Sunday, June 20, 2010

When Love Goes Dangerously Wrong...

I had dinner with a girlfriend on Tuesday night at Beckett's on Stone Street. She sent me an email earlier that day, which read that she was beginning to feel "obsessed" with her long time boyfriend. Anytime I hear words like "obsessed", they strike concerned in me. I knew I had to meet with her that night because I wanted to help her work through exactly how this four-year relationship went wrong. Just to offer a little background, let me start off by saying that my friend's man is 10 years her senior. She is a successful law student, working for reputable firm in NYC, and she is preparing to take both her bar exam and her CPA certification exam. Her man is an MPA graduate living at home with his dad. My initial observance of her revealed a young lady confused, frustrated, and visibly hurt. She comes from a large family who loves and supports her daily yet that just isn't enough. She is looking for this same support and love from a man who has almost altogether stopped giving it to her. As we sat and waited for our food I asked her to take me way back to the start of the relationship. I think it's easy for us "advice givers" to just see a bad situation and to advise the hurt person to get out. The logic in that for us is that if something hurts just leave it alone and happiness will be restored. Problem with this way of thinking is that it leaves out empathy and respect for the person involved. I approached this situation very differently. I decided to give advice as if I knew without a doubt the couple were going to stay together. Not that this was outcome I was hoping for but to have respect for not only my friend but for a relationship that she has felt has been worth the last four-years of her life. The 1st question I asked her was what bought the union together in the 1st place and she explained that his good looks and caring ways was the start. They met as students in college way back when and he had her hooked since then. Her face lit up like a Christmas Tree in Rockerfeller Ctr. with this being said. Culturally they are from two totally different sides of the fence. I then asked what was the 1st sign that the relationship was in trouble? She said, "Lies". She said as early as 5-months into their dating she found out through her own investigations that her man had a 7 year-old daughter and then later found out that he had 14 year-old son with a different mother. In my mind, I'm thinking, "Why would he leave this out?", but again my empathy had taken over and I was just there to listen.

We went on to talk about the lies, and the betrayal in him telling them. My friend who has no children revealed that she tried genuinely to embrace and to accept the children she never knew about and the mothers that came attached with them. She befriended both of the childrens' mothers and came to the conclusion that her man really had no relationship with his children. As much as she tried to encourage a healthy relationship between them she admitted the jealousy and insecurity she began to feel each and everytime he had to leave her to go and be with them. I admittedly understood her feelings and honestly to her credit because she didn't know about the children to begin with her feelings made perfect sense. Her immediate family lives outside of New York City and she spent sometime reflecting on how she limited her time spent with them to keep a closer eye on him. She regretted not spending time with her 92 year-old grandmother who died in the midst of her relationship. She held back tears by this point and I brought her back to the present. I asked her what she was doing to mend or disconnect from this relationship and her answers pleasantly surprised me. She let me know that she called her cell phone provider and asked for her number to appear to be disconnected. Anyone who called from any particular number would receive a standard message stating that the subscriber is not taking calls. I said, "Ok what else?". She said she looked at an apartment within her same neighborhood (that he was unaware of ) and she decided to take it. I said, "I'm impressed". She explained, that with all of her actions in place she still felt undeniably vulnerable to her man. She said she never expected the relationship to end but even more so she never expected it to end like this. I told her that I was far from convinced that she was done with him but first I commended her for making huge steps forward towards her own self-respect.

Being a victim of Domestic Violence once myself I couldn't help sensing that some of that was going on here. I asked her if she had ever been "hit" by her boyfriend and she was adament about the fact that he had never "hit" her and right then our conversation took a drastic turn. She said, "Wait a minute", "Is pushing and grabbing to the point of bruising considered Domestic Violence?". I said, "yes". She said, "He always told me it wasn't". She said, "I asked him" and I said, "His job as your abuser was not to tell you sweetheart". She said, "Wow". For just a split second I checked out mentally and slipped into a thought of how much control my own abuser had over me. I remember thinking how bad I'd wished just one person had taken the time to sit down and have this same conversation with me. This was a short moment between me and God because at that moment I realized how important this message to my friend need to be delivered. I realized that my approach would mean all the difference in her returning to this man or not. I checked back in and she managed to reveal years of infidelity, an engagement to another woman, verbal abuse, and worse of all, subtle displays of physical abuse. A long track-record of a less than good man was open and on the table and we were reviewing it with careful detail. A light bulb came on as she begin to listen to herself tell her own intimate and personal story.

She said, "I don't feel like kissing him anymore". I said, "Why do you think that is?" She said, "I don't know. I said, "You're beginning to love yourself more than you love him". I asked her if she had any relationship with her man's family and vice versa and she said, "no". There was a religion difference within the relationship with her being a Muslim and him being a Catholic. I asked her what she would have wanted for her future children if in fact the relationship went forward and she explained that it would be most important to her that the children would be practicing Muslims. I asked had she discussed this with him and if so what was his response? She said, "He told me that he would take my kids to the Catholic Church for Christmas". I asked her how she felt about that and she said, "I don't want that". I had a Rev Run moment and thought, "Listen to people when they tell you who they are". I asked her if she thought he was joking with her when he said this and I went on to say these are not the signs that you can continue to ignore. I told her she would be setting herself up for total future disaster. Not only because this guy does the bare minimum for his own children but because he would have her future kids sitting at Mass on Christmas as promised guaranteed! I said, "Are you listening when he says things like this to you?" I asked her if she had a facebook page and she said, "No, he wouldn't approve of that". I told her there are plenty of great Muslim guys out there that are looking for the same things she is looking for as far as keeping their religion sacred. As a writer I keep a pen in pad in my purse always. I bust it out on that table and I made two columns right there in front of her. One said, "Pros" and one said "Cons". Cons must be derived from the word Convict because our Con side looked like a criminal's rap sheet. I told her let's write up the list and weigh the results.

The guy was currently unemployed, (which sadly can happen to anyone), verbally and somewhat physically abusive, unable to contribute to her household responsibilities yet sharing her bed every night that he wasn't interested in going home, 10-years older than my beautiful youthful friend and contributing to years of stress, anxiety, and insecurity. I felt like the proof was in the paperwork but I knew after 4-years of committed investment my friend was not ready to simply walk away. She began talking about the importance of no premarital sex within her family and her religion. She said her partner had threatened her on countless occasions that if she walks out on their relationship he will tell her family about the sex. Exploitation and blackmail were added to the cons side of our list. I'm thinking one ass whipping from my mans and them in the hood and this dude will stop talking so reckless. What could I do or say to make this girl understand her worth and then it dawned on me, "nothing". She would have to come to this realization on her own regarding her own self-worth. I would serve best just being her friend, praying for her safety, and letting her know that she is not in the world alone. I left our dinner letting her know that the reason she looks for Love and Respect from her man is because that is what all of her childhood relationships with family and friends have offered her. I asked her what she missed most about the woman she was four-years ago (who she used to be) before she became this relationship? She said, "B, I miss how much fun I was!", I said, "I will help you get back to being that fun-loving person"! This article is for you! You know who you are!

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