August 2, 2000
Dear Dr. Irene,
I was reading the letter submitted Jeanine in her letter called My Story: A Woman's Realization: I Abused The Man I Love. I am in a similar position and wanted to respond to her. Please forward to her. Thank you. D
I couldn't figure out which email address belonged to the author of the email you responded to. So, I did the next best thing: I posted it; hopefully she is checking in and she'll respond to the board, if she wants to. Best wishes, Dr. Irene
I read your letter posted by Dr.Irene and was completely struck by the similarities of your and my position. I was in a relationship that ended several months ago. Reading your letter was like a laundry list of what my ex girlfriend did to me over the course of a year. And similarly I played a co-dependent role in it. She consistently tested my trust. In the end she said she didn't trust me at all.
In the end, I had stopped watching any TV shows that had woman in them. Which of course meant I watched the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel. In the end, I made sure not to look around when we were outside. If a woman was in my line of sight, it started a whole argument that I was "looking around." I allowed myself to become more and more compliant even though she still had all the same fears. I'm glad you now see this is not OK!
If she asked me to stop doing something, I did. The problem I had was that, yes I did have codependent tendencies, but I also was in love with her. As I think she was with me. But, you always need to love YOU more...
You see she had a lot of good reasons to be the way she was: child sexual abuse and rape. At the time, I did not take care enough of these things. I even feel now that I could have made it safer somehow for her.
As I work on my stuff in therapy, I see the places I dropped the ball. Yes, I was angry at her for a while. But it passed. I also see the places where I could and can set boundaries, not arbitrary ones, but ones that 2 people can discuss. I think there is a difference between " I would like it if you didn't watch that show, because I feel insecure" and " Don't watch any shows with women in them." Yes. IF the person making the request can accept "no" for an answer.
When I read what you were writing, I wanted to tell you that he probably still loves you very much. If you did reach out to him, he might respond.
But, you know, you too have needs. I think that if my girlfriend said that she didn't want me to slowly browse through a Victoria's Secrets catalog, I would see that differently than walking with my eyes to the ground.
I know I didn't do a good job of meeting my ex girlfriend's needs, and it fueled the fire of her insecurities. Talking is the key. Communication. We fought a lot, but really talking - not a lot. If I knew what she wanted, I would have given it within limits.
It was so easy to just say, "my girlfriend is an insecure freak." And many times I did. If I had spent more time looking at and understanding her - and looking at my own stuff - we would probably be together too. But maybe not, maybe my greatest fear was that I would set a limit and she would say, "See ya." Which is exactly what happened. The acid test: she's not worth your time. After all the many times she verbally assaulted me when she thought I was looking around, I said, "You can't talk to me like that." She said, "I talk to a lot of people like that." I said, "That's too bad for them." and she stormed off. I know it hurts, but, you're better off.
My grandma used to say, "it takes 2 to polka." Don't be too hard on yourself. It sounds like you are well on the right path. Sorry I couldn't forward your reply; hope this forum is OK. Dr. Irene
I just want to read the posts.