOOSE to marry her despite your gut feeling that led you to question whether or not to marry her. Dude, that is insanity. You are choosing what you think is the easy out. This is probably rooted in your experience with your parents' divorce. You were helpless then; you don't have to be helpless now.

I feel sorry for you. And her. I hope you seek help; otherwise, this yours is a hopeless situation.
posted by Linnee at 12:36 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Am I to understand that she wishes to proceed with a wedding and make false statements? Because to stand before friends, family and in the presence of the divine and only mouth the words of love with "no feeling" is to be deceptive. Fine in foregoing the party and all that but the heart of it is the ceremony where you pledge (give your word) before mortal and immortal presences that you will love someone and carry forward that love in the physical and spiritual realms.

I am so deeply troubled by your latest reply. Now all her actions were an "act" that the knife was drama? That she is surprised and hurt that you would think she was violent because of her acting of being angry and violent?

I am going to reveal something that I would never reveal before, I come from a family where there was uncontrollable rage. I hate the parent that was angry and I especially hate the parent that let it happen. Do you understand, I am the face of your future children with this woman. Your children will be broken and will break others because you could not break away from someone who could not control their rage or worse yet, uses the act of rage to manipulate and hurt. In either scenario that she presents she is not a nice, considerate person. It makes all her acts suspect.
posted by jadepearl at 12:51 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am reading through all the response and asking myself, "Why don't you just leave?". I tell myself, "Because it's not 100% her fault. Even if I accept that she is irrationally blaming me, if 0.01% of this situation was my own doing as a result of my insensitivity or coldness or willingness to give up, I cannot walk away from it."

Fermt, what did I say about not believing the demon's lies? It's not about fault. It's not about fault. IT'S NOT ABOUT FAULT. IT'S NOT ABOUT FAULT.

And also, I want you to consider something. I sent my aunt this thread. She's a minister, and rather...literal in her approach to the Scriptures. Nonetheless, she's a good woman and her work in prison ministry has put her in contact with a lot of survivors of abuse. She looked at the last conversation you reported and emailed:

"I'm sure the girl's still in there, but he's talking to the demon now. Probably has been for a while. You can tell because he's bought into the lies. 'My actions are your fault'. 'I won't love/trust you because you won't be my punching bag.' 'I can't get better unless you're my punching bag.' Blah-blah-blah. All the classic lies are there, and he just won't see it. If he exchanges vows with this demon, they are both done for."

My aunt and I may have different views of the world, but we both know the Cycle of Abuse when we see it. The literal-or-metphorical mental illness demon is using moves straight out of the Abusive Partners Playbook.

It's either professional help, or you walk.
posted by magstheaxe at 12:57 PM on September 2, 2010 [15 favorites]


Fermt, this woman is playing you like a violin. You are allowing her to manipulate your emotions.

At this point you should tell her that the marriage is off and will continue to be off till she gets serious about repairing her relationship with God, and serious about changing her own behavior. This is HER responsibility and not yours. She does not get to blame you for one iota of it.

Trust, schmucht. This woman is upset that you aren't going to cater to her sinful temper. And who gives a flying pony if she was acting or not? Acting actually in my mind is WORSE.

She is not ready to be married, she is not mature enough to be married-and frankly from what you write here neither are you.

If you want to be an abused miserable spouse go ahead and marry this woman. But you will regret it for the rest of your days. If you love her, you will find your backbone, and just tell her how it is going to be. Then leave and tell her she has a week to think about it. Do not stay and let her manipulate your emotions. Tell her that you will talk to her again-IN THE PASTOR' S OFFICE period.

And do us a favor and tell us if you are going to ignore this thread's advice so we won't waste any more time. A whole boatload of folks have shared their hearts and their pain with you. You are not the special snowflake that will get the happy ending without actively doing what it takes to get one.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2010 [14 favorites]


And magstheaxe has it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:04 PM on September 2, 2010


A miracle occurred today. It feels like a complete 180 degree turn from the situation I've experienced for the last 18 months. She agreed to talk to a pastor with me right away, when I schedule a meeting.

She acknowledged to me for the first time, that she is very sick and desperately needs to find a way out of the hell she put herself in. She acknowledged that she grew up in a household where this sort of conflict escalation was common, and reminded me that her father continues to do this, to the distress of her mother.

I asked if she had any respect for them when they spoke to each other this way. She replied that she did not, and wanted to break the cycle of anger, much less carry it forth another generation.

She reminded me that I did everything right. I consoled her to the best of my ability and that I'm not at fault for being unable to make her feel better with just a few words. She knows she has to get over her problems herself, she is afraid of having to do it completely alone, and is happy to know that I support her. She says all the evil words she speaks to me are not to be believed, because she is unhappy with herself and is still coping with the fact she has to "grow up", and is having trouble doing so.

It took some time to pass for her to realize that my ability and intent to walk away from the relationship was a result of my feelings of hopelessness, and that deep down she knows all of the things I've said to her are true. She acknowledged on her own that I spoiled her by allowing her to do the things she did in the past and that had I said nothing, I would have "enabled" her to continue these things. Her frustration and anger over the last couple days was her own realization that I could no longer be a doormat for her anger - that I could be a security blanket for her fears, but not a punching bag for her stress.

What started this change was my stubbornness in expressing to her that her actions were patently inappropriate, and I gathered the strength to do this from the collective voice before me. I wanted to seek counsel from a pastor or a professional therapist, but did not want to do so behind her back (ignoring the obvious difficulty of doing so). We will be talking to one soon, and will be making an effort to return to a more prayerful life.

She is still understandably somewhat shaken, but I saw a genuine, scared, and desperate side of her that I had not seen since we first met. She has agreed to go on a little vacation with me this Labor Day Weekend to kick-start some stress relief. This experience has taught me that being the man in a relationship does not mean caving into demands and behaviors that are not godly. I am fortunate that she already possesses a realization of her own actions, and what she required was a man willing to stand up to her to assure her that her actions are in fact, unacceptable.

For another couple, this very well could have turned into walking away from the relationship. I empathize, and commiserate with all those who shared such a story with me. I was prepared to accept this as a possibility, and walked into one talk with such an expectation in mind. But reality is that she is, deep down, fully aware of her actions and wants me not to cure her, but to accompany her on her path to recovery. I have not ever had this expressed to me, and heard it for the first time only after enduring a reaction that was a best described as a "caged animal".

I've learned from each of you where the line for abuse is drawn, and standing up against it with the confidence you all provided, produced the best possible response. This story is not over, and it's certainly far from a fairy tell ending and there is much to be written in the future - but today is a sunny day outside, and it's looked more magnificent than any day in recent memory.
posted by fermt at 1:07 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Was it so bad that you had to leave?"

Yes. Unfortunately, there's no way to prove what leaving is like unless you, well, leave. I guarantee you, though, that if you take some time to commit to your own health -- physically, mentally, spiritually -- you'll see how dark and dangerous this situation really has been.

This is not selfishness; it is the opposite of selfishness. By committing to yourself and to God, you are able to do more for others. You gain strength of purpose and a knowledge that you have done your best with what God has given you -- after all, your self is the only thing that you will have for all of your days, and you need to keep it in good order to do the things God wants you to do in the world. THAT is a Christlike life.

"Was it so bad that regardless of the way she is acting, you could not accept responsibility for approaching things differently?

But... you HAVE accepted responsibility! You've accepted responsibility for things that were absolutely not your responsibility at all! You've tried every angle that you can think of! Has she given you the same commitment?

"Perhaps if you lived the last month committing to making things better, rather than forming an escape plan in the back of your mind, things would have been different."

But you HAVE lived with a commitment to making things better. I've never even met you, and I can see from the compassion and dedication you've had (in one of the most difficult situations I've seen on AskMe) that you are steadfast and kind, and you would do anything for this person. I'll bet you would do anything for me or anyone else here if we needed your help, too.

I'll say it again: where is she taking responsibility for her actions? When she questions your commitment to your vows, what vows did she make? Is she committed to those vows? (Did she actually make any vows to you?)

I don't know a single wedding liturgy that allows someone to marry another person without pledging to love them. If she were to participate in a marriage ceremony that said something like that, no matter how big or small, she would be lying.

1 Corinthians 13: perhaps the most cited Scripture passage for a wedding.

1: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2: If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3: If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5: It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7: It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

13: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
posted by Madamina at 1:26 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fermt, let me ask again:

You were able to handle her and be firm with her.

What would a five year old be able to do when faced with a mother who acts like an "animal"? What about a baby?

What if she accepts that she can't behave this way to you because you're enough of "a man" but when you're not around she behaves violently or abusively towards your children?

She has to take complete responsibility for her behavior or your children will not be safe alone with her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:32 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please call your pastor TODAY or make sure you speak to someone before you leave for your vacation. It's all well and good that she had an apparent "change of heart," but you need to be diligent about moving ahead with your plans for counsel.
posted by lucysparrow at 1:34 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Enough about her--every update you have posted has made it more and more clear that she is abusive, manipulative, controlling and hopeless. Nothing in your updates remotely makes me feel like she will change at all. She will not change, she will remain violent and abusive, she will make your life awful until you find the strength to leave her and her miserable world. Given her capacity for extreme violence, I suppose she could make that decision for you.

So I guess you are willing to sacrifice having children of your own? Assuming you were telling us the truth that you will not have kids with her (and I pray to God that you ensure that does not happen for the sake of precious innocents), are you also willing to forego having children of your own?

Are you willing to give up your dreams of a family for someone who shows you absolutely ZERO respect, care, love and concern? Make no mistake, you are her dupe, her doormat, her whipping boy, her patsy, her fool. I am not judging you (I've sadly been you before) but have no illusions that you are anything more to her than those things.

Is banishment to the hellish life we all predict with her really the just punishment for your failure to reach 100% perfection? If that is the standard, she now has carte blanche to do anything she damn well pleases because you are as perfectly imperfect as the rest of us humans.
posted by murrey at 1:35 PM on September 2, 2010


Well done, fermt. It's good that you recognize the long road ahead of you, too. You might find some useful information elsewhere in Bancroft's book. In particular, it gives some criteria for assessing whether an abusive individual is seriously pursuing reform.
posted by Estragon at 1:39 PM on September 2, 2010


you are walking a fine line here on AskMe between truly grappling with a serious problem and being a drama-addict

This is worth repeating. Sometimes there's this amazing adrenaline rush of drama filled relationships - so please consider whether this is the case here. And listen to those that say the benefits here are far outweighed by the serious risks.

And, I don't think it's necessarily reasonable for you to walk away today - it will likely take time. I hope you don't get married to her. I hope she doesn't get pregnant. I hope both of you find help.

I would also pile on the advice to print this thread and refer back to it in time - you may be ready to listen later if you aren't now.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:42 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


On preview, I am glad your sun is shining today. Enjoy is while it lasts as this too is an act.
posted by murrey at 1:43 PM on September 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fermt - I think you are making a grave mistake. Actions speak louder than words. My ex-wife said all the things your fiancee said when I was on my way out the door. It was the next level of manipulation. I decided not to stay and do all the things I had been begging her to do for years to improve our situation just because she wanted to know now that she saw I was serious. She didn't change at all and 2 years later is still hasn't held a job for more than 40 days total, hasn't sought counseling and hardly goes to church. Maybe your fiancee is genuine and for your sake I hope so.

Be vigilant and don't fall back into letting her manipulate this situation...even though I think she just did by telling you what you wanted to hear.

Lastly, call your pastor today and tell them the urgency of the situation. They'll see you on a moments notice. This isn't a "hey doc, I'm feeling great but I have this small ache in my shoulder. Fit me in when you can" type situation. What you are experiencing is a "Hi 911, I keep having these random bleeding episodes from my ears. No it doesn't happen everyday but it's completely random," type situation. It's emergent. You should NOT be going on this trip right now. But you don't listen as much as we scream. I say that with a smile and a heavy heart. Good luck.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 1:47 PM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


"On preview, I am glad your sun is shining today. Enjoy is while it lasts as this too is an act."

I will take my day with a handful of salt, but will also enjoy it while it lasts. Any progress at all is greatly preferable to leaving the situation, and should I find myself back in the same position somewhere down the line, I know I have the proper tools to deal, or release the situation.

Thanks again.
posted by fermt at 1:48 PM on September 2, 2010


"Be vigilant and don't fall back into letting her manipulate this situation...even though I think she just did by telling you what you wanted to hear.

Lastly, call your pastor today and tell them the urgency of the situation. They'll see you on a moments notice."

I will. I have a greater understanding of the situation than I did several days ago, and believe I will be more discerning in identifying the reality of the months ahead.
posted by fermt at 1:51 PM on September 2, 2010


Please see your pastor together TODAY. Going on any sort of vacation right now is completely the wrong thing to do. GO SEE YOUR PASTOR BEFORE YOU GO CHECK IN TO SOME BED AND BREAKFAST. Please. My heart is completely breaking for you over here and I understand that you are both very stressed, but you need to get started on addressing the issues of abuse in your relationship immediately. Vacationing can afford to wait here.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 1:54 PM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Good luck, fermt. I hope you can get in to see your pastor today, because you really really really REALLY need to.
posted by palomar at 1:57 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Any progress at all is greatly preferable to leaving the situation

I don't know you or your situation first hand, but along with ThomasBrobber's "You know you can just leave right?" reminder, there's also the matter of "You can do better." Keep both of those things in mind. At the very least, the wedding should be postponed indefinitely.

Another interesting thing about the comments in this thread is that not a single story anyone has related here has a "happy ending" that ends with the abusive, ill spouse getting cured and both members of the couple resolving their differences and staying together. Not a single one. That's pretty stunning to me and something you should keep in mind.

Ask some people who are M/e-mailing you privately about whether their life was better after they left the abusive situation. I'll bet they'll say leaving the situation was preferable.
posted by deanc at 1:58 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please print out this thread and give it to your pastor.
posted by Madamina at 2:09 PM on September 2, 2010 [16 favorites]


Any progress at all is greatly preferable to leaving the situation

I think you're making false assumptions about this being progress and not further manipulation on her part.

and should I find myself back in the same position somewhere down the line, I know I have the proper tools to deal, or release the situation.

Really? You're not using them now. This situation isn't going to heal itself, and your pride and fear of shame are going to help keep you trapped in this terrible relationship.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:09 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know that abusive people can be contrite and swear that the (fill in abusive act) will never happen again, right? And they mean it. Until it happens again. And it will.
posted by Linnee at 2:12 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - folks, this thread has been a massive roller coaster ride, but let's keep on topic and direct answers to the OP and be constructive. thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:12 PM on September 2, 2010


People who are abusers make 180 degree turns all the time, it's part of being two faced, and making you believe what you want to believe so you stay.

Yesterday I made the comment aloud, "next, she'll be pregnant, and he'll never leave." I would not be even remotely surprised if she was suddenly pregnant after this weekend away. Please think about this if you insist on going on vacation with her.
posted by Zophi at 2:12 PM on September 2, 2010 [13 favorites]


On a related note - the divorce rate in the United States is somewhere between 40% and 50%, depending who you ask. Why is this as high as is it? Are most of these comprised of abused relationships where somebody finally decides what's best for themselves, or do people in perfectly good situations give up due to lesser circumstances?
posted by fermt at 2:20 PM on September 2, 2010


fermt, this recent update does sound hopeful, but don't forget that actions speak louder than words. You already know that your fiancee is someone whose word may not be true. Everything she told you that you've repeated here, up until your most recent post, has been filled with lies. Now her words sound different, but can't know if she is sincere until she shows you long-term, sustained change. The "miracle" you speak of has not happened yet.

I can't tell you how to live your life, but please postpone the wedding until you've both had enough counseling and therapy to be strong, healthy partners for each other. If you are as serious about your faith and the institution of marriage as you say you are, you would not make those vows before God until you have true confidence in this relationship. And neither would your fiancee.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:22 PM on September 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Fermt, this is no time for a vacation. If she's seriously about getting help, then she needs to start NOW. If for no other reason, to demonstrate her sincerity. Call your minister today.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:27 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


That statistic is false. Every year, there are half as many divorces as marriages in that year. That is a different thing than saying that half of all marriages end. More longitudinal research shows that approximately 70-80% of first marriages end with the death of one partner, not divorce.

I have a friend, a good friend and a dear friend, who ended her marriage two years ago. Her husband was a broken man who grew up in awful circumstances and evolved coping mechanisms that made him utterly unsuitable to be a partner. He was (verbally and mentally) abusive, controlling, unfaithful, and cruel. He regularly reduced my friend to tears, caused her to doubt every single thing about herself that was good and reasonable. When they divorced, they had a young child; he told her that she was ruining his life and their daughter's life "for no reason," that he "had thought you would be better than this."

The circumstances that left him broken were not his fault, but his refusal to seek any kind of help for them was. He saw no reason to change, no reason why he should have to stop hurting her. Now that she has left him, her life -- and their daughter's life -- are immeasurably, immeasurably better; she confided to me that she has days now where she wakes up happy and stays happy all day long.

Was it justified for her to leave him, in your mind?

If the answer is yes, why is it not justified for you?
posted by KathrynT at 2:28 PM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


We are seeing a priest this evening. That much is moving along, and is reason for hope, if not guarded.
posted by fermt at 2:29 PM on September 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


Are most of these comprised of abused relationships where somebody finally decides what's best for themselves, or do people in perfectly good situations give up due to lesser circumstances?

There is a huge amount of territory between clear abuse and "perfectly good situations".

Long-term relationships end all the time for reasons ranging from abuse to simply growing apart, and (for better or worse, I'd argue better) most North Americans these days don't consider marriage to be an ironbound covenant anymore.
posted by ripley_ at 2:32 PM on September 2, 2010


On a related note - the divorce rate in the United States is somewhere between 40% and 50%, depending who you ask. Why is this as high as is it? Are most of these comprised of abused relationships where somebody finally decides what's best for themselves, or do people in perfectly good situations give up due to lesser circumstances?

I think it's a trick question but I'll bite. The reason is because this is NOT the same generation as our grandparents. Not our parents but grandparents. The same moral value of marriage does not exist the same way that it did 2-3 generations ago. In those generations women didn't leave because they had no where to go, no one to support them when their relationships went bad. So the sucked it up not because they wanted to but because they had to.

But to address your question regarding lesser circumstances...absolutely people split for reasons short of mental or physical abuse. Money, disagreements in parenting style, or simply growing apart. It can all happen and I'm sure that all of those are reasons that people have divorced. But I will tell you that the #1 cause for divorce is marriage. I think our point is though Fermt that you can avoid being in that statistic by not getting married to someone who really should be in a relationship at all until they take care of themselves.
posted by ThomasBrobber at 2:34 PM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yesterday I made the comment aloud, "next, she'll be pregnant, and he'll never leave." I would not be even remotely surprised if she was suddenly pregnant after this weekend away. Please think about this if you insist on going on vacation with her.

I hate to say it, but this is the very first thing I thought, too. Ugh. Be careful fermt, you ain't out of the woods even a little bit.
posted by tristeza at 2:35 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermt: try to avoid two things:

1) the belief that you are especially and uniquely equipped with an ability to deal with her outbursts and violent tendencies
a) corollary: even if you are, any kids you have probably aren't.

2) the belief that there is something especially virtuous about spending the rest of your life with someone who is abusive, and that this is some kind of an honorable calling that will turn you into a better person. No one admires the long-suffering/abused spouse. They pity that person.

Also, you've mentioned her parents... are your parents in the picture? What do they think of this situation?
posted by deanc at 2:35 PM on September 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


That she is willing to seek help, that she is willing to acknowledge that her behavior is HER responsibility, these are good steps. I'm glad for you. I hope it will keep you safe.

But please keep that line firmly in your mind. Her behavior is her own responsibility, and it always has been, and it always will be. You can own your own problems, but nothing you can do can *make* her do anything. Never let her tell you otherwise--and if she tries to tell you otherwise, she's backsliding.

I strongly suggest that you go to individual therapy AS WELL AS going to the couples counseling. This will help you keep all of the above firmly in mind: help you own your own problems (very important)--but ONLY your own problems. You have every right to refuse to take responsibility when she tries to shove problems onto your shoulders, and they're problems that you can't do ANYthing about. That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't be there and be supportive, but she has to actually put in work, not just tell you that it's all your fault.

You've gotten a skewed version of reality (that she could even suggest to you that it was unfair for you to feel she might be violent is clear evidence of this; it is OKAY to trust your own eyes and ears!) A therapist can help you work that out and help you stay clear about your path, as well as how to best be a supportive partner in her path. A therapist doesn't tell you what to do; a therapist helps you work out things from an independent perspective, helps you figure out where you are, helps you make things work (or not) as YOU really want them to. A therapist doesn't make demands or give instructions for your life. I hope you can get help for yourself as well as for your fiancee and also for your relationship.

Good luck.

Stay safe.
posted by galadriel at 2:35 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, it may help you a lot to start a diary. Just make a note of how things have been up to now, then start noting how things are every day. When you want to see if there's actual progress, go back and compare. Sometimes it's hard to see actual change (or lack of change) when you're living right in the middle of it. Sometimes it's hard to see patterns when they're so emotionally charged. On good days, it's easy to convince yourself that things are predominantly good, and it's easy to forget how difficult yesterday was.

Be *honest* in your diary, because you're going to be talking to you.
posted by galadriel at 2:44 PM on September 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Was it justified for her to leave him, in your mind?

If the answer is yes, why is it not justified for you?"

It's an awfully good question. I will think about this, and try to discuss this with another pastor as soon as I can.


"But I will tell you that the #1 cause for divorce is marriage. I think our point is though Fermt that you can avoid being in that statistic by not getting married to someone who really should [not] be in a relationship at all until they take care of themselves."

I think this is the most striking point you've made.

I don't want to elongate the discussion any more than necessary, which by some accounts should have been after the first response. The voice I've heard is overwhelming and will not go in vain. The decision to leave what is obviously a textbook situation to everybody else is going to be mine alone, and I have to accept that I am making this decision on my own accord.

The first steps to seek counsel as a couple, and for myself, are being taken, and I have you collectively to thank for that. I will have a head straight enough to embrace and act on the the right answer afterward.
posted by fermt at 2:44 PM on September 2, 2010


Fermt, this isn't a test of your will, your spirituality, or your ability to love.

It's a test of your self-awareness.

Further, your moment of sunlight? This seems like relief at having constructed a new narrative that allows you to perpetuate this masochism... and what is obviously just another increment in the abuse cycle.

Someone helpfully posted a link on co-dependence above-- you might want to read it.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:45 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I agree with tristeza and zophi. The next move in the Abusive Partner's Playbook is "hook him in permanently with a pregnancy". Three'll get you five that she's already flushed whatever birth control down the toilet.

Don't get her pregnant. And don't stand for "I saw a counselor and I'm not going back". She has to stay in treatment for it to have a chance of working.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Unless you prevent it, she will get pregnant soon.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:57 PM on September 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


The only safe route to avoid a pregnancy at this tricky juncture is abstinence. I've known, personally, much less troubled women who suddenly "became allergic to their pills", or "accidentally ripped the condom", all without "remembering" to tell their partners, because they wanted a kid to hold the man in place. Right now you're in a pretty textbook place where that could happen - the caged animal is still there, and desperate people take desperate measures.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 2:59 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm relieved to hear that you're seeking counsel both together and separately. I think this will do you both a world of good. If you want any help or suggestions in how to find a therapist, don't hesitate to ask - privately or here in thread. We all want you to be well and happy. There's been a great deal of skepticism expressed regarding the epiphanies of your fiancée; I really, truly hope you won't let that deter you from taking the good advice that's been offered here. This is a process. It's been a tumultuous few days for you and for her, and I understand the desire to just back away from it all on a vacation, while reaffirming your commitment to each other. It worries me, but I understand it. But don't lose sight of the state of mind you were in when you first posted this question, and try hard not to regret it - you did a good thing, in asking. And you're doing a good thing in listening. You're a patient, giving, good person. And I really hope this works out for you. For a while yet, we'll all be prepared for it to not do so - I hope you can understand that. Just take good care of yourself, ok?
posted by lriG rorriM at 3:01 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just to make it perfectly clear, there is no sex. We have both fully committed to abstinence until marriage. It is certainly not easy, and more than likely has grown roots in some of our problems (and is understandably why cohabitation is discouraged). But there is no risk of introducing children unexpectedly.
posted by fermt at 3:09 PM on September 2, 2010 [16 favorites]


Thank you for that update, fermt. That is VERY comforting to know.

I'm encouraged that you guys are going to be speaking to your pastor. Please continue to seek counsel/treatment both together and apart. AND call off the wedding indefinitely. There shouldn't be any rush to get married here.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 3:13 PM on September 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


I understand why you are hopeful fermt, but please remember what I said earlier. She will do anything to make sure that your wedding progresses as planned, and to keep you with her. . She will admit her faults, vow to change, talk to someone a few times, she will tell you anything you want to hear. Until you see by her actions, not words that she is consistently committing herself to getting better and seeking help, do not let her progress your plans. There are no miracles here, only hard, long-term work on her part.
posted by ukdanae at 3:46 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


P.s feel free to email or MeMail me any time in the future if you need to talk.
posted by ukdanae at 3:51 PM on September 2, 2010


fermt, I'm glad that you feel like she is starting to take responsibility, and it's wonderful that you're going to go talk to someone in real life about all this.

Two things worry me:
1. That she said she would marry you out of spite even though she didn't love you. That's... terrible. That's so warped and crazy and mean. If you can set one ground rule for the new path you're walking with her -- other than "no violence" -- that would be a biggie for me. She doesn't get to be mean to you, just because she's acting like she's the weak/broken one and like you're the powerful one who has to endure everything she dishes out. Baloney. Adults in a proper relationship are not mean to each other. Love does not involve being mean to your partner. If one of you is being mean to the other, that's a huge red flag -- time to spend time apart and really reflect on what's going on.

2. The divorce rate is high because people get married when they shouldn't. People get married for silly reasons - like feeling like they can't back out of an engagement or postpone a wedding. People think they can make it work if they just try hard enough. Sound familiar?

I'm not saying that you are destined for divorce, I'm saying -- if there are huge serious bigtime problems between you, you should take marriage seriously by postponing the wedding.

Don't take those vows until you know that she is holding up her end by really changing her behavior, and that the two of you are able to create a relationship where you are never mean to each other, for a significant period of time like a year.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:54 PM on September 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't thing anyone has mentioned this in so many words, but...

there is nothing "sacred" about being engaged. Engagements are broken all the time, (for much less horrific circumstances than fermt has described) and they're broken always for the better. Stop facing that glass shards-filled cliff that your toes are hanging over, turn around, and walk in the opposite direction. Otherwise, we'll next see you in the obituaries.
posted by BostonTerrier at 4:18 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing I would counsel, urge, beg of you: please be honest with the priest, about the behavior and about your fears. He can't give you good advice if he doesn't get good information. My sister-in-law minimized her horrific headaches to her doctor for months, because she didn't want to be a whiner or a drama queen or a hypochondriac; when we finally took her to the ER with blown pupils and double vision in her left eye, they did a CT scan and found a cancerous brain tumor the size of my fist. Her doctor had never taken the problem seriously because SHE never described it as something serious. Don't make the same mistake.
posted by KathrynT at 5:10 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fermt, this is a hopeful first step but only a first step.

1. Call your pastor
2. Quit cohabiting
3. Cancel any wedding plans for now.

Y'all need to get to the root of her problem. Is it mental illness? Is it demonic? Is it unrestrained sin/acting out/manipulation (in christianese, "the flesh.") She needs to be seen by a doctor as well as a pastor.

May God bless your path. This is not as hopeless as some on this thread suggest (I do know of couples who have fought this battle and won) but it is going to BE a battle. And if at any time you feel you have had enough, you have the right and the responsibility to walk away.

PS. MOVE OUT!!!!!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:15 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


You might find this link useful if you are going to stay in the relationship and work on how to deal with conflict in a fair and safe way, especially if one or both of you have had bad role models for managing conflict: How to fight fair.

This is the kind of thing a marriage counselor or individual counselor would be very good at helping with, giving practical advice about what someone can say or do to express anger or frustration in a safe and sane way.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:23 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, there are lots of Christians weighing in and addressing it in terms which, presumably, are relevant to you, but I would like to address this in another way.

We marry people because we love them and they make us happy and we make them happy.

You say this woman is charming, and that you are committed to her, and you love her unconditionally and so on, but I do not *at all* get the sense that you are actually in love with her, nor she in love with you. There is a lot of rhetoric flying about concerning obligations and commitments and sacredness and christ and so on but on the most basic level, the language you use to describe this relationship is raising all sorts of red flags for me - quite apart from the issues of abuse which you have correctly raised.

You cannot go into a marriage with a heavy heart or reservations. Your marriage needs to be a place where you are safe and loved, a place of refuge. It cannot be a place of obligations, or a battleground. Sure, some marriages do end up like this, but to begin them like this is emotionally suicidal.

So, always presuming that you are properly dealing with the issues of anger and abuse, there is another dimension to this. The use of the word 'love' in a Christian sense is not the same as its use in a marital sense. Loving your neighbour doesn't mean you have to marry them.

Fermt, you are a good person by the way you have presented yourself in this thread, but you are very afraid of conflict, and you have very low self-esteem, both of which are likely to make you more tolerant of bad situations than you might be otherwise. You need someone who will raise you up, and not exploit your fear of being alone or being the bad guy. Only you know if your current fiancée is that person.
posted by unSane at 6:39 PM on September 2, 2010 [24 favorites]


Fermt, I hope with all my heart that your fiancee really does manage to hold firm to the path of healing, and that you and she are able to move beyond the violence into a peaceful and loving future.

Others are saying that they don't see that outcome as being terribly likely, and that's my opinion as well. You seem to be betting on the long shot, at least today, and though we strangers on the internet are still terribly, terribly worried for you, it's your call, it's your life, and none of us can (or should) make the decision for you. That the lasting change you're hoping for seems unlikely doesn't mean that it's impossible. So I wish you both strength, and love, and courage.

And as you go forward, please remember this: Even if you stick with her this time, against our collective advice, AskMe will still be here for you. If your pastor counsels you to leave, and you stay with her anyway, your pastor, your church, and your faith will still be there for you. Ditto your family. Ditto your friends. If your fiancee's fresh new leaf turns out to be just brown and crufty as the old one, remember that you can reach out again, to everyone. Please reach out again. Please reach out as many times as you need to. I can't guarantee that every single MeFite and each and every one of your friends and family will have inexhaustible patience-- but don't let feelings of shame or self-doubt cause you to isolate yourself. So what if you end up looking a bit like the boy who cried wolf? Your wolf's 100% real-- it's just that it may turn out to be a darned hard wolf to catch, in the long run.

You've done some very good, very brave things in the last few days. I don't know you at all, Fermt, but I'm proud of you. Again, I wish you the very best. Take care.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:32 PM on September 2, 2010 [31 favorites]


This thread seems to have finally run its course, and I don't even know if you're reading it anymore. I hope you read the responses here again before you decide to marry this woman, because there's wisdom to be found here - from Christians and non-Christians alike. You asked for advice, and you got it. Metafilter seems like an odd way for God to speak, but I think He has... now it's up to you to listen. And here at last is my own 2 cents. Not unique, but like everyone else here, I feel compelled to speak.

Clearly, it's important to you to be wise, to be Christlike, to act rationally. As an engaged Christian man myself, I commend you for this. But your choices (at least as we've seen them discussed here so far) aren't wise - they're foolish. You don't have the objectivity to see this, but trust me, it's clear to everyone else.

My major point is this one: if you marry this woman and have children with her, your children will suffer at her hands. You are choosing this, Fermt - your intentions may be good, but you are intentionally condemning your children (and maybe theirs, and maybe theirs) to a broken life of pain, mistrust, and anguish. You may be so foolish as to choose this for yourself; they'll never get the choice, but they'll suffer the consequences. Would a Godly man abuse his children? If you choose to marry this woman, knowing what you know, that's essentially what you're agreeing to. That's not wisdom, Fermt, and it's not what Jesus wants from you. It's selfish, it's cowardly, and it's wrong.

I know you love her, and you're hopeful things will change. I doubt they will, and you need to know that you can't help her. You need to help yourself right now, and the best thing you can do is get away from this woman. Move out immediately, hire a lawyer to handle the house (and any further communication with her, if need be), and stop talking to her. She'll manipulate you with lies: she'll claim that her abhorrent behavior is your fault, she'll promise to change, and you'll believe her. The only way out is to leave, now, and never look back. Don't worry about the house; it's just a thing, and your sanity and even your soul are stake here.

Like many others, my heart broke many times reading this thread. I have earnestly prayed for you, Fermt, and I've only rarely done that for a stranger on the Internet. I truly, truly wish you the best. I hope you look back on this as a time when you did the hard thing, and walked away from your fiancee - and avoided making one of the biggest mistakes you could possibly make. If you can't do it for yourself, please do it for your children.

Always remember this: when you can admit that a situation is too much for you and get help, that's not weakness. It's strength. For you it will be survival.

May the Lord bless and keep you, Fermt. You'll be in all our thoughts.
posted by captainawesome at 11:16 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fermt, I logged on to this thread as soon as I got my breakfast because I wanted to check you were okay. Whatever you decide to do - and there are enough responses above telling you the same thing I would - everybody here wants you to do what will make you happy. Please come back and post if you feel you need to. We will listen.
posted by mippy at 1:54 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fermt, I was in a relationship a little like yours, and I did get married. I was told, one day, by my wife that "if I wanted to kill you I'd do it while you were asleep, because you're stronger than me".
And there was physical and psychological violence as well. I did my share of yelling, but never got physical.

I moved to another city, and just being away from her for a while gave me enough perspective to phone her and say "it's over". She didn't believe me. I said "I'll send you a copy of the receipt from the lawyer". Then it finally sank in. Next time I saw her, she was all smiles and I could do no wrong. But I didn't believe any of it.

Getting divorced was the best thing I ever did.

Fermt, everyone else on this thread has given you examples, reasoned with you, and advised you. Yet you persist in trying to save her. Who are YOU, thinking YOU can SAVE her?

Grow some balls, mate. You're being a doormat. You didn't break her. You don't have to fix her.

I'm not saying this to be abusive. Fundamentally, you're abusing yourself by staying in an abusive situation.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to leave for a couple of weeks. Tell her to get herself to therapy, then you walk out the door. Spend some time fixing YOURSELF up, instead of trying to fix her.

And read No More Mr Nice Guy.

You might not agree with all the points made therein, but you might get some more perspective.
posted by flutable at 5:53 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


She won't change unless she wants to change, it has to be her choice which isn't based on fears of reprimand, coercion, abandonment; the choice has to be heartfelt and, legitimate. Not based on the fear you'll leave, or she'll lose the home you two have together.

And, I'd have to say, being a child of an abusive mother, it won't matter much who's she abusing the effects are felt by all, its long lasting and, soul crushing. It distances people, makes them distrustful (not just towards family) and, creates the potential for physical and mental health problems from the stress of having to live in a volatile environment where you never know when they'll go off yet again.

But, I don't think much of this matters at this point because you're worried you'll lose face with family and community for not trying hard enough, that you failed if you finally admit, "I've had enough."

(your situation isn't unique or, special I know exactly where you're coming from. I just hope you grasp the gravity of your situation sooner rather than later. For your sake.)
posted by squeak at 6:11 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fermt, it's good that your fiancee has agreed to go with you to your priest/pastor. However, this is only one small step of many more which will be necessary for this relationship to have any chance at all of success. Here are some more thoughts to consider:

1) Don't be surprised if she comes up with last minute excuses to avoid or postpone that visit.
2) Don't be surprised if she goes with you once, but then comes up with excuses to avoid going regularly.
3) Don't be surprised if during the the visit to the pastor she minimizes her own misbehavior and just talks about whatever imperfections you may have or the stresses she is under.

Remember that she will not change until she makes a long-term committment to do the hard work because she really wants to change. Showing up for an appointment once in a while won't do the trick.

4) In addition to pastoral counseling, she will need therapy and medical evaluation. Your pastor may be a great guy, but he is not able to dispense medication. He may or may not have adequate training and skills to provide treatment for a person with serious mental illness - statistically speaking the odds are in favor of "not".
5) As others have pointed out, you yourself need some sort of individual therapy or counseling to help you deal with what you are going through. There are things you need to address that will not be possible to deal with in couples counseling.

Finally, I'll echo what others have pointed out above. Your fiancee's words as you've related in the conversations prior to your last one are abusive, manipulative, and not at all loving. Even if she gets the physical violence under control, emotional abuse is not an acceptable ground state for a marriage. Please do not marry this woman until both the physical violence and the emotional abuse are gone and have been for a long time.
posted by tdismukes at 7:23 AM on September 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fermt, I'm late to this thread, and can only be a poor echo of what everyone else has said.

I wanted to add one thing that relates to where you are at now - in addition to couple counselling, I think you need to be seeing someone (counselor, pastor, whoever) on your own.

You have had some difficult conversations with your finacee to get to this point, but this isn't over and there are still many miles to go. You need to be supported during this time, especially when problems crop up again and further tough conversations need to be had and hard decisions need to be made. I don't want to rain on your parade and say there is no hope for the future, but you need to be realistic and accept that the process will not be easy and that there will be times when things return to how they have been.

Just as your financee needs to be responsible for taking care of herself, you need to be responsible for your care. And you need someone to talk to, someone who is well trained and qualified, instead of a collection of people on the internet. No matter how good the advice you receive here is, it is no replacement for having someone you can talk to about this problem regularly. Show some love for yourself and know that you don't have to carry the burden alone - you can seek advice, support, and counsel that is just for you.

Best wishes.

and I know you said that you two are remaining abstient before marriage. Kudos to you; keep to that promise, no matter what, in the coming months. There will be temptation coming your way, I think, as a further attempt to manipulate your emotions and essential quality as a good, decent, caring man. Stay abstient. Postpone the marriage until this is sorted.
posted by never used baby shoes at 7:39 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Plan now for what you will do the next time she screams at you, or throws something at you, or threatens you. Because there will be a next time.
posted by MsMolly at 8:35 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the worst time and context for you two to go on a vacation and it sets a really bad precedent for how to deal with these issues. I know it seems like you're staring at the sun right now and you just can't take it and a break sounds like a really good idea and why not you deserve some stress relief from what you both have been through and whatever million other things that can justify leaving for the weekend, but you need to FOCUS.

I mean this in the nicest possible way, but the idea of a weekend jaunt away should be some further indication that your perspective is off and that you should listen to the unanimous spot-checks and advice given here. You've got so much on your plate right now, and you are taking on so much...it's a big awakening you're experiencing. Which is why you can't or shouldn't really trust your judgment and decision-making skills at the moment. It's ok, a million MeFites have got your back. Just don't do anything rash, like, uh, skipping town or checking out.

And please update us if you can. You must realize how many people care about you, you and your fiancée's well-being, and the outcome of all this here.

My heart is breaking for you. *BIG HUG*
posted by iamkimiam at 8:37 AM on September 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


She agreed that her actions are unreasonable, but that they are an act.

You have witnessed them first-hand. Do you believe them to be "an act." Not only what your head tells you, but your heart and gut. Are these violent actions and reactions just "an act." They're not. And you know it.
posted by ericb at 8:43 AM on September 3, 2010


1) Don't be surprised if she comes up with last minute excuses to avoid or postpone that visit.
2) Don't be surprised if she goes with you once, but then comes up with excuses to avoid going regularly.
3) Don't be surprised if during the the visit to the pastor she minimizes her own misbehavior and just talks about whatever imperfections you may have or the stresses she is under.


This is an excellent point. Excellent. Be prepared for this, and know what you will do when you come across this.

My biological father was pretty abusive. For years, my mother tried to make it work. Finally, she was able to convince him to go to a marriage counselor. They went twice. The second time, he stormed out of the office and refused ever to go back.

His reasoning was that the counselor was biased against him, just agreeing with my mother's side without listening to his. And, he was right to an extent: the counselor was trying to explain to him how abusive and unacceptable his behavior was, but my biological father refused to listen. Why listen to someone explain that you are flawed when you can instead just get up in a huff and leave?

If your fiancee does this -- if she flat-out leaves a session, or if she refuses to go back ("That wasn't useful;" "I don't like that pastor much;" "I've improved, I really don't need it") -- don't give in. Don't let her control whether or not you seek help. This is something you need, and that's what matters.
posted by meese at 8:50 AM on September 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, and if you don't have much time to read, there are some movies that can help you understand what you're dealing with -- and that other people have dealt with it too.

My first suggestion is "What's Love Got To Do With It." It's the movie about Tina Turner, and her marriage with Ike Turner. This movie came out when my mom was just starting to deal with how abusive her marriage to my biological father had been. It represents Tina's struggle, and a lot of the behavior that signifies an abusive relationship.

The second suggestion... may sound weird. It's "The Shining." If your faith will allow you to watch it, I've found it an incredibly good example of what abusive relationship patterns are like. Sure, there are ghosts and evil spirits, but what really matters is the marriage between Jack and his wife. He is abusive -- at first, not really physically, but more just emotionally. It's over-the-top at the end, but it does such a good job of explaining how one partner can dominate over another, controlling them, frightening them, and making them think it's they're fault.
posted by meese at 8:56 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fermt, please read this article.

I wish to draw note to:

* Abuse is a learned behavior. It is learned from seeing it used as an effective tool of control—usually in the home in which he grew up.
* Abuse is not a natural reaction to an outside event.
* It is not normal to behave in a violent manner within a personal relationship.
* Abusers deny that abuse has occurred or make light of an abusive episode.
* Abusers blame the victim, other people, or outside events for the abusive attack.
* Abusers don’t act because they are out of control. They choose to respond to a situation violently. They are making a conscious decision to behave in an abusive manner.
* Abusers know what they are doing and what they want from their girlfriend.
* Abusers act out of a need for control and domination, not anger.
* Abusers are not reacting to stress.
* Abusers may at times be loving and gentle, charming and engaging, hard workers and good students.

and:

can an abuser change? Here are the six criteria that are necessary if an abuser is to change. They happen in order and all six are vital:

1. He understands that his behavior is inappropriate and abusive.
2. He doesn’t cast blame for his behavior onto his girlfriend, parents, teachers, or anyone else.
3. He takes full responsibility for his abusive behavior.
4. He has a desire to change. He’s not just doing it to stay out of trouble at school or with the law or because his girlfriend nagged him to do so.
5. He follows up his stated desire to change with concrete actions. LOVE IS A BEHAVIOR!!
6. His new actions are continuous, not just for the moment. Most abusers apologize for their bad behavior and tell their girlfriend it will never happen again. Often, they are contrite for only a few days.


Please watch the pattern. It seems you feel like you are at point 6, but point 2 hasn't happened yet.

Also, I have to say this --- please remove any guns, weapons, sharp cooking knives, and glass objects from your home. I really mean this, even if it means you're stuck eating green peppers whole. Since a weapon has been used before, it is possible one will be used again. Remove anything from your home that is a likely weapon until a therapist has agreed it seems safe enough to return a few. I mean this.

You can trust your fiancee all you want. You can give her the benefit of the doubt all you want. But you can do so and also take steps to protect yourself. Indeed, this is a common method of harm reduction when people in an abusive relationship really do try to work through it.
posted by zizzle at 9:01 AM on September 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


You need to stop thinking that this is a problem you can solve. If she had cancer and told you she refused to see a doctor but that she would get well if you just loved her enough, would the most loving response be to accept that? Loving someone can mean giving them what they need, not what they ask for. She needs professional help for a serious, dangerous illness. You're not a hero if you tolerate her abuse with maximum meekness. You're a hero if you do the right thing, which in this case is the incredibly difficult thing, and refuse to enable her.
posted by prefpara at 9:07 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


fermt, please read this article about sick systems (mentioned on the Blue not too long ago). Ask yourself honestly if you see yourselves in such a system.
posted by Gator at 9:19 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


In one instance she pulled a carving knife and said she would kill one of us if I got close. I called her bluff and approached her, and took the knife out of her hand. Thankfully, this extreme instance has only happened once. However, her hot temperament otherwise manifests itself as screaming, stomping, slapping, and door slamming a few times a month.

I concede that some of these arguments are the result of my own actions or words, and take full responsibility for these "normal" disagreements. I know I am a jerk and not understanding of her, but I am trying to do better. But I feel the way she deals with her anger is abnormal and unreasonable, and clouds my better judgment when I have to be careful about what I say to her.


It's already been said, but as someone who was dating a girl just like this many years ago, and who had to disarm her once (carving knife, too, actually!) -- allow me to reinforce that while the disagreements may be "normal", her behavior is not, and it's entirely likely that you are not really a jerk.
posted by davejay at 10:12 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to encourage you to decide now where to draw the line. Decide, in writing, what is concretely not acceptable. How many more times, or how often a week for the first month, then the second, then the third, does she get to blow up over a minor thing, instead of addressing her feelings with you rationally? How many more times does she get to blame you for her behavior instead of apologizing and taking steps to correct herself? How many more times does she get to be physically violent towards herself or you? How many times may she threaten her life? How many times may she threaten your life?

What steps must she take to get help for herself?

You need to know whether she has only given you lip service and lies. You need to know when she stops making an effort, because when she stops making an effort, you know without a doubt that she cares less for you and your God than for her anger. You need to set these limits for yourself, because if you don't, you will ignore and excuse until you don't realize you're in boiling water.

On a related note - the divorce rate in the United States is somewhere between 40% and 50%, depending who you ask. Why is this as high as is it? Are most of these comprised of abused relationships where somebody finally decides what's best for themselves, or do people in perfectly good situations give up due to lesser circumstances?

As stated above, that statistic is both false and misleading. But which category do you consider yourself to be in?

And perhaps my view is biased as a child of an abuser, but if this woman grew up in this type of environment, and has been like this all of her life, and acts in such extreme ways now, I don't think she should ever have children, period. Her behaviors are woven into her. I pity you for allowing yourself to be abused in the name of love, but if you marry and bring children into this world with her? What I think about that, I can't write here.

-----
Let me tell you about love. I live surrounded by it, saturated by it. I have a wonderful, supportive, gentle husband. I have a happy, secure little girl. I have true friends and a loving mother. I have two large cats that follow me around like giant magnetized iron filings. Everywhere I look, I see love. Everywhere I look, I spill it over.

How did I get here? I walked away from an abusive home. I shrank away from toxic people. I ended an unhappy 5-year relationship. I embraced people I admired, who embodied clear thinking and kindness and genuineness, and they led me to the man I married.

It is okay to seek out and gather love and peace to yourself. When you make a happy little corner for yourself, it makes the world that much happier. And it spreads like you wouldn't believe.
posted by moira at 10:14 AM on September 3, 2010 [21 favorites]


Fermt - I'm so glad you used the word "enabling" in one of your responses up above. Think on it carefully.

By refusing to hold her accountable to treat people decently, you are enabling her to continue her outrageous and unacceptable behavior.

I understand that you believe that you're acting compassionately and helping her, but consider that you're actually harming her. It's like buying cigarettes for someone with emphysema or buying vodka for an alcoholic because they're begging you for it and you can't imagine yourself depriving them of this little thing.

If you really want to help her, help her heal by refusing to tolerate her illness.
posted by jasper411 at 10:43 AM on September 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fermt,

The Rev. Marie Fortune, a United Church of Christ (Congregationalist) minister, has written a book on issues of faith for Christians who are dealing with abuse in their families. (Though the book assumes that the partner who is being abused is a married woman, it's easy enough to substitute the word "she" for "he" and "engagement" for "marriage" as applicable and find the information and support you need.)

The Rev. Fortune does not rule out reconciliation in marriages/relationships in which there has been abuse -- but she believes restoring an abusive relationship is possible and advisable only under certain conditions (emphasis added).:

"Reconciliation is possible if he is willing to get help and stop his violent behavior. In this case, once you see real evidence over a long period of time of real change in him, of true repentance, then you may choose to consider a reconciliation. Or you may not. You may feel that the damage is too deep between you. In this case, you need not feel guilty for getting a divorce. But if you and he do seek to come back together, you will need to consider this a new covenant between you in which you are both really clear that there will be no violence under any circumstance."

This page
has more excerpts from the Rev. Fortune's book. (The man who posted the excerpts is a churchgoer and a Christian who grew up in a household in which his father physically and emotionally abused his wife and all three of his children. Here is his account of having grown up in an abusive household. (Here is a link to all of his writings on domestic violence.)

I hope it all works out for you, Fermt, but I agree with the people who have advised you to take steps to protect yourself. Please don't put yourself in harm's way.
posted by virago at 10:47 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


All I can do is add to the chorus of voices saying "Do not marry this woman yet". Postpone the wedding, wait at least a full YEAR before proceeding with marriage (that is, unless you decide to leave). In other words, even if things do improve, wait a year to see if she has really "changed" or gotten better, or if it is an act, because she sounds extremely manipulative. Sorry, but it's true.

And out of the hundred or more comments, I never read one that said "stick with her, work things out"; there is a reason for this. I have never seen an AskMe, especially a RelationshipFilter AskMe, where everybody is in complete agreement. That should speak volumes.

Finally, if you do get married but decide not to have kids right away: how are you planning on doing that exactly? Are you going to use protection every time you have sex? Because a manipulative woman who feels that she needs something to keep you can easily "forget" to take a pill or whatever (I don't even know what your beliefs on birth control is, as Christianity has a huge spectrum of personal beliefs and proscribed rules).

I guess what I'm saying is: if you don't feel comfortable having children with this woman, why on Earth would you marry her (and, therefore, have sex with her which could result in a pregnancy)?
posted by 1000monkeys at 11:42 AM on September 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've been following this from day 1. I feel for both you and your fiance.

I was in a relationship with an amazingly smart, handsome, funny, compassionate man for 3 1/2 years. I was 7 years younger than him. I would act out in similar ways as your fiance would (not the pulling hair out or using a knife). I would apologize to him after the fact. One day he sat me down and told me that we needed to break up. I was devastated. He was my first adult relationship. We lived together. Shared bank accounts, same phone plan, pretty much married without the papers. Let me tell you, it was the BEST thing he ever did, by breaking up with me. He told me that he loved me but could no longer try to help me and help himself at the same time. I have battled depression since I was a teenager. It's been 3 years now since he broke up with me. I slowly got better. I seeked professional help. I go to counseling once a week, see a psychiatrist every 2 months. I was diagnosed as having Bipolar II Disorder. He and I take occasionally. He has moved on and so have I. He loved me enough to let me help myself.

No matter how much you love her, she has to want to seek help.

I hope she does get help. It is so AWESOME to say that I not only like myself but I also LOVE myself.
posted by zombiehoohaa at 4:34 PM on September 3, 2010 [16 favorites]


Fermt, I was in your shoes once, and it took me about THREE YEARS to realize that there was nothing I could do but leave. I spent the entire final year in weekly counseling sessions. You have an uphill battle against your attitudes and beliefs. I hope sincerely that this thread shortens that time for you. But I would really advise you set up a support system for yourself. It can take a very long time to change a person's mindset to get out of a situation like this. Please consider that you will need help all along the way and seek therapy and pastoral care. As much as you want to be good, you are human and weak like we all are.

It took me a long time to -- I want to say "unravel" my beliefs, but that's not true. I still hold many of them. I came from a religious family like yours and share your beliefs that no matter what others do, I should turn the other cheek and take responsibility for my 0.01%. But now, I recognize that there is a corollary, which is that you have to protect what is good in yourself from elements who would take advantage of it or cause harm. The world is full of those elements. You can't say "I'm wrong 0.01% so I must accept and leave myself vulnerable to the wrong in everyone else." No. Think of Jesus's tossing over the table of the moneychangers. He didn't say, "oh, well, I didn't post a sign saying 'no moneychanging,' so it's my fault too; I'm sure they had hard childhoods and need the money." He didn't work to reform them. No, he recognized the reality, and he took a strong action to protect his sanctuary. Think about how much he rejected the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus was not afraid to say, "you are hurting someone innocent, you are doing something wrong, you are not going to change just because I want you to, and I'm not going to let that happen." Think of Matthew 19 (sell all your wealth and follow me; the rich man cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven). Read John 8:42-47, in which he basically tells people that they are bad. He does not let them abuse him. Think of how he defended the prostitutes. He was very willing to draw the line and say "here is the standard for behavior, and you need to step up, and if you do, all will be forgiven, and if you do not, we have no business together." He constantly set minimum standards of acceptable behavior to protect the good he was trying to do in the world. You do need to do that too.

I know you want to be selfless, but you yourself have only so much energy and time. Your body and soul are your main tool for worship, witness, and good works, and you need to protect yourself. One thing to particularly consider is whether your partner is going to help or inhibit you from helping the world. Do you want to give all your energy to one hurting person? Or could you find a fairly strong person, help hold them up in their few weak moments, be held up yourself as necessary, and then together give to others? Which would do more good for the world? This is a serious consideration. My bad relationship kept my life so mired in drama that I had no energy to give to other friends or to the community. I became much more of a taker, whereas I had always been very much a giver, because my home situation was so tough that I was in constant emotional need. I imagine you yourself have been quite upset at points. A stable home relationship would allow you to give more to others. Seriously, ask yourself: is this person a true, equal partner in achieving the good life that I want? If not, you may be deceiving yourself about your intentions. You may be allowing yourself to do less good than you otherwise could because of your fears, desire to avoid pain, unwillingness to believe in your own truth, or unwillingness to take the strong stands that Jesus took to protect his temple. (I apologize if any of that sounds rude: I'm just throwing out potential considerations.)

Again, I hope that you find a way out, and I understand that it's a long, confusing road. Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk or if I can help in any way. I really agree with the poster above who said that your partner is very much possessed. I personally do not believe in literal possession, but that is a very good metaphor for the way her person has been taken over by the horrible things she has experienced. If she does not resist and actively participate in expelling the demon, though, there is no way to get it out. From some of the delusions I hear in your posts, it seems to have its tentacles in you as well. Your later posts have given me hope. Please protect yourself and the good you can do in the world.
posted by salvia at 7:02 PM on September 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


Fermt, if you're still reading, this is how it might end up (albeit the opposite to your situation):
you, living in fear, wondering when the next outburst will be.

Is this the way you want to live your life?
posted by flutable at 3:53 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) As someone who has seen these kind of things up close and personal, bringing kids into the situation acts as a trigger and makes things MUCH WORSE, never better. Many of your fiance's issues were probably embedded in her own childhood. Her childrens' childhoods will thus magnify the darkest parts of her soul if untreated. And nothing you've written indicates that she is serious about treatment. Treatment for this kind of issue is incredibly difficult, grueling, and takes a ton of dedication on the part of the person who wants to be healthy. Someone who is very close to me has had bouts with mental illness, and it's only because she so desperately wanted to be whole and healthy that she's been successful. I see none of that in your depictions of your girlfriend. Seriously, none of that. (Even in the latest update, which to me is the most depressing of them all.)

2) You yourself have mentioned that so many marriages end in divorce. To me, that means that if people treated engagement in the correct way, then that same percentage of engagements would be broken, and very few actual marriages would have to end - because very few of the "wrong marriages" would ever begin. Engagement is not a sacred vow or anything of the sort, it's a a trial period to see if marriage is really the right thing, because the extra level of seriousness often bubbles a number of personality traits to the surface. Use engagement in the way it's designed and break this off.

3) You do think that you can cure her. You think you have the special makeup to be her savior. This is poisonous. No relationship can survive this dynamic. You're making yourself a god in this relationship. And as CS Lewis says, "When you make something a god, it does indeed become a god. And then it becomes a devil."

4) Terming yourselves "faithful Christians" and clearly having traditional views, I really don't think it's realistic to say that you can get married without having children. You'll rationalize and spiritualize that decision in the same way you're transforming "staying in an abusive relationship" into some noble grand display of Christian love. Please, you know you will - admit this to yourself. And then you'll bring innocent children into this tinderbox. Let me speak in very clear Christian terminology. This would be a grave sin. A terrible sin against God and the family that you have the responsible to nourish and protect. You would be knowing the right and choosing the wrong, and you would be doing the work of the evil one. It's one thing to accept this treatment for yourself, I suppose. But bringing innocent children into this situation turns my stomach. And you will do this if you get married.

5) As someone with a Christian background, I have to say that I think certain Christian principles - like "turning the other cheek," "forgiving seventy times seven," and "laying down your life for each other" are very useful and life giving in the context of relationships with fairly healthy, non-mentally-ill people. However, those things have to be applied in different ways when there is mental illness. Many mentally ill people in Christian communities specifically prey on these beliefs and the boundary-less-ness state they create for them. It's not useful for them, it's actually feeding their sickness. In your case, the hardest thing to do is exactly what she needs done. You need to get yourself out of her life in a romantic, intimate sense. THAT is how you'd be laying down your life for her - you so badly want this "married" life with her that you envision in your head. Lay that down to save her. Lay down the image of yourself that you've created - the selfless one who will bear abuse to save the one he loves. I know you think this is making you like Jesus, but you're misapplying and misreading the situation. Mere sacrifice doesn't always bring good - it's sacrifice in the service of the best outcome that does. Your sacrifice right now is feeding her sickness, not healing it. The sacrifice you need to make is the one that will create the environment where she'll be more likely to get real help. That will hurt - she will dig and tear into you, other's may think badly of you, there will be shame. But THAT'S the way to lovingly lay down your life for her. You've been turning the wrong cheek!

I really hope for the best for you. You can do this. The irony of all this is that actually your actions could perhaps help her and help her seek the tools to change. But that would be through doing just about the exact opposite of what it looks like you think you need to do. Please, have the courage to do the right thing, and truly LOVE her in the way she needs to be loved.
posted by visual mechanic at 9:32 AM on September 4, 2010 [13 favorites]


I went out with someone a long time ago who was very similar to your fiancee. She grew up in a weird household with a mother who had anger issues. She broke plates once in the kitchen after a fight. I told her that you get to do that kind of shit exactly once in the relationship and if it happened again I was walking, because if breaking plates was ok, then maybe throwing the plates at me would be ok the next time, then pulling a knife might be just fine, and I didn't want to go down that road. The relationship didn't last long for other reasons, but no plates ever got broken again because I had laid down some boundaries.

You are already so far down that road I fear for your life.

Unconditional love is idolatry, and means there will be no consequences.
posted by benzenedream at 1:07 PM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fermt,

I'm late to the party and am probably repeating a lot of what has been said upthread. But my heart breaks for you and I wanted to contribute what I could, hoping that maybe hearing something said a different way may resonate with you.

I share your Christian values so I understand where you both are coming from with your definitions of love. And I am married to a recovering addict who struggles with depression so I know that sometimes love takes a lot of effort. But there are two things I feel compelled to say to you:

1. If she believes that your love will save her, she is wrong. No one can love her like Jesus, other than Jesus. She is asking you to become her Personal Savior, which would make her a Fermt-ian and not a Christian. You do not have the power to save her.

2. You can absolutely choose to love her. She is someone with whom you have many shared experiences and special times. But you can love someone and not marry them. You can support her and see her through the dark times and not make a covenant before God with her. As Christians we are called to live selflessly but marrying her does not sound like it would be beneficial to you spiritually or emotionally.

Whether you stay with her or not, you should consider counseling yourself. The fact that you're feeling so strongly that you need to stay in this situation suggests that you're codependent. Seeing things through the eyes of codependency means that sometimes we put up with inexcusable behavior in the name of Christian love.

I pray that you and she both find peace, whatever you choose to do. There are enough devasting things that can happen in one's lifetime without deliberately putting yourself in situations where devastation is inevitable.
posted by wallaby at 3:41 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think this woman has bipolar disease. Everyone suggesting therapy, etc. means well but honestly, I am very doubtful that this relationship will resemble anything normal or healthy without heavy duty psychoactive medication. Sorry if that's harsh, do what you want with my comment.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:42 PM on September 4, 2010


I have bipolar disorder (not 'disease'). Two things: 1) it is very possible to have a relationship with someone with bipolar disorder that is TREATED 2) even GPs/psychiatrists have a hard time trying to diagnose this condition, so guessing based on the information given isn't helpful or accurate.
posted by mippy at 4:01 AM on September 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's helpful in the sense that talking with a pastor is barking up the wrong tree, unless of course it leads to actual medical treatment. If it wasn't clear, I freely admit that I'm guessing based on the information given. 360+ comments in and very few people have suggested this possibility. I take care of a lot of people with mood disorders who are unwilling to pursue actual treatment for it and the devastation they cause to the people around them destroys lives. There's something in this story that really sends my hair on end, escalating violence, a long history of family members that walk on egg shells around her.

I am concerned that someone who is unwilling to really get help and be well, will do just enough to satisfy the people around her, but it may fall short of the kind of help she really needs.

And I totally agree that people with bipolar disorder, can be treated effectively and have wonderful, full relationships and be positive people for those around them. This I too know from experience.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:29 AM on September 6, 2010


[this is in metatalk, please take metacommentary there or to email, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:31 AM on September 6, 2010


[this is in metatalk, please take metacommentary there or to email, thanks.]

Link to the MeTa
posted by Deathalicious at 8:43 AM on September 7, 2010


I read through most responses not all of them. I want to tell you, as a woman who used to be with a controlling ex... she is a master manipulator. So much so, she has you believing it's your fault for a good portion of things that piss her off. The old saying, it takes two to tango is very true. She's just as responsible for her reaction just as much as you are. I also understand you're a guy and in domestic violence, men usually don't say anything because people find it hard to believe them or some think the man is a "wuss" for not getting his woman in check. These are myths and you should not be discouraged to get help for yourself and for this woman. I would suggest to help yourself first because if you guys go to couples counseling together, your fiance could easily manipulate the situation to make it seem that she's the battered one. Don't you DARE fall for it. I understand you are religious and in the Christian faith it's often drilled to treat engaged relationships with sanctity. But going against my philosophy, because I don't like to bring up religion, because in reality this has nothing to do with being a Christian but I have to ask, just how Christian is she for treating you like garbage? She's certainly not honoring her future husband. She's flatout disrespecting you and I bet she defends her actions by using your faith against you. You sound like me. "Maybe I should try better. He really has helped me notice all these things I've done wrong." It even got to a point where he told me "You're finally learning how to talk to me. You're getting better at it." Like I was some bleeping dog. That was my cue. From what I gather you're a real a nice person who is also a walking doormat. You have to save yourself. God understands.

"Help Yourself and Heaven will help you."
Jean De La Fontaine
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 12:04 PM on September 29, 2010


Its a long thread and someone may have already mentioned this but my sister was like this until she had her lithium (?) levels checked to show that she was bipolar and with medication, has balanced tremendously albeit still has some issues but the irrational anger has come under control. Listen to the others, this behaviour, over time, from someone you share a home with, will leave its legacy on all members of the family.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 5:57 AM on October 9, 2010


Sorry to be such a very late answerer- I just want to put in that I behaved very much like this with a former long-term partner, but have had no such problems with subsequent short-term boyfriends, and have never even had a tiny fight with my current long-term partner. The way the ex fought with me just brought out my worst side. In retrospect, it was an absolutely terrible relationship, and he was quite emotionally abusive to me, which I was unable to recognize or articulate while the relationship was dragging on for years.

So when you say that you "concede that some of these arguments are the result of my own actions or words, and take full responsibility for these "normal" disagreements," it sets off alarm bells for me. The ex in question made similar claims. His fighting style was such that he would make a big deal about a tiny "issue," keep harping on the issue for hours and hours on end, ignoring any requests to end the conversation, ignoring me when I said he was right, okay, let's just drop it, ignoring my attempts to stop him from continuing the argument by walking into a different room, and shutting the door, etc. He antagonized me to the point of fury, and lashing out at him was the only way I could get him to end the arguments. It seemed that he couldn't be satisfied until he provoked me to rage, thus rendering him the calm, cool, collected one by default.

I suggest you examine your own actions towards your partner, and see if you aren't exacerbating the situation. There is a good chance that you two just aren't right for each other; once I found a partner who WAS the right one for me, the unhealthiness of my former dynamic was made even more clear, and the difference is astounding- in the best possible way.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 6:28 AM on December 20, 2010


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