Coping with knowledge that partner's ex was extremely abusive
June 3, 2019 5:31 PM   Subscribe

I recently discovered that my significant other's ex-girlfriend was not just someone he dated casually in college a few years ago but someone whose behavior escalated to sick mind games and physical violence that culminated in the complete control of his life. Since discovering this, I've been feeling angry, sick and helpless and I don't know where to go from here.

I am a woman in her early 20s who has been dating a guy in his mid-20s for almost a year now. I struggled with severe depression in high school and college after the loss of someone very close to me in my mid-teens (which I still haven't managed to come to terms with, and probably never will). This is my first serious relationship.

We get along really, really well. I've never felt more at ease with someone before and we can spend hours talking about nature, books, goofy anecdotes from our childhoods, pretty much anything at all. I wasn't really looking for anything serious when we first met (being fresh out of college) but we've since mutually established this is something much more than something casual. For better or worse, we're pretty much together all the time.

Enter the ex-girlfriend. I was vaguely aware they had dated and that he'd occasionally receive a weird salvo of text messages from her, but that was about it. One evening, he broke down and told me everything—about how she'd isolated him from his friends and family, forced him to move into an apartment off-campus, verbally abused him to the point he was convinced he was worthless, manipulated him into completing her assignments, stole thousands of dollars from him...the list goes on. They were together most of undergrad and this behavior was rampant from the start.

I'm still feeling pretty shaken up about this months later. On the surface, I think things are going pretty well between the two of us. But sometimes I can't stop thinking about and imagining all the terrible things he had to go through and how disgusting narcopaths like his ex-girlfriend exist and prey on people like him. He's a really nice person—probably TOO nice, because despite all the red flags and warning signs he was willing to do see past it and do everything she asked, until he realized what was happening and it was too late.

It also really bothers me how he never blocked her on anything and continued to entertain her pointless tirades. Remember how I mentioned she'd text him occasionally? He was hiding the majority from me and had actually been responding to her messages multiple times a day. I've asked him many times why he didn't just fully excise her from his life the moment he was "freed"and go No Contact, and I still don't understand why.

Where do we go from here? He says he doesn't want to see a therapist at the moment. He'll actually be returning to his campus soon to finish the last few classes he needs for his degree, and we've agreed to go long distance. To his ex's "credit" (honestly, fuck her, it looks like her life is in shambles right now and I think she deserves all the misery) she hasn't tried to contact him since, but it hasn't been that long and I'm concerned she might try to/what she'll do once she discovers she's been blocked for good.

I'd also appreciate advice on how to get my own life together, because I've been concentrating on being a source of support and am finding myself feeling like everything is pointless again.
posted by salientstars to Human Relations (27 answers total)
As someone in a fairly similar situation I really recommend therapy for you, even if he doesn’t want to go. It’s can be a lot to carry and feel like you’re carrying for someone else.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:10 PM on June 3, 2019 [11 favorites]

I would chalk it up to drama in relationships. Nothing new under the sun. Ex-girlfriend was living in pain and chaos and had a relationship with your boyfriend. All of which is in the past and you're thinking about now.

Drama in relationships is very common. People do all sorts of things to act out their pain and traumas. You're having a drama of your own right now --by thinking about a woman who is not in your life (you never knew her) and thinking your boyfriend is "hiding" something. He's also entertaining his dramas. Let him "hide". It doesn't matter.

While it sucks to be close to someone who was previously treated poorly, all you can do is continue being supportive (with boundaries) and let your boyfriend figure his own stuff out. He's currently not being mistreated. He's currently not in danger. I wouldn't mention ex-girlfriend any longer. Don't bring her up. Try to put her out of your mind. Not because she's some demon, but because thinking and talking about her is unnecessary and adds to the drama.
posted by loveandhappiness at 6:26 PM on June 3, 2019 [9 favorites]

Is he still in contact with her?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:32 PM on June 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you have to evaluate this whole situation with nuance that strangers from the internet can't.

However, from the outside it looks like a guy who calls his ex crazy, but somehow is still texting her. He's taking a break now because you caught him, but it's only for a little while. You don't feel great about it. Yeah, I definitely wouldn't either. But my $20 says the problem isn't the ex gf that's awful, it's the guy.

Ask your therapist to help you navigate this. It sounds hard and confusing. Hell, maybe the guy is so great and a victim of this woman. But the whole thing feels off and I don't think it's just your anxiety.
posted by KMoney at 6:45 PM on June 3, 2019 [33 favorites]

It’s up to your boyfriend how he wants to engage or not engage with her moving forward and how he wants to deal with the fallout (therapy, etc). It’s especially important that he have agency to make his own choices about this, given the way he was abused.

That’s not to say his choices don’t affect you. They will, and you’ll definitely want to be there for him when he wants to discuss it all with you. If his feelings about this negatively impact his life or your relationship, that’s something to discuss with him also. But you dwelling on the abuse and judging the way he handled it is not helpful to share with him—that’s something you need to share with your other sources of support, whether that’s family, friends, or your own therapist.
posted by sallybrown at 6:53 PM on June 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I’ve been with my husband for over a decade so I haven’t dated in a while. But it’s surprising to me that this is coming out now. With my husband and in previous relationships, the first few months of the relationship were spent reviewing past relationships with each other (“your ex owes you money? Me too!”). Why did this reveal take so long? Also, why did they split? How? Who broke up with who?

Also, I dated a guy in college who told me his ex was crazy and abusive. Then he told me that his former fiancé was crazy. Then he started making me crazy. He was the common denominator.

Taking this at face value, secondary trauma is a real thing and you can see a therapist about it. A therapist might also be able to help you notice anything else that doesn’t quite smell right.

That said, you’re going to be long distance? Where physically is the ex? My relationship with the guy I mentioned fizzled out when he went back to school and he wanted to get closure with former fiancé. While he did the fade-away, friends took the opportunity to help me realize he was making my life worse. So that was that.
posted by kat518 at 7:03 PM on June 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

That sort of relationship can be sort of like a tiny cult - even after you're out it takes a long time to rediscover yourself. I think it would be fair to advise him to make sure he's NEVER alone with her or in any position where she could claim he's threatened her. Beyond that, it's his own issue to deal. It sounds like he's pretty confrontation adverse and compliant, so be careful you aren’t stepping in to run his life for him.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:51 PM on June 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

[One comment deleted. Folks, the "maybe there was no abuse, the boyfriend is the problem" suggestion has been made, OP can consider that, but please drop it now. From here on, please just take OP at their word about what the situation is.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:53 PM on June 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm definitely going to see a therapist about this because this whole issue has started to bleed into other aspects of my life. (I just posted my other comment earlier because I wanted to respond in a semi-reasonable amount of time but this entire chunk of text can conceivably be viewed as a single comment, if that makes sense.)

I knew they'd dated for some time in college but I never really asked for specifics beyond that. I dated a few people casually in college and wouldn't have felt they were significant enough to me to really bring up in conversation besides "yeah, we dated for a bit" and it seemed like that relationship of his wasn't any different.

As for the timeline, they broke up a few months after college when he moved out of their shared apartment and she almost immediately started dating someone else. He had tried breaking up with her several times before this (ranging from a month after they started dating to their last term of college) but it'd never stuck for one reason or another, usually because she'd threaten to hurt herself. According to him she started texting him again a year or so ago, but really ramped it up after she discovered we were together.

I'm not really sure where the ex is. I went ahead and blocked her on all social media and it looks like she has a different city listed for each one. But I don't think she lives nearby.
posted by salientstars at 7:53 PM on June 3, 2019

Oh, and something else that’s unfortunately come up is that you will need (but not want) some basic information such as name, photo and location or place of employment for some safety planning reasons :/
posted by raccoon409 at 8:09 PM on June 3, 2019

I'm not one of those who thinks that one can never speak to an ex after one has found a new partner, but...the energy he is putting into this craziness (by which I mean engaging with it; he's not responsible for his ex's behavior) is energy he is not putting into you, your relationship, or a healthy life. For that reason, it's not something I, personally, would put up with. If he can't be trusted to go and stay no-contact with her, then he is not a trustworthy person and you should not be dating him. That's not something we can tell from a distance, though.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 PM on June 3, 2019 [10 favorites]

Most of their correspondence was her rambling about one thing or another and him barely responding, but yeah, I think she should've been blocked a long time ago. I I can tell the ex is in a bad place mentally from most of her messages (and probably has been for a while) but her welfare isn't his responsibility and I don't know what made him think it still was.

I do know exactly what she looks like at this point (sigh), and every time I encounter someone who vaguely resembles her I don't feel so great. I live with several housemates and I've briefed one of them on the situation so he knows to keep an eye out.

Do we take some time off? Before he leaves or after? Keep things the way they are unless he allows her to contact him again (in which case it's over forever?) I'm not going to make my decision solely based on what I see here but I do realize we've been spending a lot of time together and that my judgement might not be the best on this.
posted by salientstars at 9:04 PM on June 3, 2019

I've asked him many times why he didn't just fully excise her from his life the moment he was "freed"and go No Contact, and I still don't understand why.

If you're young enough that this is your first serious relationship, you're possible also young enough not to have noticed that in general, human beings suck at taking advice, and it's quite often the case that the better the advice, the more we suck at taking it.

So you've advised him to go no contact, which is excellent advice, and he hasn't, and you're wondering why the hell not, and it really is just because human beings suck at taking advice but are really really good at telling ourselves long and complicated stories about why the excellent advice we've been getting is not actually applicable in our own unique circumstances.

My best advice to you on this particular subject, which I can assure you is at least as good as your advice to him that he should go No Contact, is that you stop trying to fix this problem for him and leave it in his hands instead. He's an adult; you're an adult; you've given him some good advice that he's failed to take; that's that. Nothing further needs to be done.

her welfare isn't his responsibility and I don't know what made him think it still was

This is one of those things that probably won't make any sense to you until after your first serious relationship has broken up. Again, as decent human beings it's really really hard to stop caring about the wellbeing of people we've been close to, even if they do turn out to have toxic personalities that inflict more pain with every contact.

The path of least drama here is to keep doing whatever you need to do to protect yourself against any direct threat you perceive as coming from her direction and just let him continue to suffer her abuses until he's had enough of doing that and stops of his own accord.

In particular, I'm strongly advising you to reconsider your stance on his "allowing" her to contact him to be a dealbreaker. That's putting way too much power in her hands. In your shoes I wouldn't give her the satisfaction of being able to believe that she's managed to break up your otherwise excellent relationship by remote control. So by all means be a broken record on the subject of going no contact with her, but don't dump somebody just because they're as bad at taking good advice as every other human being on the planet.
posted by flabdablet at 9:37 PM on June 3, 2019 [20 favorites]

He is still in contact because that's a very ugly and hard fact of abuse -- you often create a trauma bond with your abuser which is difficult to sever. It's not easy to go no contact, any easier than it is to just "not be abused." Learning to identify red flags is a skill, it's not something you know, it's something you have to learn. Standing up for yourself, escaping from dangerous situations, withdrawing from abusive dynamics -- also hard skills to master, and none guaranteed to work 100% of the time. All of us are vulnerable to being abused and also abusing others. I encourage you to see his behavior as a continued trauma response and respond with empathy but also firmness. You can encourage him in better directions and set clear boundaries for your own participation in this mess -- but you can't make him stop responding or block her, only he can do that. Therapy for both of you, separately, is a good idea. It's okay to say "I've given you all the support I can at the moment, I love you and I'm feeling burnt out, I need some time to myself," or "This would be a good conversation to have with a therapist or another important person in your life, I care about you and I've also reached my limit on emotional processing for today. Do you want to do something fun?" etc
posted by aw jeez at 11:12 PM on June 3, 2019 [16 favorites]

Your BF needs to go to a trauma counselor. You need to draw that boundary on the relationship and make it a condition of continuing the relationship.

I know from firsthand personal experience. My wife recently had to draw this line with me. It worked. I’m going to a trauma counselor and it feels GREAT to be working through the terror that my ex wife put me through. She fucked me up so bad. I realize how much so now.

From firsthand experience being in his shoes (this was prior to my transition) I can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that nothing bad is going to come out him seeing a trauma counselor. It’s all upside. You can’t make him go or save him, but you can make it clear to him that he needs to prioritize his mental health and his commitment to you. And if he won’t do that for you, be prepared to leave.
posted by nikaspark at 11:56 PM on June 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Abusive or obsessed people will go to great lengths to avoid a "no contact" regime from being in place with exes. They will argue to their ex that a particular channel should be kept open for whatever reason: to "still be friends" or "for emergencies" or because "we have both moved on now". If one particular channel is blocked then they will look for other ones - that old phone number or email address perhaps? Victory, for their part, will be any contact at all - but most particularly one which is between her and him - and which is a secret to you. Remember that the ex is an expert at this; she knows the various weaknesses of your boyfriend well because she has exploited them in the past.

The best way to fight this approach, on the part of you and your boyfriend, is a policy of scrupulous honesty with regard to all communications between him and his ex. Normally any communications your partner has with various people should be something he can choose to share or not share with you. But this is an important exception. The stakes here are high because your current relationship is being threatened. If he continues to hide communications with her from you then should consider finding another partner who can be honest with you. You should tell him that, I think.

Since he has not yet blocked her, you need to start out by discussing why. Ask him to go over with you, the scenarios under which he says contact should still be maintained. He will probably cite "remaining friends" and "for emergencies" etc. You need to talk explore these and point out that no scenario is in the interests of the two of you as a couple: every contact threatens to open wounds and act as a wedge between the two of you. When your boyfriend was going out with his ex he had legitimate responsibilities towards her - but these are now ended. Both of you need to understand that any contact is a very bad idea.

From then on, I would ask him if he could be totally open with you about all communication with her. Everything should be auditable by you. Ideally that stage would start by going through all the channels either of you can think of and blocking them. But failing that he should agree to talk to you whenever he has any contact with her: show you the text, give you his phone to look for any other texts, answer any of your questions about other possible channels: basically do everything possible to be open with you and allay your suspicions. The whole process will feel awkward as hell for both of you - but it is the best method of ensuring the ex loses her influence over him. If she tries to make contact then you need to discuss what was said: that can be useful for both of you because it helps you understand patterns of manipulative behaviour.
posted by rongorongo at 12:29 AM on June 4, 2019

Everyone seems to thing he should have blocked her, and, well yes, depending on the medium, he should block her. But if it's anything where she'd know she's been blocked, then he has to just mute her.

Assuming he's actually OK with dropping her, then I'd suggest he reads The Gift of Fear, and that should validate everything he's feeling, and tell him how to approach severing the contact he has. Grey rock is definitely the right technique to use here.

Therapy can probably wait until he's broken off all contact.
posted by ambrosen at 2:42 AM on June 4, 2019

All I can say is don't set his boundaries for him, even if they seem like a really bad idea to you. You don't get to control him or define his boundaries, you only get to set your own. He needs to be in a relationship where his partner is not trying to control him and his actions and his relationships with other people - even the people who are bad for him. Because he needs to learn to make his own decisions, he needs to be able to form his own judgements about who is and isn't healthy for him to be around.

You both need support in this, and he definitely needs professional support. A counsellor can help him work this out for himself in a way that you, however much you love him, cannot. Because you love him, because he loves you, and because there is this history of the person he loved controlling him, manipulating him and abusing him.

Since he's going back to uni to finish his classes, it's a great time for him to get that professional support, which hopefully will be available to him as a student at no or low cost. It would also probably help a lot with being back in the environment where the abuse originally happened.

But ultimately you can't make him do anything. Do look after yourself and get the support you need - but not from him.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:29 AM on June 4, 2019 [12 favorites]

Something I wish I knew when I was just starting to date: don't do any dude's emotional work for him. Set your boundaries re: his contact with the ex, encourage him to get help, lend a supportive shoulder from time to time, sure, but always remember his issues with past women are not your problem to solve + are a recipe for disaster for your emotional well-being. Women in het realtionships seem all too eager (socialized?) to do this kind of heavy lifting for their male partners, usually without much emotional reciprocation in my observation, which leads to serious relationship imbalances and resentment down the line.
posted by shaademaan at 3:30 AM on June 4, 2019 [18 favorites]

I'm going to give you the same advice I'd give to my adult offspring if they were in such a relationship:

"Nobody puts baby in a corner, and he's putting you in a corner. Honey, I know he's wonderful and you definitely have a swell time together, but this person is not ready to date and here's the thing of it:


You can't fix other people. You can't control their actions. You can't force anyone to engage in therapy.

What you have here is a gentleman who is currently balancing a functional and delightful relationship with you and a dysfunctional ongoing relationship with his ex. He's keeping busy with you both, and now you're looking her up on social media and reading his texts and essentially playing second fiddle to a dead relationship and trying to decipher how to navigate something that he needs to be navigating.

It's really easy for me to sit here on my couch with my own personal relationship history and give advice, but such is the nature of hindsight. Here's another thing: you know on some level that this isn't working and it's so easy in relationships to think that everything would be great if only ______ happened. And so we try to make _____ happen, and we spend all our time ignoring ______ and wishing for ______ and all that time we sort of forget that you don't have to live like that.

There is literally not one reason on this planet to continue a relationship that causes grief and whenever you're in a place where you think it would be so great if only _______ happened, then it's time to end the relationship because you're doing all the heavy lifting.

And worse, if you do all this work and get him to therapy, I can guarantee that once he feels better he's going to break up with you because you remind him of bad times. I've seen this a hundred times.

I love you and your strength. Now go end this thing and I'll buy you a margarita and all the guac you can eat."
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:11 AM on June 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

You seem like a caring person so again, taking his statements at face value, there’s a risk of his last relationship becoming a focus of this relationship. You’re really involved in his experience (understandable!) but this could become a thing where every phone call is you trying to convince him to go to counseling, has he found a therapist, made an appointment, etc. Similarly with going no contact with the ex. He has to do the work here. This is not your project. He is not a fixer upper.
posted by kat518 at 4:34 AM on June 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

sometimes I can't stop thinking about and imagining all the terrible things he had to go through and how disgusting narcopaths like his ex-girlfriend exist and prey on people like him

if I disclosed to a lover that I had been abused by a previous intimate partner and they obsessively ruminated over the details of what had been done to me - whether replaying things I'd told them or embellishing and inventing details in their own mind - I would find it profoundly unpleasant, maybe violating. particularly if there had been violence, particularly if there was sexual violence. I would not necessarily suspect them of getting some prurient pleasure out of it. But I would ask: Why are you thinking so much about him and what he did and what he was like, and so little about me?

having said that, intrusive thoughts are not under your conscious control and if you need help to redirect your focus, you deserve to get it. and having said that, anger is easier to tolerate than helpless sympathy and empathetic suffering. it is understandable and probably very normal that people tend towards it in situations like this. but it isn't good. and this "narcopath" business is pretty alarming. is "abuser" not dramatic enough?

but I think you are freaking out a little bit because you're so sure she's the monster but you're also mad that he allows her to contact him, and this is right at the far edge of starting to get mad that he "lets" her hurt him. a common but dangerous feeling. you have the absolute right to break things off for any reason at any time, and if you can't be happy with him this way then that's that. but planning to end things the moment he "lets" her contact him again strikes me as strange. does he insist on talking about her if you don't bring it up? or do you feel like there's a real threat that he could go back to her if he starts talking to her? or does he get so depressed or agitated when he hears from her that you can't just ignore it? it's not a self-explanatory dealbreaker.

If it's simpler than all this -- if it's that you just can't stomach being permanently stuck in a secondary supportive role, where his past suffering always outranks your current needs -- that makes a lot of sense. if so, it will not help to look for ways he could change at your direction.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:39 AM on June 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've asked him many times why he didn't just fully excise her from his life the moment he was "freed"and go No Contact, and I still don't understand why

Others have introduced the concept of a trauma bond, and it is a very real and very difficult situation to get out of. Trust me, I'm going through a divorce from a complicated person who did very bad things to me--with the intention of causing harm, by his own admission--and I still have trouble letting go of the loving feelings I cultivated for him for 12 years. That said, I'm also in therapy as this kind of situation is a good time to bring professional counseling into one's life.

It would be a great idea for you both to go to therapy--jointly if possible, separately if you can. Good communication skills will go a long way toward helping you each understand the other.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:42 AM on June 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Please understand that if she is abusive, and determined to contact him, she will find a way. That is not the problem--or, at least, it's a problem for him and probably for you, but it's not his fault and I'd never recommend someone break up with someone else over such a thing. So it's not about whether he "lets" him contact her (assuming he has taken the ordinary steps to block her), it's about whether he's still choosing to stay enmeshed in some kind of high-drama situation with her even though nominally broken up with her. I consider choosing to have extended text conversations with her to fall into that category. If he's doing that, then he's not fully available to you. However one wants to apportion responsibility for it, that's just a fact, and, to my judgment, one fatal to a serious relationship if not changed immediately. You will never have this man's full attention.
posted by praemunire at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the responses, everyone. I'm reading over what I wrote and now realize some statements were a little muddled. And apologies if this ends up being an avalanche of text.

First of all, he *has* agreed to go no contact since telling me about the abuse and blocked her on all channels. So this isn't an ongoing issue and I'm sorry if it sounded like it was.

It was the chunk of time before he fully broke things off that really bothered me because her messages were always rambling monologues (or incredibly inappropriate) that didn't necessitate a response, but he'd do so within the hour anyway. I'm aware of the content of these messages because I asked for a log of them. I never look at people's devices but I felt like this was a pretty important exception if our relationship was to continue—the entire situation *did* seem really off and I wanted to be 100% sure I wasn't being strung along in some way. And, for what it's worth, his responses were pretty bland for the most part.

As for the entire relationship timeline: they were together for three years in college (and lived together half of that, although she essentially moved into a male friend's apartment their final semester while still drawing heavily from their joint bank account [not sure if that last clause is actually relevant but i hope it illustrates how warped the whole thing was]). They broke up shortly after graduation, so it's been 4 years since they've seen each other face to face? It's been a while...

I'm conflict-averse and have only in recent years elevated myself from the title of Doormat, but to the suggestion that I was being overdramatic by calling her a narcopath...I don't really know what to call a person who'd throw things with the intent to harm or confiscate car/house keys as "punishment" or coerce someone into writing their entire senior thesis for them so that they graduated with honors but the other dropped out as anything other than that. But I am incredibly upset and frustrated, so I'll acknowledge that I could've left a diagnosis to a professional.

As for present physical danger—short of flat-out stalking, I don't think there's a way the ex can figure out where he lives. He's moving soon and has let his employer/housemates/etc know if anyone by her name or appearance tries to ask about his whereabouts to tell him immediately and not let her know. And I didn't mean that any sort of contact from her end would be an instant dealbreaker on mine—moreso that if he were receptive to it and actually agreed to meet up, etc. then it would be a really big problem.

My boyfriend and I spend most of our free time together, and right now, we really enjoy it. We'll go rock climbing, watch obscure movies, drive around aimlessly late at night listening to music, tag each other in silly internet's pretty wonderful. But being attached at the hip means that anything comes up in one person's life impacts the other drastically, too. And I do think that maybe this is something we can work on in case we slide into co-dependency.

Thank you for telling me more about trauma bonds. I understand how awful the cycle of abuse is but was under the impression that nearly half a decade out with hundreds of miles in between, that it wouldn't crop up...I get it now.
posted by salientstars at 2:37 PM on June 4, 2019

I was trying to get to everything and completely skipped the last part. Yes, I think therapy is warranted but I'm not sure how to suggest it besides "consider checking out XYZ when you get back to campus" without being pushy.

I have pretty severe anxiety and depression and have a tendency to ruminate about everything. But sometimes I get these incredibly intrusive mind movies of, say, a younger him nervously walking into their old apartment with her already waiting, already frowning, holding up an unfinished problem set or sharp object and screaming and screaming and screaming. And I feel this helpless rage, like I'm also standing in the room but completely unable to help or extricate him.

[an addendum: going back to my very first sentence, i lost my best friend in a freak accident when I was 15 that i feel like i could have prevented. i've seen my share of psychiatrists and therapists but it's not like i'm in the greatest place mentally in the first place. and all of this is a non-sequitur, but i cobbled myself together and went to college and lived with a bunch of hippie classmates in a big house in the woods and slowly regained my sense of self. and then i moved out here not knowing anyone and improbably met someone i had this incredibly intense connection with and with whom i could spend virtually every waking moment and then something like this happens and i'm horribly shaken, who the heck was i to think things could get better]
posted by salientstars at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2019

Oh dear. This sounds really stressful. Losing your best friend was a terrible trauma, and it sounds like you've got a movie in your head where your best friend has been replaced by your partner, and you want to save him. But here's the thing: you can't save him. Because he's not your teenage friend and you're not replaying what happened when you were younger. What happened to your friend was a freak accident; your partner was involved in a bad relationship that he's still struggling to move past. These are very different things.

But also... he's an adult who needs to manage his own relationships. Your job is to take care of yourself right now. I really want to encourage you strongly to get back into therapy. It sounds like this new relationship is triggering some of your old trauma. I'm concerned that this is going to keep playing out for you until you do some processing. And he's dealing with his trauma in his own way. It would be better for you and your relationship if you worked with a therapist on how the continuing trauma is cropping up now that you are in an very close relationship again.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:22 PM on June 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

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