Baggage Check Live: How to deal with a "Dan"

Sep 11, 2018

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior was online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

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Hi, everyone. What is on your minds today?

I know it's a dreary day for many-- a terrible anniversary. And the nonstop rain in the mid-Atlantic isn't doing much to improve moods, and of course a lot of us (especially this born-and-raised Virginia Beachian) have our eyes on Hurricane Florence.

In brighter news, I want to thank everyone who wrote and 'liked' comments and posts about the column's disappearing act from the Advice Tab. IT WORKED! We are now back in business, with all thanks due to the readers who embraced the power of the kvetch. I was rather awed, and I can't thank you enough. 

Speaking of the column-- today's is about getting the kick in the pants to leave an unfulfilling job when inertia is keeping you stuck. And, a boyfriend with a teenage history of stealing-- now that that cat's out of the bag, can LW ever look at him the same? What do you think?

So. Give me what you've got! 

(In response to last week's chat).

So, if a person transitions as needed, and feels comfortable in their own skin post-transition, can they be considered as no longer as having Gender Dysphoria? And no longer covered by that DSM label? Thanks

That's the idea, and it was the intent/spirit of changing the conceptualization of the disorder. Of course, the way it plays out in reality is not necessarily uniform in all settings.

I do think there will continue to be some conflation of the past "Gender Identity Disorder" diagnosis with the current "Gender Dysphoria," regardless of the changed criteria. One reason is that in some circumstances, people still want to have a label, a diagnosis-- like to help convince insurance companies to cover medical aspects of the transition if that is desired.  

 

(In response to last week's chat)

For the reader who asked for suggestions of fiction books covering mental health issues in the last chat, Marion Keyes (an Irish author) writes sensitively about issues such as depression and addiction in her books with compassion and humour. ‘The Mystery of Mercy Close’ especially treats the subject of depression thoughtfully, the author has suffered herself and this shows in her writing. ‘Rachel’s holiday’ is about addiction.

It's great to have these additional recs to check out. Thank you!

(In response to last week's chat).

Would love to have some links or resources for this! My late-teens sister has been dealing with severe depression and anxiety for years, and my mom doesn't seem to see the value in therapy. My sister has, in fact, found a therapist and has made tremendous improvements, but I'd love to be able to back up my conversations with our mom about how important it is and how she should very much be supporting sister on it, rather than dismissing therapy as extraneous.

That's so frustrating that your sister's "tremendous improvements" are not enough to help your Mom value it, for her sake alone! Geez. Sample sizes of one still matter when you love that one in the sample!

But I'm happy to employ science as a weapon as well. Can't do a detailed lit search right now, but this meta-analysis is pretty robust. 

 

Just to pile on with commenters from last week, here is how I now find your weekly column on Tuesday mornings: Go to the advice page. Click on the link for the live chat. Click on the link in the live chat intro. Click on the link of the latest column. Hardly efficient... :(

Oh, no! I believe this is supposed to be fixed.

So when you go to the Advice page, and you click on the Baggage Check tab, it should now take you to my Author page, which has both the chats and the columns listed, without having to click on the chat in order to get to the column. Can you report back? 

By clicking Baggage Check, it should take you to both Dr. Andrea's columns and live chats! You can reach Baggage Check through the Advice page, or from the Express homepage. 

My best friend got out of a volatile marriage a few years ago. Our spouses used to be close so I am aware a range of sordid activities friend's spouse hid while they were together. My friend is vaguely aware of this but has expressly asked us not to share what we know. Over time, my friend and their spouse have rebuilt a friendship that is becoming increasingly affectionate. Friend swears the spouse has changed but given what I know coupled with past physical/emotional abuse and manipulative behavior on the spouse's part, I am reluctant to trust that the change is genuine. I fear they may get back together and that I'll end up watching my friend take the same emotional roller-coaster ride as before. I know I can't stop my friend from taking their partner back but what is a good friend supposed to do in a situation like this?

Ugh.

The way I see it, you have an opening here with the fact that she had told you not to share what you know. She put that on you, and it worked well-- as long as they weren't together. But now, she has changed the rules if she is going to get lovey-dovey with him again. It's asking something entirely different for you to not speak up if you have to do it while watching him worm his way back to her. 

Of course, you want to be respectful that it's not your life to live. But how about something like: "Hey, so I'm struggling with this a bit. You always told me not to share what I know about Dan, and I could easily respect that, given that you had left the marriage and charted a new path for yourself. But now that I see the relationship between the two of you, it has me concerned. I am not sure of my role here, because I worry whether this is good for you, and yet I feel unable to talk about it. I want you to be happy more than anything else, but I'm torn on how to support you given my concerns about Dan." 

Chatters? Anyone been there-- on either side?

Or anyone been the Dan?

Honestly, I don't hold out too much hope for small store owner/small store thief. Even if the boyfriend had indeed totally reformed, the LW being so involved in her formative years with a small business will never forget. Even if she never mentions it again, even if he never mentions it again, it will always be the Elephant in the Room!

This sounds like maybe you spent some formative years involved in small business as well?

I can certainly see this perspective, and of course wouldn't blame LW if it's something that they just can't get past. But I would hope that in order to find out what's really there, they DO mention it again-- and then again some more-- complete with LW admitting their difficulty with it, and boyfriend showing whatever soul-searching he's done to understand it over the years, to really get how it fits in to who he is now (and who he isn't.)

On some level, it's a process that we must do with all significant aspects of our pasts if we hope to understand who we are in relationships, I'm thinking! 

'Daring Greatly' is great at discussing vulnerability. Any book by Brene Brown is helpful.

Yes. thanks! At some point it really does come down to a willingness to embrace vulnerability. 

Long story short, nearly 4 years ago I went through a very ugly divorce, After 12 years together, my ex left me for a recent college graduate and blamed me for his cheating and the demise of our marriage. I went to therapy, took over two years off from dating, and really tried to work through the feelings of betrayal. The last thing I wanted was to take out my fears on the next person I dated. Well, here I am...1.5 years into a relationship and I am terrified. I couldn't ask for a better partner. He knows the whole story and is so patient and kind and understanding. He lets me be sad around the difficult times of the year, he communicates well with me, and gives me absolutely no reason to not trust him. Here's the problem. I am terrified to jump in and let myself be fully "in" and to let him fully love me. I don't worry he will cheat or betray me (though I felt the same way about my ex until he did), but I feel myself holding back. I don't plan into the future with him, even though I know he'd make a great life partner. My friends and family love him and think he's a really good, genuine person (which he is). How do I let him love me and how do I let myself fully love him the way he deserves (and loves me)? I want to, but I'm scared. Ugh.

This is hard, no doubt. But if you can work through it, you have the potential to gain so much-- to open yourself up to a love that is richer and deeper and stronger than your fears. To have a connection that is more meaningful and more fulfilling than the cocoon you have built for yourself. So, do you want to continue to give power to these fears, or do you want to take a breath, make the jump, and embrace the rewards?  

The best way to commence a battle with your fears is to stare them in the face and try to learn more about them. You say that you are not worried about cheating-- but is this really true? I don't mean to doubt you, but it would be a very human and understandable reflex to be worried about betrayal given what you've gone through, and I'd be surprised if it's totally absent. After all, the immediate fears that you have about letting yourself fully be loved probably on some level lead to that visualization, right? (If I get too attached, then he'll eventually hurt me by choosing someone else over me.)

You should also try to operationalize your variables here (I know, I know, this isn't a research study). What would it mean to let yourself be fully "in"? What would it look like to him? To you? What would it feel like? What would you be doing differently? How will you know when it's happening? What could you do as a baby step on a daily basis to nudge yourself to be more vulnerable and take the risk? When you feel yourself holding back in the moment, what kind of thoughts are you having, what kind of stories are you telling yourself?

Are there other things about your relationship that bother you, and maybe this isn't totally about your past at all, but rather it's a case of a person checking all the boxes and yet there still being something missing?

If therapy helped you before, I think you'd be a great candidate to use it again to help ask yourself some of these questions-- and answer them. At some point, we choose to do the things that we really want to do, because we decide that pushing through the fear is worth it. 

Is it to you? 

I've been the friend -- for decades. And please keep your expectations low. And be prepared to watch the whole roller-coaster repeat itself until the badly behaving spouse dumps your friend for someone new. I agree with Andrea's paragraph on What To Say If You Must Say Something, but don't get your hopes up.

Thanks for this. Pretty s0bering indeed, but so reflective of what I've seen over and over again.

Another reason it can be hard to love someone-- we can't make their choices for them! 

If he was all, "yeah, I used to do this stuff" as if it were a fun thing, I can see the OP being upset enough to consider it a deal-breaker. But if he expressed contrition, or a kind of "what was I THINKING, doing that stuff?" she should accept that he's changed and let it go.

It's an important distinction, absolutely. And of course is probably a spectrum, with everything in between.

I got the feeling that he knew it was a pretty big deal, and opened up to her about it in an emotionally trusting way. I'd doubt if he was all "Meh! What's a few hundred bucks' worth of pilfered goods?" about it, but definitely-- his attitude about it now is paramount. Thanks. 

Did the boyfriend do something to make amends in some way? Perhaps if she could thing of something he could do to make it right that would help?

I think this is an interesting idea. I'd just be wary of it turning into him needing to "make up" for being a "flawed" person, or having to do something in order to measure up to be good enough for her. How it is framed is important! 

I had an on/off relationship with a "Dan" type and every time we "made up" after a break up/blow out/fight, I would tell my friends "I don't really want to talk about what happened before". Long story short, I was denial about what "before" really was doing to me, thinking/hoping that *next time* would be different. In retrospect, I wish my friends had said something to me. For OP, it's possible to not "share what you know" but also convey your concerns. Your friend might get mad temporarily, but it's worth it. You may end up planting the thought that helps your friend escape Dan's orbit.

This makes so much sense. It is good to hear from someone who's been there. It's definitely worth it to try to plant the seeds at least.

What made you finally be ready to hear the message? What got you out of Dan's spell? 

(Sorry, men out there who happen to be named Dan!)

"Mom, don't you see that by dismissing the path she's taking to gain mental health, you are contributing to her depression and anxiety?" maybe some version of that?

Yes! Thank you.

There's a whole conversation to be had here in terms of getting Mom to see how she is actively hindering the mental health progress that her daughter is seeking. Very frustrating!

I think there’s 2 sides to her concern. One is whether he demonstrates he understands the harm he did, his own motivations at the time, did any work to restore what he he damaged, and demonstrated real change. The other is, if he *has* done those things, can she realize it’s not about her and her parents’ store? Can she separate her (righteous indignation? fear of harm to her parents?) from his actions against other people? Need a lot more info here. If he’s reformed then she needs to work on herself. If he’s not, then “I’m still the type of person who is ok with theft” is a reason to unfriend someone.

So well said. Thanks for this.

I think that first side you mention is imperative, and absolutely necessary in order for her to even consider staying with him. But even that might not be sufficient, if her own personal make-up (with a nod toward her upbringing) means that she can't ever not take it personally. And that wouldn't make her wrong, and it wouldn't make him a bad person. But ultimately every relationship comes down to those unique lenses we as individuals see each other through, and whether we are able to love what we see-- for the whole picture.  

Uh, well, I've heard this from people who have woken up and smelled the coffee, or been rudely awakened by having the coffee splashed over them, and invariably we can point to occasions when we TRIED to say something and were dismissed or yelled at. Please don't blame your friends for a situation you got yourself into. They've suffered enough, watching you.

For sure, "trying to speak up" is in the eye of the beholder. There are plenty of mates-of-Dan who are not ready or willing to hear the message-- and aren't even capable of processing that it is being said to them.

Another reason I'm curious about what finally made the coffee so aromatic to that OP. 

Thanks. 

My boyfriend is very dependent on his mom and often calls her to take care of things for him. I am very independent and almost never call my mom to help with my adult problems unless I need advice, I often find myself getting annoyed at his need to have his mom come to his rescue. How do I tell him to grow up without hurting his feelings? Am I being to insensitive and closed minded, because I’ve always been an independent person.

It's hard to say. It could be that on the spectrum of parent-dependence, you are waaaay off the charts on one side. Or maybe it's him that's way off the charts, on the other side. Or maybe it's just that you both are hanging out on opposite sides of the middle.

But what matters most is the difficulty this causes you-- which you might help deal with better (or decide not to deal with, by leaving him) if you understood more of what it represented to you. What annoys you the most about it? The fact that he can't do these things himself? The fact that sometimes his mother eclipses you as support? The way it represents something about his personality that you find difficult in other ways?

Ultimately, it's not a matter of whether it's normal or appropriate to rely on one's mother at age X, Y, or Z. It's whether you are compatible with him, and if you're not, whether he's willing to adjust at all to meet that. 

My 70-year-old mom is intelligent, motivated, and generous, and also has a history of being pretty difficult. She is intensely focused on the negative parts of life, and most of her conversation is the same complaints rehashed over and over. She will often pick a big fight with a loved one (her siblings, her children) over something, followed by weeks or months of frosty silence, then just reconcile while pretending nothing ever happened. She holds on to feelings of resentment and persecution from things that happened in her early childhood through to the present day. She crashes through all boundaries, from the trivial (please don't feed the kids whipped cream for breakfast) to the serious (please don't let the grandchild with constant seizures behind the wheel of a vehicle). She wants closeness, but drives people away, as you can imagine. This is getting to be a serious problem as she gets older and needs more help, but is not speaking to some or all of her kids at any given time. I'm not under the illusion that she can be "fixed", but can you suggest some ways that we can support her and not lose our minds during her old age?

I am sorry. This is not an uncommon situation, and yet that doesn't make it any easier. 

I suggest some ground rules that are discussed (at a time when she actually IS talking to you, naturally), that can then be gently referred back to when things get stormy again. 

"Mom, it bothered me when you didn't speak to Sarah for those weeks last month. I know it bothered her too. We love you and want to be connected to you, but it's hard when it's unpredictable how you will be responding to us. You end up pretending nothing happened and yet we are stuck trying to figure out what's going on and prevent it for the future, and yet we don't make any progress. We're struggling here. If we are hurting you, we want to understand, so that this cycle doesn't continue and we permanently damage our relationship. Especially when we want to be close to you."

I think some ground rules about safety should also be a separate conversation, with the idea that safety trumps everything--- even her feelings. "Mom, Johnny is not to be behind the wheel. Period. We need you to understand this. When you jeopardize his safety, we have to take this seriously. It is going to result in X, Y, or Z if this continues."

It's not about threats or guilts or ultimatums, but rather you getting to establish your own ground rules about what is acceptable to you, and communicate them to her. The more that you can talk with her about them and get her to understand the effects her behavior is having, then the more predictable the ground rules will be and the more she will go along with them, even if she is resentful. 

You say she is a generous and motivated person. If so, then have faith that if you can keep talking to her about this in a respectful, problem-solving way, which will make her want to help the cause-- a solid, pleasant relationship that benefits her as well. 

What "things"? "Can you feed my cat while I'm away?" or "I locked myself out of my house again, can you bring over the spare key right away?" or "I got this letter from the bank, what does it mean?" Also, how old are you & your BF? Too much info missing here.

Great point. I too would love more detail. OP?

How often does an adult need “rescuing”? I mean, I can think of times I’ve wanted or could use Support (eg friends helping me move saving me lots of $ in hiring people) but it wasn’t “rescuing” So does LW see normal Support networks as “rescuing” her helpless boyfriend? Or does he get himself into massive snafus a lot more than normal people?

OP, the people have spoken. Clearly we need more! 

This is great; thanks. 

Please re-read this juxtaposition of sentences and think about the position you've put your friends into.

It's an impossible-seeming bind, certainly.

We see the same patterns with substance abuse and addiction, or really any other type of self-destructive behavior-- this delicate balance a loved one has to walk between respecting the wishes of the person versus risking alienating them and ruining the friendship by insisting that they are not taking care of themselves and that things need to change. 

There's the big "intervention" we all think of in these situations, but in reality a friendship can be made of a million daily choices of how to have micro-interventions (or to remain silent.) 

This answer is poetic, and necessary for a lot of chatters to hear. Moving on from any relationship (especially the serious lets live together do the ring thing kind) can be terrifying/liberating/exhausting/joyful often all in the same week! You have every right to live your values, and to be treated well and loved. As long as you remember those two things you're golden.

Aw, thank you. 

I loved what you wrote as well.

It all comes down to that Anais Nin line I also love: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

I hope I didn't butcher that.

Chat is moving fast today! 

It might help to remember that a lot teenagers are still self-centered and haven't really grasped how their actions affect others. This is the age where a lot are just starting to see past themselves and develop into compassionate people. Many of us look back and wonder how we ever thought the dumb stuff we did or said was okay to do.

It's a great general reminder!

Check out the Ask a Manager site. It has tips on building a resume & job searching that may take some of the pain out of the process. Good luck!

Great rec! Love Alison. Thank you. 

fyi, here's a link to a meta-analysis from Cornell, in which 93% of studies show improved well-being during and post-transition. That said, how does someone with a diagnosed mental health issue make an informed, intelligent decision regarding transition? I assume tht's where a trained experienced therapist would be involved...

Thank you for this. I think there's plenty of argument to be made that someone who is "just" transgender is plenty capable of making the informed decision, without worry that severe distress is hindering their ability to be insightful about who they are and what they need.

But of course, humans are complex and for plenty of people, there IS distress in life-- whether you're transgender or cisgender or anything in between, whether it's related to gender identity or not. And so untangling what is really going on and what is the best path forward-- especially when it's something major to do with one's identity-- can be hard.

I would never recommend against a trained, experienced therapist of course! 

This is my cousin (mum's first cousin). She been with a very charismatic guy for decades - problem is he's an alcoholic and has on the odd occasion raised a hand to her. She's left him a couple of times and stayed at mum's flat - but she always went back. His volatility and verbally violent unpredictability have affected us all. She knows he's acting in the wrong but does not stand up and placates / ask us to placate him. Because of him, she has not been on speaking terms with all members the family at one point or another. One of my younger cousins didn't want him at his wedding and her sister had to tell her that. She didn't come to her nephew's wedding. The same thing happened to me when we had a party in London to celebrate our wedding. I wrested with it, but in the end decided I could had to protect my guests from the possibility of his violent behavior. It makes us all unspeakably sad. We do reach out and try to make sure she's not isolated but it's very hard for us to navigate too has he has been vile to just about all of us.

I am so sorry.

Yes, I think this is the horribly ironic part of so many of these situations-- the person who is with the abusive person doesn't realize all the love they are missing out on from the people that are gradually being alienated by their partner.

And often, those with abusive partners tend toward being people-pleasers who would feel terribly guilty if they truly realized how much everyone else is pained and worrying about them. 

to answer the question - I had to figure it out on my own. I moved to a new city and started grad school; starting a new part of my life made me realize what a drag this guy was and made me feel like utter *poop emoji*. I'd like to think I would've ditched the guy years earlier if friends had spoken up...but you know what they say about hindsight.

Thanks for this response.

It's true; who knows what might have happened had friends spoken up. Or if-- maybe even in just a teensy-weensy way-- they did in their own way but it wasn't a message you were willing yet to hear. 

Regardless, I am so glad that you are now fully living a Dan-free life!

Hello Dr. Bonior, My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder and it has been extremely difficult to deal with as a family. All the characteristics that accompany the disorder make it very constantly challenging. Do you have any resources or advice to provide who to deal with all the characteristics that accompy the personality disorder? Thank you! 

This is a really trying situation, I know. 

I typically recommend "Stop Walking On Eggshells" in these cases. Any other recs out there, chatters?

OP here - definitely not trying to blame my friends. But after I ended the relationship hearing them say things like "oh thank God you deserved so much better; we have been waiting for years" is not particularly helpful... especially when said friends provided nothing but positive feedback (e.g., "oh it will all work out, he cares about you so much!") when I was going through rough times. Every situation and friendships is/are different so I'm not trying to paint every situation like mine - but I still think the OG OP should at least say *something* to her friend, if for no other reason that OG OP can look back and say "well, I tried my best...".

I hear you, for sure.

Yeah, I have worked with many people who really do not speak up to their friends in these cases, even when they want to or know they should. The same is true with substance abuse, reckless behavior, and even suicidal gestures. Because unsurprisingly, these conversations are hard, and awkward, and potentially hurtful, and can jeopardize the friendship. Few friends just say "Let's dive in to me making my friend question everything she's doing, and criticize someone she loves!" (And the ones who do dive in without difficulty are often people who should have more a filter, generally.) 

So I can certainly imagine you had a lot of silent friends who then said something after the fact when it was "safe" to do so-- and that that was excruciating. 

How does one deal with a controlling partner who constantly find ways to make me feel humiliated and as if i am a irresponsible person who cannot make right decisions? I'm not even allowed to go drink tea with a colleague or visit family members.... in his mind, everything i do is wrong if i do not get permission from him...i'm not allowed to decide on my own salary what to buy or pay... have to beg every month as my partner is controlling all the finances.. Accounts on my name are not paid on time. if i talk about things I'm not happy about, he says I am not not grateful for the good life he is giving me...... if i continue on how i feel about certain things than i will be emotionally and physically abused.... swearing at me threatening me... for 10yrs its been going this way....i mostly keeps quiet just to have peace but deep down my heart i get more cold towards him...sometimes don't know what to do ...because of my children it is difficult to leave

This is such an unacceptable situation. Please, please, please consider your worth, and know that you deserve so much better.

I get a lot of letters like this one, and I often can't respond publicly because of concerns about individual details and safety. But my heart breaks for all of you. You need to take steps to mobilize your support system and safely extract yourself from the relationship. Trusted friends, family, doctors, therapists, even your kids' school guidance counselor can provide one of the stepping stones of support in this process. 

You deserve better. You really, really do. It goes parallel to the fear versus love discussion we had earlier today. You deserve real love, not abusive "love."

Please start with www.thehotline.org. And check back in with an update.

There are a lot of us pulling for you. 

My feeling is that as good friend, it is our duty to speak up about something so very, very important. Think hard about tone and how to say it, assure the person you love them and will have their back not matter what and also assure them that unless something really out of the ordinary happens, you will not bring it up again. We in the US really take the don't give advice unless asked for to an extreme. I think that part of having a close friend / being a close friend is stepping up with this sort of difficult stuff.

Absolutely.

Sometimes being a true friend means having the courage to have the difficult conversation, even if you know your friend might not like you in the moment. But when you have their own health as a goal, it's never wrong. 

Thank you.

Transitioning isn’t like a light switch. You can go all in or try small changes. If you don’t transition as a child, it’s common to try new small looks (hair cuts, changing your manicure, change your shirt) before even presenting as a different gender head to toe. And there’s more information about non-binary options. The first women to wear trousers were shocking. Now we don’t usually think a girl is displaying masculine tendencies if she puts on pants, because we see that while pants CAN be masculine, a girl can be a tomboy and a femme girl too. We are also become more acceptable of the stereotyped “butch” lesbian presentation. So don’t think that people need a professional to explore gender. If you have dysphoria a professional can help you get access to medical transition. But there’s lots of non-medical options that exist to help a person explore their identity.

It's a great point.

One thing that grates on me, though, is that although we SEEM as a culture to be growing more accepting of various aspects of gender non-conformity, it seems also that in some cases we are as rigid as ever-- if not even more so. That we are growing less comfortable with those in the middle of the spectrum, because we want to be able to check a box for what their gender identity is. That even if as a culture we are more loving and accepting of people who are transgender, for some of us it makes us all too eager to just create one more box, and not acknowledge that there are still people hanging out in the area outside the boxes?

That's my concern as of now. (I'm sure there'll be a new one next week!)  

I'm the parent of a transgender child. We participate in a research study that so far has shown similar mental health status of trans kids who are growing up in a supportive environment and their cisgender siblings. The only things that distress her are the fear of other people finding out and teasing/hurting her and parts of her anatomy. That's not to minimize the reality of mental health challenges facing trans people, but it's clear that a lot of these are caused by the environment rather than being trans in and of itself.

Very well said. And I hope that the findings are proving true for your own child.

For many kids, a big part of the pain comes from others telling them they're "wrong." Of course, as you said, that's not to minimize that for others there might be other components as well-- including the kids that really have a lot of distress about their bodies themselves. 

I hope Andrea won't mind me mentioning that Captain Awkward wrote amazingly on just this topic - and type of controlling

I never mind a rec-- and in fact will search it out! Thanks! 

I wrote a few weeks ago about support for my tweener's ADHD and you suggested a therapist who could provide CBT. We're not out of the woods yet, but it has uncovered some family dynamics that could be improved, and we're starting to do the work. It can be so overwhelming to know where to start with this, thank you for the nudge in the right direction.

You are very welcome. I am so happy to hear that there is a glimmer of hope now-- that a path has been illuminated.

Thanks for updating us.

It's because of those children that you MUST leave, and take them with you. There is help available from the sources Andrea listed. Think of it this way: do you want those children to think that a controlling abusive partner is normal and desirable? B ecause that's the lesson they're absorbing now.

It is so, so true.

Of course, admitting how awful the situation is can be particularly painful for a parent. So it's sometimes hard to use this as a motivator, because there's so much shame and guilt involved-- which leads to denial and justification.

OP, we are all behind you!

Because of your children you MUST leave!

Absolutely.

OK, that's a completely different situation from what you presented in your first post. I can see feeling betrayed by that.

I don't think it was completely different, but rather just filled in some necessary details.

Thanks! 

Many thanks! Will dig in!

Its precisely because of your children that you must leave. You are teaching them this is acceptable behavior and it is not. Please get help now.

Bingo. Thank you. 

You can call. You can text and have a conversation all by chat. It's anonymous and confidential and free. I give generously to support it.

That is wonderful--- thanks so much to you and the people like you!

I still think that the "don't talk to me about what happened before" instruction made it impossible for the friends to be other than supportive of the relationship because that's what the OP was demanding.

Well, certainly made it tough. But there was definitely some wiggle room in there for a friend who wanted to take it on. 

Not all feedback has to be invited! 

Big Little Lies shows really well another aspect - how the young sons absorb this as an appropriate way to treat women

Yeah, the cyclical patterns of abuse and trauma can be devastating.

I've seen far too much of it in my years opposite the couch....

I left because of my children, but until that particular moment, I stayed because of my children. I couldn't leave them alone with my partner. Now they are late elementary aged. They are old enough to build a relationship with their parent and be educated on the dismaying aspects of that parent. I have 50/50 custody but structured it so that they don't go more than 1-2 days without seeing me. You CAN DO THIS. You MUST do it for yourself and your children. Be strong. You will find support - speak out to those who love you.

There is nothing more powerful than the words of someone who has lived it.

Thank you for this. And all hope and light to you as you make your way in your new free life. Bravo!

Being upset by your physical self is definitely what causes people to seek medical transition. And started young, trans people can “pass” as their gender, and in turn experience comfort in their bodies and less societal push back. So in that sense the dysphoria can be “cured” by correcting the physical manifestations of the person. As you rightly pointed out people who don’t fit in neat boxes likely experience the most push back (why don’t you want surgery? Why do you want to be called they?)

Great points. Thank you. 

Down with boxes everywhere!

I think the 'he's changed' can be a fruitful way in. Of course, I hope that's the case ... what makes you think so? Has this been sustained. Why not just take it slowly etc.

A good way of entering that conversation! After all, it's not about the past in that case. It's about wanting to learn more about him in the present. 

Thanks so much for all the insightful comments today. It was lovely, as always! And clearly moved me to go way over time! 

In the meantime, I will see you in the column comments (hopefully back to being easier to find!) and on Facebook.

Until next week-- stay safe and dry!

In This Chat
Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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