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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone. I'm new to the forum. I would like to say thanks in advance for your advice, and reading through a long post. It's a very difficult task to explain a complex situation in a meaningful and concise manner, so please bear with me as I do my best to lay the requisite ground work which ultimately pertains to my current situation.


My Past: I'm a man, 38 years old. My childhood was a difficult one. My mother was diagnosed with a very debilitating disease immediately after I was born. By the time I was 8, I was well into the role of being a primary caretaker (my father traveled for work M-F). My mother died when I was a teen, and I am currently alienated from my father and family. I also have a history of mental and sexual abuse, and have been diagnosed with chronic severe depression and PTSD.

I was previously married for 5.5 years in what was ultimately a very bad relationship. I have been divorced for 12 years. I was single for 2 years after my divorce, then in a long term relationship of 7 years, which had it's own share of hardships and ultimately failed. I have been single for 2 years.

I most definitely have my own unique set of issues, flaws, and problems. That said, I feel like I have at least a pretty good idea of my shortcomings and how they manifest. Despite all this, I am a relatively well adjusted individual. Outside of a close friendship or intimate relationship, people have no idea I suffer from depression and PTSD.


My Current Situation: I am currently in a committed and loving relationship with the most incredible woman. We have been together for 9 months now. We fell in love with one another almost from the onset, and knew immediately that we wanted to be together exclusively. My significant other (girlfriend seems too light a term) is 37, was married for 17 years, has been divorced for 2 years, and has a 10 year old daughter. We were very careful how we introduced me to her daughter, and worked diligently to build a safe and trusting environment for her.

We have been living together for 4 months now. Although that was quite a bit sooner than we had initially discussed, circumstances made it a logical choice. I made the sacrifice to move to the small town where she lives, and is well established in her career, friends, and family. I am happy to say we all get along great and function very well as a family unit. We have discussed getting married, and are certainly headed that direction. 98% of the time my significant other and I have a very caring, loving, and amazing relationship. However, it's the 2% discord that I am very fearful of.


Her Past: As I mentioned above, my significant other was married for 17 years. Her ex-husband was very controlling, manipulative, mentally abusive, and also became a pain med addict as a result of a work injury. The last 10 years of her marriage was very tumultuous. She ultimately left him for his drug use and mentally abusive behavior. The ensuing divorce and custody was contentious. It's only within the past month that we have been able to reach a more amicable existence with her ex-husband, and can now share custody in a respectful, upbeat manner. I am very thankful for that.


The Issues: Now that I have laid the ground work, I can get to the heart of the matter, the 2% discord that has me so concerned. We have only argued over two topics: finances, and lifestyle. What makes things so contentious is our baggage. She is coming from a position of being controlled, manipulated, and mentally abused. I am coming from a position of abandonment, abuse of all types, along with all the problems severe depression and PTSD adds to the mix.

When a disagreement arises, she often tends to disregard logic and react with excessive emotion. She will then shut down all communication and go into protective mode. Just like cornering a wounded animal, this is a dangerous time. There have been a few instances where she has said very hurtful things, which are more of a knee jerk reaction, but cut deep nonetheless.

For my part, I have a hard time not reacting emotionally myself, and often rise to the bait when I know logically I should not. Just as she has said some hurtful things, I have have said some hurtful things in return. Also, because of my abandonment issues, I tend to press issues that are either not that important in the long run, or continue to persist with a discussion when I need to give her time and space. I do this because a lingering argument causes me a great deal of fear and worry. I often feel like things are falling apart and the bottom is dropping out. It takes me to a very deep place of despair. Thankfully when we argue, we have never yelled at or called one another names, and certainly never engaged in anything remotely close to physical contact. To date, we have only argued a small handful of times, and have been able to resolve all our disagreements within 24 hours.

The Problem At Hand: We are currently arguing over a conversation that occurred Sunday night. She is currently giving me the cold shoulder treatment, not wanting any physical contact, not saying she loves me in return, etc. Even though it's been less than 48 hours, it's been awful for me. This is our longest unresolved argument to date.

The argument partially stemmed from an incident that occurred a couple of weeks ago. She told me a few hours in advance that she wanted to go a friend's bar for an annual Thanksgiving party. To lead up to that point, we had hosted both sets of her parents at the house, and been doing activities exclusively of her arranging for the previous 6 weeks. I was irked by the short notice, and asked if she would stay home since we had her cousin coming to stay with us that night for the holiday. She said no problem, she would stay home because I had been doing so much of what she wanted; consider it done. Well, she changed her mind and ended up wanting to go. That made me mad, but I ultimately said I was comfortable if she made an appearance for an hour. The hour we agreed on turned into 2.5 hours without any word from her. We got into an argument over it. I was upset that she did not keep her word, and she was upset that I was not being flexible enough. I told her that I thought we had reached a compromise by her making an appearance for an hour. She saw that as controlling and inflexible. Ultimately we resolved the argument the night it happened. However, she brought it up again Sunday evening.

Her issue of my inflexibility also manifests itself in my preference to have things more planned out, while she likes to be able to be spontaneous. I completely support her continuing to have independent relationships with her friends, and do activities with them both separately and as a couple. I do my best to be accommodating, and think I do a pretty good job. However, it seems like it's not enough. Another point of contention is that I believe it is courteous to let your significant other know what you are up to. My aim is not to prevent her from doing what she wants, but simply to know what is going on. She sees that as controlling and inflexible. Am I out of line for wanting to know what is going on? What other burden of the blame do I have, given these examples?

The other part of the argument Sunday evening stemmed from two previous arguments we have had over finances. The specifics are private, but what I will say is that I have agreed to do what she wants, and am doing my best to meet her requisites. Part of the problem is that she never communicated her stance on the subject until it had been an issue. She felt / feels extremely insulted. My position is that I did not know it was an issue until recently, and now that I know it is an issue, I am working to mitigate the root of the problem. However, that has done little to allay her concerns, and she seems to be coming from a place of skepticism and distrust. This is one area where, despite operating with a lack of information, I think I handled the situation very poorly. I am trying to make up for those mistakes, but it seems like I can say or do nothing right.

The Verdict: As it stands at the moment, she requested that I give her space, and I am doing my best to do so, even though that means having to endure the really low lows that come with it. I love my significant other dearly, and want to do everything I can for our relationship. I have told her that repeatedly, but it has done nothing to thaw the facade she currently has erected. Any advice or coping strategies would be greatly appreciated.
 

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She's giving you the cold shoulder and she says you're controlling? Reread what you wrote with the assumption someone else wrote it. Then tell us what you see.
 

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Wow, there is a lot here. As you say, you both bring quite a bit of baggage and very difficult history to the relationship. Behaviour patterns are not easy to change. It takes a willingness to think about and understand why we do what we do. Then it takes a willingness to be mindful and catch ourselves as we start down those familiar paths. Counseling can help if she's willing to do it. Otherwise I would say don't get married without getting to a point where you can have honest, respectful communication that both of you then act on. Best of luck. I'm sure you will have more helpful input.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies.

To answer the first, I don't think I am being controlling in the least. What I do think is happening is that she is coming from a place of being severely manipulated and subverted by her ex-husband, and mistakenly perceives any relationship boundaries or constraints as control. If anything, I think she is attempting to assert control over the situation by exercising emotional blackmail. I don't think she has a real understanding of what she is doing, and needs help to reflect on her actions.

That leads me to the second reply. Counseling is something I am mandating we do together. We have only talked about marriage, and are a long way out from ever acting on it. Despite recent events, we are able to communicate effectively with one another as a whole. Obviously we need help, and will have to to work hard to resolve past issues and move forward in a positive and loving manner.

I think it's virtually impossible to walk away from 17 years of marital control and abuse, and not have it effect you. Logically I understand where my significant other is coming from. I both empathize and sympathize with her position. Do I think it excuses poor and hurtful behavior? No. What I do struggle with is dealing with it emotionally, and how best to help the person I love resolve her past issues in a healthy manner. I am also interested in taking responsibility for my issues, and dealing with them in order to be the best man I can be, for both her, her daughter, and myself.
 

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If all previous disagreements were resolved in 24 hours, why can't this one be?

Does she think you are controlling? I'm not saying you are, I am asking if she thinks so.

Are you getting the silent treatment?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
This argument could not be resolved in 24 hours because she asked for some space, at which point communication ceased. I talked to one of her closest friends about the situation, and she advised that I do give her her space for the time being. I have not pursued the matter further, because that does indeed seem to be the right course of action. The rationale is to allow her time to cool down and hopefully reflect on the situation in a more objective manner.

As for the rest, It looks like I posted my second reply as you were composing yours. Please see above.
 

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Your post didn't leed one to see that you have a grip on the situation. You do. You understand that her independent decisions are made out of fear that she'll lose control. 17 years of fear. You also understand that you build resentment each time she makes an independent decision. Counseling is a must.

While you going through that, here's a concept that you might practice.

The Policy of Joint Agreement
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Agreed. Counseling is a must. We both need an objective mirror to reflect on what we need to fix in ourselves, and an impartial set of hands to guide us down that path.

Thanks very much for the link.
 
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