Q. As a heads-up, this is long and I’m sorry, but I know I need some help…)I’ve just recently moved in with my boyfriend of one year. We had been friends for a few years before we started thinking romantically. He’s 28, and I am 20. He’s got a daughter who just turned 3, but the mother has full custody in Minnesota. I met him online and we held a long distance relationship for awhile before deciding we just couldn’t live without each other and so he moved down to Arizona to be with me. He wants to marry me and I don’t have a doubt that I want to marry him.
Here’s where the problem starts. During my childhood my father would physically abuse my older sister and I. I eventually told someone after much coaxing and the physical beatings stopped, for the most part. But then emotional abuse began. He always told me I was ‘stupid,’ ‘worthless,”ugly,’ a ‘dumb b*,’ amongst other truly hurtful things. I grew to hate myself, be terrified of my father, and was held to extremely high expectations by family members. I felt as though nothing I ever did was good enough. By high school I had figured that I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, or worth living and I started cutting myself whenever my father would degrade me; even attempted suicide once. I would cry myself to sleep more often than not and stay at school as long as possible just to avoid coming home. Just to add insult to injury, I was molested at the age of 14 by a man that I thought I knew.
Past relationships had never been good for me, I’ve even been cheated on more times than I can remember. Needless to say, I’m a very insecure person. I never sought help for myself because every time one of my parents saw me upset they would tell me I just wanted attention. I stopped cutting myself just before my senior year and learned to bottle up most of my emotions. Upon moving out for college, I haven’t spoken to my father since. I basically want nothing to do with him.
When I met my boyfriend, I just knew that something was different about him. Just one of those gut feelings. I told him everything, and he still continues to love me just as I am. However, when we had our first fight(s), I simply used tactics from when I lived with my parents. I stood there in silence, with tears running down my face while my boyfriend would be upset and almost begging me to talk. All I could do was shake my head and say ‘I don’t know,’ or shrug my shoulders when he asked me something.
Eventually I started talking, saying what was on my mind at the time. He would then, however, go off on his angry streak, and instead of me taking it silently I would start bawling and basically freak out. I’d say hurtful things, blame myself for everything, say how bad of a person I was, that I don’t deserve to live, and that I even hated him. I was petrified of him when I shouldn’t have been. I dropped to the floor in tears, crying uncontrollably and repeating what I had said. The only thoughts in my mind were things like, “This man really is only using you, he doesn’t love you, no one does, so tell him that!” Just the same verbal abuse I have been dealing with my entire life. I feel I have no control over anything I say or do when I get like that. And/Or I’d start yelling things that make no sense to what we SHOULD be arguing about. I’d back away from him in fear thinking for some reason he was going to come and hit me (which he never has or has never given me any reason to think that way). During one of these episodes I even ran to the kitchen, took a pair of scissors and cut my forearm, just as I did when I was younger. Then, eventually, I might snap out of it and come to a realization and think, “what are you doing?” or I cry myself to sleep and wake up not remembering even half of what happened.
Any time I get like this, it is the scariest feeling; something a human being should never have to feel. I explained to him that if he comes to me and holds me close to him tightly, and tells me things to set my mind straight no matter how much I resist him, it might help bring me back to him, or even prevent it from staging too far. It seems to help, a lot. As soon as I’m consciously trying to calm myself down I start biting my nails and I’m still breathing heavily in a kind of hiccup-ish way from hyperventilating.
When he saw the marks on my arm and touched them, I winced in pain and he made me promise not to do that to myself again. I told him I wouldn’t, but with another fight, that promise was broken. I figured that since he broke one to me that it would be ok to break one to him (in my messed up mind, that is). I know that all of the stress I am under currently is not helping me at all.
There’s times when I’ve even come to thinking that I can’t stand the fact that he has a daughter and I wish that he wouldn’t see her again. I hate when he talks to his ex on the phone (we’ve had a couple arguments in regards to his talking to her). Whenever he talks to me about his daughter I feel resentment and I get quiet and have nothing to say back to him. But I feel like the worst person in the world whenever I think those things.
He tells me that I’m not secure in the relationship, but I am more secure with him than I have ever been with anyone, and that includes family. I consider myself to be more of a burden than a loving perfect girlfriend to a wonderful man with a beautiful little girl. Given, there are a couple of things aside from me that our relationship could work on before getting that engagement ring and sealing the deal. Right now, I just feel like I have no where else to go and would appreciate any advice/help you can give me.
A. I am not sure if you are suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression. It is difficult for me to know a diagnosis after only reading a letter (even a detailed one) and not meeting you in person. What seems to be going on is that you had learned maladaptive ways of behaving and coping with stress and other life situations while in your nuclear family and these ways of behaving are being played out in your current relationship.
You had a hectic, stressful and very difficult family life. Your father abused you physically and you were also sexually abused. It is unlikely that you had any true emotional support or learned appropriate ways to deal with stress and life in general. Because you were abused, exposed to extremely poor parenting and lacked healthy emotional supports and guidance, you learned to adapt on your own which led to the cutting, the extremely low self esteem and other related maladaptive and inappropriate behaviors.
As far as your relationship goes, before you consider getting engaged and married, you should consider working on yourself in therapy. Many of your unresolved issues are causing or contributing to the disagreements between and you and your boyfriend. If you want the relationship to last, you first need to begin to heal yourself from all that you were exposed to. It will be difficult for you to have a healthy relationship if you do not address these past issues that effectively led to your current issues. You probably never learned what a healthy relationship should look like, or how to act in a healthy relationship and so forth, and because of this, you should consider therapy to help learn a new way of behavior.
You did not ask any specific questions so I hope that my general answer is helpful. In this situation, it’s best to for you to try therapy and to work through all of the issues that you have kept bottled up for so long. A therapist can help you learn a healthier style of behavior as well as help you build up self confidence and self esteem. Take care.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Nov 2007
Randle, K. (2007). Schizophrenic, bi-polar, or just depressed?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/11/12/schizophrenic-bi-polar-or-just-depressed/