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Old 10-27-2014, 08:36 AM   #1
LithiumKiss
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What can I do to help him heal?

Hi there,

Normally I just lurk around the forums but today I'm going to break with tradition. I'd be grateful for any insight people have.

I've been seeing my boyfriend for 3 months now and things are going really well. We're both in our 30s and I've been pretty open about my previous relationships. I'd kind of been waiting for him to reciprocate a little, not that I wanted a whole resume but just that I wanted to understand him a little better. I'll admit that his reticence did start to make me wonder a little. All he previously alluded to was that he'd been single for a couple of years. Last night he was a little tipsy and he confided in me that his ex was violent and described her personality as 'vicious.' He also referred to a couple of other exes as being manipulative and aggressive/verbally abusive, which suggests a pattern of some kind. I was completely heartbroken for this man. I knew he didn't have the world's most fabulous self esteem and in the past few months I've begun to understand what a veneer it is. He couldn't or wouldn't see the fact he never retaliated as strength of character. He said completely matter-of-factly that the bruises she left on him took months to heal.

This morning, I'm still totally blindsided and I'm beginning to comprehend that my lovely, gentle, gorgeous boyfriend is an abuse survivor. I'll be surprised if there's anyone else on Earth he has shared this with.

I knew there was something going on with him but had no idea what. I've very deliberately exerted no pressure of any description, because he seems to find it distressing. We've just taken things one day at a time and left it at that. I've known I'm in love with him for some time and I've also known he's in love with me but somehow I wanted him to be the first to say it. I didn't want to rush or pressure him. After last night's revelation though, I just had to tell him I loved him. He's lucky I didn't squeeze him half to death in the world's biggest bear hug. He did respond positively though and I think he'd been struggling with saying it. Today it's about all he's capable of saying, which is just lovely.

Maybe I'm over-thinking things (ok, quite likely) but I'm beginning to see his super-attentiveness in a different light. He's constantly asking me if I'm 'ok' and seeking reassurance. He always wants me to make decisions about where he go out, what we buy to eat in and so on. I was actually beginning to tease him about his constant insistence that I should decide this stuff, like some form of extreme chivalry. He still after three blissful months doesn't seem to feel secure in the fact we're in love and a couple. It's like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop and for everything to go wrong. He's overly apologetic about things. Even a meal he's cooked perfectly, he'll find something to point out and apologise about. He's horrendous at accepting compliments and while at first I thought it was endearing, now I'm beginning to see what a number this damaged woman must have done on him.

Two years is a very long time to brood over a bad relationship.

So I'm now in the delicate position of wanting to help him heal and to see himself as I see him but I really don't know where to start. He's deeply uncomfortable when I point out evidence that contradicts his view of himself. For example, he's doing incredibly well at work but he dwells more on his failures than his successes. He frequently refers to himself as 'stupid' and he works at a managerial level in a highly specialised field. If I try to make him see that he's doing well, he either goes quiet or raises a sceptical eyebrow. Oddly, he doesn't seem to struggle with asserting himself at work. He's not remotely aggressive in terms of his work persona but he will debate his position confidently, because he's secure in his knowledge and expertise.

I know it's really early days for us but I'm finding it difficult, because I want to help him heal but my attempts still all backfire. Am I approaching this all wrong? Is there any way I can help him heal that won't further corrode what's left of his masculinity? It's like the very fact that I want to help him heal, that knows he needs to heal just carves a fresh wound into him and he's hamstrung before he even starts.
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Old 10-27-2014, 01:32 PM   #2
nfrrdscnnr1
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shrt

Two years is a SHORT time to "recover" from bad relationships if there is no work done on the emotional part of the deal. My advice is to be very cautious and go very slowly until you understand a whole lot more than you do. The fact that he was in more than one abusive relationship signals me he hasn't done the work of recovery but needs to do so.
My first suggestion is counseling for the two of you and for you if he refuses. His reticence to decide things is a HUGE red flag. It may seem "cute" or attractive but it is not something you'll want to live with for the long term unless you have unaddressed problems.
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Old 10-27-2014, 01:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LithiumKiss View Post
Hi there,

Normally I just lurk around the forums but today I'm going to break with tradition. I'd be grateful for any insight people have.

I've been seeing my boyfriend for 3 months now and things are going really well. We're both in our 30s and I've been pretty open about my previous relationships. I'd kind of been waiting for him to reciprocate a little, not that I wanted a whole resume but just that I wanted to understand him a little better. I'll admit that his reticence did start to make me wonder a little. All he previously alluded to was that he'd been single for a couple of years. Last night he was a little tipsy and he confided in me that his ex was violent and described her personality as 'vicious.' He also referred to a couple of other exes as being manipulative and aggressive/verbally abusive, which suggests a pattern of some kind. I was completely heartbroken for this man. I knew he didn't have the world's most fabulous self esteem and in the past few months I've begun to understand what a veneer it is. He couldn't or wouldn't see the fact he never retaliated as strength of character. He said completely matter-of-factly that the bruises she left on him took months to heal.

This morning, I'm still totally blindsided and I'm beginning to comprehend that my lovely, gentle, gorgeous boyfriend is an abuse survivor. I'll be surprised if there's anyone else on Earth he has shared this with.

I knew there was something going on with him but had no idea what. I've very deliberately exerted no pressure of any description, because he seems to find it distressing. We've just taken things one day at a time and left it at that. I've known I'm in love with him for some time and I've also known he's in love with me but somehow I wanted him to be the first to say it. I didn't want to rush or pressure him. After last night's revelation though, I just had to tell him I loved him. He's lucky I didn't squeeze him half to death in the world's biggest bear hug. He did respond positively though and I think he'd been struggling with saying it. Today it's about all he's capable of saying, which is just lovely.

Maybe I'm over-thinking things (ok, quite likely) but I'm beginning to see his super-attentiveness in a different light. He's constantly asking me if I'm 'ok' and seeking reassurance. He always wants me to make decisions about where he go out, what we buy to eat in and so on. I was actually beginning to tease him about his constant insistence that I should decide this stuff, like some form of extreme chivalry. He still after three blissful months doesn't seem to feel secure in the fact we're in love and a couple. It's like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop and for everything to go wrong. He's overly apologetic about things. Even a meal he's cooked perfectly, he'll find something to point out and apologise about. He's horrendous at accepting compliments and while at first I thought it was endearing, now I'm beginning to see what a number this damaged woman must have done on him.

Two years is a very long time to brood over a bad relationship.

So I'm now in the delicate position of wanting to help him heal and to see himself as I see him but I really don't know where to start. He's deeply uncomfortable when I point out evidence that contradicts his view of himself. For example, he's doing incredibly well at work but he dwells more on his failures than his successes. He frequently refers to himself as 'stupid' and he works at a managerial level in a highly specialised field. If I try to make him see that he's doing well, he either goes quiet or raises a sceptical eyebrow. Oddly, he doesn't seem to struggle with asserting himself at work. He's not remotely aggressive in terms of his work persona but he will debate his position confidently, because he's secure in his knowledge and expertise.

I know it's really early days for us but I'm finding it difficult, because I want to help him heal but my attempts still all backfire. Am I approaching this all wrong? Is there any way I can help him heal that won't further corrode what's left of his masculinity? It's like the very fact that I want to help him heal, that knows he needs to heal just carves a fresh wound into him and he's hamstrung before he even starts.
Welcome to Lit

I am sorry to hear about your boyfriend - it is not easy to admit to be in a psychological abusive relationship, and in this culture, more so for men. Abuse will strip away your self-esteem, confidence and self-pride in a single act and it will take a lifetime to rebuild. You do not bounce back after two years. It will take much much longer than two years. Your entire self image is utterly, completely, thoroughly shattered, and the longer you are in a psychologically abusive relationship (and I assume for physically as well, but I have no point of reference for that), the more shattered that image will be. I repeat, it will take a long, long time to rebuild, a lot of support, some therapy, a inner strength. Society has traditionally rallied around women, so there are resources available. Men, unfortunately, are at a double disadvantage because society rarely recognises abuse, particularly psychological, in men (most often painting them as the abuser), our culture still tries to instil "you must be tough, you have no emotions, be a man" and other equally misandrist sentiments in addition, there is very little resources available.

You also have to face the facts that he may not be ready to face his past. He may have told you, but that doesn't mean that he is ready to take the necessary steps.

You cannot heal him. I am sorry to say this, but you cannot. You are not a therapist who can guide him. He has to heal himself and above all, he has to WANT to. It's exactly like getting over an addiction; until you are ready, you won't be able to. You can most certainly be supportive, and encouraging. You can listen. You can be there for him. But you cannot heal him. You may also want to check this thread out.

If you decide to be by his side throughout the process, make sure you truly want to and are not motivated by romantic fantasies of 'saving' him. We all want to be needed, but it's important that his needs does not supersede your own. I am not suggesting that you drop him. I am not suggesting that you stick with him. I am suggesting that you put away any romantic feelings aside and consider this matter coolly. Do you love him? Is that enough for you? What happens if you can't take it? What happens if he doesn't want to continue with healing? What happens if you inevitably hurt each other? These are difficult questions, I know, they are harsh questions, but you must ask them and answer honestly. It may be a no-brainer for you, or it may not. Only you can say.
It's not going to be easy on you or him, but he will need a friend. I can guarantee you that and even if you decide to stay with him as his romantic partner on this journey, make sure you can also be the friend he will occasionally need.

Good luck. My PM box is always open
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Last edited by fire_breeze : 10-27-2014 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 10-27-2014, 05:46 PM   #4
Bramblethorn
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Like fire_breeze said, a lot of it is out of your hands. There are a couple of small things you can do that might help, though.

One is to discuss with him how to handle conflicts when they come up. When you have a partner who's a bit fragile, there's a strong temptation to try to minimise disagreements, especially over little things, because you don't want to hurt their feelings. This isn't necessarily a good thing; if you're telling your partner "it's okay" and your body language is telling a different story, you're likely to provoke exactly the sort of insecurity that you're trying to avoid.

IMHO it's better to establish that if you're unhappy with them you will talk about it, as soon as feasible, without letting it build up and without expecting them to read your mind - and that it won't be the end of the world. Don't tell him "I'll never be angry with you," tell him "if I'm angry with you, I'll discuss it and we'll deal with it in a civilized way".

Re. work insecurity: I'm similar to what you describe, objectively I know I'm good at my job but I'm quite insecure and even something trivial can really throw me. I keep an email folder titled "warm fuzzies"; every time a workmate says something nice to me about my work, I save it there, so that when I'm feeling the impostor syndrome I can go look at that mailbox and remind myself that I'm not so bad after all.

(Assuming his workmates do give positive feedback, that is.)
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Old 10-28-2014, 02:12 AM   #5
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What, if anything, does he say about his parents? ( Particularly his mother )
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Old 10-28-2014, 04:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LithiumKiss View Post
Hi there,

Normally I just lurk around the forums but today I'm going to break with tradition. I'd be grateful for any insight people have.

I've been seeing my boyfriend for 3 months now and things are going really well. We're both in our 30s and I've been pretty open about my previous relationships. I'd kind of been waiting for him to reciprocate a little, not that I wanted a whole resume but just that I wanted to understand him a little better. I'll admit that his reticence did start to make me wonder a little. All he previously alluded to was that he'd been single for a couple of years. Last night he was a little tipsy and he confided in me that his ex was violent and described her personality as 'vicious.' He also referred to a couple of other exes as being manipulative and aggressive/verbally abusive, which suggests a pattern of some kind. I was completely heartbroken for this man. I knew he didn't have the world's most fabulous self esteem and in the past few months I've begun to understand what a veneer it is. He couldn't or wouldn't see the fact he never retaliated as strength of character. He said completely matter-of-factly that the bruises she left on him took months to heal.

This morning, I'm still totally blindsided and I'm beginning to comprehend that my lovely, gentle, gorgeous boyfriend is an abuse survivor. I'll be surprised if there's anyone else on Earth he has shared this with.

I knew there was something going on with him but had no idea what. I've very deliberately exerted no pressure of any description, because he seems to find it distressing. We've just taken things one day at a time and left it at that. I've known I'm in love with him for some time and I've also known he's in love with me but somehow I wanted him to be the first to say it. I didn't want to rush or pressure him. After last night's revelation though, I just had to tell him I loved him. He's lucky I didn't squeeze him half to death in the world's biggest bear hug. He did respond positively though and I think he'd been struggling with saying it. Today it's about all he's capable of saying, which is just lovely.

Maybe I'm over-thinking things (ok, quite likely) but I'm beginning to see his super-attentiveness in a different light. He's constantly asking me if I'm 'ok' and seeking reassurance. He always wants me to make decisions about where he go out, what we buy to eat in and so on. I was actually beginning to tease him about his constant insistence that I should decide this stuff, like some form of extreme chivalry. He still after three blissful months doesn't seem to feel secure in the fact we're in love and a couple. It's like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop and for everything to go wrong. He's overly apologetic about things. Even a meal he's cooked perfectly, he'll find something to point out and apologise about. He's horrendous at accepting compliments and while at first I thought it was endearing, now I'm beginning to see what a number this damaged woman must have done on him.

Two years is a very long time to brood over a bad relationship.

So I'm now in the delicate position of wanting to help him heal and to see himself as I see him but I really don't know where to start. He's deeply uncomfortable when I point out evidence that contradicts his view of himself. For example, he's doing incredibly well at work but he dwells more on his failures than his successes. He frequently refers to himself as 'stupid' and he works at a managerial level in a highly specialised field. If I try to make him see that he's doing well, he either goes quiet or raises a sceptical eyebrow. Oddly, he doesn't seem to struggle with asserting himself at work. He's not remotely aggressive in terms of his work persona but he will debate his position confidently, because he's secure in his knowledge and expertise.

I know it's really early days for us but I'm finding it difficult, because I want to help him heal but my attempts still all backfire. Am I approaching this all wrong? Is there any way I can help him heal that won't further corrode what's left of his masculinity? It's like the very fact that I want to help him heal, that knows he needs to heal just carves a fresh wound into him and he's hamstrung before he even starts.
I can approach this from two seperate angles. First as a victim (albeit of bullying, not domestic violence, although your account of how it affected him was highly evocative of my own experiences), and as someone in your position, as my girlfriend of seven years also had several similarities to those your boyfriend is demonstrating, and was a result of sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's then-boyfriend in her early teens.

First, this isn't a quick thing to fix, and while the wounds may close up, it is possible the scars wil always be there. It is ingrained into his personality now, and the important thing is to make sure these aspect are no longer the dominant part of the personality.

As others have said, if you are going to stand by him through this you are going to need a lot of patience, and be a true friend to him. By that I mean always be ready to listen and support - sometimes the urge to open up will happen at any time.

Speaking personally I constantly ask my girlfriend if she is ok, and apologise to the point where it is the thing that most irritates her about me. And for me it comes from a couple of things, disbelief that I'm with such a lovely girl and a belief I'm just not good enough, and try as I might, i will always fail to be the best I can be. it is also perhaps the hardest thing to change about me. I can't help myself, it blurts out at its own accord.

As for my girlfriend, she too was drunk when she made her revelation some 2 years ago, and I know I was overcome with disbelief and a very uncomfortable feeling. And it was something that has deeply affected her, to the point that seven years after getting together, we still haven't had full sex.

As for steps forward, perhaps suggest some form of counselling if that is an option, otherwise you are doing things pretty much right. Always be an attentive ear, perhaps encourage him to talk more about if, but not so much that he feels overly pressured to and retreats intot he shell a bit. Its a tough tightrope to walk, between those. But the important thing is to be sure you are there for him. It isn't that he is recovering from a bad relationship, it is that it has damaged his esteem and his psyche. Its a deeper thing than jut the results of the relationship. Perhaps the relationship in question emphasised some self esteem issues he had before hand.

Have belief in yourself and your ability to support him, and belief in his ability to open up and be able to recover from this. The scars will always be there, but with love and support he can heal, and move forward.

Hopefully I didn't ramble too much here. This is a a tough thing to go through, for both you and your boyfriend. The important thing is to just hang in there. If you wish to talk further, or anything, then please PM. Good luck to you and your man with this.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:58 AM   #7
LithiumKiss
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Firstly, thank you all for taking the time to reply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nfrrdscnnr1 View Post
Two years is a SHORT time to "recover" from bad relationships if there is no work done on the emotional part of the deal. My advice is to be very cautious and go very slowly until you understand a whole lot more than you do. The fact that he was in more than one abusive relationship signals me he hasn't done the work of recovery but needs to do so.
That, straight away, is invaluable insight. This is definitely going to be a steep learning curve for me in terms of this stuff. All I'm really trying to do at this stage in the game is gain a greater understanding of where he may or may not be at emotionally.

Already he's made huge progress in the last three months and I do think he's beginning to realise that I love him for who he is and that I'm not the kind of person who could ever turn on him like that. He said to me early on that he'd never just been wanted for who he was before, that he was unequipped for it and was taking 'baby steps.' I've accepted that this is going to be a very long road for both of us and that it will be a 'two steps forward and one step back' meander.

Quote:
My first suggestion is counseling for the two of you and for you if he refuses. His reticence to decide things is a HUGE red flag. It may seem "cute" or attractive but it is not something you'll want to live with for the long term unless you have unaddressed problems.
As I said, it was endearing to start with but now I can comprehend where it's coming from there is no 'cuteness' to his behaviour from my perspective. He has started making more choices and appears to be very slowly gaining confidence in the idea that his needs and wants should be on a par with mine. I can see that he's still very much trying to please me with the choices he does make but some of them have been more self-serving, which is promising. He's also beginning to get behind the notion of 'both giving s neither has to take' because I similarly try to please him with the choices I make that affect both of us. We're just dating, so these choices are mostly limited to leisure activities and meals and so on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fire_breeze View Post
Welcome to Lit

I am sorry to hear about your boyfriend - it is not easy to admit to be in a psychological abusive relationship, and in this culture, more so for men. Abuse will strip away your self-esteem, confidence and self-pride in a single act and it will take a lifetime to rebuild. You do not bounce back after two years. It will take much much longer than two years. Your entire self image is utterly, completely, thoroughly shattered, and the longer you are in a psychologically abusive relationship (and I assume for physically as well, but I have no point of reference for that), the more shattered that image will be. I repeat, it will take a long, long time to rebuild, a lot of support, some therapy, a inner strength. Society has traditionally rallied around women, so there are resources available. Men, unfortunately, are at a double disadvantage because society rarely recognises abuse, particularly psychological, in men (most often painting them as the abuser), our culture still tries to instil "you must be tough, you have no emotions, be a man" and other equally misandrist sentiments in addition, there is very little resources available.

You also have to face the facts that he may not be ready to face his past. He may have told you, but that doesn't mean that he is ready to take the necessary steps.
Yes, I know the cis/het traditional macho stigma is a source of shame for him. His self image is clearly still deeply flawed but the fact he wants a healthy relationship and feels ready to attempt one is a fairly strong indication that he feels able to make some progress, whatever that turns out to be.

Quote:
You cannot heal him. I am sorry to say this, but you cannot. You are not a therapist who can guide him. He has to heal himself and above all, he has to WANT to. It's exactly like getting over an addiction; until you are ready, you won't be able to. You can most certainly be supportive, and encouraging. You can listen. You can be there for him. But you cannot heal him. You may also want to check this thread out.
Yes, I do know this. My thread title should have perhaps been 'How do I gain an understanding of this and endeavour not to make things any more difficult for him than they have to be?' Listening, encouraging and supporting is the full extent of my remit, I do understand that.

My best friend went through domestic abuse some years ago, so I have witnessed the fallout from her perspective. Her next partner was chauvinist, manipulative and controlling. Never violent, so he never saw himself as an abuser and even now, two years after they split, neither does she. I've had to accept that her cognitive dissonance where this man is concerned will probably never even diminish, let alone disappear. On the plus side, it has made their split a lot more amicable than it would otherwise have been, because if her opinion of her ex was the same as mine I don't think she'd handle the contact she still has with him half as well as she does. They still live in the same village and because he's a shift worker his frequent contact with the kids is very much ad-hoc. This requires a lot of cooperation between them as to who's doing which school runs etc. So I can see that her view of him is working for her as a kind of unwitting defence mechanism and I'm not about to rock the boat she's sat in. Next time she dates though, I'm doing background checks and conducting interviews, because she has singularly appalling taste.

Quote:
If you decide to be by his side throughout the process, make sure you truly want to and are not motivated by romantic fantasies of 'saving' him. We all want to be needed, but it's important that his needs does not supersede your own. I am not suggesting that you drop him. I am not suggesting that you stick with him. I am suggesting that you put away any romantic feelings aside and consider this matter coolly. Do you love him? Is that enough for you? What happens if you can't take it? What happens if he doesn't want to continue with healing? What happens if you inevitably hurt each other? These are difficult questions, I know, they are harsh questions, but you must ask them and answer honestly. It may be a no-brainer for you, or it may not. Only you can say.
It's not going to be easy on you or him, but he will need a friend. I can guarantee you that and even if you decide to stay with him as his romantic partner on this journey, make sure you can also be the friend he will occasionally need.

Good luck. My PM box is always open
I haven't considered leaving him but I'm under no illusions as to what I'm 'taking on' for want of a better term. I know from my own parents that hurt people hurt people. He may reach a point where he feels unable to stay in the relationship. I may reach that point. We will no doubt both be thoughtless and insensitive at times. I will fail to do/say the right thing at times, though hopefully with decreasing frequency as I get a better handle on this and where he's at with it. None of those potential consequences is enough to deter me from trying. The fact that he wants to try is huge for me, as it is for him. Even f it doesn't work out in the long run, I can at least be hopeful that the relationship ends, he'll at least be in a better place than he was when he started. He'll have learned a lot about himself and hopefully grown/healed a little. He'll hopefully be less likely to tolerate a toxic union in the future. I'm mature enough not to believe in 'happy ever after' and I know that even the healthiest long term relationships take a lot of work. Sometimes things don't pan out as you'd hoped and that's ok.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bramblethorn View Post
Like fire_breeze said, a lot of it is out of your hands. There are a couple of small things you can do that might help, though.

One is to discuss with him how to handle conflicts when they come up. When you have a partner who's a bit fragile, there's a strong temptation to try to minimise disagreements, especially over little things, because you don't want to hurt their feelings. This isn't necessarily a good thing; if you're telling your partner "it's okay" and your body language is telling a different story, you're likely to provoke exactly the sort of insecurity that you're trying to avoid.

IMHO it's better to establish that if you're unhappy with them you will talk about it, as soon as feasible, without letting it build up and without expecting them to read your mind - and that it won't be the end of the world. Don't tell him "I'll never be angry with you," tell him "if I'm angry with you, I'll discuss it and we'll deal with it in a civilized way".
I have already started doing this actually. It didn't take me long to realise that when something's bothering me and I try to brush it aside, because for me it really is no big deal, he will quietly but persistently loop back to it until I level with him. His fears tend to be a lot worse than whatever it was that was bugging me, so I can see that he's reassured when it turns out to be something trivial or unrelated to him entirely. He's a quiet person generally and I have been aware that I've been dialling down the louder and more boisterous excesses of my own personality, because he's very sensitive to them. That's not to say I'm repressing myself exactly, just that I'm aware now that he's not always certain of when he's being laughed with or laughed at etc. When I exclaim loudly about things or turn the air blue and sling stationary around because my printer won't cooperate with me, I can see him getting tense about it. To be honest, I never hit the roof about the big stuff. It's always life's petty little frustrations and inconveniences that get me momentarily batshit homicidal and it's not a big deal for me to adjust how I handle the small stuff. Another friend of mine has a young son who's on the autistic spectrum and when I'm at her place I'm deliberately calm, quiet and low pitched, because he finds anything else distressing and I guess I'm doing the same kind of thing with my boyfriend now.

Quote:
Re. work insecurity: I'm similar to what you describe, objectively I know I'm good at my job but I'm quite insecure and even something trivial can really throw me. I keep an email folder titled "warm fuzzies"; every time a workmate says something nice to me about my work, I save it there, so that when I'm feeling the impostor syndrome I can go look at that mailbox and remind myself that I'm not so bad after all.

(Assuming his workmates do give positive feedback, that is.)
He does get positive feedback from colleagues and he socialises with some of them outside work etc, so he has friends there. He does find the open-plan office dynamic aggravating though. He doesn't participate in much of the trivial side of the office dynamic, so he's very much on the periphery for people he doesn't work with directly. He prefers just to get his shit done and then bolt for the door rather than waste time with celebrations, tea runs or office politics. Lunchtimes he often goes for a walk instead of socialising but he's equally likely to eat with co-workers, depending on his mood.

The 'warm fuzzies' folder is a good idea though, I'll suggest it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BertrandRussell View Post
What, if anything, does he say about his parents? ( Particularly his mother )
His parents (who he lives with as their health is poor) have a rock solid marriage of over forty years and they're an excellent day-to-day example of how healthy compromise should work. That was one of the other things that disturbed me, because I could see that he had emotional issues and while mine very much stem largely from an unhappy background, he was a loved and cherished child. His house is full of happy memories. I couldn't understand until this revelation how a man with such poor self esteem and fragile emotional health could have been raised in such a loving and stable household. I've come to know his parents quite well and I knew in my bones that it had to be something else. For them it's doubly distressing, because they can see he's been deeply unhappy but they don't know why.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crube View Post
I can approach this from two seperate angles. First as a victim (albeit of bullying, not domestic violence, although your account of how it affected him was highly evocative of my own experiences), and as someone in your position, as my girlfriend of seven years also had several similarities to those your boyfriend is demonstrating, and was a result of sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's then-boyfriend in her early teens.

First, this isn't a quick thing to fix, and while the wounds may close up, it is possible the scars wil always be there. It is ingrained into his personality now, and the important thing is to make sure these aspect are no longer the dominant part of the personality.

As others have said, if you are going to stand by him through this you are going to need a lot of patience, and be a true friend to him. By that I mean always be ready to listen and support - sometimes the urge to open up will happen at any time.

Speaking personally I constantly ask my girlfriend if she is ok, and apologise to the point where it is the thing that most irritates her about me. And for me it comes from a couple of things, disbelief that I'm with such a lovely girl and a belief I'm just not good enough, and try as I might, i will always fail to be the best I can be. it is also perhaps the hardest thing to change about me. I can't help myself, it blurts out at its own accord.

As for my girlfriend, she too was drunk when she made her revelation some 2 years ago, and I know I was overcome with disbelief and a very uncomfortable feeling. And it was something that has deeply affected her, to the point that seven years after getting together, we still haven't had full sex.

As for steps forward, perhaps suggest some form of counselling if that is an option, otherwise you are doing things pretty much right. Always be an attentive ear, perhaps encourage him to talk more about if, but not so much that he feels overly pressured to and retreats intot he shell a bit. Its a tough tightrope to walk, between those. But the important thing is to be sure you are there for him. It isn't that he is recovering from a bad relationship, it is that it has damaged his esteem and his psyche. Its a deeper thing than jut the results of the relationship. Perhaps the relationship in question emphasised some self esteem issues he had before hand.

Have belief in yourself and your ability to support him, and belief in his ability to open up and be able to recover from this. The scars will always be there, but with love and support he can heal, and move forward.

Hopefully I didn't ramble too much here. This is a a tough thing to go through, for both you and your boyfriend. The important thing is to just hang in there. If you wish to talk further, or anything, then please PM. Good luck to you and your man with this.
I'm sorry to hear what happened to you and to your girlfriend. It's great that you've found one another and built a dynamic that works for you.

Yeah, it's tough when I can see him trying to alter his behaviour and failing, because he gets doubly frustrated and angry with himself, which then bites his self esteem in the arse. It's an incredibly vicious cycle. That's the bit I find the toughest at the moment. The other thing is that I can't help picturing him with the kind of bruises that would 'take months to heal' and the thought of some woman inflicting that on him, along with the psychological abuse that must have gone with it, just makes me feel physically sick. I know that will get easier with time and that I'm still reeling from the shock but it does keep playing on my mind. It's hard to be dispassionate or objective about that.

I'm kind of leaving the subject alone for now. He didn't exactly plan on telling me about his past and I can see him watching me even more warily for any sign that my feelings for him have changed or that I see him as 'less of a man' or whatever. He's going to need confidence in me before he shares any more about this and that's going to take time.

I don't think it likely that he'll consider counselling but I do think he's had counselling through work in the past, so it's possible he feels that he's been counselled enough. I don't want to start suggesting therapy just yet, because I'm worried he'll get the idea into his head that he needs to get his head shrunk to make me happy, or that I'm less likely to stay with him if he doesn't revisit all this with a therapist. I think we need to be more established as a couple and I need to understand all of this a little better before I'm in a position to discuss this with him.



Thanks all.
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