May 5, 2000
Dear Dr. Irene,
You've been asking for success stories, so I thought I'd share mine, which of course is currently in-progress. I'm a 20 year-old woman and I've been dating my 28 year-old boyfriend for just over a year. Our relationship started off intense, and just got progressively more intense as it went on - I knew that something was very wrong in our relationship, but I didn't know what it was. About 4 months ago, I found your website, which finally gave a name to what was happening in our relationship. My boyfriend is an admitted verbal abuser in recovery.
Once I realized that I was a victim of verbal abuse, I started reading all I could on the subject. I set boundaries. I didn't always follow through on them (working on that!) but I did enough to let him know that I meant business. Either he would have to learn how to stop his abusive ways, or I'd be gone - and boy, did it get close sometimes! Those first 3 months were very difficult. Not only did I have to face the severity of his actions, and the fact that it shattered my image of our relationship, but I had to deal with why I was putting up with his stuff in the first place - which lead me back to my childhood, parents, yadda yadda. This issue is so big! :)
A lot of people didn't understand why I didn't just leave my boyfriend - after all it's not like we're married. Not only that, but we were in a long-distance relationship! Everyone kept saying "Why don't you just leave?" The fact is that I was as co-dependent and emotionally dependent on this man as if we'd been married for 10 years. I've been working with that though and I'm now seriously prepared to leave if he can't reform. But I love him, and if he could get better, I didn't want to throw away the special connection that we have. So far, he's made amazing progress. I look back to the way our relationship was before and it's like a bad dream, I can't even believe he's the same man. I feel lucky that he recognized his behavior as abusive (which I don't think he would've done if it wasn't for your site - reading about the abuser's behavior was like looking in a mirror for him) and that he wanted to change.
At first he wanted to change just to keep me from leaving, but now he says that even if we broke up, he'd keep trying to change because he wants to learn to like himself. He has been reading books, some that are books for him to confront his abusive behavior (such as Patrica Evan's books) and some which address the abuse he received from his parents as a child. He joined a men's anger management group (and he was the only one there who wasn't on a court-order!) :) :) and started seeing a therapist. I have also been seeing a therapist (when I can!) and reading, as well as participating on the yak board and an email support group, Yes, I recognize your email name... which has been extremely helpful!
Now I tell him that I'm not going to let his grouchy behavior affect me, and I don't! I do my best, anyway. He ends up realizing that he's not going to get what he wants by acting that way, and apologizes. And a month ago, he got hired in a city one hour away from me - and he moved out here. This might seem hasty, but he's gotten out of the abusive environment at his home, and is doing great- even through all the stress of moving! :) I'm very proud of him, and I think we have a real chance to break the patterns that we were raised with and have a healthy relationship. It's a tough process though, and it's really tiring. Things aren't perfect, he still can be very self-centered, and I have to fight from acting co-dependent with him, but he's learning what's expected of him in a relationship based on mutuality and respect.
Wow! This is great stuff to hear!
I ask for "success stories" primarily to help support the angry person. That is the individual who without a doubt has the hardest time in recovery. So many controllers write in asking for these stories to help motivate them in their recovery. Too often, they feel lost; there are far fewer resources for them.
So Dear S-Girl, I thank you very much for taking the time to write about your relationship, the difficulties, and...the good direction you two are in!
I know readers, and angry controllers in particular, are going to want to ask you and your boyfriend questions about his recovery, about your relationship's recovery, or about how you handled things. So, I am going to make this an interactive board. I hope you and your boyfriend will take a look from time to time and reply.
Thank you for writing, and my very best wishes for your continued joint success! Dr. Irene
I want to read the posts.