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How do I deal with abuse my girlfriend is going through?
January 20, 2012 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Girl I am dating just admitted to me that her family was abusive and her older brother is still abusive towards her.

We met through Plenty of Fish. She's a creationist Catholic and I'm a former Catholic turned atheist and I believe in evolution. She also asked me to be part of a foxtrot dance routine for ballroom dance and I explained my concerns mixing dating and another commited activity together. We've taken two classes for the dance recital routine, so I'm not heavily invested in it. I made sureI was entering the dance routine for my own reasons, like wanting to have the dance steps hammered down into me.

She's been over twice to my house now with just cuddling. I'm alright with a slow pace, but I feel that I'm not getting any response as to when she's comfortable with sex. I'm not comfortable waiting on some mystery timeline as to when she falls in love with me. She made a joke that previous boyfriends have asked her if she loves them enough. I've mentioned that sex is about trust, not love. I'll talk to her about my concerns though.

But anyways, during the second makeout session, she admitted her brother was a jerk and that he hits her. And her dad and mom have both physically and emotionally abused her. I told her it wasn't right what they did to her and that she needs to move out of her brother's house. I told her that I don't show much affection towardsmy dad because of the verbal temper tantrums he threw and it's alright to not want to have family in one's life when they've been abusive parents. But I was curious and I started to probe as to whether she felt corporal punishment was alright. She dodged and said she doesn't want children. This didn't answer the question.

When she left my house, she made a joke saying that her brother was going to call her a whore based off her hair appearance. I responded that even if we did have sex, her brother has no right to slut shame her. She rolled her eyes at that and I didn't get that.

On our second date after a ballroom practice dance, she asked if taking a woman's self defence courses would be a good idea. I didn't know about the abuse happening at the time and I said no, because weight matters in fighting and the women's self defence courses would likely not make one confident as a fighter. I had took tae kwon do and I don't think tae kwon do made me anymore confident as a fighter.

I don't know what to do. I think she was reaching out to someone to talk to. She avoided talking about corporal punishment. I don't want to be with someone that believes in corporal punishment though and I feel that our values are too divergent to form a long term relationship. Do I tell her that we need to remain friends for the time being because our values differ too much in the long term?

PS. I'm going anonymous because she's admitted to Googling my online nickname to get a better attempt at who I am.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You don't seem to have much in common and you haven't told us anything good about her... why bother dating her?
posted by desjardins at 10:54 AM on January 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Check out sliding vs deciding (youtube video, I can't google it up right now). Do not slide into a relationship with this woman. She will need to move into your space before you can blink.
posted by bilabial at 10:56 AM on January 20, 2012


Yeah, I think the abuse stuff is horrifying and sad, but it seems like you don't want to date her. Your comments here point to indifference to her. Just end it and move on.
posted by sweetkid at 10:56 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you don't want to date her without knowing when you'll be able to have sex with her, then you shouldn't be dating her. At this point you don't really know her well enough to know what her deeply held values are, but if you feel like they don't match up with what you want then you shouldn't be seeing her.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:57 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you're a really reasonable person who thinks through all the angles of a matter and makes sound decisions based on that thought. It sounds like she doesn't share these qualities. You could possibly be the person to fix her, but you probably deserve better than to be a therapist to this girl.

That aside, the religious angle should definitely point towards your values differing too much for a long-term relationship.
posted by MangyCarface at 10:59 AM on January 20, 2012


Honestly, it does sound like you're getting way ahead of yourself here. Needing her to let you know when you guys will have sex after she's been to your house only twice at this point? Needing to have the conversation about how she wants to raise your children after she's only been to your house twice??

I am no Catholic creationist but I would feel really pushed and rushed and skeezed out if a guy was harping on when we were going to have sex after that short of a time. Especially if he were busting out the "sex is trust" line. I wouldn't go with that line of reasoning if I were you because a few weeks of knowing someone is rarely enough time for them to build up any reasonable amount of trust.

So when you say this:

I feel that our values are too divergent to form a long term relationship. Do I tell her that
we need to remain friends for the time being because our values differ too much in the long term?


I would say that you barely know each other at this point, to know what each other's values really are and to know anything about real suitability for a long term relationship. That said, I also don't think there should be this many problems right up front. And you don't sound like a good fit for each other at all. I agree that the best thing would be to let it go.
posted by cairdeas at 11:00 AM on January 20, 2012 [26 favorites]


I've mentioned that sex is about trust, not love.

Well, that's not going to further your cause of sleeping with her, most likely.

You two have nothing in common, I agree. You don't even sound as though you really like her, even.

So why date her?
posted by devymetal at 11:00 AM on January 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Your relationship with this woman is very new. You're probably not going to marry her. You both sound young. At this point I don't think her views on corporal punishment are that important. Even if she did believe in it her feelings might change over the years and if she has children.

If she is being abused in her home she has bigger things to worry about. If you like her, don't pressure her. If you enjoy her company, continue to hang out with her. The foxtrotting sounds like fun. If you feel like you don't want to date a person who won't have sex with you, that's your right. But if you're going to date her, continue to take it slow for a while and have fun getting to know one another.
posted by Fairchild at 11:02 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know what to do.

It seems like you have multiple questions here.

I think she was reaching out to someone to talk to.

I'd guess she testing the waters to see how you handled this information. It might have been a cry for help, as well, but the way you're describing it I'm not convinced that's what it was.

She avoided talking about corporal punishment.

Sure. She probably has some deeply conflicted feelings about it that are probably painful for her to explore. She might be looking for a safe space to explore those feelings.

It is highly unlikely that you can provide such a space for her, especially while you are romantically involved with her. What you can do is support her self-worth and encourage her to set those boundaries with her abusers that are healthy and appropriate as she defines those things.

I don't want to be with someone that believes in corporal punishment though and I feel that our values are too divergent to form a long term relationship. Do I tell her that
we need to remain friends for the time being because our values differ too much in the long term?


Yeah, like everyone else here I kind of suspect that you're not really into this girl and that the abuse stuff is maybe bringing out some latent anxiety in you as well. I don't suspect that forcing the issue on corporal punishment is likely to help her right now; I also think that a couple of dates is really early to start looking for what-happens-if-we-have-kids dealbreakers.

I kind of think you are looking for a way out but you feel like knowing about the abuse puts you in a spot where getting out would be cruel. Like you'd be telling her she's damaged goods or doesn't deserve anybody.

You're not in a spot. You don't owe being-in-a-relationship to anybody (except your eventual, theoretical spouse and children). The right thing to do is to encourage this girl's self-worth, and you can do that without dating her.

And for what it's worth, in the future, when someone tells you that they are being assaulted by a loved one in their home, the right thing to do is not to turn it into a discussion about how they are going to do the same thing to their kids. The right thing to do is to say, "I believe you. Thank you for telling me this. That must have taken a lot of courage. Do you want to talk about it? What do you need right now?" And then listen.
posted by gauche at 11:09 AM on January 20, 2012 [20 favorites]


You seem to be posing to very different and not necessarily related questions:

How do I deal with the abuse my girlfriend is going through?

and

Should I keep dating this girl?

As others have already said, I think the answer to the second question is: no. You don't seem to have anything in common, so why pursue it further?

If you follow that advice, then the first question becomes irrelevant. If she gets in a bad spot and asks for your help as a friend, then you may decide how to intervene.
posted by asnider at 11:12 AM on January 20, 2012


People who disclose a history of abuse right when you start to get physical are telling you something that's important for both of you. She's telling you that she has a lot of issues around sex and relationships, some of which she can't really articulate as yet. She needs to get some of these things sorted out before she goes into a full-on relationship. If you keep it in the friend/casual dating area you will be doing yourself a favor and her as well. (But I wouldn't advise telling her you're doing her a favor; that's condescending. You don't have to give a reason at all for keeping someone in the friend zone.)
posted by BibiRose at 11:15 AM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


When she left my house, she made a joke saying that her brother was going to call her a whore based off her hair appearance. I responded that even if we did have sex, her brother has no right to slut shame her. She rolled her eyes at that and I didn't get that.

I think I can explain this one. When she rolled her eyes, my money is on her thinking either

-"Ugh, he turns everything, even something like verbal abuse by my brother, into a chance to argue for why it's okay for us to have sex." Or,

-"Good luck with that. Saying some PC line like that to my brother would only make him laugh in my face."
posted by cairdeas at 11:15 AM on January 20, 2012 [24 favorites]


To answer your first question though, How do I deal with abuse my girlfriend is going through? if you decide you want to keep dating her and help her through it, or help her through it as platonic friends:

Don't make any suggestions. People always mean well when they make suggestions, but they are rarely taken. Just ASK her what would help. When she comes up with an idea that would help, ASK her what role she would like you to play, how she would like you to assist her.
posted by cairdeas at 11:19 AM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Shit-canning someone who is emotionally vulnerable and may be tentatively reaching out to you for help seems really callous. At the same time, diving into a full-on "relationship" with a fixer-upper usually goes bad places. If she wants/needs help, you can be there for her in other ways than as a full time boyfriend - let her know you're concerned (if you are) & do the right thing and help her out of the abusive situation in a way that doesn't entangle you too much. But slow waaaay the hell down on the kid, etc. talk.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:28 AM on January 20, 2012


She rolled her eyes at that and I didn't get that.

You don't share the same values. You shouldn't date her, but more importantly, you probably can't help her.
posted by spaltavian at 11:35 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think you should end it and date girls who not creationist Catholics and therefore more likely to be physical earlier.

It sounds like you don't like her and are just desperate to get laid.

Is she cuter than you?
posted by seesom at 11:51 AM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


This sounds like you're trying to get traction on gravel here. Just find some nice smooth asphalt, instead...
posted by empath at 12:21 PM on January 20, 2012


Do I tell her that we need to remain friends for the time being because our values differ too much in the long term?

Why would you say "for the time being"? You mean tell her that you need to remain friends so you can watch for her values to change to your values? It really sounds like you should just go back to Plenty of Fish already. Would you honestly want to be friends with this person if you knew for certain that you would never, ever ever get to have sex with her?

Just as an aside:

I didn't know about the abuse happening at the time and I said no, because weight matters in fighting and the women's self defence courses would likely not make one confident as a fighter. I had took tae kwon do and I don't think tae kwon do made me anymore confident as a fighter.

The specific discipline of tae kwon do isn't what they would be teaching in a women's self defense course. Not at all.
posted by Adventurer at 12:24 PM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Based on what you've written, my advice would be to keep your hands off of her. And if she responds to being in the friend zone by making a move on you, hold off and give her a week or so to think about whether or not that's really want she wants.

You don't need to deal with the abuse. That's her problem. If you are going to do something, ask her what she needs and go from there. Seriously, though, seems like too much too soon and it might be best if you didn't go there until you are actually close.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:40 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I was curious and I started to probe as to whether she felt corporal punishment was alright. She dodged and said she doesn't want children.

I would interpret that as "I never want to be in the position where I may end up doing anything as horrible as what has been done to me." not condoning punishment at all.

It would be pretty callous to ditch her because you have found out she's been abused. it's also crappy to keep seeing someone who you think isn't right for you, so you're in a bit of a bind here. If you like her, stick around and take things slow. It sounds like she could really use a friend, and a non-judgemental one, at that. Can you look up resources for her? support groups, infromation, any way she can get herself help? She's stuck in an abusive situation, and while it's not your responsability to get her out of it, giving her a bit of moral support to get herself out of the rut she's in would definitely be a kindness.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some things in this world you just can't fix. She is one of them.

Walk away, romantically at least.

And yeah, you do seem to be pressing pretty heavily for sex.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:19 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I've mentioned that sex is about trust, not love."

Wow. So I guess she stands corrected.

Please don't keep correcting her and telling her how things really are. She is a person with as much experience and knowledge as you have. Abused people are not helped by being told they don't understand what is happening to them.
posted by tel3path at 2:15 PM on January 20, 2012 [20 favorites]


She sounds troubled, and you sound desperate. Not a good match.

Let her go and find someone else who suits you better.
posted by jayder at 2:52 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


When someone shares something about their lives, they aren't "admitting" it.
posted by gjc at 4:08 PM on January 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Other than the ballroom dancing, you don't seem to have ANYthing in common; I'd say back off on the cuddling etc., and just be boring vanilla friends & dance partners. As you say, the two of you have totally divergent values.

At the same time though, there's something almost-indefineable about what you say about her that raises a bit of worry..... her combo of off-the-cuff "I'm being abused" (have you seen ANY indications of that, other than her casual comment?) plus laughing it off with eye rolling, as well as the way she avoids questions and subjects. I can't quite say why, but all that AND your need to ask this anonymously because of her in-depth googling? I just have this faint whiff of, for lack of a better term, potential stalking.....
posted by easily confused at 4:46 PM on January 20, 2012


So... you don't think your values are compatible. And... you want to be having sex sooner than you are going to have it (if ever) in this relationship -- this relationship that is not going to work in the longer term because your values are incompatible.

Basically, you like some aspects of her but don't want to date her because of other aspects; you want to date someone who shares some of her qualities but has other ones, i.e., some other her who isn't her. You should break up. Tell her you want to remain friends (if you do).
posted by J. Wilson at 4:49 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the same time though, there's something almost-indefineable about what you say about her that raises a bit of worry..... her combo of off-the-cuff "I'm being abused" (have you seen ANY indications of that, other than her casual comment?) plus laughing it off with eye rolling, as well as the way she avoids questions and subjects. I can't quite say why, but all that AND your need to ask this anonymously because of her in-depth googling? I just have this faint whiff of, for lack of a better term, potential stalking.....

Here I was thinking it would be about how the OP keeps returning to himself in his post... The OP is the one writing this, not her. It seems clear he is summarizing what she said. Also, she didn't laugh off the abuse, she rolled her eyes (not laughed) at the OP's suggestion about slut-shaming (which is to say, not at abuse). I see no warning signs of stalking: she hasn't crossed any boundaries. Everyone can do a web search, and everyone knows that an online presence connected to your real name means just that – a connection to your real name. This is not following someone in a car or leaving strange messages on their answering machine, it's a basic web search.

To the question: it sounds like she wants to take it slowly and you want something else. If you want to keep her as a friend, that's great – but be sure you're clear in your own mind, in order to be fair to her and to yourself. (In other words, don't lead her on or keep her on a backburner. If she's a friend, she's a friend.) As for intimate relationships, I too think you'd best move on to a relationship that's closer to what you're looking for, as so many other posters have said.
posted by fraula at 2:50 AM on January 21, 2012


Agreed. I websearch the heck out of anyone I'm going to go on a date with, especially to their house.

The OP to me comes across as sort of demanding and judgmental, and yes, like he doesn't particularly like her. (Demanding answers about child rearing? Telling her how to interact with her brother? She "admitted" to being abused? Telling her she's wrong regarding what sex is about?) Which to me says he'd be doing them both a favor if he didn't see her any more.

Also, I disagree heartily with the women's self-defense thing. From what I understand, a huge amount of that course is teaching women that they have the right to stand up for themselves at all, and how to go about that.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:02 AM on January 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well....... shes willing to make out with you. Thats at least a sign, right? You arent clear on how long yall have been dating. Especially if she has some firm religious beliefs, sex before several months of dating or love or even marriage might be a No-No for her. Respect that. Especially especially since I would not be surprised if there was sexual abuse mixed in with mental and physical. Not that mental and phys arent enough to cause trust and intimacy issues.

What, exactly, do you want? an easy lay? A long term relationship? Dating with a firm, sorta creepy deadline of 'put out by feb, or go home?' to fix the abuse? Marriage? Dating and being her therapist DOES NOT work well ( I tried before). I dunno what to really tell you.. lotta issues here. Still, respect her and what she says.
posted by Jacen at 11:08 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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