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Thread: Supporting others in abusive situations

  1. #81
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    Hear you and can relate to the questions you ask...your uncertainty.

    Is not easy to stand outside a situation and judge it - especially doing this from your own value set - for me the one you describe would make me feel really miserable - however have a friend whose husband treats her like the 'hired help', makes jokes at her expense and seems to put his own wishes well above hers. We are good enough friends for me to ask her how she feels about this. Surprises me she is fine with it - takes it in her stride, tells me that underneath all this surface stuff he utterly loves her and she loves him back. Bottom line at this point in time she has no desire to leave him - sometimes he gets on her nerves, but in the main tells me she is happy enough with her lot. Wouldn't suit me, but s'pose its a case of different strokes for different folks. I think manya's suggestion of offering to be there for her, but accepting that she is ultimately the one to make her own decisions makes sense.
    Rest in my arms precious child; cradled and warm. You are safe. The war is over.

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  3. #82
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    Thank you

    Thank you ladies for your advice. Knowing this person's personality (drama queen with victim playing tendencies) I know there is more to the story. I only hear her side, and only get snippets of it because mainly she acts like life is perfect. The husband is clearly unhappy, he does not hide his feelings, and it feel like he resents her and does not like her at all. I know there is no relationship in the bedroom because he's complianed about it to another person (she is cold, never wants sex etc.).

    She really has a way out of this marriage, she can ask for help and/or get a job. I strongly believe she does not want to because like I said before, she wants to be a stay at home mom. She did mentione once she'd leave IF she had a lot of money - because then she could continue her stay at home status. But another part of me thinks perhaps I'm woring and that she really wants to leave but she is so mentally drained that she 'thinks' there's no way out. Don't know. If this woman was authentic, it'd be a difeferent story. My biggest issue with this situation is that I feel like I don't know her - her sibling even says she hardly ever open ups. She plays a role (stepford wife comes to mind) and only opens up to vent and cry, sometimes I think solely to get sympathy and provide excuses why she doesn't change her situtaion. Again, not in her shoes, so hard to tell. Sounds like a good psychologist migh be in order.

    There is no chance of a logical discussion with her. Any time someone mentiones she should change, she cries, plays the victim and finds a reason (even if it happened 20 years ago) why things are the way they are. I'm confused whether I am judgin this correctly. Perhaps she (not him) is the main reason for their problems?

  4. #83
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    I'm confused whether I am judgin this correctly.
    im confused why youre wanting to judge it at all... your family member has three kids, so im assuming shes over 18 and not legally insane (otherwise she wouldnt have custody of minors). her romantic life is entirely up to her, it makes no practical difference what you think of it, just like it makes no difference what i think of yours. you started the thread saying you wanted to help her, yet you're calling her names (e.g. drama queen with victim playing tendencies) and refusing to talk to her (cuz theres "no chance of a logical discussion"). what kind of help do you have in mind? what would be an ideal scenario, what would you like to accomplish?
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  6. #84
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    Hi Manya, I would love to help her IF the situation is really worth stepping in and helping. She vents to me and a family member - and not sure whether there's real abuse. IMO, there is mental abuse - but her behavior is very peplexing. So if she reaches out and vents and tells me it's toxic and unbearable but then acts like life is perfect, I feel I have some right to judge and question the situation. She reaches out to me. Re name calling, you'd really have to speak with her to understand. We share the same circle of family members and this is everyone's opinion of her. We all have our issues, and these are hers.

    Ideally, I'd like her to open up and explain the situation (get clarify for her own sake) and if she's really unhappy, stop pretending and let us help her. and if she's not willing, she probably should stop venting and crying because it's affecting our lives as well, it's very draining. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I feel I am concerned about her situation more than I think about my own family.

    Do you suggest I disengage and let her handle it? I could, but aren't we supposed to help those in abusive relationships?

  7. #85
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    oh i see what youre saying. makes perfect sense. if im reading it right, youre trying to figure out if shes an abuse victim or a drama queen, in order to decide if you should be helping her or disengaging from her vents. but it makes no practical difference: you cant help her against her will in either case.

    when i was abused, i was also tripping on this for a while. i felt i couldnt stay, but couldnt leave either, saw insurmountable obstacles to both of these solutions. whenever anyone suggested something, i responded "yes, but...", had reasons why their suggestion wouldnt work for me. it sounds dramatic, but i was seriously considering homicide. for real, actual planning: to kill my abuser, or myself, or both. cuz i honestly felt there was just no other way out, i couldnt stay and i couldnt leave. i was looking for some third option, besides leaving or staying. for someone to save me somehow, to rescue me from the nightmare i was living in and saw no way out of. praying that some good fairy would come and snatch me outta there and take me some place safe.

    but its just not how reality works. your family member wants you to help her, you want to help her - but theres nothing you can actually do here: the decision is hers, not yours. you cant step in and help her against her will, it's just not possible, you have no grounds to intervene and override her decisions: shes not a child, not insane, not committing any crime, and her life is not in danger. her life choices are up to her. she can leave or she can stay, there really is no third option, she needs to choose one out of the two that are available. i wish reality wasnt so harsh, but it is what it is.

    i fully support the idea of helping abuse victims in any way imaginable - abuse sucks, is potentially dangerous, harms kids that are exposed to it, etc. its nearly impossible to escape from without external help. victims desperately need all the help they can get. but you cant lose touch with reality. the decision is up to her, and venting about the problem instead of fixing it - gets old after a while. of course its draining and frustrating and absolutely unproductive.

    works for me to let people make their choices. not to disengage, no, but to just not accept responsibility for things that are out of my hands. i.e. if she starts venting about her relationship yet again - to just ask her if she needs a loan to get a divorce lawyer, or a truck to move out, or whatever else she needs. not in a rude way, but just shifting the conversation into a more solution-oriented mode. if she wants to solve the problem - she can have your help. if she doesnt - she can stay where she is for a while longer. on one hand that relieves the stress im under, the urge to "fix" things for her somehow, while i have no way to do that. on the other hand it tends to cut down on the drama (if it really is drama). and as a bonus - i truly believe it helps the person, cuz it keeps them grounded in reality, instead of enabling their desire to engage in daydreaming/wishful thinking, those good fairies that should save them somehow. cuz there are no fairies.

    i think that letting people keep responsibility for their choices is the ultimate form of respect, something that victims/survivors of abuse really need. cuz all this saving-them-against-their-will business is meant as support, but it undermines our self-worth, our self-respect, our boundaries. being a victim of abuse is not a disability or an impairment, so i think its good to treat people like adults. they tend to respond more like adults too then
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  9. #86
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    Manya, I am so sorry what you went through! No one deserves abuse in their life. You say that it's almost impossible to leave w/out someone's help - so we are offering her help and she's not taking it. Can I ask at what point you decided to finally make a move?

  10. #87
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    right, i totally hear you. i think its great that youre willing to support her, keeping that help offer on the table - but there isnt anything else anyone can do here imho. the ball is in her court.

    when i decided to get out of the abusive environment...
    i think the first step was realizing (and/or admitting to myself) that the situation wasnt acceptable to me. not that it was "abusive" by any objective standards, not that it was matching checklists, not that other people told me it was bad. but that i, myself, personally me, could not accept/tolerate it anymore. thats when i started thinking homicide/suicide. just reached my breaking point, decided that i cannot live with this much longer, need something done about it, need it resolved one way or another.

    and then the second step was sort of a lightbulb moment. i was reading some fiction book, doesnt matter, but i realized that if im already at the point of thinking suicide/homicide - i really got nothing to lose. and can do whatever the heck i want. i mean, nothing can be worse than killing myself or others. so this realization allowed me to choose options which i previously thought were out of the question. like leaving. i thought i couldnt do it, had lotsa reasons why not - but if im ready to kill someone, i might as well leave.

    which is what i did in the end. it took time/effort/external help, wasnt this immediate liberation. but the above realization broke that bubble, that circular thinking trap. cuz abuse feels like some sorta alternate reality, like a dream, a nightmare where normal logic doesnt apply. its why its so hard to get help, cuz communication is nearly impossible - i cant explain why i cant leave, or why this person is hurting me, its some other reality we're in, we speak some other language. you know? like in a dream - i posted about it on forums, apologies to members who read it before - in a dream where you're being chased by some monster, youre trying to run from it but your feet are stuck to the floor - you cant explain why didnt you just take a cab, instead of running. or why didnt you call 911 to chase that monster away. or whatever other solutions would apply in real life. cuz its a nightmare, it got different logic. abuse is like that. you cant take a cab to escape from that monster thats chasing you, just not in the array of options.

    and so the realization that if im ready to kill someone i can do anything i want - that realization broke the nightmare, broke that warped logic and disconnection from reality. and i was able to approach the problem rationally, the way you approach any other problem, idk, unemployment or something. there are solutions to problems, including abuse. plenty of support available, its totally doable. just need to reach the point where you're ready to do it.

    for your friend and for you, for willing to support her
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  12. #88
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    Hear you about being interested in what triggered manya (and I am assuming others) to get to the point of leaving. My experience is that this varies from person to person...based on a lot of factors. For some it seems to be a sudden acknowledgement of the reality they are in (seeing things clearly -rising above the fantasy and wishful thinking) and importantly seeing that how it is is very likely how it is gonna stay - that the only control they truly have is over their own response - to stay and in effect accept things as they are or to leave. For some leaving happens quickly for others especially those who do not have many resources and kids leaving tends to be a longer journey...takes lots of planning. For me I eventually left...felt I urgently needed to do this when I realized that the situation I (as an adult) was choosing to live in was not one I should be subjecting my minor son too - that he deserved better than living with and witnessing abuse.

    For you and your friend
    Rest in my arms precious child; cradled and warm. You are safe. The war is over.

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  14. #89
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    This is a really fruitful discussion for me. Last year, I learned the hard way that you need to have boundaries when dealing with abuse, even indirectly. I made the mistake of trying to help an acquaintance of mine who was being abused by her husband by offering to let her stay with me when she felt unsafe. However, it didn't help her resolve the ambivalence about staying or leaving him, and actually ended up being potentially dangerous to me because she allowed him to enter our home when I'd explicitly asked her not to do so. I also discovered that the conflict between them was fueled by mutual abuse. Ultimately my honest but naieve desire to "help" placed me in a very vulnerable position that was further compromised by lies, emotional abuse and manipulation. When my acquaintance finally decided to return to her husband, I ended up sharing info about local DMV centers and services and detached with love. Talk about learning the hard way! The advice to offer assistance but to keep your distance and your wits about you is really valuable. I did neither and it could have gone way wrong because of my ignorance.

    I definitely agree with what you all say - that it needs to be the woman's own decision, and that you can't change the problem with a magic wand. However, I must say that we're really lucky that DV services now exists. It's not perfect, but when I think about my own mother, she really had very few alternatives to being trapped in an unhappy marriage. It's possible to leave, but the harsh reality is that no one would help her, that her generation considered divorce a personal failure for a woman, and having to support 3 kids alone would probably have meant a return to the poverty she'd grown up with. Even though my mother was a very confident, capable, and hard-working working class woman and virtually a single parent to boot despite my father's vacuous presence, she didn't feel she could manage to carry the full responsibility alone. I can't imagine being in her situation, but I'm sure she felt trapped with no way out. Sometimes I think the emotional entrapment or entanglement makes DV harder to recognize because its so insidious and leaves no obvious bruises or injuries. Glad we have more alternatives now!

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  16. #90
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    There were several people who tried to help me when I was dealing with abuse and I also tried to help other people who were dealing with abuse.
    When people adviced me to leave, it wasn't like I immediately decided to leave and everything was solved. That would only make sense if I couldn't think for myself and needed someone else to tell me what to do. I didn't knew the behavior I was dealing with was abusive, I just knew it had a very negative effect on me and I tried to think of things that would improve the situation. What I didn't knew back then is that there was nothing I could do to make it better, just less bad.

    There were also people who focused on what I did possible wrong. It took me a long time to realise how wrong this actually was. Not just because I learned that abuse is never an appropriate response and with the understandings I had at the moment I actually handled things quite well, but also because people who deal with abuse are already in some kind of thought battle where they don't know what to think about the behavior they're dealing with. Everything that pointed in the direction that I was at fault somehow for the abuse made it so much worse and slowed down any progress.

    What did had a good effect is opinions from people about the behavior I was dealing with, without judging me or the person who acted abusive. Not because I didn't have opinions myself, but because it made me look at things in a different way.

    People who act abusive rarely blame themselves for anything, which can have a result that the people who deal with abuse start thinking they are fully or partly at fault. Several people who acted abusive towards me tried to convince me it was a conflict and that I also had a part in it. While I didn't see it as abusive at the moment, I also didn't see it as a conflict, but rather people acting in a wrong way. When they kept on insisting I was fully or partly at fault for it, it became my conclusion versus theirs and this created alot of "maybe..." thoughts. I tried to make sense of why they were so convinced they were acting right and ended up partly taking over their perspective, which was one of the main reasons why I kept tolerating so much abuse. It took me years to realise how abusive the behavior actually was.

    When I tried to help other people who dealt with abusive behavior, I thought I could just tell them because I thought the reason it took so long for me was because it wasn't clear to me before. What I started to understand later is that it will always take a long time to relearn all the things that were learned during the abuse. What you can do is be supportive as a person who is willing to think with the other person if the person asks for it and other than that you can just be a friend for the person. This way it can also help the person to notice the difference in how the person is being treated by other people.

    It can be very hard to understand for people who never dealt with abuse, but it's important to not invalidate it, calling someone a dramaqueen or saying that this person always plays the victim is not a good thing to do, especially not if the person is dealing with abusive behavior. Even if you think the person acts a bit like that, the effect it can have is that the person might excuse any type of abuse away by thinking they are the problem which will only leave the person open for further abuse. While no one gets harmed by accepting an other person's perspective, it can do alot of damage to act as if they have no right to have their own and it might take years to recover from it.

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