My girlfriend has suffered a lot, and is very angry: she wants me to confront my housemate for his passivity to the abuse she endured. Should I? Long and complicated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (52 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've been seeing my girlfriend, Lydia, for about six months now. This time last year, she was with a distant acquaintance of mine, Jerome, and I think they'd been dating for a year. In the space of a month or so, two of Lydia's immediate family members committed suicide, Jerome raped her while she was passed out, and her housemates, Jerome among them, had her involuntarily committed for 72 hours. Upon being released from hospital, she cut off all ties with that group and moved in with some other friends of hers.
Several months later, I met up with her after we'd corresponded on the internet. I knew nothing about any of the above, but gradually she told me the story. At the same time, I fell for her pretty hard. For a time, we made one another very happy. As the anniversary of her family members' deaths approaches, however, she's understandably emotionally fragile. This is manifesting in some ways that I am finding pretty difficult.
Lydia will occasionally have periods where she is manic with anger. The subject of her anger is usually that I won't confront my housemate, who is a friend of Jerome's, about why he didn't condemn Jerome's behaviour towards her. She'll dissolve into tears, scream at me, storm out, slam doors, tell me she hopes my family members will be raped. She usually subsides after a while and tells me how sorry she is, but her rages are among the most difficult things I've had to deal with - I just don't feel like I have the emotional tools to withstand them. Generally her rage wells up when we're discussing how she is feeling, but sometimes it's in reponse to her feeling overwhelmed by external stimuli, like if we get lost looking for a restaurant or something.
I tell Lydia often how much she means to me and how much I value her happiness, but that I don't think that scolding my housemate will help. There is a selfish element to this, I admit, in that it would make living with him thereafter very difficult, but I also think that I won't be able to change his mind on the matter. Lydia says she feels worthless and as if it doesn't matter what people do to her - I think she doesn't care that a confrontation wouldn't produce a result, but just that it would happen, and thereby give her some measure of vengeance or make someone tangentially involved in what happened to her suffer. I wish I could make her realise how loved and cherished she is, not just by me, but by all her friends. She says she doesn't understand why I won't stand up for her, that by not scolding my housemate I'm reinforcing the idea she has that she doesn't matter as much as other people. Even were I to talk to my housemate about it all, the fact that I only know what Lydia has told me makes me feel like I couldn't back up what I was saying with certainty: I believe Lydia's account, but I don't know the chronology of events that well, or even the exact details.
I want to support her through a difficult time, but her abuse of me when she's in the throes of anger is corrosive to our relationship, and I find myself growing resentful and frustrated. I've told her how I wish she could communicate her feelings to me without being so hurtful, and in calm moments she promises to try, but her efforts never stick. These days I'm more often unhappy than otherwise.
Should I just allow myself to satisfy her need for revenge? Is that the only way I can validate for her that what happened to her was completely unjust? Can I assume that her corrosive anger will subside in time, once the deaths of her family members are easier to bear and the people who hurt her in the distant past? Any advice is appreciated, I really don't know what to do.