This question contains abuse and stalker behaviors.
So, my story is a little complicated i guess but ill try and be as concise as possible.
For about 2 months now i’ve been seriously dating a girl i really like and was talking to her everyday for a little while before then. We are officially girlfriends.
Despite not having been together for too long she moved into my house about a month ago. This isn’t just your stereotypical lesbian u-hauling situation though; when we met she was still living with her ex, who, was abusive physically, verbally and mentally. So, even before we started dating I told her she can stay on my sofa because she had nowhere else to stay and needed to get out of there. I’ve been in an abusive relationship myself and i would do the same for any stranger. This isn’t supposed to be permanent, and she is looking for somewhere else.
Im mentioning this just in case your advice is ‘break up’ because although that’s entered my mind, it would be more difficult since we live together.
Anyway; her best friend, who she’s been friends with for several years, we’ll call him Jim, has been causing some problems.
He is obsessed with her. He knows that she’s gay, and has a girlfriend, and yet he’s in love with her. And he has told her, multiple times that he’s “madly in love” with her. She has told me numerous, horrifying stories about his behaviour regarding this. For one example, a few years ago she mentioned in passing that she had a date. Later that night a friend called and told her that Jim had been arrested for smashing up a shop because he was so jealous an angry about her going on a date. As someone who’s had numerous run in’s with angry and dangerous men everything about this guy is a red flag, and all the friends i’ve spoken about this with agree. A couple of my friends are genuinely concerned for my safety because he knows where i live.
My biggest problem though is the way my girlfriend deals with this problem.
We have had multiple arguments and discussions about this issue and she recently told me that she thinks the best way to deal with it is to ignore it, which i think is insane.
She’s also said a couple of times though that she wants to try and cut the friendship off and has threatened to end their friendship more than once, but she always goes back on it. She will look like she’s about to put a stop to it, but then doesnt. For example, she found out that he has been telling his friends and all the people he knows that she is his girlfriend. She said she’s going to tell his friend that she is not his girlfriend. I asked her the next day if she had and she said that he got upset and told her to give him two days to tell them himself, because if she tells them he’ll lose respect. She rarely see’s his friends though so she cant confirm if he actually told them. She also said she managed to get the friends number so she will call to check, i asked if she had and she said no.
She also tiptoes around his ridiculous behaviour. Not long ago he was over at my house (He’s been here twice, i refuse to let him in my house anymore) and my GF texted me ‘you look really pretty today, i really want to kiss you but Jim will get jealous’. Most recently my GF invited me out for a BBQ with him. I initially didn’t want to go because he would be there but i decided to go to show him that she is with me, and I wasn’t going to let him scare me off. It was initially going ok, my GF and I cuddled a little which surprised me given the initial ‘no touching for Jim’s sake’ rule. I then hinted that i wanted a small kiss. She hinted at Jim and that we shouldn’t because he is there. I got upset and left, this led to an argument. I’ve told her multiple times that her not touching her GF because it will make her friend whose obsessed with her jealous is insane.
There are too many bizarre and frustrating examples to go into. I just don’t know how to deal with this. His behaviour is dangerous and she doesn’t see it and I don’t know how to show her. She says he’s never laid a hand on her but one of the most recent time’s she’s discussed the problem with him he tried to kiss her! And he isn’t any less dangerous just because he hasn’t hit her or something.
I’ve told her that I’m scared this might end us, either because she cant put up with me bringing it up anymore, or because I can’t deal with it anymore. The stress his behaviour (he is also an alcoholic who has had trouble with the law), puts her under has ended one of her relationships before.
Do you have any advice at all, any and all will be greatly appreciated,
“I’m gay, why are angry men still a part of my life?”
I feel like these angry, possessive, entitled, violent controlling dudes are fucking everywhere right now, so, I feel you on that sentiment.
As for thoughts and advice, all of these things can be true at the same time:
A) Jim’s behavior is gross and terrifying.
B) Your girlfriend has been groomed by abusive people to accept horrible behavior and not have healthy boundaries. She’s not setting out to bring Jim and his bullshit into your life, but it’s a factor in what’s happening. “Men who can’t let go choose women who can’t say no” – Gavin de Becker
C) Regardless of fault, the situation is fucking with your ability to maintain healthy boundaries and to feel safe and happy in the relationship. There is no safe exposure level for Jimness, and things will suck as long as he’s around.
You asked how you can make the case that Jim is scary. Two resources that might help are Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Abusive And Controlling Men and Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear.
Bancroft worked with programs designed to rehabilitate abusive men. In the process of meeting so many abusive men, he found a set of predictable attitudes and patterns of behavior that they had in common, the two most prominent being entitlement and misogyny. He also was able to debunk the idea that abusive people are victims of abuse who can’t help their actions. Someone who smashes a shop window because a (lesbian!!!!) “friend” (who doesn’t like him that way!) goes on a date with someone else can strangely keep his shit together at work or when there is a male authority figure or someone he wants to impress around. These guys make the choice to be abusive. They lose their shit deliberately, selectively, to terrify and control other people.
Real Talk: The Gift of Fear comes with some big caveats around the Domestic Violence chapter, in that de Becker was raised by a mom who had a series of relationships with abusive men, and his language in that chapter crosses over into victim blaming. He both acknowledges the uselessness of restraining orders and the relative powerlessness of law enforcement in intimate partner violence situations, while also over-estimating the victim’s ability to choose to end the relationship safely or on a timeline that looks reasonable to him or to anyone outside the relationship. I know some people hate the book for this reason, but I find the rest of the book very useful because it’s one of the only resources out there that tells you what to DO about de-escalating situations with people who can’t let go. The workplace chapter, for example, is gold, as is the work on how to spot manipulation and boundary-testing (the search for people who are less likely to say no) and how to deal when you meet someone who gets fixated on you.
All advice, including mine, is caveat emptor, so if you can’t hang with ol’ GdeB I understand, but I also credit the book with how I learned to handle scary situations and I share things I learned from him here often (He’s the author of “No is a complete sentence” quote that people attribute to me because I’ve repeated it so much). Because of the DV chapter caveat, this probably isn’t a good book for her to read right now, but it might be a good book for you to skim through for your own safety and peace of mind.
For example, if your girlfriend wanted to end her connection with Jim, de Becker might recommend:
- A clear, unambiguous statement from her – “Jim, this friendship isn’t working for me anymore and it’s time to end it. Please don’t contact me anymore.“
- Don’t try for “closure” or let the person down “easy.” When you say “It’s just that I’m not in a good place for a relationship right now” a clinger hears “But someday, the second I am ready for a relationship, it will be with you!” so they try to solve the problem of timing and ignore the problem of “She doesn’t want you, bro.”
- Enforce no contact. Don’t respond to any communications from him. Also, don’t escalate the situation by threatening him – No “If you keep calling here I’ll have to involve the police,” no deputizing friends or family to talk to him, just silence, forever.
- Document the incidents and reaching out to law enforcement if her instincts tell her that’s the right way to handle it. If her instincts say that would make it worse, she should listen to those.
What I would add is, before making any steps or decisions about Jim, your girlfriend should talk to a trained Domestic Violence resource like The Hotline (or whatever local resources she can turn up where you are) and make a safety plan for how to handle this conversation and the aftermath. You can also call these folks and talk through your concerns and get a ton of good advice and resources. While the focus is Intimate Partner Violence, neither of you have to be in a relationship with Jim for them to help you.
A safety plan might mean removing herself from the immediate area for a while and staying with friends or family in another city or state, changing up her usual routines and haunts, locking down her social media and communication channels, filtering email messages from him so they bypass her main box but are preserved for documentation purposes, getting a new phone number she gives out selectively but keeping the old one active so Jim thinks his messages are getting through for now, informing her workplace in case he shows up there, telling any mutual people who know them what’s happening and asking them not to pass on any info to Jim and also not to do anything to escalate the situation. I’m listing possible examples – a good safety plan is going to look different for everyone, and your girlfriend will be the boss of what hers looks like.
Okay. He’s scary and I hope she gets free. Now let’s talk about you.
Once abuse and stalking enter a picture, there stops being a wonderful, perfect, logical, optimal way to handle things, where scripts and an honest conversation can work things out. “What will make us both happy” gets replaced with “will this course of action make us less safe or more safe?” for a while.
Your girlfriend is the only one who can make the decision to cut off contact and how to handle Jim. She is very likely to have multiple go-rounds of Go Away/Come Back with him. Can you accept that as the ongoing situation, indefinitely, or are you at “I hate to issue an ultimatum, but it’s me or Jim, I can’t date you until you resolve that situation” levels? It’s okay if you are in that place, by the way, as long as you can be honest with yourself. Back to things that can be true at the same time:
A) Being stalked and abused in this way is incredibly unfair and isolating for victims. It’s good for Jim if other people are scared or overwhelmed by the drama of the situation, and it sucks to feel like your options are “let him win” or “defend this principle, possibly to the death?”
B) Abusive people who are terrible at boundaries push their victims into situations where they can’t easily or readily have or enforce boundaries. I’m sure “yay, let me flee my old abusive home into yours, my brand new girlfriend!” is not how your girlfriend wanted to live this part of her life and now how she’d roll in a perfect world. We’re not in that world. She’s more dependent on you than either of you would like her to be right now, and that creates friction and risk.
C) You get to decide your own investment in the relationship and your own risk tolerance. Your safety matters. Your feelings matter. The situation is asking you to make a giant commitment before you might be ready to make it. It’s okay to acknowledge that in your head and your heart and still take actions (like letting her stay until she can find another safe place to go) that err on the side of “more safe.”
At minimum, I think you get to set a boundary that says “You’re the boss of how you handle your friendship with Jim, but I will never be in the same place at the same time he is, ever.”
Furthermore, I think you get to say “This thing where Jim is in love with you and you set me up to not be able to act like your girlfriend when we’re around him is fucked up, and I won’t participate in it anymore.”
You get to say “I’m not afraid that you don’t love me or like me, I’m afraid that one or both of us is going to die if this situation goes on unchecked.”
Also, “I’m not a good audience for Jim-talk. Let’s hook you up with a counselor who can help you process the messed up and scary things he does, and help you make a good plan for how to deal with him. I can’t be your sounding board about this – I’m not trained, I’m not impartial. It feels like he’s taking over our lives together, and my shoulders immediately go up around my ears when I hear his name. All I’m ever going to say is ‘I don’t get why you are friends with him, maybe you could stop that?’ but I think it’s a good idea for you to be able to talk this stuff through with somebody, so let’s help find that so you can be supported.” Remove some of his power by removing some of how much he dominates y’alls conversations and interactions.
I think there might also be benefit in making it boring to talk about Jim a lot when you’re together. Your script for hair-raising Jim Talk now and forever could be some version of “Wow, that’s scary/inappropriate/not cool. What do you think you’ll do?”
In addition, I think she maybe needs to live somewhere that isn’t your house ASAP. You did a good thing by providing her a temporary safe space, but there are a lot of indications that the timing is too soon for your relationship. You went from “hey let’s date each other I like you” to MAXIMUM INTENSITY RESCUE DANGER OH BY THE WAY THIS DUDE THINKS I’M HIS GIRLFRIEND AND WHEN WE’RE AROUND HIM YOU HAVE TO NOT ACT LIKE YOU ARE MY GIRLFRIEND OR HE MIGHT BREAK A RETAIL OUTLET, IS THAT COOL?
You both need breathing room, and safety, and perspective as a foundation underneath this fledgling love story. The fact that you’re already like “I’m thinking about breaking up but we live together so we can’t” is such a red flag here. What would it take to get her into her own safe living space, whether it’s a roommate situation or family? I know “Babe, move out” feels like an impossible backward step, but I think your happiness and safety and ability to make a grounded decision about what you want from a relationship may depend on it. At minimum, some talking about “Are we setting up a household for the long term or is this a temporary situation or a little bit of both? It happened so fast I’m not sure sometimes, what do you think? In a perfect world how would we handle this whole moving in together timing? Is there a way we can work it more like that once you’re on your feet a little bit?”
Finally, when a situation is this fraught and dramatic, it can be isolating for you. The new relationship cocoon + cohabitation + Jim possibly means that you and your girlfriend are spending close to all your free time together. My dear Letter Writer, don’t forget to make sure that your family relationships and your other friendships are solid. Get out of your house and do stuff without your girlfriend sometimes, nurture your social networks, feed your soul and your hobbies and pleasures, make sure your career or educational aspirations are all on track, put some money aside if you can in an emergency fund. If you need to talk to a counselor to process your own fears and worries, put that in place for yourself.
Ugh, I’m sorry, this is so terrible and scary. Be good to yourself.
173 thoughts on “#989: “Me, my girlfriend, and a giant red flag” or “I’m gay, so why are all these angry men still part of my life?””
So, you went to the barbecue with your girlfriend to show Jim that you were a couple, but then your GF put the kibosh on couple-y things? Either she agrees to not alter behavior to ‘save Jim’s feelings’, or you don’t go places where Jim is anymore.
Why is she friends with Jim? Why does she not hold boundaries with him? She says she’s not scared for her physical safety, so it’s because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by showing affection for you in front of him? Maybe she doesn’t see that his behaviors are hurting her, and they’re hurting you. Tiptoeing around the issue isn’t keeping the peace; the peace is already broken and Jim’s the one who broke it.
“She says she’s not scared for her physical safety…”
One of the myriad ways people deal with fear is by not acknowledging that fear in their thoughts or words. It isn’t until the threat is gone that they can look back and see that they were feeling fearful. Their behaviour in the moment often (not always) reflects their fear but they do not have the perspective to see it until the fear is gone.
When I was with my abusive ex, I was also pretty vehement about the fact that he hadn’t hit me. It was a way of telling myself he wasn’t ‘really’ scary, that the dread I carried around constantly was purely endogenous, a sign of something wrong with me and not with him or the relationship and something therefore that was within my control. It was a way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance of being terrified, trapped, cornered, and believing fundamentally that I had a duty to stay with him.
I’m inclined to look twice when someone is driven to say, “But he doesn’t hit me!”–as though to minimise all of the other awful, frightening things he does.
That ex did hit me eventually, by the way.
The ex that I once said that about also ended up eventually hitting me. Like, every time I tried to show him the physical affection he claimed I never showed him :-\
I feel like any time you have to specify that someone doesn’t hit you, they’re the kind of person who’s gonna end up hitting you. The “yet” sort of hangs in the air.
You know, I thought the whole “he doesn’t hit me” thing about my ex a few times. I am now almost wondering if he never would have because we did martial arts together and I was always much better at it than he was and we both knew it… which implies he might eventually have if I weren’t, or if he didn’t know that.
Well, and, even if they never do hit you, counting “this person doesn’t hit me” among the most reassuring things you can come up with to say/think about someone is a sure sign that they’re not a great partner for you.
And if they ever tell you that they won’t hit you, or don’t hit women, or don’t hit romantic partners, that’s a big old warning sign that they will hit you — they’re telling you it’s on their list of options and they consider themselves special for even considering not using that option.
It’s like if I told you that I don’t stuff dryer lint into the ears and noses of sleeping people. You’d wonder what the hell my deal is that this is even something I need to say, right?
@Helen Huddington: for sure. My friend’s mom was married to a guy before she met my friend’s dad. The 1st husband beat her on the regular and she showed up at work with bruises. Her guy coworker hit the roof and beat the you-know-what out of her husband. Cut to the guy coworker eventually becoming husband number 2 (and my friend’s dad) who eventually beat his wife on the regular in front of my friend and his siblings.
The ex I said that about didn’t hit me, but only because I got out when he started throwing my things. I couldn’t talk myself out of seeing the inevitable progression when he smashed figurines I had collected from childhood.
“I’m inclined to look twice when someone is driven to say, ‘But he doesn’t hit me!'”
Oh Good Lord yes. I just had this brain flash where I pictured myself saying that about my kind, dependable husband and it honestly felt like I had just insulted him. You just don’t say that about a good person. Unless someone asks, and then you say it with a lot “what the hell???” involved.
There is such a world of difference between, “Oh, but he doesn’t hit me,” and “What the flaming hell?! OF COURSE HE DOESN’T HIT ME, WHY WOULD YOU EVEN THINK OF THAT?!”
I have not had a romantic relationship with either, but I have seen them both in use regarding friends and relations’ romantic interests. The first his heart-breaking to hear. The second just makes me want to stand up and cheer, and also weep a little that I’m cheering at what really ought to be the default.
“They don’t hit me” is such a low bar to clear that I pretty much expect it of *every* human being I meet…
I’m another one who said “but he doesn’t hit me.” He didn’t hit me because I explicitly said that if he ever hit me, I would leave so fast, his head would spin. So, he didn’t hit me. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t abusive. At a certain point, I’m embarrassed to say, I almost *hoped* he would hit me, because then I would have a “real” reason to leave. Of course, I had plenty of reasons to leave, but they didn’t become obvious to me until after I left. He was clearly abusive, just not *physically* abusive.
in addition to the above comments, for a person who has been abused before – especially if it’s more than once, especially if they’ve been in abusive situations all their life – living in the centre of the storm of someone else’s terrifying obsession with you can feel, paradoxically, both horrible (obviously) and like an intensely comforting safe place part of you never wants to leave. my crappy past meant that for a very long time, I interpreted ‘scary fixated guy who wants to control xyz about me’ as ‘oh, comfy! it’s just like being at home!’ or ‘he sounds just like my last boyfriend, who I also told myself was nice!’ or etc. being abused skews basically everything about your ability to judge other people’s behaviour – good and bad.
so, maybe she’s friends with Jim because part of her feels safer when there’s a scary person behaving badly around, at and because of her. maybe she doesn’t hold boundaries with him half because she’s scared and half because part of her doesn’t actually want this situation to go away, because when you’ve been abused, ‘being abused’ is your normal and ‘not being abused’ is the terrifying unknown. and also, being the crazy focus of someone’s violent obsession can sometimes make you feel kind of amazing – in a way that’s not good, of course, but when you’re in the middle of it part of you can feel like ‘look at this person doing all these insane things FOR ME, finally I feel important/special/good enough’ and that’s an addictive sort of scary rush that it’s very hard to break away from.
I say all this not IN ANY WAY to blame the girlfriend for what’s happening – that is all on Jim, and then further back on anyone who was abusive to her before this asshole – but just in case offering more perspectives on ‘why might she not be shutting this down’ gives the LW more tools with which to work out whether she wants to stay involved in this situation or not.
(and also because I don’t think enough discussions about abuse get into this stuff in general; it’s hard and uncomfortable to look at the stuff that can feel warped-good about being in an abusive situation but for me, learning to look at it was a HUGELY important part of understanding why I kept ending up in the same horrible places, so now I try to talk about it when it comes up in case it’s helpful for somebody else.)
This is well said.
It rings true for my experiences. Actually pleasing my abusive step father came with this rush of relief at not being hit. In that awful situation that feeling became joy. Being happy required being threatened first.
It took years of therapy to uncouple happiness from fear.
Sorry you guys went through that. That WE went through it. That anyone goes through it. (My brain went immediately to “Jim was nice to her and now she has to ‘pay’ him for being nice and keep paying him to justify him not hurting her.”)
Another vote for “people who have been abused have a skewed perception of what’s okay and what isn’t, because the experience of abuse skews the perceptions of the victim.”
TW: Childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence of a non-physical type.
I was sexually abused as a child, and my marriage (long ago; I’ve been divorced from him for over two decades now) was also abusive (although he never hit me, but there are other types of abuse besides physical), and it took me quite a while to realize that pain and love are NOT intrinsically connected.
Also, what the Captain said, quoting Gavin de Becker about abusers deliberately seeking out people who have skewed perceptions of what sort of behavior is okay and what isn’t (often due to previous abusive situations skewing said perceptions) is entirely true. And there is a weird sort of comfort in the familiar, even, perhaps especially, if “the familiar” is clearly abusive bullshit to which no one should ever be subjected.
LW, I hope you and your girlfriend can get free of this guy, because he is hurting her and you and the relationship you and she have, and his behavior is just so many different varieties of Not Okay.
Best wishes (and Jedi hugs if welcome) from someone on the other side of these trenches.
Yes. It took about a decade of hard work for non-abusive relationships not to feel like the volume was turned way down, for me.
Other reasons she may not have cut Jim off are
– he’s a wonderful guy when he’s not being scary
– he suffers from mental illness/is socially awkward/is on the autism spectrum and she feels like cutting him off would be “mean”
– she feels like she led him on at some point and his behaviour is partially her fault
– she’s smashed stuff before when she’s been really really mad so she doesn’t rate it as threatening behaviour/can’t be all scared of him now or else she’s a hypocrite
– she enjoys the drama
– “this is… this is *Jim*, he’s nice to his mother and he’s really kind to animals, he’s not gonna *hit* me, that’s just getting hysterical”
– men taking their jealousy out physically on property is something she finds acceptable/a sign of passion
One more reason, which was why I took really long to realise a boyfriend was being sexually abusive (like, it took about a year AFTER the relationship ended to realise)
– If she cuts him off, she’ll have to admit how horrible he is, and that would mean she had chosen to be with a horrible person, and what does that say of her? In a way, *she* would be the one *making* him horrible by saying his behaviour warrants a cut-off.
(And just to be super clear, this is all brainweasels – it was when I thought it subconsciously, and it is if she thinks is or anyone else thinks it.)
Can we please clarify that there’s no reason to assume he’s any more likely to be on the autistic spectrum just because he’s violent and possessive? That may not be what you meant to imply, but, well, it’s a common fallacy. 😦
Absolutely, there’s no good reason to think he is. Unfortunately, because the myths about autism include, “Violating boundaries = sign of autism,” that gets used by a lot of abusive people (totally without regard to whether they, in specific, are ACTUALLY autistic) and translated into, “*Anyone* who violates boundaries is on the spectrum… and therefore they can’t help it and it would be mean to ask them to.”
It’s Grade A bullshit, of course… made of a mixture of misunderstanding by some people and opportunitism by others. But the concept does get around. So it’s possible, regardless of whether this Jim dude has ever *genuinely* had the slightest non-neurotypical leanings in his life, that either he or the girlfriend have used that as an explanation for why she shouldn’t expect him to behave himself.
^^ This, exactly. I was thinking of the excuses men like to wail out whenever anyone dares to call them on unacceptable behaviour.
I know of a couple more reasons why she may not have cut off Jim:
1. There’s one type of bond between people whose friendship was formed in adversity (often that adversity is high school) where the basis of the bond is banding together against some common perceived threat/problem/loneliness but in order to have that, you just accept pretty much everything else about others in the bond as “that’s just how they are”. Then later, when the threat has passed, others start calling out problematic behaviors of people in the bond, and the others in the bond rush to the defense, because these OUTSIDERS are not UNDERSTANDING that this bond is SPECIAL, and the outsiders weren’t even THERE, so how dare outsiders suddenly demand better treatment than those in the original bond even get? How dare they?
It’s wrong and irrational, but not uncommon.
2. It’s amazing how good manipulative people are at building a social circle around themselves of people who accept and defend utterly bizarre arguments. I once had to stop socializing with someone who was escalating angry and scary behavior towards me, which meant I had to tell mutual friends that I would no longer attend anything where Scary Guy would be in attendance. The Host of Social Thing A told Scary Guy he was no longer invited. Plain and simple, right?
But over the ensuing months, and even years, I was surprised at how many normally rational people were willing to entertain Scary Guy’s arguments about how he had to be given a path back into Social Thing A, that not providing him with such a path was unreasonable, and that his barrage of angry emails on this subject were a reasonable thing for him to send as a way of getting back in.
People actually looked surprised when I would point out that sending nastygrams to the host of a social thing hardly seems like the way to get yourself invited to said social thing — it’s not like you’re making a case that you’d be a fun addition, is it?
But people were so used to Scary Guy’s arguments about what was FAIR (to him, fair meant giving him his way) that they weren’t even seeing that hey, maybe if you want to be invited, instead of railing in anger all the time, it might be more efficacious to show how pleasant and fun you could be if you were invited. And people were so used to ANGRY ‘CAUSE NOT FAIR that it was a surprise to them to even realize that it’s pretty irrational to expect that hate-o-grams will get you invited to a fun social thing.
Shoot, people even had to be reminded that the host got to decide who to invite.
LW, you should also make a safety plan for yourself. I loathe fearmongering so please understand I raise this only because of genuine concern, but If your GF breaks ties with Jim, he has already demonstrated his willingness to enact violence on unrelated parties (i.e., a shop window), and he may blame you and direct his anger toward you.
So many internet hugs. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. This sounds like a terrifying situation.
Yeah, I’m seconding what jd said. Whether or not GF breaks ties with Jim, he seems to already view you as a possible target. If you’re friendly with your apartment neighbors you might consider letting them in on this and asking them to just have an eye out for suspicious behavior (only if you’re friendly with them though). At least, if you have mutual friends in the area, it might be good to have them appraised of the situation in case you need any help or just general support. A security cam might be wise if you can afford it and are allowed to install it on your property. I’m also not trying to be fearmongering here; it’s quite possible that everything will be 100% fine. But for your own peace of mind, it might help, and also on the chance that something DOES happen, it’s good to be prepared. Jedi hugs if you want them.
I wish we didn’t live in a world where big, violent, insane man-children (and woman-children) could make us feel afraid for our lives just for trying to live them happily, on our own terms. Good luck to you, LW. Keep yourself safe.
Also, Cap, did you notice this entry is numbered #939 instead of #989?
Thanks, will fix. Typos happen.
For me, all too often. 🙂
I could have written this a year ago, word for word. She was fucking Jim. Her stories were a way of ensuring I’d never believe him and she was also spreading stories about me. Proceed with caution, your relationship is full of bees.
So many virtual hugs on offer from over here.
Yikes, that is some intense gaslighting, I’m so sorry.
Since it sounds like the LW has witnessed Jim’s poor behavior directly, I’d say that sounds less likely here than an entitled, abusive man (they’re not exactly rare), but either way it’s probably best for LW to focus on her boundaries regarding the things impacting her directly and minimize Jim-talk, since as the Captain says, she isn’t in a position to be serving as her girlfriends therapist anyway.
I didn’t see anywhere the LW commenting on things that Jim had done in her presence, just on the terrible things that her GF has told her about him. Maybe the GF is on the level, maybe she’s dating Jim and using LW as a handy backup, it’s impossible to know for sure from the letter. But I think the LW would be more than justified in proceeding with caution, and that GF moving out to her own place ASAP would be a good idea.
Also…it’s only been two months. LW should definitely think about whether it’s worth getting even more heavily invested in a relationship that comes with so much baggage and conflict, versus cutting her losses now.
You’re right, it never directly stated that LW has witnessed anything bad. I was reading it in to the times Jim’s been at her house and the BBQ and the reference to countless other examples, but only GF’s behavior is described.
I am glad that I am not the only one who believes she is dating Jim.
Me too. I was thinking, “Am I just really misreading this situation?” Glad I’m not alone.
Because if the genders were reversed yeah … that’s how a lot of men act when the “just a friend” is a “FWB on the down-low”.
Yeah, my exgirlfriend did that to me as well.
LW, I hate to say this, but if your girlfriend forces you to act like a friend in front of Jim and has not corrected anyone on Jim calling her his girlfriend, it is entirely possible (and sadly likely) that she is two-timing you with Jim.
Has *she* actually introduced *you* as her girlfriend to anyone? If she hasn’t, beware: you may just be her convenient “this person takes care of me and showers me with affection and ego-boosts” secret. The “safe option” she can always come home to, while Jim provides the danger/excitement.
I also think she is using you as a place to stay and ego kibble while she is actually dating Jim. Not telling people who really ought to know about the two of you is a huge red flag to me. My other thought is that in my forty some odd years on this planet I’ve noticed that most people who seem to always be caught up in a maelstrom of chaos are usually feeding it in some way. Like sometimes bad things happen to good people, and people have runs of bad luck some times, but people who are always at the center of bad drama are usually causing it somehow. Notice how she has managed to get 2 people to obsess about her constantly! At minimum she needs to move out and get her own life together. Another way to pick up on weird/strange behavior from another person is to reverse the situation – if you were in her shoes what would you do/how would you act? Would you act this way? Is what she is doing a reasonable response to her situation?
Calling a DV hotline yourself is probably a good idea.
Wow. I am both shocked and amazed that GF being Jim’s ACTUAL girlfriend is not only a put forth as a possibility, but that so many people have actually experienced that.
I’m not doubting it. I believe it. It’s just that the thought never occurred to me until someone mentioned, it, and when it was mentioned, the utter believability of it hit my like a ton of bricks.
I feel like I just read the twist ending of a thriller novel, where GF was the true villain, and Jim was the hapless patsy, and GF manipulated LW into murdering Jim so that GF could collect the insurance money, while LW goes to jail, and GF runs off with some new lover. And now I feel queasy. Also, perhaps I read too much fiction, but dang me, if that plot isn’t plausible.
Too many people in the world are just that screwed up.
I’m pretty sure that’s a Midsomer Murders episode. 🙂
But it never occurred to me, either, until it was said. Totally plausible though.
Now I want to watch that show!
I LOVE Troy. He’s just so adorable! And Owen.
I didn’t get past Tom Barnaby and Owen, though, because I got side-tracked from my binge-watching, and never got back to it, so I may have missed this episode. I should start over again. It’s SO good.
I think my favorite part I have seen so far is when Tom’s wife (Janet? It’s been too long, and I just remember it starts with a J and has two syllables), who has been blown off by him SO. Many. Times. because he’s suddenly called away for the case, has become so used to it that when he is trapped, and thinking, “My wife will miss me, and call the cops to come find me,” she doesn’t miss him, at all. She just shrugs and figures he’s off doing his thing, like usual, and she just enjoys herself at a party, not worrying about him, at all.
I like Tom and J a lot, and think they have a highly functional relationship, but I also think that Tom could improve things a lot if he would just TELL people what’s going on in his head, particularly during the last 15 minutes of each episode. Also, I get the urgency to catch a killer if there is a danger that killer will kill again, but if the killer only killed because of a very specific motive and is not a danger to anybody else, then I think a wise man would follow through with his family plans for the evening and arrest the murderer in the morning. But that’s just me. Maybe they have rules about urgency, in Midsommer?
Joyce. I think it’s an early ish episode. Faithful Unto Death.
I’ll have to watch some this weekend. It’s been ages.
I found out something extremely similar with a “friend” of a friend I took in. She was filling him full of tales about her abusive ex, and that she would date him if he whisked her away from the ex. And the ex helped her move in. Turns out she was a manipulative horrible person. The ex was a nice, if slightly awkward fellow. It did feel like being in a novel.
Though the fact that it’s an explanation that feels like the twist in a thriller is actually a reason we should be cautious in assuming it’s definitely true. Something fitting in to a narrative pattern can have the feeling of satisfying revelation that goes with discovering something that actually is true – but that sensation can equally be the simple satisfaction of pattern-recognition: we’ve seen this pattern in many stories, it pleases the structure-loving part of our brain, and hence our brains find it a comfortable experience to grasp. And since most of us are more comfortable with truth than with lies, ‘comfortable’ and ‘true’ aren’t always easy to distinguish.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know what the truth of her relationship with Jim is. But it’s sensible to be aware that our brains can sometimes conclude that an explanation feels ‘true’ simply because it’s neat. She could be cheating with Jim, but it could equally be a much messier and more complicated explanation.
Yeah, we don’t know at all what GF’s true situation is. It could be any number of things, really.
One thing we do know, though, is that she is not in a good state for a relationship with LW right now. Even if GF is the love of LW’s life, waiting until GF has her stuff together is a good idea, regardless of what that stuff actually is. Because as long as GF is this screwed up, LW will suffer if she tries to be in the thick of things and tries to be the fixer she is not equipped to be.
The movie was ‘Wild Things’. I’m sure there’s been others before and since, but that’s the first time I came across it. I didn’t remember it until someone mentioned it either. I am so sorry there are so many f*d up people in this world.
Awww. Of course it was not an original idea. “There is nothing new under the sun,” and people have been screwed up forever.
Then again, people have been screwed up forever, which means there is no lack of drama to write about, right?
I definitely prefer my drama to be happening to someone else, at a distance, preferably in a book or on a screen, rather than someone real I care about.
Thanks for the movie rec! I’ll have to see if it’s on Netflix or Hulu.
Also, +1 on the Midsomer Murders reference! There has to have been one.
ps: I think my favorite is the one where the identical twins of the woman and her son who were murdered three seasons before show up…
I LOVED that bit!
“Have we met before?”
“I’ve noticed that most people who seem to always be caught up in a maelstrom of chaos are usually feeding it in some way. Like sometimes bad things happen to good people, and people have runs of bad luck some times, but people who are always at the center of bad drama are usually causing it somehow.”
I’ve noticed this too. My sister is one of these people. She’s constantly telling people that she’s looking for no drama but she’s always the center of it. She jumps into things that aren’t hers just to be a part of it. I stay away from her…and all the drama she creates. I like my little, predictable, stable life.
A friend of a friend had a bunch of “road trip gone awry” stories. Then my friend helped her move and we discovered exactly why those road trips went so spectacularly awry.
People have patterns, and although I am aware that sometimes it’s just luck, if someone has a string of horrible drama filled things happen of similar sorts I do look twice because I have no energy for that sort of chaos in my life. Sometimes boundaries or a little extra space so the pile doesn’t topple on to you as well are good precautions.
Thanks for this, my mind didn’t go to cheating exactly but I definitely read this letter as the girlfriend wants to keep her relationship with Jim.
Same here. The simple answer to “Why hasn’t my girlfriend set boundaries with Jim?” is “She doesn’t want to.” Now, there could be a million reasons why, and some are more sympathetic than others. (kheldara’s post up above is excellent.) But I think all LW can do at this point is try to make her own life as Jim-free as possible, and the Captain’s advice and scripts for that are great, as always.
At least, I read that she prioritises Jim´s feelings to LW´s.
LW, you´re worth being the person coming first in someone else´s mind. Someone should love you in such a way that your feelings are one of their highest priorities. And those don´t include the feelings of an “annoying male friend with obsessive behaviour”.
Yeah. The thing where the girlfriend cuddled with LW at the Jim’s party, but wouldn’t kiss? That sounds like it could just as easily be the girlfriend deliberately riling up Jim’s jealousy with the cuddles, but not wanting to take it “too far” and have Jim come storming over shouting “How dare you kiss MY girlfriend!?” because she actually is his girlfriend.
It’s not possible to be sure from this letter. The girlfriend could just be a recovering abuse victim with a lot of learning about boundaries ahead of her who is making an awful lot of messy navigational errors. But the could also be a lady with a boyfriend named Jim and a story about how her lesbian housemate is super into her and won’t back off and girlfriend tooootally doesn’t want to be cuddling with her housemate but she just has to put up with it for a little while because she won’t have anywhere to live if the possessive lesbian housemate chucks her out.
Some abusers are masters of appearing to be the victim.
And some victims are also, in turn, abusers of others.
It’s entirely possible that everything the GF is saying about Jim is true, *and* that she’s abusing the LW (including using her relationship with Jim as a weapon).
Sistermorphine, that sucks. I’m sorry you went through that.
I don’t want to negate your experience, but I’d like to say to LW, “Keep an open mind, and be aware that this is a possibility, but please trust your instincts and gather more data.” My anecdata follows [CW: some triggery stuff: yes, I’m dragging out my rape story again]:
My “Jim” promulgated that very version of the thing in my social circle, with sly denials and winks and “oh, I know she gets off on rescuing poor pathetic me, I know she steals energy from me by letting me care for her, but what can I do? I love her!” I was by no means fucking him. I was desperate to get away from him: he had mooched several thousand dollars of my hard-earned money, he was actively and unapologetically trying to get me fired from my job “for my own good,” he would “accidentally” cross a physical line and push his hands under my clothing or spill boiling water on me and require several hours of soothing that I selfishly wanted to use because I hadn’t slept that day… I wanted away in the worst way, but I knew it was my responsibility to take care of him, and I’m ashamed to say, there were a couple of times I was legit mean to him. I have no excuse. I KNEW what it was like to be abused, and I lashed out anyway. Abuse is NOT an excuse to hurt someone. (In the interest of full disclosure, my Jim was, in fact, and always will be, an ex.)
And Jim raped me. And Jim turned out to be a serial rapist, specializing in eight-year-olds. And I lost my community, because “false rape” and “drama llama” and “cheating chaos manufacturer” (and by the time the “serial” thing came out, I had left the community forever, for my own sanity’s sake). I lost the love of my life, too, but looking back, I would have lost them anyway: I was too messed-up to have a functional relationship— you might guess I was horrible at boundaries? Love of my life now has a gorgeous wife, gorgeous house in the suburbs, gorgeous baby, gorgeous career, all the things that seemed so out-of-reach when he was with me; that rapist did him a huge favor by getting me out of that guy’s life! And I’m getting better every day. I’m a better person for having gone through it, although I really, really wish I hadn’t, and I really, really miss my friends and wish I hadn’t put them and my ex through that drama. Secondary rape trauma is no joke. Also, lesbian now, and LoML is cismale, glad we sidestepped that. My life is made of silver linings. Can’t fucking move without tripping over one.
Just… be aware, some abusers can use the “bitches be cray and she can’t PROVE I’m not fucking her,” card, and “twisting the narrative” is, like, second line of the job description for abuser… because there IS abuse here, you just need to accurately assess where it’s coming from.
I really, really hope that LW’s GF gets lots and lots of useful therapy… and good books… and apps… and whatever works for her. Also SPACE. Holy cats, does she need some time to grow outside of others’ shadows.
Take care of yourself, LW. And DON’T blame yourself if things don’t work out. We can all only ever do our best.
I apologize if this didn’t need to be said, or if I overshared. I have to admit, seeing how people probably discussed me in that long-ago court of the Internet forum (with some justification) was pretty draining.
As I said, I’m over the pain, and if you’re tempted to express sympathy, pass it forward to someone who needs it (I guarantee there is someone in your life who needs sympathy and compassion). Acknowledging someone like me is just feeding the “women get raped/ abused because they like the attention” narrative— which the CA crew knows is the real “false rape narrative.” (Oh, shit, that’s a photography project: “False rape narratives,” where survivors share the things that people—- their rapists, their friends, the people they reported it to— said to protect the rapist and rape culture…)
Please do the photography project and write a book.
This sort of information needs to be shared.
I don’t think that acknowledging you is a bad thing to do. And the project sounds necessary.
I hope this project happens in some form. Collecting possible contributions to such a project would be a great outlet for the anger I feel when false rape narratives come up. (e.g. recently in the Sunday Times … implying that it could have been assumed from the start that a woman was lying about rape because she was “fat and ugly” – aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgghhhhh)
That’s a very good point. Maybe Jim has no idea about all of this and legitimately does think they’re dating, and is getting told stories about the crazy lesbian who’s obsessed with his girlfriend. Either way, this relationship needs some hard boundaries – stat!
I definitely got some feelings that GF is not quite on the same page as LW, but it could be “she would like to be with LW but everyone thinks she’s dating Jim and she doesn’t know how to come out as ”he’s maybe abusive and I never liked him’ and is avoiding thinking about it because she’s scared” or “she’s really into Jim and hasn’t really admitted to herself he’s bad for her”. And even “she appreciates having somewhere to escape but isn’t as into LW as LW was into her”. Or “the whole thing is in her head and she doesn’t know how not to play people for attention”. I think the most likely is “she’s still a bit into Jim and also scared of him and hasn’t processed those feelings yet, and isn’t sure how she feels about LW yet”.
It’s worth keeping the possibilities in mind, so LW can spot it if signs start appearing. But the basic advice is still reasonable as “LW protect herself from Jim-stuff both first-hand and second-hand” and “encourage girlfriend to have therapy” and “encourage GF to have somewhere safe to live where GF-LW relationship can develop or not without putting GF at risk of falling back onto Jim.”
Cap hit the nail on the head. “Your safety matters. Your feelings matter.” If a friend came up to you with serious questions/feelings of wanting to bail on their relationship of 2 months, what would you say to them?
Make sure you take care of you. You may or may not be able to fix her, so there is no shame in watching a clean break from the situation.
I’m sorry to say this, but the way the LW is talking makes me uncomfortable as well. Your girlfriend not wanting to phone a bunch of people she doesn’t know well to tell them she’s not Jim’s girlfriend seems understandable to me, as a way of avoiding getting sucked into Jim’s drama and desire for her attention. And the thing about coming to the barbecue to “show him that she is with me” and wanting her to hug and kiss – if the girlfriend was indicating that she enthusiastically wanted that, then great, but it sounds a bit like the LW was trying to put on a display of ownership for his benefit. Jim is a threat but not a rival she needs to one-up. The girlfriend has been beaten down by years of abuse and is not stupid or weak for not handling the situation well. I know this is a really tough situation. The LW can help it by looking carefully at how she thinks about Jim and the girlfriend and be the first person who’s willing to draw boundaries.
Yeah, I kinda agree with this. Jim’s behaviour is Not Okay – nothing about his behaviour is okay, oh my god, he’s terrifying – but if his behaviour is making GF scared to show affection to LW around him – again, so, so not okay – then LW putting pressure on her to show affection anyway isn’t helping, no matter how unfair that sounds.
And it is unfair, of course it’s unfair, it’s super unfair. It’s the worst! But GF’s feelings are valid and probably messed up and confused and scary, and trying to push her to do things that make her feel uncomfortable is not helping her feel safe any more than Jim’s Jimness is.
The boundaries she is chosing to enforce are the wrong ones, but let her have them anyway. My guess is she’s enforcing them with you because she trusts you to respect them in ways she can’t trust Jim.
I admit, I had similar thoughts. I hope the LW’s gf finds some help. But since she didnt write in, it sounds like the LW’s solution is pretty simple: how do I slow my roll with my gf of *two months* and not think I can control something that is not mine to fix?
It was the girlfriend’s suggestion, though, in all cases, not the LW’s, according to the narrative we have:
That’s not LW pressuring her girlfriend to do something she doesn’t want to do, it’s checking in to see if she’s following through on GF’s own plan to manage the situation with Jim. Ditto for the BBQ: GF invited and (again, according to LW’s narrative, which is all we had) LW didn’t initially want to go but was convinced to do so – that dynamic suggests to me that GF might have brought that up as the reason, though we don’t know one way or the other.
Yeah. And that sort of back-and-forth-ness can really screw with your perceptions, whatever the reason.
I think there’s an element here, too, of that the GF is texting things like “I wish I could kiss you, but Jim.” That kind of message can be really very confusing to receive. Similarly it’s unclear to me whether the GF was the one to suggest “Oh I’ll call his friends” or if that was the LW’s suggestion, but if it’s the former (which is how I read it initially) it can also be really confusing to get a “I’m gong to do X” and then find out that they never actually did it.
In other words, while I think the LW needs to watch to make sure they aren’t stomping on GF’s boundaries, this kind of situation–with its secrecy and its weird ever-shifting boundaries and the “oh I want to, buuuuuut….” can seriously mess with someone’s head. Even if the person isn’t trying to mess with your head, even if they’re messing with your head because their head has also been messed with, it can still seriously mess with your head. Especially when you add in the “I would break up but I can’t because she has nowhere else to live. My suggestion would be for the LW to get space however she can, just to clear out that particular persistent sort of fog.
The “I really want to kiss you BUT” texts reek of manufactured drama to me, especially is they are spontaneous (which is what it sounds like) rather than a response to texts from LW asking for kisses. Spontaneous texts if this nature sound like they are designed to positively encourage LW to buy into a belief that everything about her relationship would be perfect and blissful if not for the Big Honking Jim Problem that she is never allowed to stop catering to or having feelings about for longer than three seconds. The more I think about this post, and the more I read other poster’s comments, the higher my shoulders go up around my ears. It might be projection because I have a sister who does this and it fucked with my life for years, but it really does sound to me like the girlfriend is sitting in the middle of a giant web of drama, gleefully tugging on the strings to make everyone dance.
LW – is the girlfriend’s abusive ex still causing problems? Abusers usually escalate to their most dangerous when a victim is escaping, in order to get them back. Did you notice that happening? Or did the ex just fade immediately into the background, thankful to be done with her, and you didn’t even have time to think about that because all this fresh drama with dating you but needing to be careful of Jim got heaped on so thick and fast?
This was my reaction too – that the girlfriend is, perhaps subconsciously, thriving on the drama of it all. So many bees here. I think, if I were LW, I would end the relationship and the roommate situation, too. Why give your heart and home to someone who seems to care more about not offending some threatening jerk than she cares about your comfort and safety or even her own?
One more red flag to the “why doesn’t this story add up” pile – how did the “abusive ex” deal with Jim? Because while the LW – being a good person and all – is trying to be tolerant of it, I can’t see the Evil Ex putting up with his shit as easily. Was the abusive ex also ok with letting Jim pretend to be dating the girlfriend? Also ok with never showing any affection around Jim? How exactly did this work?
It just seems to me that these two ogres should have clashed more, if they both really existed.
Was the ex “abusive” because she wouldn’t put up with Jim’s shit? Or GF’s, if she’s been gaslighting LW and Jim is a patsy?
Despite my comments taking the narrative as presented by LW at face value (I tend toward this because we only have their words and not the contextual cues the LWs themselves have, and, statistically, false claims of abuse are rare relative to true clsims), I did also get a sense that GF might be an unreliable narrator, so these are not outside the realm of possibility. I think the best advice here is that which remains agnostic toward GF’s relationships with others and focuses on LW’s necessary boundaries, because there are multiple plausible narratives that fit the details LW gave us.
Yeah, like, did the gf say that she was going to call Jim’s friends and correct the misinformation because she was SO MAD that Jim lied about her being his gf…. Or was it more that the LW was upset about Jim’s lie and the gf offered something she could do to ‘fix’ things in order to make the LW not be upset any more? Because with the latter, the intention isn’t to actually go through with the suggestion (and all the discomfort and drama it may cause), it’s just to stop the person in the room with you from being upset for a while.
And “placate the upset person” may be a pretty instinctive survival mechanism for the girlfriend at this point. LW might not intend to be “pressuring” her, but the girlfriend may still be experiencing it as pressure. And LW may be upset because she’s concerned for the girlfriend’s well-being — but it may just come across as “LW is upset with me”.
Then the girlfriend doesn’t do what she said she’d do (because she didn’t necessarily *want* to do that in the first place), the LW starts checking and repeatedly asking if the girlfriend’s done what she said she’d do, and somehow everything’s slid into another kind of controlling situation.
I agree with this as well. If we’re talking about the gf being controlled because she can’t set boundaries, it sounds a bit like she stumbled from one controlling situation to another. LW, of course you want to keep her safe, but you want to keep her safe by asking her to do the things that *you* want her to do, which in an awful way, is exactly what he’s doing. Backing up and asking her what her thoughts are sounds more like the way to go.
I had this thought as well especially about the “to show him she was with me” language, but I also had the thought that it could be a poorly phrased expression of the desire to show Jim that the GF has someone else’s support and that Jim’s behavior has not successfully convinced LW to do what Jim wants,
i.e. dump GF (since it seems like Jim has seen that happen at least once, and in his clearly not great brain he may have learned “if I just do this long enough she will be single again and will become my actual girlfriend!”). Either way this isn’t a great idea in this particular situation because Jim isn’t just annoying, but genuinely dangerous, so LW should still stop being around Jim.
And I hope that LW takes a look at why she wanted to “show” Jim she was with GF–and if she finds that it was a power thing, do some work around that.
DASH is an invaluable tool for this kind of situation. Sometimes an automated, black and white , value neutral warning does more than advice from loved ones.
Best wishes to you both, take care?
Extraneous question mark there, sorry!
I’ve decided to c&p the V-DASH (Victims of Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour-based crimes) subset of questions here. Every ‘Yes’ is a potential red flag.
1. Is the victim very frightened?
2. Is there previous domestic abuse or stalking/harassment history?
3. Has (insert name if known of the stalker) vandalised or destroyed your property?
4. Have they turned up unannounced more than three times a week?
5. Have they followed or loitered near your home or workplace?
6. Have they made threats of a physical or sexual violence nature?
7. Have they harassed or stalked any third party since the harassment began?
8. Have they acted violently towards anyone else during the stalking incident?
9. Have they engaged other people to help with their activities?
10.Have they had problems in the past year with drugs, alcohol or mental health?
11.Have they ever been in trouble with the police or do they have a criminal history?
For any UK-based Awkward Army members who need advice on stalking, you can contact Paladin – National Stalking Advocacy Service, or find resources in your area – https://www.helpforvictims.co.uk/content/G80.htm
Thank you, thank you.
I didn’t find The gift of fear especially helpful, but that’s for idiosyncratic reasons that are unlikely to affect you. so I’m second the recommendation Why does he do that?, however, was life-changing. Oh my gosh, I recommend that to anyone who has any contact with anyone abused. Wow. (I was abused.)
The reason I’m going on about the books is that I think they may help you in constructing a framework for describing just how untenable the current situation is.
Please do take care of yourself throughout this stressful time. (If that means stepping up your therapy or exercise or knitting do all of them.)
Your girlfriend has been groomed into appeasing Jim. I am with the Captain: appeasing Jim doesn’t have to be part of your life.
It’s fine and acceptable and all good things to set a No Jim boundary with your girlfriend Girlfriend, going forward, my affection, indeed my life, won’t be restricted by Jim. He is not welcome at my house. If we go where he is, I won’t drop your hand. He’s not my friend. He’s not the boss of me.
I can’t govern your relationship with him – indeed, I don’t want to – but I want this to be very clear: he’s not part of my life at all.
Anyway, Jedi hugs if you want them.
I agree with all of this, except I think “I won’t drop your hand” could be a little too much. If GF wants LW to drop her hand for any reason, she should; unwanted touching = bad no matter who’s doing it.
You’re probably right. I was quite annoyed by Jim.
Yeah, I get the sentiment behind it, but when you get right down to it, that’s a bad way to go about it.
I think it is entirely valid to say, however, “I am not going to hide our relationship and it is a bright-line dealbreaker for me if you won’t show any affection in public.
To be honest the fact this isn’t a het relationship changes that dynamic too. It would be like going back in the closet to have an SO that refuses to display any public affection towards you, and it starts to tangle with a lot of emotional trauma and history that isn’t pleasant to revisit.
Yupyupyup. There’s a really ugly thread of lesbophobia implied in that behaviour. It may be internalised on the part of the girlfrien, but still.
I don’t think it’s fair to claim that not wanting to show physical affection in public is inherently lesbophobic, even with the caveat that it may be internalised. People have different levels of comfort on such things, relating to culture, upbringing and personality. Obviously someone like me, who doesn’t choose engage in hand-holding, cuddling, or kissing in public won’t be romantically compatible with someone to whom those things are important. But that doesn’t make be a bad lesbian compared to people who like it. I respect people who like hand-holding and kissing when they’re out and about, those are good things to enjoy! I just ask people to respect that I have a different kind of personality and that is OK and not being a secret bigot.
A lot of straight people in perfectly functioning relationships do not believe in public displays of affection. It’s old-fashioned, to be sure, but there was a time when NO ONE was allowed to engage in PDA, without being considered extremely rude.
So, yeah, let the GF drop the hand, if she wants to. It could be for any number of reasons, including just plain old-fashioned manners.
To be honest the fact this isn’t a het relationship changes that dynamic too. It would be like going back in the closet
I had the opposite reaction as a queer, gender non-conforming person: I absolutely do not want to make any SO of mine feel unsafe by insisting on public displays of affection that they’re not comfortable with. My partners are semi-closeted at work; I don’t take it personally, even though that means I have to be careful with what I say when I visit them and meet their coworkers. We all have different ways of dealing with the risk/reward of being out. No one gets to make that decision for a partner.
Sorry, I didn’t mean “no pda with lesbian partner = lesbophobia”, but “lesbian partner’s feelings and needs and boundaries are always worth less than dude’s = lesbophobia, maybe internalised”.
You both are right that PDAs or the absence thereof are a personal and neutral thing, not good or bad or unhealthy. But here, we have “I text my GF I want PDAs with her. My GF wants PDAs with me. Well, my GF will just have to deal because there are manfeelings in the room that must be protected at all costs”.
In short, I see the lesbophobia in the GF always, always, placing her relationship with the LW second to the one with Jim.
That said, I’d like to apologise to you both and to anyone else I might have hurt with the unintended implication that not liking PDAs is a sign of internalised homophobia. That’s a rotten and untrue thing to say (or imply), and I’m sorry.
No worries 🙂 I could have read what you were saying as more specifically about the girlfriend and not generalised. I agree with you that the dynamic with GF and LW around this issue is a painful one. Whether GF is afraid to antagonize Jim, wants to ‘protect’ Jim, or as suggested elsewhere is actually Jim’s girlfriend, it definitely sounds unfair and confusing to LW and she’s not being treated well by GF. If Jim isn’t safe to be around when they behave in ways they otherwise normally would, then it isn’t fair to LW to be around him, this is hardly a situation in which he is unavoidable*, and it does come across as putting his feelings above LW’s.
*Or in which he’s not unavoidable but restraint would be the polite thing, like not snogging your new partner in front of the spouse you left three months ago when you meet for them to pick up the children.
All clear, then ^^
Seconding what you said about there being no need for the LW to be around Jim! That’s not good for anyone involved.
It’s really frustrating and aggravating when you can see that someone’s in an obviously abusive relationship and they seem to keep going back and not ending it and they won’t listen to your advice no matter how right you are …
… and they really really need to *not* have someone else getting frustrated and angry at them.
Extricating yourself from an abusive relationship after years is notoriously hard. It’s hard to acknowledge that someone you care deeply about is controlling or dangerous. And it’s also scary — LW’s girlfriend may suspect (consciously or unconsciously) that the moment she tries to cut off the “friendship” is the point when he might flare up into outright violence. Which wouldn’t be an irrational fear.
The LW’s exasperation and stress is understandable, and she’s got to choose for herself what she can handle, but it feels like there’s a serious risk of her directing her exasperation *at* her girlfriend, and that’s not going to help anyone.
Most recently my GF invited me out for a BBQ with him. I initially didn’t want to go because he would be there but i decided to go to show him that she is with me, and I wasn’t going to let him scare me off. It was initially going ok, my GF and I cuddled a little which surprised me given the initial ‘no touching for Jim’s sake’ rule. I then hinted that i wanted a small kiss. She hinted at Jim and that we shouldn’t because he is there. I got upset and left, this led to an argument.
So, yeah. Yes, it’s ridiculous that the LW and her girlfriend can’t touch each other where Jim might see! But … it feels like the LW’s ended up putting herself into a situation she doesn’t want to be in (hanging out with Jim), in order to try to prove a point to him or “claim” her girlfriend as hers.
And then she ends up getting upset and storming off when her girlfriend doesn’t want to be kissed right then. Which is a boundary that her girlfriend gets to set for herself, whether the LW thinks it’s for a good reason or not.
Not to mention that “I don’t want to kiss you because it might provoke the scary guy who smashes things up” isn’t an “insane” thought process.
If the LW’s girlfriend is feeling that she’s being nagged or pressured by the LW about how she’s handling things with Jim, or is having to be on the defensive against the LW about how she’s handling it … that just entrenches her in the relationship with Jim and isolates her from the LW as a potential ally.
At minimum, I think you get to set a boundary that says “You’re the boss of how you handle your friendship with Jim, but I will never be in the same place at the same time he is, ever.”
*nodnodnod* It might help for the LW to think very much in terms of her own boundaries — and that might ultimately include “I don’t want to date you while you’re still in contact with Jim because this whole thing is too much” — and accept that she can’t make her girlfriend’s choices for her.
“It might help for the LW to think very much in terms of her own boundaries — and that might ultimately include “I don’t want to date you while you’re still in contact with Jim because this whole thing is too much” — and accept that she can’t make her girlfriend’s choices for her.”
It has to be about LW and LW’s choices, or it can sound like a “it’s me or them” ultimatum, which it really isn’t, even though that’s the end result.
Someone very close to me was close to a person who was Not Healthy to Be Around and that relationship was so damaging to my Someone that it was affecting me. I was not afraid or in danger, but it was breaking my mental health.
I acknowledged that while it sounded like “it’s me or them” I didn’t mean it that way: Someone had the right to be around whomever they wanted to and I had no right to demand they not have contact with NHtBA, but for my own sanity I had to get NHtBA completely out of my life. I was giving the same message to everyone who had any contact with NHtBA. I hoped Someone would realize how badly they were being hurt by NHtBA, and be able to cut out NHtBA, and if and when they did, I’d be thrilled to see them again. “I love you, but it’s killing me to see you get pulled under, and I won’t get pulled under with you.”
Fortunately, soon after somebody else gave Someone the same message and hearing it from two of their closest most supportive people gave Someone the clarity and courage to end it.
LW, you not only have the right to save yourself, you cannot help your GF if you don’t save yourself.
Good luck, and all the jedi hugs you want.
It also models health boundary setting behaviour. Jim looms so large in Girlfriend’s life, it might do her good to be reminded that actually Jim is, or should be, optional in her life. This is the same vein as the Captain’s “make Jim boring” advice.
“I don’t like Jim and I won’t have him in my house. You’ll need to meet him somewhere else.”
“I don’t like Jim and I won’t hang out with him. You’ll need to go without me.”
If Girlfriend resists these boundaries, it may be because she feels like she needs back up or a home field advantage when Jim is around. But that doesn’t mean LW has to hang out with Jim or have him in her home, it means Jim is scary and LW is better off getting away from him. It does no one any favours if LW gets sucked into Jim-appeasing alongside Girlfriend.
YES! We are all allowed to have our own boundaries about things that directly affect us. And your pain at your friend’s situation does directly affect you.
She has the right to her own situation, and you have the right to back away from it, so you don’t feel the pain at her situation. Just like you have the right not to study medicine, if you get sick at the sight of blood.
Keeping in mind you wrote and your girlfriend did not —
1. I agree that you need a safety plan for yourself. A great way to make a safety plan is to call a Domestic Violence Hotline. They will have a comprehensive list of resources locally, places you can go, non-profits that will take your pets for short-term, and checklists for everything you need to remember to bring if you need to leave your place quickly. I called one the night before I left my abuser for good and that call gave me so much clarity about what I was going to do.
2. While it’s true that she isn’t putting you in harm’s way intentionally and is hurting an awful lot herself/not the bad guy here, she IS putting you in harm’s way. You are being abused by proxy. You are a *victim of Jim’s abuse,* not just a bystander. Consider: What you can and can’t do is constrained by this man’s anger and control. You feel unsafe in your home. You are being harassed. Your boundaries are being trampled, and when you object, you’re told to subordinate your needs to hers and his because you love her. This is not, “how do I support my friend who is being abused” but rather, “I am being abused.”
And so, I think in order to transition from “active victim of abuse” to “supportive friend” you need to put your own oxygen mask on first. It sounds like if you didn’t live together, you might feel ready to put some distance. Is that true? What would it look like if,
“Girlfriend, I love you and I’m committed to you being safe. Jim scares me a lot, for both of us, and while I love and support you no matter what kind of presence he has in your life, he can’t be in mine. I’m not giving you an ultimatum; I realize we are in different places with this and I don’t expect you to make any changes right away or even ever if you can’t or would prefer not to. Even if you promised to stop talking to him tomorrow, forever, it wouldn’t change my mind. But right now, I think before we’re ready to take this any further, we need to get you on your feet in a sustainable way and I need Jim entirely out of my life. Once that happens, I think we’ll both have a lot more clarity on our relationship – right now, I’m having trouble separating the two.”
Don’t make this “are we breaking up?” Maybe. Maybe not. Table it, it’s a derail. The point is, she’s getting her own place and you are 100% off Jim-related anything.
Come armed with some information about social services or ways to find housing that is not your apartment (the DV hotline is great for this – you might even make an appointment with a free or sliding-fee counselor or social worker FOR her and go WITH her). Give her a good, long time to find a place and even an allowance if she needs it and you can swing it.
But right now, your apartment is a shelter and you are serving as a social worker, with no training and no back-up. There is a reason why social workers don’t have romantic relationships with their constituents and also a reason why shelters don’t publish their addresses. It’s because it’s not safe for abusers to have that kind of access to the people and places charged with keeping victims safe and because being an identifiable close person who Jim knows and perceives as meddling in his fake-girlfriend fantasy makes you a target and is dangerous FOR YOU.
Re: “But if I don’t save her no one will!” feelings – Yes, a lot of people are failed by the system, and yes, you may watch her pick him over you or continue to be his friend or be victimized by him in some way. If that happens, though, it would have happened whether or not she was living in your apartment and no matter what type of relationship you have. That’s clear from the way things are now, right? The kind of support you’re giving her isn’t making either of you any happier, healthier, or safer? She needs something different, and so do you.
You can’t do anything about that other than continuing to be a loving, supportive presence in her life and letting her know that you don’t judge her and will always be there if she needs help. You also can let her know that the kind of help she’s asking from you is help she really, desperately needs to find somewhere else.
This comment is so helpful and clear! I hope the LW sees it, you make really good points.
This is very good advice. LW, your first responsibility is to yourself. Keep yourself safe. You don’t need to make any noble sacrifices here.
Yes, this is excellent.
I made a post further up in the thread about “maybe the girlfriend is two-timing LW with Jim” and the beauty of this perfect advice is that it applies no matter what the “real” problem(s) is/are here. LW needs to be safe and LW needs to put some hard boundaries between herself and the Jim situation. That is the first priority.
If girlfriend tries to talk LW out of that, then girlfriend is not healthy enough to be in a relationship right now. LW’s needs matter too and must not be rug-swept. If girlfriend insists on trying to rug-sweep LW’s needs then she is either (a) a recovering victim who has a lot of work to do before she can manage a relationship that isn’t toxic to the hilt; or (b) a cheating covert abuser; or (c) some combination of both.
“then girlfriend is not healthy enough to be in a relationship right now”
I love this. It’s not about whether the person is the right person for you, or the love of your life. If they are just not healthy enough to be in a relationship, any relationship they have during that unhealthy time will be, de facto, unhealthy and toxic.
I’m not saying shun the person, but I will say, don’t get involved with a person who is not healthy enough to be in a relationship. They need to heal before they can share a healthy relationship with you, and you’re not the Doctor of Love.
Be there, be supportive, but don’t be the doctor, or you might make things worse. And for your own sake, don’t give your heart away to a toxic (even if not by her own choice!) person, into a toxic relationship. Purge the poison first.
Wow, this comment is so helpful.
I’d also like to note- when you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you develop habits and patterns that are really unhealthy outside of that context. LW, your girlfriend might need some serious help with this, but as someone who is currently dating her, you are NOT going to be able to provide that help. Girlfriend needs the space- both physical and emotional- to figure some of this stuff out, and to learn how to react to normal emotions from non-abusive people. It might be that she doesn’t want to figure these things out, or there’s some other cause, but without some space between the two of you (and you no longer acting as her de facto counselor), neither of you is going to figure this out.
Best of luck, LW.
I want to bookmark this particular comment. Is there a way to do that on Safari?
Here’s the link:
Thanks! It opened up the page, where I already was (and bookmarked) but didn’t go to the comment. Still, the page is bookmarked, and I’m sure I’ll read it again and again.
About half of the time, my computer doesn’t like to go directly to comments. I don’t know why. It’s finicky.
HAHA! So, I tried it again, and it worked!
Thanks, so much!
This is such a complex and dangerous situation! Like the Captain suggested, I hope you have access to a drama-free space in your life right now and are making ample use of it, if only to unwind and recharge from all the madness at home. If you currently haven’t someplace like that, I can tell you that my usual haunts are libraries and churches, but parks, museums and cafés work really well too. I’m sure more people will have great suggestions as well.
Other than that, I just wanted to say that your girlfriend is not treating you well right now. She has her reasons, yes, but good reasons don’t make poor behaviour hurt any less. Forcing you to hide your affection and act like just a friend is not ok. Forcing you to interact with Jim is not ok.
It is ok to break up with her over that, if that’s what you want to do. It is also ok to not kick her out after you break up with her, if that’s what you want to do. It is definitely ok to give her a set time for finding another living arrangement and asking her to leave after that time is up. Please, put on your own oxygen mask first and do what you need to do *for yourself*. Everything else can wait.
Theaters. Soak in someone else’s drama for a while. You’ll fill whatever craving for drama you have that pulls you toward dramatic people in dramatic situations, but seeing someone else’s drama on stage or screen will also give you a fresh perspective on your own drama. Or at least a break from it.
Comedy after drama, to give your mind a chance to refresh, and flip the perspective a bit more. Some of the best comedy is drama taken to an extreme. It can be educational, in that respect.
So, yeah, go to a theater, alone, and have a movie marathon, starting with a drama, and ending with a comedy. Throw in an action, in the middle, to deal with the adrenaline pumped up from all the anger at the drama, and you’ll feel drained, but you’ll also be able to look at your own situation with refreshed eyes.
YMMV, but it has worked for me, in the past. But do go alone. You’ll need quiet time between shows to process your emotions, and if you go with someone else, you’ll be too busy chatting, and being “on” for them, to do the internal work.
That’s a really cool system! Thanks for posting it. I love how it is basically a group of mood-setters being used to change thought patterns.
Yeah. The dollar theater really, REALLY helped me during stressful times at college. Now I have Netflix and a DVD collection, and I can say, “I need a costume drama, followed by a slapstick comedy, STAT!”
I have nothing to add to what the Captain has said besides all the jedi hugs to you, LW, and I hope you and your GF stay safe.
I lost track around this point … too much of the Pronoun Game.
… “said she’s going to tell his friend that she is not his girlfriend. … if she had and she said that he got upset and told her to give him two days to tell them himself, because if she tells them he’ll lose respect.” …
Jim will lose respect for his own friends? Of his friends? The other friend will lose the respect of Jim? For Jim? The other friend will lose respect of the friend group?
“Lose Respect” seems like strange phrasing. It sounds like “stop standing on my foot” … I don’t care what your friends think, you need to stop calling/claiming me.
GF is goign to tell Jim’s friend that GF is not Jim’s girlfriend. …if GF had (done so) and GF said that Jim got upset and told GF to give Jim two days to tell Jim’s friends Jimself, becasue if GF tells Jim’s friends Jim will lose (the) respect (of Jim’s friends i.e. face, honor, social status, etc.).
I think the logic is something like:
If the girlfriend calls up Jim’s friends and tells them “Yeah, so Jim has been telling you I’m his girlfriend, FYI I’m not and he’s delusional”, those friends will lose respect for Jim. This will hurt Jim, so he doesn’t want the girlfriend to do that. Jim wants to fess up to his friends himself. At least this is the story the girlfriend is telling the OP.
What I’m not entirely clear from LW’s letter is how much of Jim’s bad behavior is /directly observed by LW/ and how much is /reported by LW’s girlfriend/.
I am all for believing a victim and not questioning their story when it costs us nothing, like reading someone’s blog or a news story. But it’s not LW’s girlfriend writing, it’s LW. And LW unconditionally believing her girlfriend MIGHT be costing LW housing, sense of safety, and a great deal of emotional labor if LW’s girlfriend is lying. And thus far LW’s girlfriend doesn’t seem to be actually treating Jim as a real problem.
I am going there because what LW reports on her girlfriend’s behavior vs Jim’s behavior isn’t adding up to me. Either LW’s girlfriend has some seriously messed up boundaries (possible) or LW’s girlfriend is actually encouraging this drama (sadly also possible). If LW decides she doesn’t want to put up with it either way, it’s ultimatum time and girlfriend can either shut it down or get out then it doesn’t really matter why this is happening. But if LW’s not planning on that then it may be worth paying attention to what is coming directly from Jim and what is coming from girlfriend.
I’m reminded of the few bits in bancroft’s books about lesbian relationships and how it can be hard to tell who the abuser is; now arguably the Jim/girlfriend relationship is the one being analyzed and isn’t a same-sex relationship in question, but bancroft’s stance that the abuser in any male-female relationship must be the man fell seriously flat with me anyway.
Overall I agree with the captain that LW needs to look out for herself and lay down the law regarding Jim, and LW would not be at all in the wrong to tell her girlfriend “either Jim goes or our relationship is done.” She does not have to stick with this confusing behavior.
Yes , I think the distinction between Jim’s behaviour as witnessed by LW and Jim’s behaviour as reported by the girlfriend is an important one. Spot on.
“The abuser in any male-female relationship must be the man”.
I agree with you that this doesn’t compute. I have seen many male-female relationships in which the abuser is the woman, and I don’t understand why Bancroft doesn’t understand that abusers usually lie, including about their victim abusing them.
I suspect Bancroft has some selection bias because I think they worked in a court-ordered type abuser program and men ARE much more likely to inflict severe physical harm and are probably much more likely to be convicted of domestic violence (which is not to say the courts are fair to DV victims or that it is easy, etc, just that of those convicted the vast majority are probably men, unless we are going to juvenile court and neglect etc but Bancroft doesn’t talk about child abuse at all)
Good point. Emotional abuse, which is the kind of abuse female abusers seem to choose more frequently according to what I’ve seen, is much more difficult to prove in court 😦
FYI, Bancroft does touch on child abuse in ‘When Dad Hurts Mom.’ His basic points:
– Men who abuse their partners are much more likely to be abusive fathers as well. An entitled and punitive mindset generally extends to the whole family, though it comes out in different ways with different members.
– Abusing a child’s mother is inherently abusive to the child, because it’s attacking the child’s most fundamental need, ie a safe and happy family. So even if an a user is a ‘perfect’ father, he’s still hurting the child (and generally he’s not all that perfect once you start looking).
– It’s very difficult for an abused mother to properly protect her children as long as the family lives together. It’s also often hard to take the kids and go, not least because the abuser generally has financial control and leaving risks destitution.
– An abused mother may find it hard to realise that the kids are being emotionally abused if the abuser treats her much worse than he does the kids. She may also have trouble being as good a mother as she could be because she’s under so much stress and often put in no-win situations. Hence, an abuser may be mistaken for the better parent.
– Abusers generally try to keep the family divided by using manipulation and favouritism. One of the biggest defences against an abuser is solidarity, even if it has to be secretive.
– Kids often blame the abused parent for setting off or failing to prevent the abuse, largely because it’s safer than blaming the abuser, and because the complexities of the situation are difficult for a child to understand, especially if the mother protects them from knowing the worst of it.
– Growing up in an abusive home puts kids af greater risk for becoming either abusive or abused, depending on whether they were a favourite or not. On the other hand, many people avoid becoming either.
His advice, basically, is ‘If you don’t have kids with an abuser, keep it that way. If you do, it really is best to get out, but let’s acknowledge that this is very difficult. Be the best parent you can be, and don’t take it personally if the kids lash out at you.’
Not strictly relevant to this thread, but probably interesting to enough people here I thought it was worth mentioning.
Eh, as I recall it was more about the effect of domestic partner violence in children than child abuse. Which is fine just again my point was the book might make it seem all domestic violence is men abusing women which might be confusing if LW’s girlfriend is really the one taking advantage here.
But maybe it would help LW analyse Jim better especially if he is a serious problem.
Yeah, it’s in the context of male abusers. Mostly I just thought that some people here might be wondering if it was worth reading amd thought a brief description might be helpful. 🙂
Bancroft was upfront about why he wrote as he did, he wrote from what he observed:
– He encounters more abusive men than women
– The entitlement he believes underlies abuse is discouraged more in girls and women than in boys and men
– With exceptions, the results of physical attacks are more dire when men attack women than when women attack men
– Men are believed. Women aren’t
I don’t think Bancroft was wrong to write about men who abuse women. Other people can write about partner violence in general, Why does he do that? addresses its subject very well indeed.
Yes bancroft was up front and I don’t think they were wrong to write about what they did; like I said the one thing I didn’t like about it was they generalized there experience to say something like women are never the abusers outside of a same sex relationsip (not an exact quote but that’s the sense I got from it). So it’s very helpful if you’re a woman being abused by a man (or trying to figure out anger vs addiction vs abuse) but maybe a little less useful for other scenarios
True that, about the “man-woman dynamic, any abuse must be from the man” thing. Even Charles Dickens wrote about women abusing their husbands, LONG before women got the vote in England, which was longish before women got the vote in Canada or USA.
In other words, women abusing husbands is a known thing that has been around for a long time, and it is foolish to say that only men can be abusers. Yes, men in our society have, as a rule, more power than women, and are more *likely* to be abusers, but not all men are strong or powerful, and not all women are not.
Also, and this is warped almost beyond belief, my mother’s step-sister witnessed many times her own sister literally goading her husband into beating her. Like, she’d reach over and pinch him, and say, “What are you gonna do about it, huh?!” over and over again, until he beat her. She’d do this, get beaten, do it again some other day, get beaten, and do it again. My mother, step-aunt and I could not understand it, at all. Now, though, I think she may have had a desire for a “bottom” BDSM relationship, and figured this was the only way to get that. And that is really sad, because from what I’ve read about BDSM, the bottom is to be respected and protected, and not beaten, but “disciplined” consensually and in a non-dangerous manner. I categorize this in the “true but very unhealthy don’t go there” category.
OK that pinching thing is seriously bizarre! I still think that is no excuse for beating someone though; should leave the relationship rather than “being goaded into” violence. (not to imply you felt it was an excuse either, just going back to abusers who claim they are beating their partners in “self defense” etc, doesn’t fly)
some victims ‘goad’ the abuser because they’re sick of waiting out the tension period that comes before the abuse and want to get it over and done with. I mean her behaviour is fucked up and I don’t know what was going on there but if his response was to literally beat her that’s not…all that sympathetic.
Yeah, this struck me as a “let’s get it over with because it’ll be worse later” mindset. But even if it wasn’t, he should still be walking away – maybe telling her to schedule a kickboxing class if she needs an outlet.
This is exactly correct — many abusers have a wind up period and abuse-ees will push the abuser to get the beating over with/take back some control in a horrible situation. Also, there is often a remorse/honeymoon period after the beating. This was probably your aunt’s sister’s goal in this situation. I have been in relationship with an explosive person (not physical abuse, just screaming/threats/scary-unhinged behavior) and my person had a clear pre-explosion prodrome. When this person was pre-explosion, I would purposely try to upset them to get the explosion over with.
Re: victim-goading the abuser– I have done this. There is an explosive person in my life and I deliberately did provoking things to get the explosion over with. This phenomenon is well-known in domestic violence treatment circles.
Yeah, I don’t think it is an excuse, either. If you WANT to be beaten (ummm, whatever floats your boat, I guess), then pursue a relationship where you can both be open and ask for what you want, and not have to manipulate each other into abusing. It was just all sorts of messed up, and when she told me about it, I just felt sick.
You start a new relationship and two months later you’re fearing for your physical safety, among other things, largely enabled by your GF’s inability to read the situation and take basic steps to protect herself. You’ve been cast into the role of rescuer/protector/boundary-setter to the extent that it is now the dominant dynamic. No one could blame you for cutting your losses now.
I’m seeing lots of bees here. GF needs to find new housing or Jim needs to go, tho I think it should be gf needs to find new housing AND Jim needs to go
If it’s true what they say about “They won’t bother you, if you don’t bother them,” a literal house filled with bees might actually be safer. As long as they’re not EVIL Bees.
This probably won’t help much. But I know someone who has had some pretty messed up relationships with borderline abusive women. An the one thing in common was that they started out a lot like your girlfriend did. amazing relationship needing help and a lot of drama. Always a “friend on the side causing chaos. And he ended up marrying one of them.
The thing is that you can tell a person over and over “that’s scary” “let Jim go” but It doesn’t mean anything unless they make the choice to do something so hint at the resources the captain and others have mentioned and let her make the choice.
DON’T allow yourself to be dragged in any further if you can help it.
protect yourself LW because while I dearly hope everything works out okay and we’re all just being paranoid. It’s better to be safe then sorry.
“Ensure your own oxygen mask is in place before helping others!”
Sorry just realised someone else said something Similar. the oxygen mask thing.
Is still good advice though
I think it bears repeating 🙂
I’m not wise enough to have an opinion on the entire situation, but I do have a few observations I feel like it’s a good idea to make, and one aside.
1: The gaslighting here is so palpable that even the commenters are getting confused about what’s going on and what the truth is. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the LW who is living in this situation. The Girlfriend’s actions aren’t lining up in serious ways a few other comments have mentioned, but that’s not necessarily a reason to disbelieve her, because she is undoubtedly being manipulated too. It doesn’t change the end result. It DOES mean that I think at the very least the LW needs to take a few days off, find a place to be for a few days that is not at home and not with any parties to this drama, take a day or two to relax and de-stress, and then take a little time to do some heavy mental processing and evaluation of facts without outside people who may or may not have ulterior motives influencing your decisionmaking.
2: Your feelings are your feelings. There is no such thing as a wrong feeling, only wrong actions based on a feeling. It’s clear the LW was feeling a little possessive over her girlfriend, some commenters have had a go at her for this, and I don’t think that’s fair. The way GF is acting here would make anyone feel supremely insecure (see gaslighting, supra) and while yes, GF gets to set her own boundaries the LW gets to have emotional needs too, relationships are a two way street. And you know what? She handled her frustration in an appropriate way, by leaving the situation. You are allowed to have emotional reactions to having abusive behavior and someone else’s bullshit proprietary claims over someone you care about shoved in your face bluntly. Those reactions can be about you as well as the other person. You are allowed to have emotional reactions to this stuff, you’re allowed to have emotional needs.
3: GF left one abusive situation, with her ex, but she never really left ALL her abusive situations, she was still being abused and manipulated by Jim all the while. There is a good chance GF has been deeply, deeply acclimatized and groomed to accept a wide range of terrifying behavior as normal, because she had two co-abusers at the same time and abusive behavior is not additive, it is not even multiplicative, it’s exponential. How fast your sense of “normal” and your “relationship template” can be twisted by one abuser is scary, how fast you can end up with no sense of what normal is when it feels like everyone around you acts this way is terrifying.
4: tagging onto #4, LW needs to be very, very careful about this relationship as it progresses. some people would say that you can’t have a relationship, I won’t say that . I will say Someone leaving an abusive relationship is already vulnerable and redeveloping their sense of self, self-worth, and boundaries. Someone who left one abusive relationship while being abused by someone else is just… yeah that’s not likely to be a headspace conducive to going into a relationship. Add in the complexity of “their place to stay is the only place that’s safe” and you can get a lot of awkward attachment-forming stuff going on.
5: Only you, LW, can decide if these are dealbreakers or not, and only you know how much is too much for you to handle. But, breaking up is not a 1940s divorce court, you don’t need to prove based on the preponderance of the evidence that the relationship is irreparably damaged. You get to have as many or as few dealbreakers as you want, and they can be as arbitrary as you want, because a relationship is a mutual gift, not a right. You get to be a George Costanza if you want to be. And you can totally say “any amount of feeling unsafe and insecure is too much in a healthy relationship”
An Aside: I think the Domestic Violence chapter of Gift of Fear needs to be viewed in context of the author. He’s obviously projecting a bit and when you realize that, you can take the statement for what it’s worth. The entire premise of GoF is often “is it better to be right? or alive?” and he’s saying unequivocally that when you have children, and are in an abusive situation, *unlike the rest of the book, in this case* you have a moral obligation to get out of the situation even at the cost of your life.
I wish I could like this comment. I got a bit uneasy from the way some commenters had a go at the LW for the BBQ situation. She is in that relationship too and she is allowed to be annoyed or uneasy at the situation.
LW is also allowed to make mistakes. Trying to show Jim that girlfriend is “hers” at the BBQ wasn’t wise, but let’s not make a federal case of it.
I agree. The LW would respect an ‘I don’t want to kiss’ from her gf but how can you help feeling annoyed at ‘Jim doesn’t want us to kiss’.
She was put in a no win situation and the entire relationship is a no win situation. Gf is so busy avoiding catastrophe she doesn’t have win in her vocabulary. LW is at a different life stage where she should be able to enjoy successful relationships.
This—LW is being set up to fail, by being invited to the barbecue, and then told she can’t act as though she’s in a relationship with her GF, which is guaranteed to make her want to show Jim that her GF is “hers.” We can’t know GF’s true intent, but I’d feel very manipulated. Captain is right to suggest LW avoid all social situations with Jim.
I second the liking of this comment. By far and away one of the best in this thread.
All of this. My concern for the LW is that GF seems to come with a lot of high-intensity drama—first escaping an abusive ex, and now all the drama around Jim. In my experience, relationships don’t sink or swim due to the amount of baggage people come with, but how well they manage it, and it doesn’t sound to me like GF is managing her baggage at all. She should be working on recovering from her abusive relationship (preferably with a therapist), which would hopefully give her the tools to recognize her relationship with Jim for what it is and to get away from him. From the letter, it doesn’t sound like that’s what she’s doing.
Personally, in the LW’s place, I would be doing everything possible to get away from GF’s dysfunction, which would mean breaking up with her and helping her find another place to live (though possibly not in that order). If this is what your relationship looks like after two months, when most people are in the loved-up googly eyes phase, I shudder to think what it’s going to look like after a year or more. The LW wouldn’t be breaking up because that’s what’s best for GF (though, based on the letter, I do think not being in a relationship for a while would be good for GF) but because i’s what’s best for her.
I think there’s reason to think that LW may be at risk from Jim. Looking at the timing, until recently Girlfriend was in an abusive relationship; given that Jim is supposedly her best friend, presumably he knew about that. Since the whole ‘lesbian’ thing clearly doesn’t make a dent on his expectations of control, isn’t it possible that Jim was going on the fantasy that once Girlfriend finally got done with that abusive relationship, and given that he’s officially her best friend, it’d be his arms she’d fly to?
Instead, she ran to LW.
Since Jim can evidently hold on to an unrealistic fantasy for years, and turns violent when reality obtrudes, I’d advise LW to be very careful about her own safety. The reality involving LW may have messed up a fantasy he was depending on for a long time, which would make him particularly dangerous right now.
Sorry, LW, I don’t want to be alarmist, but do stay safe!
Look, I know it’s the cliche Captain Awkward comment suggestion, but I really think the LW would benefit from talking to a therapist or counsellor in this particular situation. There are a lot of big red flags that make me think that LW would benefit from the perspective of a counsellor.
Even before LW and her girlfriend started dating, LW was taking on the role of rescuer, and it looks like the conditions of their relationship are largely determined by the girlfriend’s escape from her past abuser. Not to mention the giant hornet’s nest that is Jim and the way the girlfriend is forcing him into LW’s life and relationship.
It worries me that LW has stepped into this role of rescuer/refuge/protector/rock/martyr, and that she’s done so seemingly without realising that the way her girlfriend is treating her is deeply not ok. That she deserves so much better than to be manipulated by her girlfriend into appeasing a menacing abuser.
Particularly because LW is an abuse survivor herself. So am I, and something I did before I healed from that experience was to let in deeply troubled and traumatised people who hurt me. I thought I was being compassionate to my fellow survivors, but what was happening is that I still hadn’t learned to distinguish between un/healthy relationships or learned that I deserved to feel safe and good with people close to me. I mean, I guess I don’t know if that’s what’s happening for LW, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Or if there are other issues around self-esteem and boundaries worth addressing with a professional.
A therapist could help LW examine these issues (and others), and just generally support her to find her way to a safe home and a healthy relationship, whether it’s with this girlfriend or someone else.
I agree. While I have sympathy for this woman she’s rescued, I can’t help but think that LW is being used and is being put in harm’s way.
I hadn’t thought of that angle, but you’re definitely right. LW being a survivor herself is likely to be playing a big role in the dynamic.
About the counseling advice, however. I agree with you. It’s a great idea to talk through this with a trained proffesional, in theory. In practice, sadly, many LGBT+ people had had really bad experiences with counselling* and it can be very difficult to find a counselor trained in working with LGBT+ specific dynamics and problems. So if anyone knows of any mental health resources specifically aimed to LGBT+ people, now would be a really awesome time to share them.
Another way to find a LGBT+ safe therapist is asking your local LGBT+ friends and groups for reccomendations. It’s the best method I’ve found where I am, so hopefully it will work for the LW.
* So bad they are not even funny. Some of my concerns when I’m looking for therapists, which seem to be universal where I am: is this person gonna fuck me over worse than I already am? Am I desperate enough for help that this is an acceptable risk? Is this person gonna accept my identity? Is this person gonna try and make my identity the problem? How much __________phobia am I gonna have to put up with during the sessions? Will putting up with it be worth the positive results?
And then there are the people who have survived conversion therapy or have been abused by their therapists. There are still many LGBT+ people who don’t trust therapists, sadly, and no wonder.
B, thank you for this comment – that’s a really important point. I’m so sorry for the experiences you and many other LGBT+ have had when seeking help. I agree, it would be really important for LW to find someone who is LGBT+ affirming and who is professionally capable of providing services to LW.
I’m not in the US, but I thought this might be helpful – https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ . If LW wants to comment here with her location, I would be more than happy to do some googling to see whether I can find any options available where she lives 🙂
Thank you very much for your nice comment and for taking the time to look up some resources! 🙂 Hopefully it will be helpful to the LW.
I’m not in the US either, so I don’t know of any that operate there, but I can’t recommend local LGBT+ groups enough. At the very least, they are a source of useful information, and usually you can find supportive and friendly people as well. Just google queer/lgbt + group/meeting/association + location, and you should find at least one in every major city. If there aren’t any local ones, try forum/website instead of group/meeting.
I think there are some life problems a person can work through during the beginning of a new romantic relationship – and others that they need to be single and safe to really work through. It strikes me that LW’s girlfriend has transferred her dependency from Jim and abusive ex to LW, but remains unable to support herself or practice using any boundaries.
I say this as a person who used to sidestep in and out of relationships often with abusers, I have been homeless, I am a trauma survivor. So it’s not a judgment upon LW’s gf; just noticing that LW’s gf appears to be in some kind of horrible comfort zone with abusive people where there is no space for creating another life. A life without Jim.
My experience was that loving a non abusive person was not all the impetus I needed to cut contact with abusers in my life. I needed professional help and time. I needed to be independent to a greater degree and not place myself in a spot where my living situation was dependent on pleasing someone who I was reliant on.
LW, I don’t know what the answer is but I suspect it will begin with the housing needs here.
So. Much. This.
100000% agreed, that is very well said.
This is so kind and accurate
Wow, LW, that sounds like a really scary and exhausting situation. I think all of Cap’s advice is spot-on, particularly the concrete steps and recommended reading. Getting GF into a living situation where she has more agency and independence, and where you can feel safe and sane, is a great plan.
One thing I wanted to emphasize, since I haven’t seen it mentioned yet: LW’s girlfriend is coping with two abusive relationships, the one she just escaped, and the one with Jim. We don’t really know what GF’s social landscape looked like before LW came along. It may be that despite Jim’s obvious dysfunction, that friendship was one of the things that helped her survive her Ex up to this point. That doesn’t excuse his crappy behavior, but it could help explain why GF is having a tough time letting go. As LW may well know from her own experience, escaping an abusive relationship can sometimes feel like one of those video games where you have to jump from block to block. As soon as you land on one, it starts sinking, and you have to jump to the next. Abusers go out of their way to isolate their victims and put pressure on other friendships and relationships that might lend the victim support (especially if the victim shares a social scene with their abuser). If those friendships fail due to that pressure, then it becomes easier for the abuser to paint their victim as the source of the drama. It’s just so intensely frightening and lonely and you often wind up clinging to whatever support you can find.
That doesn’t obligate you, LW, to support GF if the relationship doesn’t work, or tolerate Craplord Jim in your life. But I do think that you might both benefit from giving Jim less screen time. Does she have other non-Jim-centric friendships or hobbies that you could encourage and support? Could you go to a BBQ with a friend who isn’t a creepsauce man-baby? Are there fun things you can do together that feed your souls and are way more interesting than debating Jim’s latest fuckery? Take the actions you need to ensure your safety, but beyond that, the more you can deny Craplords space in your brain and life by filling them up with good friends and fun pastimes, the happier you’ll both be.
“I think she’s a little, lying psychopath myself.”
Zeph, you’re welcome to try your comment again without “psychopath” and “crazies.”
Cap, thank you so much for that link! I have a terrible habit of using similar words as intensifiers, and there are some great suggestions about curbing that behavior there.
My personal reaction to this would be “I don’t want to be in a secret relationship with the (pretend) girlfriend of a violent man” because that’s a TERRIFYING situation she’s putting you in and safety trumps all.
It’s also very degrading and a key factor is going to be her attitude over doing this to you: Sorry, anxious hand wringing but too scared to change course? Entitled and tutting over your reluctance?
If it were me, I’d enforce the ‘Not being the other woman thanks!’ by immediately breaking up with her, but you could just state that preference, with a silent caveat in your head as to actions.
Which are going to be one of the following:
1) …But I’ll stay with you forever until one of us dead (hopefully not at the hands of Jim)
2) …So I wonder how long it will take you to hear that? I only have X months patience left until I stop giving a crap/ get the scare of my life and then you’ll have to go.
3) …I love you and Im leaving to set us up a life far away from Jim. Follow on when you’re ready to break ties.
4)…I Love you but I can’t do this. Maybe I can when the Jim thing is dealt with. Until then, friends/no contact.
You can always offer her the help of a friend even if you break up: help finding housing, she can call you for help ‘leaving’ Jim safely, or you could live together as friends.
I like this comment because it highlights that, for all intents and purposes, GF may as well be dating Jim. All his friends think she’s his girlfriend and she won’t contradict him, she can’t be physically affectionate with anyone else in his company and he’s taking up huge amounts of her emotional space and energy on a daily basis.
Beyond the obvious abusive dynamics, there’s something weird going on here. The fact that GF is in no apparent hurry to let people know that she and Jim aren’t dating is… odd, to say the least.
LW, are you absolutely 100% sure that Jim knows that you and your girlfriend are in a relationship? You say he knows you two are dating, but has your GF introduced you to him as her Girlfriend, As In The Romantic Kind, Not The “Gal Pals” Kind? Are you sure Jim isn’t labouring under the illusion that you two are just roommates who cuddle sometimes? If so, is your GF’s “no touching” rule part of maintaining that illusion? (Side note: heterosexual men are great at rationalizing away the existence of lesbianism when it gets in the way of a woman they feel entitled to.)
It’s possible that your GF is letting Jim believe that she’s single/continue with the lie that they’re dating because it feels like the safest course of action and she’s too scared to contradict him. But LW, it’s a) totally unsustainable and b) probably making you feel like shit. You’ve been doing this for two months now – when does your relationship with her start to take priority over her relationship with Jim? And if you knew for certain it was never going to happen, would you stay?
What really irks me about this is that the girlfriend says she’s not afraid for her own safety from Jim, but Golly! Shouldn’t she be afraid for LW’s safety?
I’m terrified for LW’s safety. Jim may not ever hurt the GF, here, because he thinks she’s his property, and he doesn’t want her damaged, but he destroyed a perfectly innocent and unconnected retail outlet. What would he do to the woman who is screwing HIS WOMAN?! Seriously, LW, to quote Whoopie Goldberg, “You in danger, girl.”
I think you DO need to get GF out of your house until the Jim situation can be resolved, for your own safety, even if you both belief he’d never hurt HER. As for where she could stay, it would have to be either alone, or with a very strong yet completely disinterested third (fourth?) party.
This whole relationship is infested with bees. I find the most troubling thing about this all is the fact she doesn’t consider YOUR feelings and, more importantly, YOUR SAFETY.
She has told you that this dude has TRASHED a store because someone else dated her at the time, and now this piece of shit knows where YOU live. So she isn’t aware that he can now break into your home and wreck it and YOU?
You can give her that come to Jesus moment or the break up or nothing at all, but I still think it is important that she is OUT of your home. This is all too much bullshit to deal with for relationship that has JUST started. Right now, this tomance is speeding at 100 mph to a cliff with no hope of slowing down unless your start gradually adding the brakes and the space in between.
So you have known each other for a few months. Is the potential of a long-term relationship with her worth this level of early-relationship scariness? Is the dynamic you two set up now likely to affect the way you relate to each other during that relationship? Would that be a problem?
I am so late here, but I just have to say that I am so afraid for OP… If Jim gets mad, he now has a target. Support your partner. Try to help her leave. But if she doesn’t….don’t put yourself at risk for her. I can’t help but think of all the stories of angry men who find a gun… Please, don’t dismiss your fear as an over-reaction.
Best of luck LW, I really hope you are able to put together a plan to keep yourself safe. ❤
Awesome clear and comprehensive advice as ever, Cap. I just wanted to throw it out there that LW’s gf may find it hard to trust her instincts as to whether involving the police would make things better or worse. In my experience this can be massively confusing as it can be hard to hear instincts in such situations – as you say the gf has been groomed not to trust them anyway. It can depend so much on which police officer you happen to get – luck of the draw. The police are good if something that can be pinpointed as a crime has been committed, all the more so when there’s evidence, but I personally have experience of getting nowhere much when someone has creeped me out but still not DONE anything that can be understood as an infringement. On one of those occasions the police officer just advised me to make sure I had absolutely nothing to do with the person concerned and that friends didn’t give them my contact details (yeah … in a perfect world for the LW’s gf). The advice to talk to a hotline is of course sound because that might help to clarify things for the gf.
I can relate to how the girlfriend must be feeling, and both she and LW have my sympathy. LW, you’re an AMAZING partner and all around good person. While I never had to deal with someone as violent and unnerving as Jim, I have handled situations the way GF has. A couple of years ago, I African Violet’ed a toxic friend, who then began harassing me, mainly by calling my home/cell phone and doing this heavy breathing and making annoying noises into the phone. This escalated to the point that xe called to harass me while I was in the recovery room after surgery. They were using multiple numbers so I couldn’t just block them. The police, while very kind and sympathetic, couldn’t do anything other than issue a warning and everyone advised me to change my numbers. I felt paralyzed with indecision. This didn’t feel like a big deal. It was just a friend who was pissed off at me. I didn’t want to do anything drastic or uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to not take this seriously. Mostly, I wanted the problem to just go away. I suspect that’s how GF’s feeling. Jim is like the shadowy monster in the corner and GF can’t decide whether to run for the door or pull the covers over her head. Running for the door feels riskier, so she’s laying low while she works out what to do. I don’t think she has any ulterior motives (though she might), I think she’s just scared. Jim’s a scary guy.
LW, I think your best bet is to stay as far away from Jim as possible. He should never, ever, be allowed into your house under any circumstances, not just because he takes out his frustrations on other people’s property or he could hurt you and your girlfriend but because he will make you feel unsafe in your own home. That’s not acceptable.
I don’t have any advice not already covered, but I wanted to say, um, perhaps Jim will get some prison time for that smashing up he did, and that the time in prison is helpful to the process of LW’s GF to cut ties and be off his radar.
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