About a month ago, I left a partner who had rapidly escalated into severe verbal abuse with me. We were together for a couple years but only lived together for three months. He has mental health issues and is treatment-resistant and talks about suicide, and I am worried about him. We are no contact at present, but he's on my mind almost 24-7. I'm wavering that I did the right thing by leaving, even though I felt endangered. I need to be bombarded with support from all sides to counteract his brainwashing and help me know I did the right thing and I really will be happier one day. I know Metafilter is especially good at this so I am turning to you for help.
posted by Rainflower to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Our relationship was one of intense ups and downs for a couple of years. I was very much in love with him and my thoughts and feelings are all over the place. There's guilt, fear, anger, sorrow, and sometimes a ray of hope or a glimpse of empowerment. And yes, I am in therapy. I meet with a domestic violence counselor once a week and I start PTSD therapy (EMDR) tomorrow. I'm aware of CoDA and Al-Anon but I've gone to some of their meetings and found their angle to be more victim-blaming than I'm comfortable with. I can blame myself fine without help.
I need to know how to handle the riot of thoughts and emotions I'm going through, especially my worries about him killing himself. How can I not feel like a murderer if he carries out his threats?
I'm also second-guessing whether I did the right thing by leaving instead of staying and trying to make him get treatment for his mental health issues. He grudgingly intended to go and see a psychiatrist, but he said he wasn't going to promise to take meds or follow a long-term treatment plan because he didn't value his life that much. He has never intended to live a long life. I knew that from the beginning but I kept hoping he would change his mind, or that I would discover that he didn't always feel that way. Unfortunately it seemed like a pretty ingrained idea.
His behavior became frightening to me. He talked about hating people and wanting to kill them. He pushed me up against a wall in public when he was drunk (he's an alcoholic in addition to the mental stuff). He tried to control my life, wanting me to give up my phone, my car, my job, my apartment, and most of my belongings and he would support me. It turned out that when I moved in with him, he doled out money grudgingly for my bills, berated me for having debt, and told me I was an ingrate whenever I complained about the verbal abuse.
He called me names, said I was a "walking disaster" because of my debt (which was mainly for education, medical bills, and my car, so it's not like I was frivolous with money). I also have ADD and anxiety, so I do struggle with being overwhelmed and having trouble organizing my finances, but I am trying and he knew it. I try very hard to stay on top of things, although I do sometimes mess up. Even so, he continued to call me names for my money issues, like "loser," "failure," and "fuckup." My financial life is manageable, though difficult, and I do have an excellent credit rating. I never asked him to be responsible for my debts, but he offered...and then he got angry about it. He said he felt like he had to take responsibility for me because I obviously couldn't. Yes, I was struggling, due to a number of factors that I am well aware of, but I had payment plans worked out with all my creditors at low interest rates.
He scrutinized me whenever I did anything, whether it was cooking, cleaning, using the computer, whatever. He constantly pointed out how I was doing things "wrong." He told me that I could never be his equal partner, only his student, because he was so much more intelligent than I was. And there's a lot more, except it would fill volumes so I'll stop here. I'm sure you all get the gist.
And yet, he said he loved me. He said he had never expected to fall in love and have another girlfriend again and that made me feel special. I know it sounds like a line of BS, but I think he meant it. He had a vulnerable side. Also, despite his constant bragging about his IQ, I enjoyed his intelligence and the things I learned from him. However, I hated the fact that he kept saying he couldn't learn anything from me.
I finally left him after he lost his temper at me for Skyping with my family and told me I should distance myself from them. This was the same week he yelled at me that I should just shut up and accept the fact that he was the one in control of our relationship due to his high intelligence. I couldn't take it anymore. My self-esteem, already shaky, was decimated by then.
I left the day before he was to see a psychiatrist and I feel guilty about that. However, as I mentioned, he was treatment-resistant and just going through the motions to satisfy me. He had no plan to take meds or do long-term treatment. A friend of mine explained that abusiveness is not from mental illness or drinking and gave me Lundy Bancroft's book Why Does He DO That? which explains that in more detail. At the time I left it totally felt the right thing to do. But now I'm dealing with the ups and downs of PTSD and thinking that if only I had done things differently maybe he could have gotten better.
I feel like I betrayed and abandoned him and that if he kills himself it will be my fault; that I should have been stronger because he's obviously in such a bad way and needed help. What are some thoughts I can use to counteract those self-recriminations? How do I stay strong?