My Trip To Oz And Back:

A True "Retrospective" Story Of My Relationship With A Person With BPD


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Intro
A.  When We First Met
B.  The Difficulties Begin
C.  The Difficulties Continue
D.  How I Felt
E.  More Issues--Concerning Your Behavior Towards Me
F.  More Issues--Concerning Your Behavior Towards Others
G.  How I Felt, Continued
H. Chris Begins To See The Light
I.  The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
J.  The Beginning of The End
K. Post-California: The Final Straws
L.  The Major Issues (As I See Them)
     1.  Our Different Family Backgrounds
     2.  Anger
     3.  Self-Esteem
     4.  Intimacy and Trust
     5.  Victimhood
     6.  Control/Power
     7.  Responsibility and Rescue
M.  What About Mary?
N.  How I Felt, Continued
O.  Summary
P.  Your Responses/Retorts
Q.  Some Final Thoughts
R.  About This Letter Itself
S.  Conclusion--Life Goes On

Bibliography

Epilogue

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CAST:

Chris:  Author of letter, formerly involved with Terry
Terry:  Recipient of letter, a woman with borderline personality disorder
Mary:  Chris and Terrys' couples counselor
Alan:  Chris' therapist
Ellen:  Terry's sister
Garry:  Terry's brother
 


Dear Terry,

Here is the letter which I promised to write. I have several reasons for writing you this letter. First, I hope to make my reasons for ending our relationship clearer to you. I fear that you do not understand exactly what happened between us. Perhaps you think I made a rash decision I will come to regret, or perhaps you are still under the impression that "Mary broke us up." Neither of these is true. Actually, it was a long, complex process that I had to go through, in order to reach this point. I want you to understand how I felt throughout the course of our relationship, and how I arrived at the very difficult decision to end it. Believe me, it was not at all easy.

Second, and more importantly, is my genuine hope that you will be able to learn something from all this. I care about you, and I want you to be happy. You truly deserve to be in a happy relationship in the future. However--and this is only my opinion--I suspect that this is unlikely to happen unless you understand and change certain aspects of your behavior. I feel almost morally obligated to point out these things to you, and to address the possible underlying issues. I honestly do not think you are even aware of some of the things you do. Someone needs to tell you, and if it's not me, then I don't know who else it will be. I feel that if I didnít tell you, then in the long run I would possibly be hurting you. I understand that my presenting you with these issues is one thing, but that your understanding and learning from them is another matter entirely, which at this point is out of my hands.

Finally, I need to get all these things off my chest, to purge them all and be done with it, and to continue moving on with my life. I have learned many lessons from this painful experience. It is now time for me to take what I have learned and and move on to a better future. So, in a way, this letter serves as a kind of "closure" for me.

I apologize for the sheer length of this letter. I feel that I have not been able to express my feelings for the last two years without retaliation, therefore I have a lot to say now. There are so many things I need to tell you that it really does seem overwhelming. Rather than providing a long "laundry list" of complaints I will attempt to adhere to a specific format--the story of our relationship from my perspective. Throughout this letter I will be citing numerous examples, some of which I will set apart in italics. These are not meant to dredge up dirt from the past, but simply to point out to you samples of your own behavior. If I did not provide examples, you would probably angrily think, "What the hell is she talking about?!"


A. When We First Met

I liked you from the moment I met you. When we started seeing each other eight months later, it was exciting and wonderful. I was enamored with you and very physically attracted to you. Even though you may not have realized it at the time, I actively pursued you. However, it did not take long for the first clue to the ultimate breakdown of our relationship to appear. That Saturday night in December 1994 when you first stayed over and we attempted to have sex--when I admitted that no, I hadn't slept with Allison, you immediately shut me out. Despite my genuine explanation that the reason I hadn't told you was sheer embarrassment over practically being a virgin, you accused me of lying to you and not being honest or trustworthy. You then alternately talked with me, pushed me away, had a temper tantrum about my "sheets pressing on your toes," furiously dressed to leave around 1 AM, etc., etc. I couldnít understand why things had gone so suddenly and horribly wrong, and when I tried to talk with you all I encountered was a raging silence. The next morning we "made up" and it was okay or so I thought. Little did I know, but this sequence of events ("pull closer, push away, pull closer, push away") would turn out to be a blueprint of many of our interactions to come.


B. The Difficulties Begin

In January and February 1995, I believe we genuinely fell in love with each other. Everything was so exciting and new and passionate. However, along with these positive and sparkling feelings, a horrible underside emerged. This was when your bewildering behavior toward me began. What I had to begin dealing with at this time, on a frequent basis, were your radical and unexpected mood swings, temper tantrums, criticizing, yelling, "shutting down" and pushing me away. I felt totally confused, as sometimes we seemed to get along so well, and other times I felt besieged, like I was caught in a terrible hailstorm with nowhere to run.

Here are some examples from that long period from January to November 1995, in which I began to have the uneasy feeling that something was wrong, yet I could not identify precisely what it was.

Wild mood swings:

We were at the club with Angela and having a great time being silly and goofing around with the straws and stuff, remember? Then, abruptly you became quiet, and when I tried to ask you what was wrong you scowled that you had a headache. When we went back to your car you were upset over a nail in your tire, and then you were abusive to me all the way home in the car.

"Shutting Down":

You know exactly what I mean by this--I donít have to provide examples--i.e. when you would simply stare ahead and not respond to a single thing I said.Ignoring and withholding in this manner speaks as loudly as words and conveys, "You are not worth listening to or responding to."

The silent treatment:

Similar to "shutting down," though not on so grand a scale. When you were angry with me, you would simply go about whatever you were doing, ignoring me and refusing to communicate with me.

Verbal abuse, or "According to Terry, acceptable reasons for yelling at Chris":

1. Terry seeing large cockroach on floor.
2. Terry having a nail stuck in her tire.
3. Chris's bedsheets pressing on Terry's toes.
4. Chris making Terry's bed and leaving some crinkles in it.
5. Terry having a fight with Jackie.
6. Chris leaving the light on.
7. Chris using too much water to wash dishes.
8. Chris not washing handles of utensils.
9. Chris not washing bottom of plates.
10. Chris stacking dirty plates.
11. Chris being anywhere near the yard, when Terry is doing yardwork.
12. Terry being apprehensive about upcoming surgery, when Chris was trying to be supportive.
13. Chris not offering Terry a French fry at the Bourse.
14. Chris not offering to carry one of Terry's bags.
15. Chris dropping a morsel of food on the table.
16. Chris missing a turn.
17. Chris getting out of the bathroom at 5:31 AM.
18. Chris not having "better tools." What was the purpose of snapping at me over this? Were you expecting me to run out that very second to buy more tools?
19. A messed-up transaction regarding the U-Haul truck (Chris still doesn't know why Terry yelled "You're stupid!!" at her, at the top of her lungs).
20. Terry not wanting Chris anywhere near her motorcycle equipment; however, it is okay for Angela to grab the helmet and try it on.
21. Chris objecting to the statement, "It's just so typical for blacks to park that way."
22. Chris having a spot on her rug.
23. Chris leaving some damp clothes on her own furniture.
24. Chris, through no fault of her own, being unexpectedly sideswiped by another driver--Terry did not yell at her but essentially blamed her for the accident--" You weren't looking all around you and being alert to all other vehicles at all times!"
25. Terry having a tiff with Angela.
26. Terry's mom not knowing why the violin was the way it was.
27. An extremely often-used reason: Terry simply"not feeling well."
28. Chris saying hello back to Kim.
29. Chris accidentally (and amusingly) bringing over her ice skates instead of her in-line skates!
30. Chris not making a left off Baumer Ave. when the green arrow had gone off, leaving only the regular green light on and oncoming traffic heading toward the intersection.
31. Terry feeling she got a bad deal on some baseball cards.
32. Chris looking through baseball cards the wrong way.
33. Chris dropping a card accidentally.
34. Chris not keeping perfectly neat piles when sorting cards.
35. The dumplings not turning out right, before Brian's birthday party.
36. Chris not getting the stuff ready to stick Kitty, when she was merely following the routine that had been set over the previous two weeks.
37. Chris not moving out of the way fast enough for Terry to catch a bug.
38. Chris objecting when Terry once unexpectedly put her hands on the steering wheel, while Chris was driving, to get into the left turn lane on Barrett Ave.

C. The Difficulties Continue

November 1995 was the first turning point of sorts. I distinctly remember us sitting on your living room couch after an argument, and my trying to point out to you that you should not view every disagreement as a battle to be won or lost, that we were on the same side. Of course at the time you seemed to understand this, but not for long, as your attacking, criticizing, and abusive behavior only escalated. November 1995 through June 1996 were an emotionally traumatic time for me as no matter what I did, I could not stem the tide. I felt stunned and confused whenever you yelled at me for something that (I felt) wasnít really that important. What made it worse, was that whenever I tried to discuss my feelings with you, you would snap, "You're too sensitive! You're making a mountain out of a molehill! There you go beating a dead issue again!!" It is only my opinion, but I think that two people in an intimate relationship ought to be at least somewhat sensitive to each otherís feelings. Not only did it appear that you were not sensitive to my feelings, but it seemed that you were critical of my even having them. This hurt me a lot.

More reasons for Terry to yell at Chris:

39. Chris bringing up the subject of why Terry would never stay over.
40. Chris being involved in some fluctuating ticket transactions with her friends ("I think your friends are all idiots!").
41. Chris not exactly understanding what Terry wanted her to write down when pricing baseball gloves at Modell's.
42. Terry feeling she could not hit a baseball well..
43. Terry feeling that the Baseball Hall of Fame was "poorly designed."
44. Chris supposedly "just not knowing about life" when she said she'd known Edward for over three years and that he was basically a good person.
45. Terry feeling bad about how much she owed Chris (even though Chris didn't even know how much, and didn't really care).
46. Chris being "oblivious" when she happened to not see something while walking downtown.
47. Chris not picking up on the first ring, when Terry was at the front gate.
48. Chris getting a leak when sticking Kitty.
49. Chris not covering Terryís back when she got out of bed in the morning.
50. Chris accidentally hitting one of the keys on her phone with her chin while talking to Terry.
51. Chris taking the last portion of food without asking Terry if she wanted it first.
52. Terry not getting anchovies with her Greek salad. (The mindfuck that accompanied this little episode, with you giving me the seething silent treatment, was incredible. Afterwards, you just shrugged, "Oh, it was all an act." Thank you very much.)
53. Chris pointing at something in public.
54. Chris pointing to something while driving and "almost poking Terryís eye out."
55. Chris "stealing the sheets" at night.

The two major blowups, or perhaps more accurately breakups, we had in January and March deserve special mention. First I will recount the events around the five days of the blizzard. I do not think you can argue with the facts of the case. The Friday night before the blizzard, we made love for hours in your bedroom. (Remember?) It was wonderful and intimate--we talked, had sex, talked again. Then very late into the night, for whatever reason, I can't even remember--perhaps I was tired? sore? just wanted to do something else?--I "didn't let you" [censored]--I just forged on myself. You immediately withdrew in seething silence, wouldnít talk to me, cruelly shut me out, because you were hurt. I stayed up the entire night, feeling horrible.

The next day, despite the fact that I was exhausted because I hadn't had any sleep at all, we went to see "Othello" with my parents. That day, Saturday, the whole area was preparing for the impending blizzard. We didn't really talk about what had happened the night before. You did mention a few times, that I should plan how I was going to get to work Monday. It began snowing that Saturday night or Sunday morning. You told me later that at that time you felt that I "wasn't listening to you" regarding getting to work. I spent a while helping you with your memo to Dr. Mitchell about Jackson--you didn't seem to mind that! I was sincerely trying to help you and I wanted to be with you! Finally when they came to pick me up that afternoon, you merrily saw me off--I remember you plodding along after the 4X4 in the snow.

Monday morning I spoke with you and perhaps you were in a bad mood from shoveling? Or perhaps still seething over your perceived sexual rejection? Or perhaps you were mad that I hadn't initially listened to you about getting to work?? Whatever it was, you were very cold to me. You suddenly exploded at my saying that I had been talking with Rachel my friend, when Rachel the nurse called. I called you back later in the after- noon and you were extremely rude to me. Now you were jealous that I had been talking with Rachel?? This entire time, you never gave me a clue about what was wrong. Whatever it was, the way you chose to handle it was totally inappropriate. The next morning, despite the fact that you knew I was stuck at work, you continued your angry silence and did not page me. After a thirty-inch snowstorm, I walked two miles up Barrett Avenue, on a bad foot, to get to your house--only to have you yell at me!!! It's no fucking wonder I walked out on you.

Afterwards you begged me in tears to come back, which I did. We began seeing Mary, which I think was a good thing. However, we could not even address the issues about the blizzard incident, because you were so focused on the fact that I had left you. What about the reasons that had led up to it in the first place??? Somehow, all your shoddy treatment of me, such as yelling at me for completely inexplicable reasons, angrily blasting me with silence (that is how loudly it spoke) for 24 hours, and continuing to treat me like shit after Iíd just spent hours in the snow trying to get back from the hospital, got lost in the discussion.

The next time you made me so hurt and angry that I wanted to leave you, was in March. We were driving up Barrett Avenue and I was talking about Edward going on my boss Berman's plane. You started warning me how Edward was bound to screw me. When I said that I had known Edward for three years and he was basically a good person, you immediately rejected what I said. When I protested you angrily snapped, "Chris, you just don't know about life!!" I felt that with this statement, you completely devalued my belief about the basic good of people. With your angry tone, you seemed to be sharply criticizing my view of the world. Furthermore, it seemed that you were ridiculing my opinion, and were basically telling me how I should feel. I don't know about life??!! I've known this person for three years, you've never even met him, and you're telling me how I should feel about him?? The angry, all-knowing, and critical tone behind "You just don't know about life" really hurt me. When we went to see Mary later that day, you continued to be hostile and unapologetic. That's when I decided that if you didn't value me as a person with my own thoughts and beliefs, that perhaps we shouldn't be together.

However, I couldn't go through with it, because I was so needy of your love. I felt completely overwhelmed with a gutwrenching sense of loss. I left those desperate messages in the middle of the night on your voice mail, begging you to take me back. Once again, I thought we could work out our differences.

Your poor treatment of me just escalated. Yes, we did continue to have good times together, but still something was very, very wrong. By spring of 1996, I now realize, I felt like I was being totally dominated and controlled by you. I could not make any move without worrying about an angry response from you.


D. How I Felt

How did I deal with all this? I became afraid of you. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggs. I felt that as long as I went along with everything you said, it would be okay, but this turned out not to be the case, because I was still frequently yelled at. [Note: The following section borrows heavily--in many cases, word for word--from Susan Forward's excellent book Men Who Hate Women & The Women Who Love Them. This is the only section of the site which is not my original material (other than appropriately quoted text). I have placed all of Susan Forward's material in red. I don't want to get in trouble with the copyright attorneys...]

I rationalized your behavior. I did this by granting you acceptable reasons to snap at me ("Sheís just in a bad mood because she... Had a bad day at work. Isnít feeling well. Is angry with her mother. Has a headache"), or in other situations, granting you good intentions for snapping at me ("Sheís just concerned about the environment and doesnít want me to waste that napkin.")

Early in our relationship, you casually chalked up these episodes of snapping at me to just being "grumpy." I realize that people do normally become irritable at times. For example, occasionally I become very irritable at work. However, there is a difference here. If I snap at someone, I will feel bad about it later and will almost always apologize. I take responsibility for my outbursts and feel genuine remorse. On the other hand, you basically seemed to feel no remorse for your snapping and outbursts. I found myself justifying and trying to explain them away more and more frequently. I found myself excusing your unacceptable behavior on a regular basis, needing increasingly to rationalize just to be able to cope.

If you were angry/critical all the time, this rationalization would have worn thin. However, you were charming and lovable in between, which encouraged me to continue hoping that things would be wonderful from then on. But there was no way of knowing how you would react to anything. I felt like I was on an emotional see-saw, constantly being bounced between your loving behavior and your unpredictable snapping. This created enormous tension in me because I never knew what to expect. It was like being addicted to gambling--you get what you want some of the time but not most of the time. Your anxiety level is sky high, but the promise of "the good stuff" keeps you hanging in there and playing. Your loving behavior reassured me that your bad behavior was only temporary and not the "real" you. This kept me hooked in and off balance.

Most of the time, I did not get any apologies. In fact, most of the time, there was not even any acknowledgement at all. For example, that night I was upset that you had yelled at me over not getting out of the way fast enough for you to catch a bug. On the way home from the movie you were abusive toward me, and when we got back to your place you basically threw my stuff out on the porch. Then, the next morning you called me and acted as if nothing had happened! This was just so typical. It seemed that you viewed any apology as a "defeat" which you were not willing to acknowledge. The times you did apologize, it seemed shallow. These apologies did appease me, because I hoped/believed that they were expressions of genuine remorse. And perhaps for the moment, you were sorry. If your future behavior had supported this, I wouldnít have had a problem. But your remorse lasted only long enough to "rehook" me. Another outburst or incident was sure to follow.

Once I had accepted this--attack to apology, rage to charm--I set myself up for an even more painful phase. I blamed myself. I thought, "If she has the capacity for being so wonderful, then it must be something Iím doing thatís making things go so wrong." This new attempt to make sense of the confusion I felt in our relationship, was, I realize now, a giant leap in the wrong direction. I had gone from recognizing that there were troublesome aspects about your behavior, to attempting to justify it or explain it away, to now internalizing and accepting responsibility for your abuse.

I was convinced if I could just find the "magic key," the "right" behaviors or attitudes that would please you, I could get you to behave more lovingly toward me. "Maybe if all I have to do is listen to what she says and try to act accordingly, everything will be fine." I began berating myself for being "too sensitive," for not being able to "be like Rachel" (Mike yells at her all the time and she doesnít even seem to notice or care). I really tried to change my attitude. As an example, there was a neurosurgeon at the hospital, Dr. Williams, who was frequently irritable when things werenít going his way. He would scowl and snap at his resident, "More suction, willya?!" or "Cut that knot shorter, willya?!" The way he spat out "willya?!" reminded me a lot of you. I tried to tell myself, "Now when Terry snaps "willya?!" after an order, just try to think of it as Williams talking to his resident. Itís no big deal. So what." But what I forgot, was that theirs was a teacher-student relationship, not an intimate partnership which should involve mutual kindness and respect.

I blamed myself in ways that were absurd. For example, for a while I thought that it was simply the "bad karma" that I was contributing, merely thinking about you snapping, that made you snap! Now I realize that this makes no sense at all!

As you can see, I really tried to be forgiving of your moods and outbursts. But unfortunately, your signals were always changing. What pleased you one day wouldnít please you the next. There was no way of knowing what would set you off. I was always figuring that I must have done something terribly wrong, because nobody gets that mad over nothing. But you did get mad over virtually nothing, exploding over the most insignificant things.

This whole process was very insidious. You donít have to be hit to be abused, which is why I didnít realize what was happening for such a long time. I used to think, "Well, at least she doesnít hit me." But the end result was the same--I felt just as scared, helpless, and in just as much pain. What difference does it make whether the weapon is your fist or your words?

Verbal abuse, by its nature, is overt. But there are other forms of abuse which, although more subtle, can be every bit as hurtful. A prime example of this is the withholding of communication as punishment ("the silent treatment"). As I mentioned, frequently when you were angry with me, you simply refused to talk to me. Another frequent scenario: A verbal attack being immediately followed by seething silence--what I will refer to throughout this letter as "attack-withdraw" behavior. You would suddenly attack, and then when you had me engaged and I tried to respond, you would simply withdraw. Not only would you literally stop speaking with me, but your body language (facial expressions, etc.) would beat home the message that you were disgusted with me and were deliberately choosing not to interact with me. In this situation, silence is used to punish, intimidate, and control. It speaks just as loudly as words.

In a way, I feel that this deliberate withholding of affection/communication is even more emotionally abusive than overt snapping and yelling. It is the deliberate exploitation of the other personís desire to be close to you, that makes it so hurtful. I felt that I was on the receiving end of this behavior over and over and over again, throughout the entire course of our relationship.

Besides frequent snapping, unrelenting criticism, and using silence as a weapon, I believe your emotional abuse of me also included blameshifting. For example, if you were behaving badly, it was only because you were responding to some crime of mine. By doing this, you could avoid having to consider the possibility that you yourself might have some serious shortcomings. By shifting blame to me you could protect yourself in two ways--1) absolve yourself of the discomfort of recognizing your role in the problem, and 2) convince me that my inadequacies were the real reason we were having trouble together. Any criticism or questioning of your behavior was immediately turned back on me as further proof that it was all my fault.

Furthermore, if I cried or got upset when you were abusive, your response was to get even angrier. No matter how much distress I was in, you seemed to view my pain as my fault. I wasnít allowed to say "ouch" when you hurt me, especially when my pain was a reaction to your behavior. It was as if you saw my reactions as an attack on you. You would then angrily snap back, "Youíre just turning it around to make it my fault!" By switching the situation around, you could make me the villain and you the victim. I think you simply turned the tables to deflect blame from yourself. You never seemed to take any responsibility for the pain you were causing me. This happened over and over again throughout our relationship, right up to the very end.


E. More Issues--Concerning Your Behavior Towards Me

When I was with you, I felt frequently assaulted by verbal attacks (i.e. snapping and yelling). The unpredictable nature of these attacks kept me continually "on edge." I felt hurt and rejected whenever you were silent and refused to talk to me. However, in addition to these two major scenarios, there were many other things that you said and did, that also caused me to feel diminished and controlled. I felt like I was constantly being nagged, as if I were a little child. I felt hurt when you frequently "teased" me, claiming to be "just giving me a hard time." I felt that my thoughts and opinions were devalued. Many times I felt as if I were being frankly ordered around (e.g., whenever you would impatiently tell me with a scowl on your face, to do this or do that). These things really bothered me and hurt me. Yet if I dared to speak up and say something, you would simply criticize me for being "too sensitive."

Nagging:

1. No food in the bedroom.
2. Don't leave stuff in view in the car.
3. Don't stomp up/down the stairs.
4. Don't leave your dirty dishes in the sink.
5. Turn off the light--don't waste electricity.
6. Don't waste water (when doing dishes)
7. You only need half a napkin--don't waste paper.
8. Bring your dish up to the main plate/bowl--don't make a mess.
9. Wrap your pad in the original wrapper--don't waste toilet paper.
10. Get that hair off the table--that's gross.
11. Tuck your label in--can't you even dress yourself?
12. Get all the hairs off the bed.
13. Close the shades--do you want everyone to see you?
14. Turn off the light--it's hot in here.
15. Use a towel or sponge to wipe around the sink--don't waste paper.
16. Change your windshield wipers--they're giving me a headache.
17. Always keep your gas tank at least half full in cold weather.
18. No walking around the house in socks (or bare feet).
19. Did you clean the tub? Good girl!
20. Don't touch the toothpaste tube with your brush.
21. Don't touch the sink there--that's gross, that's where people spit!
22. Always keep everything in the same place--that way you'll always know where it is.
23. Zip up your pockets.
24. Zip up your bag compartments--you don't want anything to fall out.
25. Are you sure the clamp on the tubing is closed?
26. Point the needle straight down.
27. No wrinkles when making the bed.
28. When are you going to vacuum?
29. Don't throw away that can/bottle--recycle it.
30. Finish it--don't waste food.
31. Itís a red light ahead, take your foot off the gas! Donít waste gas!
32. Put down the toilet seat when you open that cabinet--do you want something to fall in?
33. You have to scrub really hard to get the dirt off your body.
34. Did you clean your ears? No?--That's gross!
35. Did you wash your hands?
36. Turn off the radio/heater/air conditioner before you turn off the engine.
37. Next time get one of those donut spares. (Was it necessary to say this 30 times?)
38. Dial the dimmer down before you turn it off.
39. Donít touch the flip entrance to the trash can when you throw something out.
40. Donít change that pad--you can still wear it, thereís hardly anything on it.
41. Nice turn signal (if I didnít put it on), or So now you put on your turn signal (if I put it on too late according to you).
42. You should file your nails. Do you want me to file them for you?
43. Cut your toenails!
44. Only get unscented tissues and toilet paper.
45. Let the pedestrian go first!
46. Wave to the other driver if they let you in.
47. Turn down your radio--the whole neighborhood can hear it.
48. Fold the paper back up perfectly--I canít stand it when itís messed up.

Belittling me and devaluing my thoughts and opinions:

1. The Edward "you just donít know about life" incident.

2. My saying that I liked most of Tom Cruiseís movies--I felt that you put down my opinion in front of Sherry--by the look on your face I could see that you thought it was preposterous for anyone to like those movies.

3. My liking "Jurassic Park"--you seemed to ridicule my opinion, as if it were just a fact that it wasnít a good movie.

4. Your constantly criticizing my haircuts when I was going to Christopher, and repeatedly putting me down for liking perms.

5. I really enjoyed that shrimp parmigian I ate in the restaurant in New York. (My getting sick suddenly was a reaction to the red wine, Iím sure). You scowled and put down my opinion every single time I said I liked that dish. "You just donít PUT seafood and cheese together!" I never said you had to eat it, I was simply stating that I liked it that one time-- yet you trashed my opinion as if it were stupid and absurd. I didnít care much for broccoli with mayonnaise--yet did I scowl and say "thatís gross" everytime you ate it?? Did I say "You just donít PUT broccoli and mayonnaise together!" and look at you everytime as if you were stupid to even consider it? It is rude to put down other peopleís preferences.

Please note that I am not saying that I expected you to share all my likes and dislikes, or to agree with all of my opinions. After all, we are two different people, and it is things like this that make us unique. What I am saying, is that it is not right to treat another personís opinion as if it were wrong or not valid. There is no such thing as a wrong opinion. Feelings and preferences are not debatable.

"Teasing" with an edge:

1. Constantly calling me a "klutz" anytime I dropped something or fumbled with something.

2. Teasing me about taking the last portion of food--Iíd ask you if you wanted it, youíd say "No, you go ahead," then youíd give me that look as I ate it. I told you several times I didnít appreciate this anymore and you would respond "Iím just giving you a hard time." Why did you persist on doing this after I told you it bothered me?

My world became narrow and limited. We could only do things together, with certain people, or by ourselves.

1. I felt like I couldnít do things alone with my friends, or by myself. For instance, I knew that you werenít really into going to concerts (and thatís perfectly okay). My going to concerts with my friends seemed to threaten you. You would sulk about being left out, about my doing something with other people without you. I had to either go just with you, or go alone. So I would invite you, but if you didnít really want to go, I certainly didnít want to drag you. Iíve gone to concerts by myself for years, ever since I was in high school, and I donít mind at all. Of course I would want you to come, but only if you really wanted to! So Iíd offer and also try to gently provide you with a way out. "You donít have to go if you donít want." Your response? Sulking, "You donít want me to go with you?" After a while it just became easier to skip going to concerts, than to have to deal with this. I take responsibility for cheating myself out of a lot of concerts I wanted to go to.

2. In addition to not being able to do things with my friends, I became aware of our diminishing social circle (you and I) due to your multiple tiffs and dislikes of various people. Kelly Oyler, Amy Hiller, Angela, Kathy Emsley --one by one they were crossed off our list. I wouldnít even want to suggest going to certain events because of your inevitable bitching about various people there.

3. You would sulk at just my mentioning of you doing something by yourself. For example, there were several card shows listed for an upcoming weekend that I was on call. I didnít want to hold you back if you really wanted to go, so I politely said, "Honey, if you want to go, feel free to, I just canít go this weekend." Your response? Again, to sulk "You donít want me to go with you." Jesus Christ, thatís not what the fuck I meant!!

4. Once I was alone in Chinatown around lunchtime and was hungry, so I decided to have lunch by myself. You sulked later about my eating alone. Canít I do anything without you?

5. Even after an episode in which you had yelled at me, I still couldnít do something without you, without your sulking about it later. For example, the times I went swimming and in-line skating alone, after you had snapped at me. After being yelled at for something stupid, I was supposed to still want to be in your company and do things with you?

6. How many times did I encourage you," You should start lifting weights again," or "You should go to the gym" (after all, you had a locker there), or "You should ride your bicycle more often." I just wanted you to be able to continue enjoying the things you used to do before you met me, if you wanted to. However, I felt like I could not pursue my interests and activities, without getting a lot of grief from you..

Even more double binds:

1. Whenever I got back home to my apartment at the end of the day, I never knew when to call you. It seemed that sometimes when I called you right away, youíd be in the middle of dinner or doing chores, and would be short and rude. Sometimes I just didnít feel like calling you right away, because I wanted to relax a bit first by myself (is this so terrible?) and/or I didnít want to disturb you during your dinner/chores. But if I waited until later in the evening to call you, you would say in an accusatory manner, "Youíve been home for how long? And you didnít call me??"

2. If I got out early from work and didnít call to arrange to pick you up, youíd sulk later. Yet sometimes when I did pick you up, youíd be snapping at me, criticizing my driving, etc. all the way home. Having a bad day at work (your usual excuse) is not a good excuse for verbally abusing your partner.

3. In general, you were a master at double binds! If I didnít help you with something, I was yelled at, yet if I did help you, I was criticized and yelled at for doing it "incorrectly"--e.g. making the bed, doing yardwork, shoveling snow, sticking Kitty. There was just no way I could win.

4. Whenever I would express a desire to go away on vacation with you (that is, fly somewhere), you would become depressed/angry about your financial situation. Just the mere mention of a trip would result in your angrily snapping, "I donít have the money!!" You also made it clear that you didnít want me to pay for you, as if I would be somehow insulting your pride if I did so. The upshot of this is that whenever I expressed the desire to to go somewhere with you, I would just end up being yelled at. Yet, when I decided to go to Florida with my sister, you also responded with rage. I suppose you would have been happiest if I never traveled again in my life, either with or without you.

5. This was perhaps the worst double bind of them all. When you were feeling depressed about something, e.g., your upcoming surgery or not being an immediate whiz at in-line skating, and I tried to comfort you, you pushed me away with anger and the seething silent treatment. However, if I just tried to leave you alone during these situations e.g., in that softball game when you kept striking out, I again got--surprise!!-- anger and the seething silent treatment!! Just what the fuck am I supposed to do??

Criticism disguised as help or advice:

1. Do your hair this way.
2. Do the dishes this way.

Using Sandy to "keep me in line":

You constantly complained angrily about Sandy, with the implication that if I ever even approached acting like her, I would really deserve to be yelled at. "Youíre being just like Sandy!!" was a great weapon to effectively silence me whenever I brought up certain matters for discussion.

1. If I simply said something about wanting to live together, you would shoot out, "You think just like Sandy! You think people have to live together to have a relationship!"

2. You practically lived at Sandyís (of your own free will, she did not force you), yet for the longest time you seemed incredibly reluctant to even spend one night at my place. How would you have felt in my shoes-- wouldnít you have at least wondered why?? Yet when I brought this up, you became enraged that I was "being like Sandy" and attacked me for trying to force you to stay over. I understand that you had your reasons for being hesitant to stay over--for example, guilt over leaving your mother. For you to have brought this up honestly, would have been one thing. However, snapping at me and accusing me of "being like Sandy!!" was another.

3. Several times you shot back at me, "Those were the exact same things Sandy said!" Did it ever occur to you, that perhaps I was saying the same things Sandy did, because I may have been finding myself in the same situations that Sandy did (e.g., being constantly snapped at)?

Becoming angry when I tried to communicate:

Sometimes, my attempts to communicate honestly with you got me nowhere.

1. One night as we lay in bed, I tried to talk with you about a problem we were having. I said very expli- citly, "Iím not saying I want to break up with you." The next morning, at 5:31 AM, you stormed into the bathroom while I was still in there, snapped at me for being in there after 5:30, yelled at me for using the hot water, attacked me for being "cheap" (do you remember this at all??), told me to leave--in general, came at me with all guns blazing. I didnít even know what the hell was going on! I took you literally--after all, you were basically screaming at me to leave, so I started moving all my stuff downstairs--then when I told you goodbye in the bathroom you pulled me to you, begging me, "Donít leave!!" Later, you said that the reason for your attack, was that the night before, all you had heard was, "break up." Then, you blamed me for not having spoken loudly enough for you to hear me, even though at the time, you hadnít said a thing! Did I deserve to be attacked like that??

2. One morning after we had had a fight the night before, I realized that I had been wrong, and wanted to apologize to you. I felt awkward and ashamed, and I said, "Itís hard for me to say Iím sorry." This was a brutally honest statement on my part. However, the reward for my honesty, was being snapped at, "How come itís so hard for you to say youíre sorry!!?"

Contradicting yourself:

So many times, you angrily told me "Youíre contradicting yourself!!" However, look at your own behavior!

1. "Don't touch the toothpaste tube with your toothbrush!" I saw you do the very same thing right in front of me.

2. About inserts and the jasper pyramid--"I don't want competition in our relationship!" Yet when I excitedly showed you my McGwire and Griffey inserts out of happiness, not competition, you sulked, "Now there's one more thing I have to be jealous of."

3. Your constantly referring to the messiness or at least untidiness of my apartment. But look at your own room!

Even more contradictions, double standards, and things that just donít make sense:

1. You snapped, yelled, or spoke irritatedly at me constantly. If I complained, you would simply become nastier. Once at the Uniondale show, you snapped at me for looking through a bin of cards the wrong way (?). I asked you in a very even tone of voice, "What are you getting upset about? Why do you have to snap at me?" or something to that effect. I didnít even raise my voice at all. For the rest of the show you sulked, gave me the silent treatment, wouldnít talk to me, wouldnít look at me--in fact you simply walked away from me without responding when I tried to talk to you! Then as we were walking back to the car and I again asked you what was wrong, you said, "You yelled at me." You have carte blanche to snap and yell at me whenever you want, yet I canít even speak up for myself in a normal tone of voice?? If this isnít a double standard, I donít know what is.

2. When I started to eat dinner over your place and stay over a lot, I would leave you alone to do your after-dinner chores--clean Kittyís litter box, take out the trash, etc. This seemed to suit you, and I could stay out of your way. After two or three months of never going downstairs with you even once, one day I did, just because I wanted to be with you. You angrily snapped, "Why do you always have to follow me down here??!!"

3. It seemed to be really, really important to you to pay for yourself and not "mooch" off me. You expounded to me at length about this. It was almost as if a certain amount of your pride rested on this. One night we went to the club and I didnít pay the cover charge for you. About fifteen minutes later, you angrily said, "Why didnít you pay for me to get in?" There was just no fucking way for me to ever please you.

Unwarranted jealousy:

1. Your saying things like, "So who else has been sitting here?!" when you saw my passenger seat positioned differently.

2. Your making jealous comments about my potentially "picking up other women" when I was in DC visiting Mandy, when I had absolutely no intention of doing so.

3. What on earth were you so jealous of when I was talking with Rachel that one time during the blizzard? Did you think I was after her??

I am an absolutely monogamous person, and for you not to trust me shows that you do not know me. I always trusted you in this regard. I would like to point out, that even though you and Ned had a history of "fooling around," I was not in the least bit jealous those times you went to Pittsburgh with him!

Ordering and control of a sexual nature:

1. That night I was on call at the VA (January 1995), and you demanded that I describe to you that very second, how I had "taken care of myself." When I was embarassed and didnít respond immediately, you threw a sulking temper tantrum and hung up on me!

2. That night you came over to my house and wanted me to show you my vulva since you had just seen the gynecologist and you wanted to compare yours with mine. I just didnít feel like it (I donít like being ordered to do stuff like this) so you left in an angry silent huff and refused to talk or even look at me.

3. The Friday-night-before-the-blizzard episode. I didnít do something complying with your sexual desires, so I was punished. To this day I still canít understand why you reacted the way you did, after we had just fucked for three hours. The silent rage of your response was completely unreasonable.

4. When we were waiting for Ellen in her hospital room, you asked me, "How come you never do that to me ?" regarding looking at each othersí crotches with lust. For one thing, thatís just not my style, and second of all, that wasnít exactly the most appropriate time to bring it up, with your mother in the same room. I was uncomfortable and didnít say anything, so you responded by very deliberately sulking for the next ten minutes and refusing to interact with me!

5. As recently as the very last night you ever stayed at my apartment--the Sunday morning after we got back from LA--you practically ordered me to demonstrate [censored]. When I didnít comply immediately you angrily shot out, "How come youíre so shy all of a sudden!!?"


F. More Issues--Concerning Your Behavior Toward Others.

It was not simply that I felt abused and controlled by you directly. What added to this environment, was that I continually saw your hostility also aimed at others. I saw this with your family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers. This made me feel uneasy, as most of the time I felt that they didnít deserve it. Yet if said anything, it seemed that you would become indignant that I had even dared to question you. In these situations you would simply redirect your anger toward me. These examples are drawn from throughout our relationship.

Hostility toward family:

1. Yelling at your mother for cooking the vegetables a minute too long, bringing out the wrong silverware, etc.

2. Yelling at your mother in front of your nieces--I was appalled (then later, you angrily criticized her "sulking.")

3. Yelling at your mother over the gutter thing (front of house)

4. Yelling at your mother over the violin being out of tune. This episode was extremely upsetting to me. In a matter of seconds, you were yelling at the top of your lungs, point blank to your motherís face. And one thing you yelled, was "IíM NOT YELLING!!!" (?!?) If I remember correctly you also called her a bitch. I was frightened by the sudden and overwhelming rage you expressed over something trivial. And when I stood there stunned and starting to whimper, you directed your rage at me: "What are YOU crying about!!"

5. Yelling at your mother regarding the junkers parked out front (later, you casually told me that when you live so closely with someone, interactions like this are only naturally bound to happen!)

6. Yelling at your mother when she was reluctant to go into the hospital. (Wouldn't it have been better to say "Gee mom, I'm worried about you being sick, perhaps you should listen to Dr. Ford's advice"?)

7. Endlessly criticizing Ellen (to me) about her being in a relationship with Frank.

8. Being very critical of Garry.

9. Yelling at your mother for saying "Hello?...Hello?..." and not hanging up immediately when there was silence on the other end of the phone. You would snap angrily, "Youíre just victimizing yourself!!" Why do you become so angry about what other people do, when it does not even affect you at all?

Multiple interpersonal difficulties/conflicts with friends/coworkers/acquaintances:

1. Angela
2. Marilyn (and Ann's other friend)
3. Kelly Oyler
4. Ann--when you punished her with the silent treatment when she took drugs in front of you.
5. Kathy Emsley
6. Yelling at your grad students
7. Jill
8. Many conflicts with professors and other staff

What was even more disturbing was that you seemed to wear your hostility towards these people like a badge, as something to be proud of! So many times, you told me proudly how you had yelled at this person or that person, as if to say, "See? I know how to stand up for myself!!" It seemed like you wanted or expected me to pat you on the back everytime you said you had yelled at someone, for me to give you my approval for your being a strong person. And I had no choice but to go along, because I would only be yelled at myself if I didnít.

Hostility toward strangers:

1. Every other driver on the road is an asshole until proven otherwise--e.g., if someone is blocking a lane of traffic, even if it turns out their car was stalled. Everyone who tailgates or doubleparks, has you angrily muttering "Asshole!!!"

2. Children. "I hate kids!!" whenever you see one not being perfectly still and quiet.

3. Police. Just about every single time you see one (and this approaches 100% of the time when you see a police car parked on the side of the road), you have to mutter,"Assholes! I hate police!!" (And the one time I pointed out that the world would probably be a lot less safe without them, you became angry and verbally abusive toward me!)

4. At the LA airport, upon seeing the family with the man reading the paper while the mom looked after the kids, "It just figures!!!" (What on earth bearing did this have on you?!)

5. Upstairs at that restaurant when the kid next to us dropped his napkin in the aisle and didnít pick it up until five minutes later--you muttering angrily about what a little jerk/brat he was.

6. At EMS: "Mind your own business!!!"

7. "I hate it when people wear dirty clothes/pants!!" (What the hell difference should it make to you, what other total strangers wear?)

8. Yelling out the window downtown to a man on a bicycle,"Whereís your helmet, asshole?!" however I was not allowed to say anything out of the window--for example, when the guy in the truck was motioning to us going down the hill and I started politely responding to him, I got yelled at. (For your own sake, I have to tell you that itís just not a good idea to yell at strangers. You never know when some maniac with a gun is just going to shoot you. For example,"highway shootings" between irate drivers who yelled at each other do occur.)

9. Yelling at the student leaving the lecture hall early, threatening to report him. What bearing did this have on you at all? How do you think people see you when you do things like this?

Why on earth are you so hostile towards people you donít even know??

Sometimes, I was frankly embarassed by your behavior. However, I could not say a single word, or the full brunt of your rage would come crashing down on me.

1. Angela--I was totally embarassed by your behavior toward her--see below.

2. Remember when we were at Houlihanís with Linda Tolson and some other members of the women's professional group? I cringed when you began openly criticizing Kelly Oyler and Amy Hiller for "how badly they had treated you." At least one other person at that table was an active member of the lawyer's group. How did you think it appeared, when one of the co-presidents of the women's professional group, you, began dissing other members of your own group? Several times during our relationship, you expounded on what it meant to "act with class" or to "not act with class." In my opinion, this incident at Houlihanís definitely lacked class and I was embarassed to be associated with you.

3. The temper tantrum you threw at the dealer in Toronto (about conversions and exchange rates) had me wishing I could disappear. I had never seen someone be so unreasonable and hostile toward a total stranger. Of course it turned out that he was right. What made it worse, was that when you realized this, you did not even have the decency to go back to apologize to him. I never would have yelled at him in the first place (I always give people the benefit of the doubt), but even if I had, if I realized that I had been the one who was wrong, I certainly would have apologized.

4. At EMS, when you angrily snapped at the guy to "mind his own business," youíre damn right I was embarassed to be with you! Why are you so defensive and hostile toward total strangers?

More hostility in general:

1. The Morristown Mills Mall has "no class" (you said it about 10 times). I guess shopping at Sax and Banana Republic makes you a "classier" person??

2. People who eat/drink diet foods/sodas.

3. Every single baseball player on TV.

4. Every single time we drove through Drummond County, you had to express your utter scorn for the place and the people who lived there. I suppose they, too, have no "class"?

5. You ridiculed Kerry and Calís decision to have a child, every single time the subject came up. Why are you so hostile regarding other peopleís very personal decisions which have absolutely no bearing on you??

There were many other things about you that I gradually became aware of, again supported by examples.

I saw a consistent pattern in your apparent refusal to take responsibility for your own actions. Over and over again, you blamed others for everything.

1. The whole Angela situation. Whether or not it was polite to go rapping on their window unexpectedly at 10 pm, or whether or not it was impolite for Angela not to invite us in or Michelle not to come out, is debatable. However, what definitely was rude was your treatment of Angela the next time we saw her at the movies--your very deliberately snubbing her, looking away in a huff when she said hello to you and your not saying a word to her (this completely embarassed me), and continuing to ignore her for months. Then when she understandably got upset or exasperated or whatever and did not invite you to her party, you angrily criticized herfor being rude!

2. Sandy. You constantly expressed your anger to me about her "dumping" you eleven times. However, I have to wonder, how did you treat her? What did you do to make her so angry and frustrated that she didn't want to be with you anymore? I am sure you were not just sitting there being nice. Furthermore, you very angrily verbalized to me on a number of occasions, how much money she "put you out of." In fact, this anger was sometimes inappropriately directed at me, even though I had nothing to do with it! Yet I ask you, did Sandy put a gun to your head and make you spend money? Did she steal it from you in large quantities as Katrina did with Mandy? No. You yourself went to the MAC machine, withdrew the money, put it in your pocket, and spent hundreds on parking, all of your own free will. Mandy is now lamenting the fact that after Donna has broken up with her for the fifth time, Mandy is stuck with $1000 in phone bills to New Orleans. But is she angrily blaming Donna for these bills? No, she accepts the responsibility that she willfully made those calls and only has herself to blame.

3. Ellen. You have never taken any responsibility for hitting her. Yet you angrily refer to the restraining order she had placed against you. What is even more astounding, is that you once told me you considered her stroke to be God's punishment for her criticizing you!

4. The multiple interpersonal difficulties I listed earlier. The way you put it, each of these people treated you poorly or otherwise deserved for you to snap at them or snub them. For a moment, contrast your situation with myself. In the last two years, how many run-ins have I hadthat caused an ongoing or significant temporary break? I can only think of two--Halpern and John Merkell. Even if I have momentary run-ins with people, I still maintain good relationships with them. I donít burn my bridges. Now, are all those people I listed above in a conspiracy against you, each of them "not treating you well" independently? Or have you ever considered that perhaps they are all responding, to some consistent signals you are putting out?

You seemed to have an inability to see shades of grey. It appeared to me that you saw other people in terms of black or white only.

1. Your gynecologist Judy Patterson--at first she was wonderful, very nice, caring, waited to come see you after your surgery, etc. Then suddenly she was evil, discriminated against you because you were a lesbian, had the gall to refer you to an infectious disease doctor, you never wanted to see her again, etc.

2. Karen--simply because she was on the phone that day during our professional group's meeting (and believe me, I don't think anyone else holds a grudge to this day about not her not ordering the pizza immediately), for years afterwards you have angrily referred to her as being rude and a terrible person, with bad teeth to boot. You don't think she has any redeeming qualities at all??

You seemed to exhibit a marked paranoia about a lot of things. Your main theme seemed to be "No one can be trusted until proven otherwise." This pertained to people in general: For example, all of a sudden you felt that the owner of that sports equipment store didnít like us or looked down on us. What on earth did they do to make you think this? I think it was your paranoia that made you perceive that they had looked at us funny once. But if I had ever questioned you on this, no doubt I would have gotten the "Chris, you just donít know about life!!" lecture, i.e. Iím so stupid for not realizing that of course they donít like us. This paranoia also pertained to things in everyday life: For example: Don't leave anything in the car, even a single cassette tape, someone will break in; rip up all your mail before putting it in the trash, someone is bound to get your address and commit some kind of fraud with it; don't leave mail in the box overnight, someone is bound to steal it, etc. etc. Furthermore, if I dared to disagree with you, you would either snap at me, or look at me as if I were stupid and God, didnít I know any better?! The global picture you carried seemed to be, "Everyone is out to get me."


G. How I Felt, Continued

Your unpredictable snapping, attack-withdraw behavior, and general hostility took a huge toll on me. I lived in constant fear of you attacking me, either for something I said or did, or just out of the blue for no reason at all. Your incessant nagging made me feel that no matter what I did, I was doing it wrong in your eyes. Your ridicule of my personal beliefs, opinions, and tastes hurt me and, in a sense, silenced me. All of these things as a whole, affected nearly every single area of my life. And I could not even address anything at all with you, because when I did, you would escalate the same behavior, criticize me for even bringing it up ("God Chris, youíre too sensitive!"), or furiously push me away! Here are just some random examples pertaining to everyday life, and how your behavior regarding these things affected me. I would like to note, that all of these things hung over me, right to the very end of our relationship.

Driving--There was no way I could relax, with you sitting next to me. I had to do everything perfectly. And things I had done for years with no ill effects, such as leaving the radio on when I shut off the engine, and using windshield wipers that I could see perfectly well with, became subjects of nagging and criticism. Even the routes that we took became reasons for you to turn hostile--for example, you would always become upset whenever we ran into heavy traffic on the expressway. Now, my parents have used that route almost exclusively for 25 years, and I have been taking it for all my driving life. The traffic simply does not bother me--I only get upset if itís delaying me for something really important. However, you would always get into a foul mood if it got slow, and blame me if it were my suggestion for going that way! And God forbid if we got stuck and didnít move at all--you would begin fuming. Geez, itís only a traffic jam!! Big deal! But I was constantly afraid of your getting into a bad mood over the traffic. Did you notice, how I always deferred to you, about which route to take? This was because if we took the expressway as I wanted, and we ran into traffic, you would get into a foul mood, and it just wasnít worth it.

Another thing about driving--When we got lost in an unfamiliar place (Toronto really sticks out in my mind), you would began snapping at me as if I were a complete idiot with no sense of direction. However, for years before I met you, I had successfully driven around by myself in literally dozens of places--Chicago (in 1986 when I interviewed for med school), San Francisco (again, ten years ago), Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Baton Rouge, Pensacola, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Dayton, Champaign, and even Kalamazoo, MI, just to name a few. How do you think it made me feel, to be yelled at while driving around as if I didnít know what I was doing, when I had done it a million times before??

Eating--Whenever I ate with you, whether at your place, my place, or a restaurant, I felt like I had to be extremely careful not to drop anything, or to take anything more than fifty percent or whatever of a dish unless okayed by you first. Otherwise, you were sure to make a comment, snap at me, or make me feel like I was being "messy" or "selfish." Even while I was eating, I felt like everything I was doing was being judged. I just could not relax at a table with you.

Washing dishes--I had to do it exactly right (according to you--I personally donít feel that there is an "exactly right" method of doing dishes, as long as they get clean), or you would make a comment. At your place, I always felt I had to wash every single dish in the sink, or face being snapped at for "leaving it for someone else."

Selecting my own groceries--I simply do not see what is wrong with consuming diet foods or drinks. If I canít really notice a huge difference, and it has less calories or fat, why not? But you constantly criticized people who consumed these, frequently mentioning Sandy as a prime culprit. I became afraid to have anything "diet" in my refrigerator or cupboard. In fact, I became afraid to purchase a lot of food items, for example frozen dinners, because of your attitudes about them. You would have voiced utter disdain had you seen a "Lean Cuisine" in my freezer. Yet, for years before I met you, I ate these things, and did I develop any nutritional deficiences? Did I become underweight or overweight? I was perfectly fine! However, you seemed to needlessly ridicule people who ate certain things. It was just easier for me to purchase things you would "approve" of, then to get things I really wanted, in order not to have to deal with your disdain.

Sticking Kitty--[Terry had a cat who was ill and required fluids several times a week.]  This deserves special mention. This was always was a time of great anxiety for me. Especially during the first few months, but even continuing until much later, you would snap at me if I got a leak, or if there was any fluid tinged with blood. You would yell at me to get a paper towel to wipe it up immediately. And I was such an idiot, to cower to you in these instances! Consider this--putting up IV bags and running in fluids are a part of my everyday job. During a typical heart case, I may hang and give up to twenty bags of IV fluids. Everybody, including the most fastidious people who have been doing anesthesia for twenty years, spills stuff and has leaks. Itís not something to get upset about. Iím good at what I do. Yet, you would yell at me for even a few drops on the table! I felt like I couldnít do anything right around you. Furthermore, you would constantly nag me (in a scowling tone of voice) to point the needle straight down. You would constantly nag me to make sure the clamp on the tubing was closed. How would you feel, if everytime you used, say a saw or a power tool, something which you had used many times before, I stood there telling you to do this or do that, and snapped at you as if you were such an idiot that you didnít know what you were doing? I feel that this entire thing, giving Kitty fluids, was a convenient forum for your hostile attempts to dominate and control me. Today, I cannot believe I put up with this. However, I know why I did--because if I had said anything, you would have gotten even nastier toward me, and I was just trying to protect myself.

Making the bed--Even something as trivial as this became a whole source if anxiety for me. Initially when I would try to help you make the bed, you would snap at me for pulling the sheets up too much, leaving a wrinkle, etc. So then I thought that you would be happier just doing it yourself, so I backed off for a while, only to be then yelled at for not helping you! So the only thing I could do, was to make the bed as perfectly to your specifications as I could, and hope that you would not yell at me. This filled me with a certain level of anxiety, every single time I made your bed. Even when we were getting along wonderfully, I still couldnít let down my guard. Today I would like to know, what was so fucking important about the way your bed was made, that merited your yelling at me over it?? I feel that this was yet another opportunity for a power trip on your part. Today it is absolutely clear, that I was an idiot for putting up with this. Back then, I think I subconsciously realized this, yet I continued to tolerate it anyway---with the end result being a chipping away of my own self-esteem.

Other everyday things--Besides not making your bed perfectly, I was also constantly afraid of committing some other capital offense such as leaving "muck" on the dishes, misplacing something of yours or mine, accidentally stepping into your pile of dust while you were sweeping, putting the wrong thing out on the table (paper towel vs. napkin), etc., etc. I felt constantly under the threat of being yelled at over these things, yet at the same time I just could not see why you attached such importance to them. For example, you continually nagged me to put the toilet cover down before I opened the linen cabinet. I know for certain, if I had ever failed to do this and a towel fell in the toilet, I would have really been screamed at. ("Youíre so stupid!! You never listen to me!!") I would have never heard the end of it. However, my attitude at home is, if a towel were to fall into the toilet (and after years of my not lowering the toilet cover, one never has), then either I throw it in the wash with some bleach, or if it is really gross, simply throw it away. What is the big fucking deal??? Life is just too short, to get bent out of shape over things like this. No wonder you have an ulcer.

My love of the Stones--I got the feeling that you thought the whole thing was ridiculous (similar to Sandy liking Jimmy Buffet). You were absolutely uninterested in any of my recollections or photos--they barely even merited a lukewarm response. Did you ever wonder why I never really ever played any Stones for you at all? Because there was the very real possibility of you criticizing me for liking it--if not at the time, then at some other point when you were mad at me over something else--and I say "very real" since nothing was immune to your criticism! I knew that such criticism would hurt me to the core, simply because this is something so sacred to me--which is why I never even let you near it.

Speaking of your disinterest in my Stones experiences--I felt that you had a similar attitude regarding all my good life experiences. For example, if I happened to reminisce in general about good experiences in high school or college, you would simply became quiet, sadly saying things like, "I hated high school" or "I didnít have a good time in college." I am truly sorry that they were not happy times for you, and I am not criticizing you for merely having bad memories. Furthermore, I am not saying I wanted you to jump for joy at the mention of my past good experiences. What I am saying, is that you seemed not to value or acknowledge them for what they were--positive pieces of my past, shared spontaneously--instead you just saw them as reminders of your own lack of similar good memories, and responded accordingly. In fact, my mention of these things sometimes seemed to invoke a mixture of jealousy, depression, and bitterness on your part. You just didnít seem to want to hear about it. This is a subtle point, but it led to my being hesitant to mention positive things from my past, because of the neutral "Gee thatís nice" (at best), or depressed or silent (at worst) response from you. Why should I share a good memory with someone, who responds as if theyíd rather I hadnít brought it up at all?

There were a number of other things that I just couldnít mention in general conversation. As a small example, suppose I had had a two-minute conversation with Karen at work. If I even mentioned this to you, you would start putting her down and expressing disdain. I would wonder why you felt you had to do this, yet if I even questioned you at all, boy would I get yelled at!

Your constant expressions of hostility toward others, made me feel totally stuck and helpless. It simply was not pleasant to be around you when you were angrily complaining about this person or that person, whether it was someone you knew or a total stranger. I would be left wondering, "Why is she so hostile??" yet I wouldnít be able to say a word. This was even worse in situations when you were complaining about what someone else said or did, but I could see that the other person had been merely responding to your initial hostile attitude! And as I mentioned before, you seemed to brag about yelling at people, and seemed to expect my approval. I had no choice but to go along and agree with you, because if I said even a word, you would direct your rage at me, for taking the other personís side!

The times I did engage in arguments with you, I felt that you saw me only as an opponent to be vanquished at all costs. I understand that in every relationship there will always be conflicts. [Another Susan Forward quote here:] These can be negotiated with caring and respect. However, in our relationship, negotiation and compromise were in short supply. It was a grim battlefield where you HAD to win and I HAD to lose. What springs to me mind right now, are the many confrontations we had in your bathroom. You would storm off to the bathroom and begin plucking your eyebrows, refusing to talk to me. When I tried to say anything you would use every trick in the book--ignoring, countering, blocking, diverting, blameshifting, accusing, and criticizing. Your primary concern seemed not to be to resolve the conflict, but to win the argument by any means possible. And you were really good at these things, which is why, most of the time, it was fruitless to even try to argue with you.

To add to my frustration, I gradually became aware of what seemed to be a huge discrepancy in what we wanted out of our relationship. I had no problem with dating for a certain period of time. But after a while, I wanted us to become more intimate in the routines of everyday life. I was genuinely in love with you and I wanted us to become closer. I wanted you to stay over my place--was that such a crime? But I encountered enormous resistance to this idea. Simply put, it really hurt me that you never wanted to stay over. And I couldnít figure out why you didnít want to, and whenever I tried to address it with you, you would become angry and defensive.

I began to see that if it werenít for my efforts, staying over your place all the time, our relationship as it was wouldnít even exist. Because you never wouldíve stayed over my place, and how much growth together can a couple accomplish when they are separated every night? I began to suspect that you were content to merely have me over a few nights a week, comfortable in never having to reciprocate. I began to feel that all the responsibility of the logistics of our relationship, rested on my shoulders. If I didnít stay over, we would simply see less of each other, and you wouldnít really care. It bothered me more and more, that it was all so easy for you--you didnít have to lift a finger, to alter your normal routine--you could just have me over all the time (or a lot of the time), like a live-in lover. You didnít have to give up your normal surroundings, you didnít have to live out of a suitcase, you could continue being fed and sheltered by your mother. In a way you could have it all. I began to suspect that you would have been content to do this forever. And I saw that with this mindset, you would never be able to graduate to the idea of us eventually living together. The realization of this saddened me and frustrated me. Yet, as I said, anytime I tried to address this with you, all I encountered was resistance and anger.

Not only did I feel like I had to stay over in order to maintain the relationship, but when I was there I was, by default, a third party to the normal couple of the household--you and your mother. Now I do care for your mother very much--she is a very nice person and was always very kind to me. But was it so horrible, to just not want to be part of a triangle all the time?? After all, I thought we were two adults. I just wanted to have a normal mature adult relationship, which should not involve being in a forced triangle with a parent! If you donít agree with me then we obviously have very different ideas about what a normal mature adult relationship entails.

I became more and more aware of this discrepancy in our ambitions and dreams. With a partner, I had hoped to eventually share a household together. However, it seemed that your idea of a relationship was just to have someone available to do things with and have over several nights a week, while maintaining your primary relationship with your mother. It filled me with more and more frustration, to realize that our desires for the future, were lightyears apart.

So perhaps you are wondering why, if I claim it was so bad, did I stay with you?? Because at the same time, I had so many loving feelings toward you, and we did have many good times together! There was absolutely no question that you had many positive and endearing attributes, and that I was in love with you!

All the negative feelings I had about our relationship just not being right, were mixed in with all these positive feelings. I relished the good times, but the bad times always returned. It was upsetting and extremely confusing. Everytime you hurt me, I was again thrown into this state of confusion. I had no previous experience to compare it to--I kept asking myself, "Is this the way love is supposed to be? Is this normal??" I hung in there and just tried to do the best I could. I loved you and hoped that things would get better. However, if anything, they only got worse.

Another thing which made it even more confusing, was that I thought we had a decent sexual relationship. I asked myself, "If things are good between us sexually, how can anything really be wrong?" In hindsight, I now see that the sex we had, served as a powerful "hook" for me. For a long time, it lulled me into a false view of the relationship as loving even when other factors were warning me it was not. Later, despite being treated poorly outside the bedroom, I clung to our sexual relationship as a sign that we really did love each other and that we truly belonged together. I hung on to this, right up until the very end.

More reasons to yell at Chris--summer 1996:

56. Chris wanting Terry to come when Chris's relatives visited.
57. Chris showing the slightest hint of enthusiasm for her upcoming trip to Disney World with her sister.
58. Chris sitting down on toilet seat to brush her teeth in the morning so she could be closer to eye level with her lover.
59. Terry not being able to fix vacuum cleaner properly.
60. Chris accidentally dropping her purse and leaving it in Terry's bedroom.
61. Terry having just banged her knee.
62. Chris trying to go across the top and around the other side of the Sheraton parking garage instead of down through the blocked entrance.
63. Chris not having a towel or sponge available for Terry to wipe up her water spill around the sink.
64. Chris placing a can in the regular trash when a recycling bin was nearby (Chris didn't see it).
65. Chris suggesting a seat at the movies which was only one row away from where they ultimately sat.
66. Chris offering to reserve tickets to a blockbuster, selling-theaters-out-all-over-the-country movie on Chris's credit card, in order to avoid going all the way up to the Springville Mall and having the thing be potentially sold out.
67. Chris potentially getting less than nine balls (worst possible loss=25cents) at Dave and Buster's.
68. Chris not putting Terryís book back on her bookshelf immediately.
69. Terry being concerned about the kids in the Chinatown alley placing a bag in the middle of the road.
70. Chris suggesting that perhaps the EMS at Springville would have the shoes Terry was looking for.
71. After they saw Fargo, Terry obsessing about the wood chipper scene and talking about it for twenty minutes straight, then promptly yelling at Chris for even mentioning it once.
72. Chris revealing that she'd rather keep Chris and Terry's "pet names" a special secret between them.
73. Chris accidentally hitting Terry's foot when Terry "wasn't feeling well" and didn't know where or if she wanted to go out to dinner.


H. Chris Begins To See The Light

Back to the chronological story of our relationship. By this past summer, my self-esteem had plummeted. Your frequent unpredictable snapping, constant nagging and criticism, and general air of hostility had taken a toll on me. I didn't realize it, but I had this baseline level of anxiety whenever I was with you. This even carried over to when I was alone--it was like you were constantly there, criticizing me, nagging me, or snapping at me. I began to believe that I really was klutzy, stupid, untidy, careless. I lived in fear of your outbursts. I isolated myself from my friends.

The turning point (actually a series of turning points) came in June. Despite the absolute grief I got from you (i.e. how dare I go on a trip without you), I managed to make it to Disney World with my sister. Boy did I need this!!!!! It was so good for my soul, to just be able to spend a few days away from you, and to be myself. I didn't have to worry constantly about what I was doing. I wasnít continually one step away from being yelled at, or receiving the sulking silent treatment. I could be who I really was, and not only were you not present to yell at me, but I began to realize that that there was nothing wrong with the way I was at all! I could be independent and go on my own around the parks, without you sulking that I was "abandoning" you. I could throw all my change, maps, park guides on the table, without you nagging me to be neat. I could mix all my stuff with Jennifer's, without you being on my back about keeping our own separate piles. I could use the bathroom in peace, without you nagging me to wipe up every drop of water. I could eat at a restaurant without you making a comment everytime I dropped a morsel of food on the table. I could relax. And to my sister, my behavior was totally normal.

Of course, after my trip, I could hardly be enthusiastic about it with you, since I think you were still angry that I went without you. Despite the lip service you gave to me about "you should do some things with your sister so you guys can really talk," the overall impression I got was that it was just not okay to go on a trip without you.

Those four days in Florida were like a little window to me, of how things could be without you. It was as if this blanket of anxiety, which I had gradually come to accept as normal, had been momentarily lifted. But when I returned, it was back to the same old thing. I had gone one step forward (beginning to realize that I was okay the way I was), only to fall five steps back. The last weekend in June, was when things truly hit rock bottom for me.

That was the weekend that your mom was in the hospital. We were having a lot of difficulty, basically with you being abusive towards me, but I suspended any ill feelings because I was genuinely concerned about your mother. Remember that Sunday when we visited her in the hospital? You were alternately hot and cold with me, I can't even remember over what. One minute you'd be talking with me and the next minute you'd give me the silent treatment. Remember when we got back to your place? We had the most awful interaction ever, even down to a physical push and pull. It was absolutely horrible. When I got back to my apartment, I was devastated. I was racked with tears because I thought I was a total failure, because why, after how hard I had tried, did our relationship still cause me so much pain? Then I happened to look at my photo albums from the summer of 1994, when I traveled all over the country by myself, and with friends, on the Stones tour. I looked at my face smiling out from all those photos and I realized that I was nowhere near the same person anymore. I wasn't even a shadow of the person I used to be. All the best parts of myself, my self-confidence and self-esteem, were in the toilet. I suddenly saw for the first time, just how far I had slid, being with you. And to make it worse, I hated myself for having let this happen.

The next three weeks, it was more of the same. You continued to snap at me constantly (e.g. at the movie theater throwing away the can and picking a spot to sit.) However, I took the first steps toward my own rescue. I bought this wonderful book (actually I had seen it on the shelves many months earlier but was afraid to look at it since you were in the store with me at the time), entitled The Verbally Abusive Relationship. Just reading the book, I was astounded at how accurately it portrayed our relationship. I saw you and I, on nearly every single page. What a wake-up call! For the first time, I saw your behavior for what it was. More importantly, I saw that I didn't deserve to be treated that way. This was a big step for me, to realize that our difficulties were not my fault, that I didn't make you act that way, but that you were the one with the problem. On that Monday of my week of vacation, July 22, you snapped at me for suggesting I reserve tickets for Independence Day on my credit card. And for the first time, I stood up for myself!! (I still can't understand why on earth such stupid trivial things upset you so much.) Yes, I showed my anger (which seemed to startle you) and I got off the phone quickly. Then later that evening you called me back, and had the gall to say, "Are you in a better mood?!" AFTER 18 MONTHS OF YOU SNAPPING AT ME, YOU'RE TELLING ME TO BE IN A BETTER MOOD???!!! At that point, I had a lot of newfound strength from reading that book, and for the first time I confronted you about your behavior.


I. The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Of course, we had a few heart-to-heart talks, and of course you said that I was right, and of course you said you would try to change, and of course I wanted to believe you. La-di-da. Yes, I will give you credit for making some improvements--instead of being snapped at every hour or every day, it was maybe every other week. I realize that you had to start somewhere. But this was only one improvement in your surface behavior. You still continued the attack-withdraw stuff. Snapping at me at the EMS store. Still reluctant to apologize for anything. That time you "apologized" in front of my apartment complex after I took a cab home from Mary's--that didnít seem like a sincere apology at all. I think you were scared of my reaction and your almost frightened response was just another attempt to win me back.

I became keenly aware of the cycle we always seemed to go through. After an incident, after we "kissed and made up," so to speak, you would act kindly and lovingly for a while, and then once you had me "back" you would just revert to your old behavior. I referred to this as "the honeymoon period," and whenever we were in this phase I had the distinct uneasy feeling that it was "unreal." This reminded me a lot of what I had heard and read about abusive male-female relationships in the past: The familiar scenario of the man beating his wife and then apologizing profusely with flowers and tender behavior, only to "relapse" and beat her again. I found myself in a similar situation, only with verbal rather than physical abuse, over and over again. Here are some specific examples from this particular period of our relationship.

1. After not staying at your house for several weeks, and you not having yelled at me, I finally softened and stayed over one night. Not 48 hours later, did we have another episode of your berating me over something or other!

2. After another "honeymoon period," I started feeling once again that we were getting it worked out. One afternoon I was at the store, saw a greeting card display, and looked for a nice one to give you (remember how I used to give you cards periodically?) The only reason I didn't get one was that I didn't see the perfect one. But I was feeling warm, positive thoughts toward you at the time. Wouldn't you know it, later that night you were extremely rude to me when I called you happily on the phone. Your excuse for yelling at me: You had just banged your knee. (At this point it was almost eerie--it seemed like you had a sixth sense" about knowing exactly when you "had me back", just so you could yell at me again.)

I could understand, if you really had been in excruciating pain at that time, why you might be a little short on the phone. But it is what followed, that made this episode stand out. When I told you how I felt, instead of saying something like, "Iím sorry, I was in a lot of pain, I didnít mean to yell at you," you were not only unapologetic but downright hostile!

What made this episode even worse, when I told you afterwards it hurt to be yelled at like that when I hadnít done anything wrong, you immediately turned the tables to make it seem as if it were my fault for being yelled at! You did this by furiously snapping at me for even calling you at that time. I distinctly remember it was ten minutes before eight when I had called you. You snapped, "Why do you always have to call me first!!? I was going to call you in twenty minutes anyway!!" In the past, I had been yelled at for calling you too "late." Now, instead of being yelled at for calling you too late, I was being yelled at for calling you too early, even though it was nearly eight oíclock. Can you see, that there was just no fucking way I could win??

Finally, I would like you to tell me, would you have yelled at, say, your Aunt Carol, if she had been the one who called you at that time instead of me?

During this period I began to see that it was detrimental to my emotional well-being, to put myself into a position where you could hurt me. I still loved you, but I realized that I would have to begin taking self-protective measures to avoid being hurt further. (As it was all along, I could not even address these concerns with you because this would only result in your furiously pushing me away, and the situation becoming worse.) So I did two concrete things.

First, I realized that I simply did not feel at ease or safe in your house anymore. The constant bickering between you and your mother made me uncomfortable, and there was always the possibility that at any time it could explode, but I felt that I had no right to say anything since it was between the two of you. I also felt that I had to constantly watch every little thing I said or did in order to avoid being nagged or snapped at. I realized that it was up to me to take myself out of this unpleasant situation. But I still wanted so much to be with you at night, because I loved you! I loved being close to you and holding your hand as I drifted off to sleep. I loved being able to talk with you and spend time with you. But at the same time, I also realized that if I stayed over, I would just be setting myself up for hurt and disappointment when you did not reciprocate. As you can see, I had very mixed feelings about staying over. So I made a compromise with myself--I still stayed over, but less frequently, only once or twice a week.

The second concrete action I took, concerned our daily phone interactions. Certainly, most of the times we talked on the phone at work, were pleasant. Many times our little chats uplifted me and made me smile a little more the rest of the day. But the few extremely bad interactions we had--when you would suddenly pull your attack-withdrawal behavior (snap, then fall silent and refuse to respond to me)--more than cancelled them out. I could not help being upset when this happened, especially when I felt your behavior was completely unjustified. After several of these episodes (My colleagues once saw me completely hysterical), I realized that it was just not worth the risk to speak with you that much. Then when I got my caller ID unit it was a rude shock to see, when I got home, that it was registering "General Hospital" (i.e., me) twenty times a day! I realized that I was only victimizing myself in this regard, allowing you so much power and opportunity to upset me at work. So I literally began forcing myself to only check my machine once or twice a day, and to only call you once a day. I had to somewhat withdraw from you, in order to protect myself.


J. The Beginning Of The End

Two weeks before our LA trip, you were describing to me on the phone what had transpired between you and Ellen. You had felt she had been critical of your relationship with me, and you had responded by being critical right back to her about her relationship with Frank. When the subject of "Boo-Boo" came up, I tried to tell you that I thought it was our own special private thing, that I wish you hadn't told Ellen about that. Immediately you pulled the famous attack-withdraw stunt, snapping at me and then falling silent and refusing to say anything to me. Is this the way a grown 40-year-old adult acts?? Can you blame me for getting frustrated, telling myself there was no way I should put up with this, and hanging up? However, I was not in control of myself, with what happened next. I had this overwhelming need to immediately come over, to try to "make it right." Somehow I knew this was not the right thing to do, that I would be sorry for it later, but I couldn't stand your being mad at me when I felt I hadn't done anything wrong!

I drove like a maniac in the rain up Barrett Avenue, desperate, hating myself for doing it, but unable to stop. When I got to your place, it was the same old scenario that we had been through hundreds of times before. But the final result, was that we did eventually "kiss and make up." So I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

On my way back to my apartment, I felt ten times worse than I had before. I hated myself for having, in effect, come crawling back to you after you had been abusive toward me. I hated myself for having not listened to my rational side. I hated myself for loving you. It got to the point where I became suicidal, for probably the first time in my life. I was on 2nd call that night--I considered going in at around 5 AM, gathering up some drugs and iv tubing, and killing myself (it would have been so easy). That way, they'd find me there at around 6 AM, and there wouldn't have even been a lapse in coverage.

Thank God I didnít go through with this (because nothing is worth taking your own life). It was just two weeks before my boards, so I couldn't even address this incident with you. I had enough to worry about without stirring up the pot with you. But I did discuss it with Alan, who, being a psychiatrist, was duly alarmed. To me, it should have been a sign from God that being in this relationship was seriously hurting me. But still a part of me was in denial, because I loved you so much.

The week before my boards was the incident that probably truly put our relationship over the edge. It was Friday afternoon, I had gotten out early, came to pick you up, you seemed to be in a good mood, until we got to Thrift Drug. Once again, like so many times before, I saw your mood switch right in front of me. Just the mere concept of taking antimotion sickness medicine put you in a foul mood and you hardly said a word to me on the way home. Then, we had that great "where should we go to dinner" episode. If you werenít feeling well, why couldn't you have just said, "I'm not feeling well, you guys can go out without me." Instead you hostily vetoed every single suggestion that was made. Olive Garden, Chili's, Houlihan's, Friday's--every one was rejected with an angry scowl from you. After a few minutes of this your mother got understandably frustrated with you since you were snapping at everyone unrelentlessly. It's no wonder she got upset! I was just sitting there minding my own business. Once again, I made excuses for you, to myself. I thought, "Maybe she's just tired of having Ellen underfoot" (since she'd been there for several days recovering from her surgery). You stormed off down to the cellar to put something away. When you came back up, I suggested that perhaps we could go to Chinatown, just me and you. I thought maybe you'd feel better away from your family. So what response do I get?? You stormed past me, and when I turned to face you, accidentally bumping into your foot, you furiously shot out with total disgust, "Why do you always have to step on my foot!!" or something to that effect. I felt like I had been slapped in the face!

My response was completely different to what I would have done before. Before I would have pursued you. But I knew I couldn't do this, because the last time I did it, I felt so horrible that I became suicidal. I had new insight into the consequences to myself of my actions. So in less than five minutes, after I told you flat-out that you were being abusive, I left.

You didn't call me all that night. I was extremely hurt. I was furious with you, and more importantly, I knew that I would never be able to excuse you for this. I knew that whatever response I got from you, it would not be adequate. This was more than a year after the "throw-out-all-of-Chrisís-stuff-out-on-the-porch-and-donít-call- her-all-night" episode, and I was still having to put up with the very same crap?? To add insult to injury, the next morning, when I got back from my appointment with John, there was a message from you on my machine. I wish I could have saved it to play back to you. You said in an angry tone, "Call me back, if you want" (emphasis yours). Now what on earth justification did you have for being mad at me at this point? There was no way I was going to call you back, and I embarked on a 36-hour "flight," during which I realized that our relationship was probably over. However, two things intervened. First, my boards were coming up in one week, and I did not want to have to take my boards in the midst of an emotional crisis. Failing my boards would have just made the whole situation worse. Second, you pulled the famous "I'm sorry please forgive me I love you" thing. I still had enough love for you, that I accepted this.

However, this time when you "won me back," there were several major things which I could not ignore. I refer to this as "the royal mindfuck." First of all, the content of that letter you left me when I was out of my apartment. When I read it, I just could not believe it. You were talking about how "overwhelmed with despair and anger" you were that night. You described sitting in your bedroom staring for hours. "Everything in my life came to light in that moment." All this from a lack of consensus about where to go for dinner??? It seemed that your response was so out of proportion to the inciting event that it was absurd. Second, you claimed in the letter that during this event, even though you were snapping at me and then refused to interact with me, that you were actually wanting me to comfort you! Is this a mixed message or what!? What was even more preposterous, was that when I proposed that if the situation were turned around, and I had been snapping and cold toward you, would you have surmised that I was actually in need of comfort and would you have comforted me, you said yes. This is the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard!! All I have to do is look at you funny and you attack me! You would never ever in a million years comfort me in that situation. Talk about a double standard.

What was even worse, was when I broke down and let you come over to my apartment, and you invoked all these childhood things as an excuse for the way you acted. You talked about the mixed messages your siblings gave you when you were young (e.g. when they locked you in your room and then afterwards acted like nothing had happened). At the time I didn't say anything because it was right before my boards and I couldn't handle a major confrontation or discussion, and also because I wanted so much to understand you and accept your explanations. But afterwards I had two different reactions. The first was angrily suspecting that since you realized a mere "I wasn't feeling well" wasn't going to suffice anymore, you were now furiously backpeddling to offer more elaborate excuses, invoking your childhood and family. The second, more profound realization, was that it probably really was all the shit in your past, that made it so difficult for me to be with you. And that this pile of shit in your past was just so huge that it would never be conquered, or even dealt with. I felt totally helpless when I realized that no matter how much I loved you, you would still always be tortured by these things, and they would probably remain there as a wall keeping us apart forever.

But despite all this, a part of me still wanted so much to be with you. I wanted everything to be all right because despite everything, I loved you. So we went to Los Angeles.

This trip was the strangest I have ever taken. In my mind, there were two levels to everything. While on the surface I may have seemed like I was having a good time, and I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I could have a good time with you (since being able to travel with a partner is very important to me), on the other level I was miserable being there with you. You continually nagged me about my packing and my stuff in the hotel room. I spent the whole time in fear of you snapping at me, which you did. The day before my exam, when we stopped to look at the postcards, at the moment I really wasn't in the mood to pick any out. I figured you could pick some out if you wanted, and I became distracted and merely walked a few feet to look at some audio equipment in the store window. In an instant you became totally pissed, stormed off, wouldn't look at me, and when I protested snapped, "Forget it, you're obviously not interested." The whole "attack-withdraw" thing, just in a miniature episode, complete with the "I'm sorry come back honey" conclusion.

Several days later when we were looking for frog socks for Ellen, you came up to me with the three different pairs and go, "Which one should I get?" Now, I had absolutely no opinion so I shrugged my shoulders and said I didn't know, they were all nice. That was the truth! But then I could see that instantaneous rage about to come flying out at me, because I hadn't given you an answer. I just knew I was about to be yelled at, probably because I "didn't care about helping you pick out socks!" In order to protect myself I think I just pointed to one, to avoid another confrontation.

Then, the way you approached the thing about the jasper pyramid--this was another classic attack-withdraw scenario. The way it unfolded that night at Michaelís, was first you began snapping at me over unrelated things (my packing, then my stating the time on my alarm clock). To your credit, you did not persist in this snapping over other things for very long, as within one or two minutes you told me what was really on your mind. This was good. However, canít you see that the way you approached it--being angry, then completely pulling away from me, shutting me out and giving me the seething silent treatment, completely cancelled out any good that had come from your bringing it up right away?? This is not an effective way of dealing with conflict. It does not accomplish anything except to punish your partner, without any room for discussion at all.

At this time I would like to point out another major issue, which I was beginning to grasp around the time of our LA trip. It pertains to your not taking responsibility for your own health. I believe that a part of you is self-destructive regarding your ear/hearing and your stomach. First of all, I do believe you have real medical conditions--recurrent chronic ear infections, and an ulcer and/or gastroesophageal reflux. However, I believe these conditions are worsened by emotional factors, and that you subconsciously worsen them through neglect in order to obtain secondary gain.

As an example, you are always complaining about your stomach. At least in the time Iíve known you, you have never made an effort to get to the bottom of it. You seem content to just complain about it. The times when Dr. Ford prescribed medicine for your stomach, you just complained louder, that they were making it worse. But sometimes, you seemed to almost deliberately make it worse. Once this past summer, we were going to Chinatown for dinner. You kept insisting that no matter where we went, we would have to get something bland because "your stomach was bothering you." You said it about five times, even while we were sitting there looking at the menu. So what do you order? Hot and sour soup!! And as it figures, this time it was particularly spicy (I tasted it). I told you very nicely, "I donít think you should eat that, letís trade soups instead" (I had ordered wonton). You sat there looking at your soup like you really wanted to eat it and I had to practically wrest it away from you. As another example, you steadfastly refused to see an ENT specialist for your ear. Sometimes at my mere mentioning of it (which I was doing out of genuine concern for you), you would get into a bad mood and snap at me because you "didnít have the money!" (Yet, I will point out that you had health insurance, and you had hundreds of dollars to spend on baseball cards.)

And why did you persist in maintaining these conditions--your ear and your stomach? I believe that 1) they served as convenient background excuses for being in "a bad mood" and to yell at me whenever you wanted--youíd simply claim you snapped at me because you "werenít feeling well," and 2) they were great ways to obtain sympathy and attention, not only from me but from everyone else as well.

This issue came to the forefront of my mind around the time of our LA trip. First, that episode about Thrift Drug and where-to-go-to-dinner. Then, after months of my advising you to see an ENT specialist, of course your concern about your ear reached a feverish pitch right before we left for LA, because you were worried about your ear on the flight. At the last minute you saw Dr. Ford again, and he prescribed you medication. Remember a few days before we left, and you got sick coming home from Chinatown? I believe this was perfectly timed to elicit the maximum sympathy and attention from me. You cried on my shoulder about how upset you were that your hearing was just getting worse. Yet during months and months of recurring ear infections, you had refused to take my advice to do something i.e., see someone other than Dr. Ford! I almost felt as if I were being manipulated to feel sorry for you.

About your pills and your stomach during the trip--this was the worst of all. The whole situation kept me extremely anxious the entire trip. Anytime you were "not feeling well," I had to be extremely careful with anything I said or did for fear that you would snap at me. You were so fucking anal about when you were supposed to take your medicine. I studied pharmacology in med school, I prescribed these very same meds when I was an intern, and I think I know a thing or two about medicine. An hour or two early or late doesn't matter. Yet, every morning, on my vacation, I had to wake up at 6 AM, so you could take your medicine. The entire week, you obsessed about taking your medicine with food at precisely the scheduled time, practically down to the minute. This was absolutely absurd (and 99 out of a 100 doctors would agree with me), but you absolutely refused to listen to me.

As I could have predicted, by day 8 or 9 of your 10-day course of antibiotics, your stomach was bothering you. (I think almost any medication is eventually bound to bother you, due to psychosomatic reasons.) Now I knew your symptoms were real, since you really were running to the bathroom several times a day. It reached the worst point, of course, when Michael had taken us to his favorite Mexican restaurant. You hadn't eaten anything yet, complaining about your stomach. I had told you earlier my opinion (because you asked), that I thought that since you were almost done the 10-day course, stop taking them (for heaven's sake) if they're bothering your stomach. Stop taking the antibiotic, and you can probably continue taking the decongestant. So at the restaurant you made a big scene coming back from the bathroom, saying you absolutely had to speak with Dr. Ford about what to do. So we ran around, my cellular phone was out of roaming range, and we finally got the restaurant people to let us use their phone. So I called Dr. Ford's office, and via his secretary, transmitted the information and asked for his advice. And what did he say? "Stop taking the antibiotic, and continue taking the decongestant." EXACTLY WHAT THE FUCK I SAID!

It got even better, or worse. It was the first time you ever met Michael. Upon hearing about your plight with the antibiotics, he recommended to you that you immediately take some Acidophilus capsules. And wouldnít you know it, he took us to the store, you plunked down some $10 for this stuff, and gulped it down.

I cannot even begin to describe to you the feelings I had watching this. Here I was, a licensed physician, and you had completely disregarded any advice I'd given you about medicine, yet you take Dr. Ford's word as gospel even though it was exactly what the fuck I said. Then, despite the fact that with me you are constantly wary of any medicine because it might "bother your stomach" (just look at your foul mood upon considering the anti-nausea medicine at Thrift Drug), you gleefully pop this unknown Acidophilus capsule on the advice of someone you don't even really know.

How do you think this made me feel? Devalued, perhaps? Like my genuine concern, advice, and opinions didn't amount to squat with you?


K. Post-California: The Final Straws

The day after we got back, I had to put up with yet another episode of sulking and clinging dependency. Fran had called you earlier to ask you if we wanted to go to the block party the Sunday we got back. I had already told you even before we left for our trip that I probably wouldnít feel like going, since we wouldíve just gotten back and the next day Iíd have to get up early to go to work. Now when you proposed going again the day after we got back, I really didnít want to go, because of the reasons above and the next evening was our first aerobics class and I knew I just needed to rest. Plus we had just spent several days running around in LA. I very calmly explained to you these reasons for my not wanting to go, but I could see you still wanted to go, so I said nicely, "Thatís okay, you can go with Fran if you want." Your response?--To literally start sulking right before my eyes. Why is it not possible for you to do anything without me?? This was extremely annoying, but I couldnít say anything because if I did I wouldíve gotten either the angry lashing or the seething silent treatment, or both.

I eventually decided go to the block party out of guilt (you pouted so convincingly about it), and yes, I did end up having a good time, but one thing that marred it was your attitude toward Angela. After how rudely you had treated her in the past, you were still hostile toward her, angrily saying to me that "it just figured" sheíd lie to Michelle about where she was going! You had completely missed the facts (which I got speaking with her alone while you were in the grocery store) yet you automatically assumed the worst about her since you held her in such complete disregard. She is such a terrible person, anything she does automatically has bad motives.

The next night, Monday after our first aerobics class, you kindly took me in when I was exhausted and hypoglycemic. I do appreciate your concern, but I shouldn't have stayed over. While I was going in, I knew I was doing something against my better judgement. By that time, I couldn't stand being in your house. I couldn't stand hearing you bicker with your mother. I just didn't want to be there, given that I was in such pain over our relationship and I felt I was not being honest to either you or myself. I take full responsibility for making this mistake.

Waking up at 3 AM crying felt absolutely horrible and was out of my control. Initially you took me in, then shut me out, then pulled me closer again. I could not help feeling the way I did. On the surface you seemed to accept my emotional pain, but I should have known what was sure to follow--an attack.

Tell me, at any time during this episode, did I attack you??! I was merely trying (as I had been trying for damn near two years) to express to you my feelings which by that time were completely overwhelming.

Two days later, on the way to Mary's, I could tell you were in your usual angry sulking mood. When we got to the office and I asked you if you wanted to go to the bathroom with me, you just shrugged your shoulders, wouldn't talk to me, wouldnít look at me--the typical silent treatment. At our session, there was just so much I needed to talk about. But I deferred to you, as you launched into the thing about the jasper pyramid. Mary saw that this was leading to nowhere, so she suggested again that perhaps we should do the "each of you make a list about what bothers you about the other person and we'll address them one by one" exercise. You responded furiously, "well, as long as she doesn't CRY--I think that's just a TACTIC to make me feel GUILTY..." You spat the words out with venom.

It makes me extremely upset just to remember this. It was like in that very moment, everything that was wrong with our relationship came crashing out into the open. I had expressed genuine pain to you, you took it as an attack, and in turn launched a crushing, hostile counterattack, accusing me of trying to make you feel guilty!! This was the pure embodiment of all of our difficulties! I completely lost it--after two years of this shit, this was really the ultimate. You had managed to even top yourself. You know what happened next--I jumped up, screamed "IT IS NOT A TACTIC!!!" but the sad thing is, no matter how hard I screamed you would have never understood.

Looking back, I realize that in that moment it became crystal clear that my feelings and pain meant absolutely nothing to you, and that I would never, ever be heard. It was completely hopeless.

As you will remember, subsequently during this session I really flipped out. So many times over the previous two years, I had felt I was at the end of my rope. Now I truly was at the end of my rope. I had finally reached the breaking point, as demonstrated by my behavior, which I am not proud of. [Note: I threw a chair onto the floor and then kicked in the office wall. I did not aim the chair toward Terry, hit her, or threaten her in any way, but I did cause some property damage.] That was probably the most violent I have ever been in my life. Fortunately, Mary could see these signs even when I was not being rational. She could see the emotional violence and destruction that were occuring, and like a referee in the ring, separated us like two boxers. She could see that enough damage had been done, and that at this point it was just best for us to take a break. Looking back, I can see that she made the right call. [Note: Mary told us to completely separate--no contact--for at least two weeks. Thank you Mary!!!]

The next few weeks really gave me a chance to think. I came to fully accept the fact that I was hurting myself by staying in the relationship. I realized that given all the issues in your past, you were simply not going to change, at least not without years of therapy. I realized that, if I wanted to stick it out with you, I would have a very hard life and that I would not be happy. I realized that if I willingly kept myself in the path of a Mack truck, and then that Mack truck as expected ran me over, then who was to blame? Myself! It was a given that you would simply hurt me over and over, and push me away whenever I tried to become closer. The only thing I could do to save myself, was leave the relationship, no matter how much it hurt.

During this period a lot of things really sunk in. I saw how you never took responsibility for anything that went wrong in your life. I saw how your low self-esteem made it impossible for you to treat anyone else well. I was rapidly running out of excuses to stay in the relationship. Of course I still had those last desperate hopes and dreams.

The end came suddenly and not at all in a manner in which I would have expected. The end came delivered to me in a letter on my apartment floor. In this letter you calmly and sincerely proposed that of all people, Mary was the cause of all our troubles! I simply could not believe it!! In what had to be the world's most spectacular demonstration of blameshifting, you proceeded to accuse Mary of "placing our relationship in peril," and of causing us to "see each other as adversaries." I propose to you, that our relationship was in peril without any help from Mary, and that you had been seeing me as an "adversary" months and months and months before we had ever even met Mary! You stated how we were "torn apart by someone elseís decisions." What about your shitty treatment of me, for nearly two years?? You proceeded to criticize Mary for how she had conducted her sessions with us. After nine months of seeing her, and you repeatedly saying during those nine months things like "Oh, I really like Mary," and "I think Mary is a really good person/therapist," NOW all of a sudden she was incompetent, unprofessional, and been doing harm to us all along??! It was amazing to me, that after all that had happened, you could come up with something even more outrageous. This really took the cake. Upon reading your letter, everything became so crystal clear to me, that this was a pattern of thinking so deeply ingrained in you (not taking responsibility for your difficulties but blaming others instead), that it was fruitless to even address with you. Iíll bet that even right now, you don't understand what I'm talking about.

This letter had such an effect on me, that the next day, before aerobics class, I fired off my letter to you in under two hours. I knew that it wouldn't be perfect, I knew that there were a hundred, perhaps a thousand more things to say, but I knew that regardless, I HAD to do something immediately, which was break up with you. I figured I would just have to deal with all the other issues later. In fact, I knew that merely telling you that I had lost all trust in you, that I couldn't afford to put myself in a position of being repeatedly hurt by you, should suffice as enough reason to end my relationship with you.


L. The Major Issues (As I See Them)

1. Our Different Family Backgrounds.

Throughout the course of this relationship, I was very confused. Emotionally, I was soaring high one minute, and in the toilet the next. I couldnít understand why, even though we had good times together and loved each other, you were still always hurting me. However, looking back, itís all become a lot clearer. For one thing, I now realize that a lot of your abusive behavior probably had nothing to do with me. It is a good bet that you were simply treating me as you yourself had been treated--and I was responding in the only way I knew how. This can be traced to our different family backgrounds.

We grew up in very different environments. A lot of our basic incompatibilities stem from this simple fact. First, on the issues of money, frugality, and waste--I grew up where no one cared how many napkins or paper towels I used. Using a new Dixie cup every time you brushed your teeth was not frowned upon. Spending or losing some change here, a couple dollars there, was not a big deal. However, I realize this was not the case in your family. You had less money, and a lot more people that it had to cover. For example, the number of napkins put out took on more significance. In a way I completely understand your nagging over these things. However, when it becomes an excuse to snap and yell at someone, or to continually nag them 24 hours a day in an effort to control them; when it becomes so important that it is worth making your partner miserable, I must take exception to that.

But the major differences in our families, was the way we treated each other. First, the level of support, acceptance, and unconditional love seems to have been worlds apart. When I was young, my parents supported me in almost anything I did. I wanted to have a paper route for four years? Fine. I wanted to dress up like a little hockey player and run around with a hockey stick? Go ahead. My parents sat through years of our violin lessons, went to all our concerts, and in general let us do what we wanted and were always supportive of us. Furthermore, there was not that much sibling rivalry between my sister and me. I had the extremely good fortune to grow up in an environment in which I was not ridiculed, criticized, or made to feel small or stupid. My parents were pretty good role models as a couple--they treated each other, for the most part, with kindness and respect.

This seems to have been exactly the opposite of what you experienced. In your family, it sounds like people constantly made you feel bad, and certainly not supported. Furthermore, it sounds like there was a lot of conflict in your household. Criticizing, snapping, yelling, hitting (of you by your parents), and mixed messages seems to have been the norm. So this is just what you are used to. Constant bickering (such as what I saw between you and your mother), to you is probably just a normal way of life.

Conflict is familiar to someone from an unhappy home. Bickering coldness, and sarcasm feels normal. After awhile, one sees no problem with fighting and emotional pain. Bickering becomes an acceptable pattern of relating and people living there carry this type of communication into all their relationships.

--From Learning To Love Yourself

A good example of something that I see to have been possibly rooted in family background issues, is the following. You seemed to have an obsession with doing the dishes. Earlier in our relationship you yelled at me for using too much water, using too much soap, using too little soap, not washing the handles of utensils, pots or pans, not washing the bottoms of plates, not pre-rinsing, stacking the dirty dishes, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Perhaps this was because you yourself were yelled at for these things, and you were simply treating me the same way. Furthermore, several times you expounded on the fact that it was only polite to always do the dishes when you were a guest somewhere else. You were constantly nagging me to do (or for us to do) the dishes at my parentsí house. You made it seem like I was being "rude," or an "ungrateful daughter" if I didnít do them. Overall, you seemed to have this fixation on doing the dishes.

But in my family, doing the dishes was not an important matter. We did have a schedule, but as long as they got done, nobody made a big deal of it. The four of us each used different techniques to wash, and as long as they were reasonably clean, nobody cared. And we were flexible--if someone got "stuck with the dishes" it wasnít a huge insult or "dump." As I told you before, although my mom probably appreciated your doing the dishes, itís just wasnít a big deal.

However, what was a big deal in our family, was bickering, snapping, yelling, and treating each other badly. This was a very big deal and definitely NOT something Iím used to. Can you see how these family differences, profoundly affected our relationship? And when it comes to these things, on one level I will agree that it is not whether I am right or you are wrong, or that you are right and I am wrong. Itís just simply the way it is.


2. Anger

Our different family backgrounds--how we were treated when we were growing up--likely had a lot to do with our difficulties. However, I think there are other important issues that cut even deeper to the core. WARNING: What I have to say in these next pages--what I think may be some key issues underlying your behavior--may anger and upset you a lot. I fully realize that all of this is mere speculation, since I am not you! I could be partially or completely off the mark. Nevertheless I must put it out on the table and ask, do you think there could be any grains of truth here?? I ask you to please consider it carefully--perhaps it can help you in the future. However, if you donít want to read this, then please skip to section M, "What About Mary?"

Family background aside, I believe that your underlying anger was a huge factor in the breakdown of our relationship. Simply put, I think you have a lot of underlying anger about many things in your life, past, present, and future. I think you are chronically angry and frustrated with being a "victim" of many people and events (further discussion below) as well as with your present station in life. You donít know how to deal with this anger in a constructive way, so it just festers and simmers below the surface constantly--ready to be tipped off at the drop of a hat.

During the first few months of our relationship, when you yelled and snapped at me or expressed hostility toward someone else, I thought you were merely angry with that particular situation. And as I mentioned before, I repeatedly rationalized your behavior. However, as time went on, I began to suspect that this frequent hostility was not so much situation-dependent, but that it had more to do with you--that you had a well of underlying anger that had to find an outlet every so often. I was a convenient outlet, simply by being there.

Another thing I grew to suspect, was that any bad or negative feeling you had, was translated into anger. For example, not feeling physically well, being tired, having a bad day at work, feeling hurt by somebody, being frustrated with not being able to do something, being anxious over your health or financial situation (these are all real and valid feelings)--all of these myriad feelings were immediately translated into and expressed as anger, at a convenient target which a lot of times happened to be me! As our relationship progressed, these themes--an underlying well of anger, a need to vent this anger periodically at me and others, and the masking of other emotions as anger--all became more and more supported and solidified in my mind.

To give just a few random examples: 1) That time you felt hurt when I didnít do something in bed, before the blizzard. This precipitated a chain of events, manifested by your unexpressed and expressed anger. But what was the underlying feeling? 2) That time you felt understandably hurt when my parents didnít want you to come when my relatives visited (although I wanted you to come). Was it appropriate to direct your rage at me? 3) That night we were at Dave and Busterís with Marilyn, and you yelled at me for putting a quarter into a skeeball machine you thought wasnít working. Were you really that concerned about the impact of my possibly losing a quarter? Or was this just an excuse to yell at me?? 4) As recently as the day before we left for LA, we were at the rink to pick up my skates; we were playing pinball and it appeared that I had tilted the machine on your play. That instantaneous rage flared up in your eyes as you wheeled around to yell at me! Luckily, I was able to "calm you down" (the ball suddenly going back into play also helped). What on earth is going on in your head, if you become so enraged over a stupid pinball machine tilting?? How could I ever stay with you, if any little thing becomes an excuse to yell at me??

I am not saying that your underlying anger was directed only at me. Indeed, it seemed like sometimes it was unleashed at anybody and everybody. No one was immune--family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers. Again, it seemed that any unpleasant feeling that you could be translated into anger. Even what I think were genuine positive feelings of concern--e.g., concern about your friend taking drugs, or about your mother being sick and refusing to go to the hospital--even these became opportunities to snap at others or give them the seething silent treatment.

I would like to know, why were you so angry all of the time, and why did you feel the need to criticize, attack and blame me and others, on such a frequent basis? What does this tell you about yourself?

There is a difference between a person who releases appropriate anger when injured and a person who seems to be chronically angry and venting most of the time. A chronically angry and bitter person often feels short changed in life and blames others for his problems This is using anger as a defense and is a rationalization for blaming others.

--From Learning To Love Yourself


3. Self-Esteem

Your anger was a major issue in this relationship. However, I think the underlying issue that was even larger, was that of your low self-esteem. I think much of your anger in a way derives from this. It seems as if you have internalized what everyone (your parents and family) told you in the past, that you were good for nothing, stupid, etc. etc. (their words, not mine). You were made to feel diminished, and now deep down you really do believe you are a failure. I feel that this affected our interactions in several important ways.

First, I think that a lot of your criticism of me and others, represents an attempt to make yourself feel better. When you do not feel very good about yourself, and do not want to or are not able to address the issues of why, it is a lot easier to focus on other peoplesí faults. In this way you attempt to reassure yourself that you are indeed superior to these other people, and you avoid having to critically examine yourself.

Second, I believe that, in order to make up for the self esteem you were missing, you tried somehow to derive that "ego strength" from me. Reassurance that you indeed were a likable person, a lovable person, all had to come from me. The most concrete examples of this were the many times you looked at me sadly and asked questions like, "Do you think Mandy likes me?" or "Do your parents like me?" Another way this manifested were statements like, "So-and-so hates me," "Your father hates me," etc. I would have to rush in and reassure you that no, they didnít hate you, that yes, they liked you. Or you would look at me sadly and say that you thought you were not intelligent. Of course you are intelligent!! You donít need initials after your name to be smart! But you had such low self-esteem, you needed to hear me say it in order to believe it. Another example, were all the times I spontaneously exclaimed, "Youíre so cute!!" You would crinkle your nose in protest, "No Iím not," and I would have to assure you that you were. You just couldnít seem to accept the fact that I thought you were incredibly cute and attractive. After a while, it became a burden on me, to seem to have to carry so much responsibility for they way you felt about yourself. It was as if I had to carry all the weight of your self-esteem, on my shoulders (with the very real threat of being yelled at or pushed away if I didnít). There is a big difference between affirming someoneís worth and goodness, and having to give them the self-esteem they lack.

Third, I get the feeling that you view yourself as a failure specifically when it comes to education, occupation, salary, and general status in life. You made many comments to me, that indicated to me that you do not think you have achieved very much in life. Your self-esteem was probably already low to begin with in this respect--and just perhaps, when you saw yourself next to with me, you felt even more inadequate. This is sad because, in my mind, I never, ever saw my educational background, profession, etc. as a form of status over you. I have never thought, in any way, that I was "better" than you.

I believe that your feelings of inadequacy in this area, might have been an unconscious driving force behind your attempts to equalize or at least somewhat neutralize the power differential you perceived between us. I would like to quote a passage from Permanent Partners:

Veto power (p.122):

Another covert means of control in a relationship is through use of veto power. The less powerful partner may veto sex, affection, plans, even conversation, anything that requires his or her cooperation in order to make it happen. I watch the guerrilla warfare when one partner has more of something significant--money, prestige, visibility, or influence--than the other. The have-not partner uses his/her veto power over the intangibles in the relationship--sex, affection, understanding, acceptance, support--in order to equalize the power balance.

Does this sound like it may have had some relevance in our relationship? I believe it does. The differences in our occupations, salaries, etc. really did not mean much to me, but I suspect they mattered (subconsciously) a lot to you.

Fourth, I think the most devastating effect of your low self-esteem was that it led you to believe that there was just no way someone could truly love you. You didnít really love yourself, so you couldnít really see how anyone else could love you, either. The roots of this most likely came from your past, since your family treated you as so "unlovable." I think this had two effects, the first minor, the second major.

First, I believe that you artificially derived a feeling of being loved from having others (i.e. Sandy, then me) come back to you after an upset which you had precipitated. (Have you ever heard the saying, "The best part of breaking up is making up"?) The thought pattern might have been something like this: "If I hurt her so badly and she still came back, then she must really love me." Since you thought it was so unlikely for us to truly to love you, in a way these episodes "proved" that we really did.

Second, somehow I think you didnít feel like you even deserved my love in the first place, that you werenít good enough for me. I heard this over and over, with your saying things like "I donít know how you put up with me." The most striking example was after we got back together in January, and you said that you thought you were at a "disadvantage" being single, compared with me. It struck me as pathetic, how little you thought of yourself. And it seemed that all along, you had an "end result" in mind. You felt that there was no way someone could really love you, and that in the end they would always ultimately dump you. It certainly didnít help that Sandy dumped you eleven times before I ever even met you. I think a part of you, the whole time you were with me, felt it was inevitable that I would eventually dump you.

Why do I think this was so important? In a way, I believe that this was the underlying key to all of our problems. If there is one paragraph in this entire letter that I want you to consider carefully, it is the following.

If you donít love yourself and donít have self-worth, i.e. if you feel like you are unworthy of being loved, then it necessarily follows that you will expect the other person to reject you . However, rejection terrifies you, so in order to protect yourself you push the other person away at the slightest indication of trouble, i.e. reject them first so they canít hurt you. Whenever the other person tries to become closer, you push them away first because you are so afraid they are going to reject you. After this happens enough times, the other person will 1) become hesitant to approach you because she wants to avoid the pain of being pushed away, and 2) begin resenting you for continually pushing her away. In turn, now she withdraws, and then you perceive her withdrawal as evidence of her rejecting you, etc. etc. ...and a vicious cycle is begun. In the end your worst fears about rejection become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This vicious cycle had its roots in your own lack of self-worth because if you had felt good about yourself in the first place, if you had realized that it really was possible for this person to love you and not reject you, then you would not have been so afraid of intimacy, and would not have pushed her away.

I believe that this is exactly what happened in our relationship. What do you think? Why did you repeatedly push me away??


4. Intimacy and Trust

Good self-esteem is a prerequisite for having a relationship characterized by intimacy and trust. If you basically feel good about yourself, you can allow yourself to be vulnerable to another person. You will trust them, and only when there is mutual trust can there be any real intimacy.

I feel that from the very beginning, you did not trust me. That very first time you stayed over my place, you accused me of being deceitful about my relationship with Allison. I was simply embarassed about practically being a virgin! Yet you made it seem that I had evil intentions, to deliberately deceive you. When we jointly bought those baseball card sets, you spoke (angrily I might add) of not liking to co-own stuff because "what happens when you break up!" When Sarah and Annamae were splitting up, you kept saying how that was why you could never jointly own a house with someone. Even though at that very same time Danielle and Cabrina had just celebrated their fifteenth (?) anniversary together, you ignored their example and chose to focus instead on Sarah and Annamae. The clear implication was that you could never trust me enough to move in with me. Multiple comments that you made to me throughout our relationship, indicated that you did not trust me. This really saddened me and confused me, because at that time I had every intention of spending the rest of my life with you.

I trusted you. That is why it hurts me tremendously to realize now that you never trusted me. I think you saw me as some malevolent being out to get you. I believe you ascribed bad intentions to things I did, when I had nothing but good ones. If this is the case, you had me pegged completely wrong. Even at the very end, you accused me of using tears as a "tactic" to make you feel guilty. It is a shame that after all we went through, you never even really knew me.

As I said, mutual trust is necessary for true intimacy. For me, simply having common interests and doing things together is not enough. I need to have emotional intimacy with a partner. At this point in your life, I donít think it was possible for you to be truly intimate with me or anyone else. And after two years, after gradually losing my trust in you due to the many times you hurt me, I lost my capacity forever to be emotionally intimate with you.


5. Victimhood

Here is another passage from Permanent Partners which I believe alludes to another aspect of our relationship.

Victim Power (p.120):

Often an underground power struggle develops that becomes the subtext to much that goes on in the coupleís life together. If the power struggle is not in the open, it might involve bids for control that are more covert than overt: for instance, the of the victim who gets others to do his/her bidding out of pity or guilt. These people do not directly demand control, but they shape otherís responses to them by being needy, helpless, put upon, or in some other way victims of life. Victim power is especially difficult to deal with in a relationship because of the contradiction it sets up in terms of what is required of the partner to avoid becoming the victim of the victim.

It seems that all your life, other people have hurt you. You have been a victim of emotional abuse by your parents and siblings, of discrimination by GE, of horrible crimes committed against your family, of harassment by your former co-worker Jack Thomson, of repeated rejection from your lovers, etc. etc. You have not had an easy life. Your status as a "victim" of these various events and people, as well as your current health problems (which, as I mentioned before, you seemed only too eager to maintain), did serve as a strong "pull" of me toward you. I felt sorry for you. (I know that this all probably has a lot more to do with me than it has to do with you.) Despite how poorly you were treating me, I felt like I had to hang in there with you, because if I didnít then I would be abandoning you, and how could I possibly abandon someone who had already suffered so many misfortunes in life?

And I did want so much to help you enjoy a better life, because I cared so much about you! I felt somewhat responsible for this--and I donít think this sense of responsibility came solely from me. There were subtle ways it came from you too. For example, after I broke up with you in March--several days later you said you were happy that I came back, because "Whoís going to make my life better?" This statement really stuck in my mind. It seemed as if it were up to me to make you happy, and that you didnít take any responsibility for this yourself. Perhaps I should not have accepted this burden. However, if I had not, you would have furiously pushed me away for abandoning you. Oftentimes, you seemed needy and insecure--needing me to help pump up your self-esteem as I mentioned above, or to do things with you--for example, going to card shows, driving around all the places we did--that I donít believe you would have done by yourself, if it werenít for me. Yes, I truly had my heart in these things and felt right about doing them! However, it would have been so much better, if there had not been that added force of "If I donít do these things, Iím really going to get it for "victimizing" her."

It is a paradox, but I see that in addition to your role as the dominant, controlling, abusive partner, your other persona in our relationship, was that of victim. And one of the key factors in my feeling trapped, was that no matter how poorly you were treating me, I could not abandon you, because then you would become even more the victim. Without acknowledging your poor behavior in the first place, you could simply scream, "You dumped me you dumped me you dumped me!!!" One of the reasons you were able to get away with your abusive behavior for so long, was my own guilt over potentially abandoning you.

I propose that it was the combination of your low self-esteem--feeling that you were not worthy of my love, and your self-image as victim, that fueled your behavior toward me. As I said, you probably felt it was inevitable that I would dump you. Youíre probably now screaming, "WELL, LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED--I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG, WASNíT I??!!" But look carefully at your role in the breakdown of our relationship. Could it be that somewhere deep down you willed it to happen? That you expected it and played your role in a script that had the ending already written?

As I stated above, it seems that all your life, you have been a victim of various people and events. Now at this point in your life, I came along. I believe that by this point you had already accepted and internalized the role of victim. Not only had you accepted the role of victim, but deep down it was something you wanted, because that was the role most comfortable to you. It was the role that fit most into your self-image. It was the way you saw yourself, and the way it just had to be. Anything else--for example, someone loving you, caring for you, just wouldnít make sense. Somehow, as much as it hurt, it was more comfortable to have someone yelling at you and rejecting you, because that was what you were used to.

Remember when Ann was working at that restaurant, and they were giving her a lot of trouble there? You very clearly stated to me, that you thought they really wanted to get rid of her but they didnít want to fire her, so therefore they were deliberately giving her a hard time in order to make her want to quit. That way they could indirectly get rid of her, without looking like the bad guy. This made a lot of sense to me (Iím sure it happens all the time in job situations). But the thing that struck me, was that at that very time, I felt as if you were doing the same thing to me in our relationship. That is, you really wanted to get rid of me, but you didnít want to do the dirty work so you were trying everything possible to get me to do it. Now this thing with Ann happened quite some time ago--over a year ago? I canít remember--but thatís how long I have suspected that somehow youíve been trying to make me dump you. With all your outrageous behavior, I felt like you were trying so hard to rile me and push all my buttons, in order to make the end result be "Chris dumps Terry, and once again Terry is the victim." Of course, I was very tolerant, and I kept bouncing back to you like one of those inflatable clowns that pop back up after you knock it down. This simply maintained your motivation to keep angering me and hurting me until I couldnít stand it anymore and was forced to dump you. In one fell swoop, this would accomplish several things--your self-image as unlovable would be maintained, you wouldnít have to take responsibility for the ending, and you would become the victim with all the sympathy from everyone that that would entail.

Do you think there is any truth to what I am saying?? If not, then just throw it out the window.


6. Control/Power

This is a short section, mainly because I think it is so plainly obvious. Another factor I think was relevant to the difficulties we had in our relationship, was the issue of control. I believe that you subconsciously tried to compensate for a lack of control over the events in your life, by attempting to control me. It was as if a sense of powerlessness led you to try to obtain this power in negative or hurtful ways--e.g., using anger and seething silence, criticizing, yelling, nagging, ordering, ridiculing, intimidating, and in general whipping me into shape. Even when "teasing" me, when I protested you would say harshly, "Iím just giving you a hard time." What was the underlying motive for "just giving me a hard time"?

By controlling me you could feel power in at least one aspect of your life. I think it made you feel better. And for a long time, I was easily controlled, so it was the perfect setup. I suspect that you felt best when you had this control, and could basically do to me anything you wanted, with impunity. Would you like to return to that time, when you felt so powerful? Would you like to return to that time when I would jump and cower at your every word??


7. Responsibility and Rescue

I have repeatedly stated that you do not seem to take responsibility for your actions regarding your treatment of other people. I mentioned several examples back on page 11. You seem to feel that you have the right to be hostile toward other people and treat them badly, but they are not allowed to respond in anything but a kind manner back toward you. If they become upset or display anger back toward you, you simply see that as further proof that you shouldnít have been nice to them in the first place. Can you see the circular reasoning behind this?

I cannot help but think of Sandy. I wasnít there, but I have a strong suspicion that you treated her in a similar way to how you treated me. I think that the only reason she dumped you more times, was that she simply had less tolerance and patience than me. I recall your telling me how you had some kind of confrontation over raspberry (or some other fruit) flavored coffee. I think you snapped at her over making it, and you displayed anger to me over her response. Yet when I asked you, "Well, did you ever tell her you didnít like raspberry coffee?" you said hesitantly, "Well, no..." Then how was she supposed to know??!! If you snap at people for reasons that are unbeknownst to them, can you blame them for being upset?? You did this repeatedly to me--suddenly snap at me for unclear or unjustified reasons, then completely refuse to take any responsibility when I became upset.

Besides not taking responsibility for how you treat other people, I can also see that you have trouble taking responsibility for your life decisions and how you treat yourself.

Again, I must bring up Sandy. You complained bitterly about how poorly she treated you and how she dumped you eleven times. Yet you did go back to her, ten times! You did not have to do this--it was your choice. Whose fault was it, that she even got the opportunity to dump you eleven times? Perhaps you should have left her--ended the relationship for good. That would have been treating yourself better, donít you think? I donít see how you can feel so hostile toward her and continue to blame her for a lot of things, when it was you who always got back together with her (or allowed her to come back to you), of your own free will. It is your own fault, for not treating yourself better.

Another example of not taking responsibility for yourself--your job and salary. Several times you expressed to me your dissatisfaction with being in a "dead-end" job in which you were unappreciated and underpaid. You stated with some bitterness, "I could be making twice as much in industry." I genuinely feel that you indeed could get a better job that offered more opportunities and that paid more money, if you really wanted to. But you do not even lift a finger to better your situation. What is even worse, the few times I tried to broach this subject with you, you became irritated and snapped at me. "What am I supposed to do?--I canít do anything!" This is not true! You can do a lot of things!! You frequently snapped at me over money issues--the fact that Sandy "wiped you out of your savings" (you wiped yourself out of your savings), that you didnít have money to see Mary, that you didnít have money to see doctors, etc.--yet you never ever made any attempt to find other sources of income. How about a part-time job? Or doing something on the side? It accomplishes nothing to complain about this and to snap at your partner over it, when you have not even made the most slightest effort to help yourself.

Another example--your health. As I discussed before, you complained incessantly about your ear and stomach, yet you resisted any of my suggestions to see specialists who might be able to offer you something more than Dr. Ford. This was another issue over which you would snap at me, thus effectively ending any further discussion. Yet you cried about how your chronic ear infections were slowly destroying your hearing. If you never make any effort to get to the bottom of it--to address the underlying causes rather that to just treat the symptoms with antibiotics and decongestants--and then you go completely deaf in twenty years, whose fault will that be??

I find it highly ironic, that one of your favorite pet peeves, is when people "victimize themselves." Have you ever considered, that perhaps you victimize yourself a lot of the time?

A related issue is the notion of others (i.e., me) always having to step in to take care of you when you victimized yourself. One example: My providing emotional support and sometimes actual physical meds, for your ear and stomach troubles. Initially I wanted to do this because I cared for you, felt sorry for you, and wanted to help you. But after a while it became clear that 1) if I didnít do these things (and often even when I did) I was yelled at because you "werenít feeling well," 2) you derived something from the sympathy and attention these conditions garnered, and 3) you had no intention of ever trying to improve them, i.e., you completely ignored my pleas to get further medical attention. About your chronic ear infections--I am truly concerned about this and donít want you to become deaf! It makes me sad to see you essentially ignoring the problem. Donít you think you deserve to hear well? Donít you ever want to be able to hear Kitty crunch her hard food from the next room, or to hear her purr from two feet away?? It is little things like this that enrich life.

These are just some specific examples of your not taking the responsibility for making your life better. There was one telling remark you made to me, that was a testament to your global attitude regarding your life. I mentioned it before, and I will repeat it again. It was back in March, when you were relieved that I came back to you, because, "Whoís going to make my life better?"

There is a difference between helping and rescuing. No one is going to come along and "make" your life better. This is your responsibility, and yours only. No one is going to save you. Only you can save yourself.


M. What About Mary?

We had a relationship with Mary for nine months. I think many of our interactions (among the three of us) were relevant to a lot of what Iíve written in this letter.

Some of the ways you interacted with Mary and I in our sessions, were similar to the ways you interacted with me outside. More than a few times, you "shut down" and pushed her (and me) away. You were alternately "hot and cold" with Mary just like you were with me--although you did get better as time went on. I am sure that when you "shut down" in our sessions, Mary was just as frustrated as I was. Wouldnít you be frustrated, if someone just began ignoring you and refused to interact with you? After several of these episodes, you went through the whole "Mary hates me" thing with me. Once again, I had to rush in to boost your self-esteem as I mentioned before. However, at the time did you ever take responsibility for the way you treated Mary in the first place, by pushing her away? People are less likely to be endeared to you, when you silently fume at them and push them away! Excuse me for saying this over and over, but you must take responsibility for your own behavior.

Many times, you would snap at me over the subject of going to Mary, either separately or together. It was convenient to snap "I donít have the money!" at me, using your anger to get me off the subject. However, as I pointed out before, you had hundreds of dollars to spend on baseball cards. What was the real reason for your anger when it came to this? Perhaps you were afraid to see Mary alone, because that would be a forum for focusing on yourself, and that was just too threatening to you. Once again, the specter of Sandy kept me in line--with your ranting over how Sandy had "forced" you to go into therapy, I couldnít even push a little (although I thought it might do a world of good for our relationship) because then you would have really yelled at me. "Youíre being just like Sandy!!"

I liked Mary a lot. However, I personally feel that she was in way over her head. I was fortunate enough to be able to see Alan throughout. You didnít have your own therapist, which isnít your fault. In my opinion, Mary was really good. However, I donít think that even the best therapist in the world, could have effectively dealt with all your issues, and all our issues together as a couple, in the context of only one hour, the three of us together, a week! I think that was why she was always trying to get you to see her alone, because she thought some individual therapy might help. Despite the fact that she was our "couples counselor," I donít hold her responsible in any way, for the way our relationship turned out. It wasnít her fault; it was our fault. She wasnít a miracle worker. I really think she did the best she could, with what she had to work with.

As far as my seeing Mary alone that one time, you can blame me. I was the one who approached her--at the time I desperately needed to see her. I do not think she did anything wrong. I reached out to her, and she did not push me away. I was getting something from her that I never got from you. She saw my pain.

The final outcome of our situation with Mary, was instrumental in showing me your way of thinking. Because at the very end, it was so obvious, how your attitude toward Mary was so like your attitude toward a lot of other people. You saw her in terms of black and white (while she had been a "good" person for months, now suddenly she was evil), you criticized and blamed her--deflecting blame from yourself, and you responded to a conflict by simply writing her off forever.


N. How I Felt, Continued.

I understand that I was not a perfect person in this relationship. I realize that I probably did a lot of things to hurt you as well. I am sure that at this point, you have a lot of things to fire at me!

However, at the same time, I tried as hard as I could to understand and accept you because I loved you. I went to counseling with you. I tried to work on myself, to not be so sensitive to your words and actions. But there was a limit to how much I could change, and I should have accepted it and seen it earlier. I now realize that it was just as much my fault, that things turned out the way they did.

I take full responsibility for letting myself be intimidated, controlled and abused. After all, it takes two to tango. No one held a gun to my head, forcing me to stay in the relationship. In fact, everyone, and everything, was telling me to get out. But my self-esteem was so low that I allowed byself to be treated poorly. I was, to use your words, simply "victimizing myself." However, I did not realize this for a long, long time.

Before I got to the point of figuring this out, I had to go through a very extended period of "relationship ambivalence." I was in so much confusion because I loved you so much, yet you kept hurting me over and over. This past summer I even bought a book entitled Too Bad To Stay, Too Good To Leave, which had a series of questions to consider in deciding whether to stay or leave a painful relationship. Of course, this didnít help either and I wound up feeling just as confused as before. Even toward the end, when it was becoming more and more clear that I was hurting myself by staying, I still felt that my love for you was reason enough for staying with you.

I couldnít bear the thought of leaving you. Besides my heart screaming out, "But I love her!!", and feeling that yes, we did indeed have something special, I had a number of other reasons for staying with you. For example, I still believed in the myth that love could change people. I believed, stupidly, that my love would make up for all the hardships in your life. I believed in the fallacy that if you loved someone, you should stick with them, no matter what.

Two weeks after our last session with Mary, I bought another book entitled The Complete Idiotís Guide To Dating. In the chapter on "Dating Disasters and Dilemmas," there was a section on why people stay in bad relationships. I read the list of excuses people cling to, and they sounded strikingly familiar. They were some of the very same excuses I had been clinging to, for months. The following is straight from the book.

> "She was my first." People often get addicted to their first love or to the first person they had sex with. They want desperately to believe in the fantasy of a beautiful first love, and are unwilling to face the reality that it has turned ugly.

> "Weíve been together so long already." Granted, itís hard to your back on years with someone, but think of it as an investment When youíve sunk money into a stock that keeps going down, there comes a time when you have to cut your losses and sell, instead of hoping and praying that some miracle will happen.

> "I know it can change." People addicted to bad relationships (called "co-dependents") have a problem themselves if they are willing to sacrifice their own happiness and life in order to save an abusive addicted partner. If you suffer from this sad syndrome, you need to concentrate on saving yourself.

> "Iím afraid Iíll lose her." Think about losing your self-esteem instead and convince yourself there will be someone else who will love you in a healthier way.

Finally, as I mentioned many pages ago, I clung to our sexual bond as "proof" that we were meant for each other. I loved you so much that I clung to anything that supported my hope that our relationship could be revitalized. I just refused to accept the fact that even though we were compatible in some areas, we were not compatible in others, and I was just hurting myself by staying.

What were the underlying factors that forced me to give up these excuses? What led me to break up with you when I finally did, as opposed to earlier? There were several things.

First, I think the most important one, was a sense of hopelessness. For a long time, I had felt as if I were trying to push a boulder uphill. I felt totally alone in wanting our relationship to work. Over and over again, it was the same basic issues. You would hurt me, I would try to address it, and you would respond either by just repeating the same thing later, or by further pushing me away. You never seemed to acknowledge the pain this caused me. After nearly two years, I was in total despair. This passage from Coming Apart really struck a chord in me.

While fighting itself can be a positive thing within a flourishing relationship, repetitive, purposeless fighting more often indicates that a relationship is ending.

In a healthy relationship, although there may be several repetitions of a given conflict, eventually some insight occurs, or some new information is revealed so that the partners know more about one another, feel closer to one another, and will conduct their relationship differently in the future because of the insight which has occurred. When fighting is indicative of the end of a relationship however, it is essentially non-productive. Nothing is illuminated and the combatants come away from the conflict feeling as if they have watched, for the 2,000th time, the very same frame of a movie they have seen for years. Instead of feeling closer after the fight, they finish it feeling estranged from one another and totally helpless about their situation.

One of the reasons people endure the 2,000th rerun of their conflicts is that it is reasonable to hope that repetition will produce results However, if there is no change whatsoever in each succeeding version of the fight, if the same emotional territory is being gone over time and time again, this means that you are probably fighting to avoid the end of your relationship.

There were two contributing factors, to this sense of hopelessness which came to engulf me. The first was the mere fact of seeing you do the same things over and over. I kept saying to myself, "She deserves another chance. She deserves another chance." Yet my hopes for some decent treatment and emotional intimacy were crushed time and time again. The "pull closer, push away, pull closer, push away" cycle simply happened so many times, that it forced me to set aside my hopes that it would change and made me look at the reality of the situation. If something happens a hundred times, you can be pretty sure of what the outcome of the 101st time will be, no matter how much you hope it will turn out otherwise! It got to the point where I did not (and do not) believe your apologies anymore. Your efforts to "win me back" after each episode became transparent. As much as I resisted it, I was forced to acknowledge the discrepancy between your stated intentions and your actual behavior.

The second factor contributing to my sense of hopelessness, was recognizing that you probably couldnít help the way you acted since it was so deeply rooted in things from your past. I saw that every time you yelled at me, every time you pushed me away, in a way it was just a replaying of your childhood conflicts. It was as if I were being repeatedly dragged back to the scene of the crime, even though I had nothing to do with it! For example, your invoking the "mixed messages" your siblings gave to you, as partial explanation for your actually wanting comfort from me while you were snapping at me and furiously pushing me away. If this is the case, then how can it be possible for you to be truly intimate with me, when on some deeper level you are subconsciously regarding me as a hated sibling? As a second example, your explaining that your "shutting down" response was a "learned response" from your childhood. I understand that your childhood was very unhappy, and that you had to develop certain methods in order to be able to cope. However, if this is the case, then whenever you did this to me, you were not really treating me not as "Chris in 1995/96" but rather as a figure from your past. Perhaps this was an automatic response, but nevertheless it hurt me to be treated like this.

The emotional double binds you placed on me became intolerable. When you were upset about something (e.g. your upcoming surgery, in-line skating skills, financial situation) and I tried to comfort you, you would push me away. Yet if I didnít try to comfort you (e.g., your striking out that time we played softball, my not deducing that you wanted comfort during the "where-to-go-to-dinner" episode), you would take that as even further justification to push me away. I think I made it clear very early on, that it was painful for me when you pushed me away. Yet I repeatedly found myself in these no-win, "damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-donít" situations, where that was the only possible outcome.

Not only could I never seem to get anywhere addressing these concerns with you, but you seemed to minimize the problems as if they were not even that important. For example, after that horrible Sunday when your mom was in the hospital, you casually remarked, "Wasnít that weird the other day?--It was like a love-hate thing." As another example, once during the last several months we were together, you looked at me sadly and said, "Poor Boo-Boo, she has to put up with a psychotic lover." Both of these times, I just couldnít believe you were making light of what I considered to be very serious problems. However, I couldnít say a thing, because your knee-jerk reaction then probably would have been to become frightened that I was going to dump you, and in order to "get me first", youíd just push me away in anger or silence.

Gradually, I came to realize that even though I loved you, love was not enough to break down the multitude of barriers you had erected around yourself. I saw myself becoming increasingly enmeshed in something over which I really had no control. My only options were to stay and continue being mired in your issues from the past, being bounced between your pulling me closer and pushing me away with all the emotional trauma that entailed, or to leave with my self-esteem and sanity intact. If I did not get out, I knew I would just end up feeling worse and worse, and I did not want that.

Another thing I had to recognize before I could break up with you, was the severity of my pain. For a long time, I knew I was in pain, but I thought I could handle it. There were three things that happened, that indicated to me that it was so severe that I could not handle it. First, being suicidal. Second, "losing it" in Maryís office. Third, actually longing to be back in the days of my internship again. (This probably doesnít mean anything to you. But being an intern was misery beyond imagination--and there I was, wishing fervently that I could go back, thinking it would have been a blessing compared with the pain I felt being with you.)

Other factors? I also came to accept that there was a total lack of trust between us. I realized that you had never trusted me from the beginning, and that I had gradually lost all my trust in you. This was extremely difficult for me to accept. I felt as if something in me had died.

I realized that our priorities in a relationship were completely different. For example, you seemed to emphasize the importance of having mutual interests (e.g., baseball). I will agree that having at least some common interests and activities is important. However, I feel that what really makes or breaks a relationship, are things like communication, respect, and sensitivity to each otherís feelings. You just did not seem to grasp this at all.

Perhaps most importantly, I realized that being with you was causing me to feel bad about myself. I did not like myself for staying in what I knew to be an unhealthy relationship; in fact, I was beginning to hate myself. I was losing trust of my own instincts and perceptions--losing my confidence in my own ability to do what was right for me. This feeling that I could not take control of my life, was seriously jeopardizing my own emotional well-being. I was afraid that if I continued down this path, I might sink to a point from which Iíd never recover.

Finally, I realized that we had both grown during our relationship, but that we had grown apart. Each day I found myself more emotionally distant from you, and it reached a point where I just could not live a lie anymore.

The two final things precipitating our breakup--our last session with Mary and your letter to me regarding Mary--simply served to underscore all of the above. No words can describe the incredible feelings of hurt and hopelessness I felt when you accused me of using tears as a "tactic." I hated myself for exploding in the office--I felt like I had turned into someone I didnít even know. On top of all this, it made my blood boil to read that letter. Your accusations of Mary, to me represented such an obvious attempt to deny your own responsibility for the way you had treated me, and to shift the blame for our problems to someone else, that it was truly mind-boggling. When I read the letter, I knew that the situation was clearly and completely hopeless.

These last two events infused me with a sense of clarity, and forced me to say, "Enough is enough." They finally gave me the strength I needed to end my relationship with you. However, this does not mean it was easy. Quite the contrary, it was extremely painful to give up a dream and to say goodbye to you, because I truly loved you. But as much as it hurt, I had to do it. I just made up my mind that the temporary pain of leaving would be vastly preferable to the permanent pain of staying. It was a choice that I, and only I, could make. I take full responsibility for ending our relationship. It was just too painful to stay. I didnít do it to hurt you. I did it to save myself.

There comes a time in some relationships when no matter how sincere the attempt to reconcile the differences or how strong the wish to recreate a part of the past once shared, the struggle becomes so painful that nothing else is felt and the world and all its beauty only add to the discomfort by providing cruel contrast.

--Psychiatrist David ViMichael, quoted in Learning To Love Yourself

Well, I know it wasnít you who held me down
Heaven knows it wasnít you who set me free
So oftentimes it happens, that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

--The Eagles, from the song "Already Gone"


O. Summary

1. With you, I saw myself being mired forever in your childhood conflicts and past troubles. I donít want to spend the rest of my life with a chronically angry and bitter person.

2. Being with you, I felt that all the best parts of myself--my self-esteem, my joy of life--were stifled. I lost a lot of myself. A relationship should make you feel good about yourself. It should enrich and add to your life, not narrow it and fill it with pain. Love should not have to hurt.

3. I sense a total unwillingness on your part to acknowledge how poorly youíve treated me. This letter is a final attempt to express to you my feelings, which I feel you have systematically ignored for the last two years.

4. I have had enough of:

> having my feelings ridiculed, discounted and ignored
> attempting to be perfect or to read your mind, to avoid being yelled at
> feeling continually trapped in double binds and going crazy from mixed messages
> wondering whatís wrong with me for not being able to "take it"
> when trying to address problems, being told that Iím "trying too hard" to have a relationship
> feeling that I cannot pursue my other interests and friendships without sulking and retaliation
> feeling that I am constantly walking on eggs
> having the door slam shut on my desires to communicate
> being treated as if my thoughts and opinions donít count
> being snapped at for trivial matters, out of the blue
> feeling trapped in an endless cycle of conflict and reconciliation
> hearing you minimize, justify, accuse, deny, and blame, in order to avoid responsibility for your behavior
> hoping and believing in you, only to be hurt time and time again
> not feeling free to be who I really am
> trying to figure out how I failed. I know I gave it my best shot. I did not fail at anything.

5. It has been a painful journey for me to reclaim my self-esteem. I now realize that I am a good person and a) donít deserve to be treated poorly and b) do deserve to be in a happy, healthy, relationship.

6. Feeling like a victim or a failure is no excuse for treating other people poorly. Furthermore, you cannot treat other poople poorly and then expect them to be nice to you. Perhaps if you treated others not with hostility and distrust, but with kindness and respect, they in turn would treat you in a similar way, and then you would not have to deal with feeling "victimized" by them.

7. In order to have a good relationship that lasts, I think you are probably going to have to change your behavior. I donít have a crystal ball. Perhaps you will meet someone who is better able to handle you, and is less sensitive to your words and actions. However, it is my opinion, that I donít think anybody likes being criticized, yelled at, snapped at, ridiculed, given the silent treatment, sent mixed messages, placed in double binds, incessantly nagged, and emotionally pushed away.

8. You cannot truly open yourself up to intimacy with another person until you love yourself first. Self-worth cannot be derived from someone else--it can only come from the self.

9. No one is going to rescue you. Only you are responsible for yourself and your actions! If you donít like your life or relationships the way they are, instead of blaming others, take some steps yourself to make them better. Donít fall into the trap of self-sabotage. If you truly believe that will never achieve anything in life, or that every relationship you have is doomed to fail, and you then act accordingly as if these are the only possible outcomes and never even try for something better, then your life will be nothing but a succession of self- fulfilling prophecies. If you feel like a failure and act accordingly, then you will only end up feeling more like a failure.


P. Your Responses/Retorts

I have no idea what your reaction to this letter is/will be, since I am not you. However, here is what I anticipate might be some of your responses/retorts.

1. But look, I have changed (i.e. not snapping at you and yelling at you as much).

Yes, I can appreciate this. But we had to work that hard, going to counseling for months, just to decrease the frequency of you abusing me from all of the time to some of the time? Progress is relative. It seems that this is the point we should have started from--one of mutual respect. I am reminded of that confrontation we had on Barrett Avenue after the EMS thing, when you said, "You donít know how hard Iím trying." You have to try that hard to be nice to me??

2. I had been staying over more.

Ditto. After a year and a half, you managed to move up to one or two nights a week? Getting my own lover to come spend the night was like pulling teeth. You really didnít want to do it.

3. But we were getting along better.

As I said, in certain surface respects we were making some progress. But I think a lot of the illusion that we were doing okay, was in fact due to my constraining myself in order not to anger you--watching everything I was doing, every word I said. I was still walking on eggs, itís just that I became better at it! In some respects I felt that we actually went backwards. For example, your not calling me all day or all night in a furious silent treatment. This happened in July 1995 (after you threw my stuff out on the porch because I "did" something-- got upset with your yelling at me) and January 1996 (the blizzard episode, again because I "did" something-- didnít let you fuck me, didnít listen to you initially about getting to work, talked to Rachel). But then the very same thing happened again right before our LA trip (the "where-to-go-to-dinner" episode)--and that time, I didnít even do ANYTHING! I was merely minding my own business and trying to be nice to you, when I got totally slammed!

4. But I DO want us to live together!

Terry, I cannot help but think that this would be a total nightmare. We have so many basic incompatibilities that it just makes my head spin. First of all, our attitudes toward money are completely different. I am simply not as frugal as you are, and I donít feel a need to keep apologizing for it. Being frugal in a reasonable way is admirable and understandable. However, using frugality as a platform for yelling at, snapping at, and unrelentlessly nagging someone else is another matter. Also, I think there is such a thing as being frugal to an unreasonable extreme. One instance that stands out in my mind, is that time you really wanted to use that already-spiked-for-weeks bag of fluids on Kitty. After I told you of the risk of infection, and that I would never use such a bag on any human patient, I still had to practically beg you not to use it on Kitty. To this day it is still incomprehensible to me, that you would risk sending your precious pet back into the hospital, after she had already been through so much, because you didnít want to "waste" a probably-under-$20 bag of Normosol. Isnít Kitty worth more than $20?? This just doesnít make any sense to me.

Along similar lines, is all the nagging and snapping over the "wasting" of food and household items. Again, I find it admirable to be concerned about the our natural resources--to avoid the wasting of food and paper products, to recycle plastics, etc. However, I find it unnecessary and objectionable to use this as an excuse for nagging and yelling at me. There is just no way I could live with this 24 hours a day.

Besides incompatibility regarding "waste" and money, then there is the question of the normal activities of everyday life. Laundry?--We do our laundry in completely different ways. You have such an elaborate system, whereas I just throw it in and take it out. If we lived together you would never even let me touch your laundry, and you would be forever picking on me about the way I do mine. Cooking?--With the way you yell at your mother in the kitchen Iíd be afraid to do anything in there. Yet if I stood back you would yell at me for not helping--the classic double bind. Buying groceries together?--The thought of this absolutely makes me shudder. Iíve witnessed many of your foul moods after going shopping, and remember distinctly that one time you were snapping at everyone because you discovered youíd been overcharged a few dollars. (Why do you seem to take things like this like great personal injuries?) You would be constantly nagging me about which vegetables to select, or the dates on the milk and bread. Sharing things?--You canít even share your books without being hostile and controlling. For instance, if I took a book from your bookshelf you would be nagging me not to crinkle the cover or pages, and to replace it immediately. (If you borrowed a book from my shelf and just left it on my bed, I wouldnít care--I certainly wouldnít snap at you!) You became extremely irritated when I looked at your Mr. S. catalog that time at Michaelís. I would have gladly let you look at it, for as long as you wanted.

We seem to have completely different ideas about "possession" of stuff as a couple living together. You didnít even like the idea of co-owning a couple lousy sets of cards together. How could we ever share a household together? The way I would like to see it is, my books are your books. My car is your car. And up to a certain point, my money is your money! However, you would always be keeping your things very "close" to you, being possessive as if any second I were going to steal it from you. What kind of trust does this show? We are just on completely different wavelengths.

I would never be able to live with you comfortably, with all your myriad rules and constraints. (For example, see the "nagging" list on page 6.) Furthermore, I think that you are just plain used to being able to enforce all of these rules, and to snap and yell at your mother whenever you feel like it, with no discernable consequences. Maybe it is okay with your mother, but there is just no way that I could ever live like this. It is absurd to have to feel uncomfortable, or frankly unsafe (in danger of being snapped at all the time), in oneís own house.

More significantly, I just do not see how we could ever live together, because you are so bound, financially and emotionally, to your mother. I know that it would make you very, very uncomfortable, to have me paying more than fifty percent of our living expenses. I think you would feel an incredible loss of power--even though I would not see it as a gain of power on my part--and that somehow, someway you would be trying to even things up by controlling me in other areas. How could you ever give up your current situation, having your room and board basically taken care of by your mother, to come live with me? I sense a great unwillingness on your part, to ever give up the comfort and security of your home and mother. Furthermore, I think you feel compelled to stay with your mother as long as she lives, due to guilt over abandoning her. Your claiming you would like to live together with me, does not make sense when you look at the reality of the situation.

5. You attacked me too.

Is it part of my nature to attack people, like it maybe is with yours? Or was I in some way responding and trying to defend myself, from your initial attacks?

6. I do love you, thatís from the heart.

I never said that you didnít love me. I know you did. That is not the issue. What is the issue, is that you repeatedly hurt me with words and actions, despite knowledge that similar words and actions had hurt me in the past; and you repeatedly pushed me away, whenever I tried to become closer to you.

7. But we had a good time in Los Angeles.

As I discussed before, I had a good time, but at the same time I didnít have a good time, because I was operating with all these constraints upon me (i.e. watch everything I do or say or else Terry will get in a bad mood and snap at me). It wasnít as if I were traveling with my sister, or traveling by myself--I just couldnít relax. I remembered how you ruined our Boston trip by snapping at me and giving me the day-long silent treatment, just because you were upset that you didn't win that stupid carnival game. I also recalled how you gave me such a hard time when I went to Florida with my sister. Putting this all together, I realized sadly that even though travel was something I loved to do, I could not comfortably travel either with or without you!

Speaking of travel, if we stayed together, what would happen when the Stones eventually went on tour and I would inevitably want to see shows in other cities? Would you give me a hard time and do everything you could--sulk, angrily attack me--to try to keep me from doing what my heart truly desired? Would you be rampantly jealous of my traveling with other people? Or would you come with me and then ruin my enjoyment of the trips, by incessantly nagging me, snapping at me, and giving me the silent treatment?

8. I canít help the way I act!

This is a cop-out. You cannot go through life saying, "I canít help it, I canít help it." At the very least, it is not good for your self-image, to feel that you are at the mercy of some greater power "forcing" you to act in certain ways. If you really feel that you cannot control your behavior, it is your responsibility to face the problem and to get help, instead of just letting it go unchecked.

9. I donít know why I act the way I do.

You told me this two years ago. If after all this time you are still saying the same thing, I have to wonder how much self-awareness you have really gained. Yes, acknowledging that you have certain difficulties is an important first step. But if you just stop there, and continue to do the same things over and over, then you are not really growing, but just staying stuck in the same spot! It is your responsibility to become unstuck--no one else can do it for you. "I donít know why" is a poor excuse for doing the same things over and over for years.

10. I didnít treat you badly all the time!!

Of course you didnít!!! If you had then I certainly wouldnít have stayed with you for so long!! No doubt, you could be, and were, very kind, caring and loving at times. However, as sure as the sun sets every evening, your hostile, angry and abusive side always returned. Ultimately, I could not deal with this back-and-forth, "Jekyll-and-Hyde" behavior. It almost literally drove me crazy.

11. Iím sorry, please give me another chance!

Iíve heard this so many times it doesnít mean anything to me anymore. Remember the fable about the boy who cried "Wolf!"? How do you think it got to this point, that I donít trust you or believe your apologies anymore?

12. I didnít mean it!! (referring to any specific thing I quoted you on in this letter). When Iím angry I say things I donít mean!!

This is something else that I have heard many, many times. You cannot expect to be able to wipe your slate clean with this line, over and over and over.

13. Youíre just like all the rest.

Perhaps I, and everyone else you feel has mistreated you in the past, am responding to consistent messages you are sending out.

14. You never loved me.

This is not true. Why on earth do you think I stayed with you for so long?? Because I loved you, wanted us to be together, and hoped things could work out.

Perhaps it will help if you look at it this way. If I hadnít loved you, your pushing me away wouldnít have hurt so incredibly much.

15. You donít give people a chance.

Are you kidding??!! I gave you so many chances, probably a hell of a lot more than most other people would have given. Do you expect me to keep banging my head against the wall forever?

16. This is just so typical of you. I canít believe youíre still dwelling on all this stuff, some of which happened almost two years ago! You hold all these grudges and resentments inside and you never say anything. Why didnít you address all these things at the time they happened, before they built up?

Terry, whenever I tried to address anything with you, one of two things would happen--either youíd seem to take it in but then it would just happen again, or it would simply get worse right off the bat! No matter what I said or did, you would only remember it for a short period, or perceive it as an attack and immediately launch a counterattack.

Also, for you to criticize me for having "resentments," is like the pot calling the kettle black. You hold resentments forever against acquaintances who dubiously "wronged" you, yet I am not supposed to resent it when my own lover hurts me over and over??

17. If you love someone, you will be able to forgive them and put up with the bad times.

a) Is the corollary to this, "If someone loves you, itís okay to treat them like shit because theyíll forgive you?"

b) I think what you really mean is, "If you loved me, you would be able to forgive me..." However, you complained repeatedly and bitterly about Sandy always prefacing things with "If you loved me..." Saying such a thing to me, when you hated other people saying it to you, is a clear case of a double standard. You will note that I NEVER, EVER said "If you loved me..."

18. I feel like Iím backed up against the wall.

How do you think I felt this whole time, feeling horrible, stuck in the same place, and feeling that no matter what I did nothing was ever getting resolved? The same things just happened over and over, right up to the very end.

19. You were clingy and insecure also.

Yes, I acknowledge that at one time, I was just as dependent on you. For example, when Kitty first came back from the hospital after her surgery and the two of you wanted to sleep together, I totally understood this on a rational level--however, my emotional response was to cry and whimper because I couldnít bear for you to tell me to sleep somewhere else! This was clinginess to the max; but I feel that as our relationship went on, I grew away from this while you did not move forward in this respect at all. You continued to cling to me, sulking at the mere mention of doing things without me.

20. You were the one who begged me to go to Los Angeles with you!!

I really did want you to come with me. All I wanted was a normal vacation with my lover! Also, I can just imagine the reaction I wouldíve gotten if I hadnít asked you to go! Even if I had been equivocal, like, "Youíre welcome to either go or not, itís your decision," you would have then screamed at me for "not wanting you to go"! You would have interpreted anything less than my begging you to go, as meaning that I really didnít want you to go. This would have been such a sore issue, at a time when I didnít need one, right before my boards.

21. Sandy has nothing to do with this!! (In response to anything I said about Sandy.)

It is true that your relationship with Sandy was a thing of the past; however, I do not think that the subject of Sandy is entirely moot. I think there were two possible points of relevance to our relationship, and that it might be useful to you to consider each of these. The first is that, perhaps you behaved the same way toward both of us, which led to similar difficulties and repeated breakups. The second is that, perhaps Sandy did treat you very poorly--much more poorly than you ever treated her--and your suppressed rage at her came spilling out toward me. In other words, maybe you were angry and bitter about how you were treated by Sandy, but you never resolved these feelings, and she wasnít around anymore, so you took it out on me. Perhaps there was an element of both of these factors, in our relationship. What do you think?

22. All you do is focus on the negative!! What about all the good times, and the good things we shared??

Terry, of course there were a lot of positive things we shared, and I will always remember them. As I said, why do you think I stuck in there for so long? I could probably write an equally long letter, about all the good times we had--eating at our favorite restaurants, opening boxes of cards, going to movies, in-line skating, just to name a few. There is no doubt that the rituals we had, the language we shared, the way we interacted with each other, were special. I will never have these with anyone else.

I spent two years trying to focus on the positive. That is what kept me hanging in there--losing these things would have been devastating. However, gradually, the positive aspects of our relationship became outweighed by the negative ones. I cried oceans of tears--REAL tears, not fake ones--from all the pain I felt being with you. I had to be honest with myself and admit that it just wasnít worth it any more.

23. Donít you think I have any good qualities at all??

Of course I do!!! I never wouldíve stayed with you for so long if you didnít!! What do you think I am, stupid? As I said in my first letter, you have many wonderful qualities, which I have not forgotten, and which I will never forget. For one thing, you are probably the most honest person I have ever known. I know you never lied to me. You are very conscientious. You can be extremely fun to be with, and have an unparalleled sense of humor. As I mentioned above, you can be very warm, nurturing, and caring. You are very good to animals-- Kitty is so lucky to have you. You have many endearing mannerisms, that I just totally fell in love with. It was precisely qualities such as these, not to mention the fact that I was in love with you, that made it so hard for me to leave you. I hope you can understand this.

24. You lied to me. You said youíd never leave me.

I know for certain, that I never knowingly lied to you. If/when I ever said this, I meant it with all my heart. It is not me to say such things lightly. I loved you and had every intention of spending the rest of my life with you. But then a lot of things happened, to make the reality now different from the way it was back then. Are you saying that just because I said this, I am obligated to stay in a bad relationship forever? Are you saying that in order to "keep my word," I must sacrifice my own life and happiness, and continue along a course that I know will only lead to more and more emotional despair?? If you think this, then you do not have my best interests at heart at all.

25. You broke my heart.

Terry, everytime you put up roadblocks when I was trying to get closer to you, everytime you yelled at me when I didnít deserve it, everytime you pushed me away, you broke a little piece of mine.

26. When we had bad times, I never left you!

This doesnít mean much, when you consider your relationship with Sandy. It sounds like she treated you ten times worse that I ever did, and you never left her either!

27. Youíre just trying to hurt me (by writing this letter).

If you think this, then you are demonstrating exactly some of my points--that you do not consider my feelings as valid, that you think I use them as a "tactic," and that in fact you do not even care to hear about them at all, because they make you feel bad.

28. You are so goddamned self-righteous. Will you get off your high horse already...etc. etc.

If you are thinking along these lines, then it is clear that you are missing the whole point of this letter. You might as well just throw it in the trash, and spend the rest of your life angry and bitter.

29. See??!! Now youíre pushing ME away!!!

Again, if this is your response, you are missing the entire goddamn point. You are allowed for two years to repeatedly hurt me and push me away, yet I am not allowed to say, "Enough is enough."

30. Youíre such a hypocrite. You complain about my criticizing you, and now here you are for forty pages criticizing me.

Please reread the opening paragraphs of this letter. Despite my seeming tone of criticism, I am actually trying to help you because I care for you and donít want you to repeat the same mistakes! The only reason I am pointing these things out to you, is so that you can see them and possibly learn from them. The way I look at it, this is a gift I am giving to you. I hope you can see it as such.


Q. Some Final Thoughts

In this letter, I have described to you how I felt when you criticized me, snapped at me, yelled at me, nagged me, put me down, etc. I imagine the way I felt, was very similar to the way you felt as a child--i.e., constantly being picked on. You hated feeling that way, yet some three decades later, you were doing the same thing to me. I read somewhere regarding growing up in difficult circumstances, "You either become what you hate, or exactly the opposite." Please think about that statement.

When we were together, you seemed to operate by a blatant double standard. You did not like it--in fact, you would become enraged--if I ever gave you a critical look or spoke back to you. However, you saw fit to snap and yell at me whenever you wanted. You feared rejection, yet you constantly rejected me, by pushing me away, not responding to me, and giving me the silent treatment. Did you ever learn "the Golden Rule"? Did you treat me, the way you yourself would have wanted to be treated??

Once, a long time ago, you looked at me sadly and said, "I donít know why I treat you like poo-poo." I would like to ask you now, some two years later, are you any closer to figuring out the answer to this question? Do you even think it is important at all?? I felt repeatedly hurt by your words and actions; I told you over and over again that they hurt me, yet you kept it up to the point that I eventually "lost it" in Maryís office. Do you think there was some underlying, subconscious motivation on your part, for wanting to make me "lose it"? If so, then what exactly was this motivation? It seemed for all the world that you were trying your damnedest to make me "lose it" and leave you. It was as if you had some kind of "death wish" for the relationship! Now that itís over, are you relieved in a way, and feeling triumphant in having accurately predicted the outcome? I propose that trying to answer these questions with the help of a good therapist, might be helpful to you in the long run.

In Maryís office, when I finally reached the breaking point, you started to cry and said, "I feel like a failure." Did you feel like a failure to begin with, leading you to treat me poorly and push me away? Or did you first treat me poorly and push me away, and when I responded appropriately, then feel like a failure?? I think that throughout our relationship, both of these things were going on at the same time, and they simply fed on each other in a kind of vicious cycle. Youíd feel like a failure, youíd push me away, and then when I became upset, youíd feel even more like a failure. It just got progressively worse and worse. Canít you see the self- perpetuating nature of this? After two years, it seemed impossible (to me) for you to ever break out of this cycle anytime soon, and there was just no way I was going to continue letting myself be dragged down by it.

Throughout this letter I have tried to explain my feelings. I thank you for reading this far. But the major question at hand is--do you even care??! I remember one "argument" we had early on in our relationship--it must have been January or February 1995--one morning in your bedroom before I left for work. You were furiously pushing me away with the seething silent treatment and when I tried to tell you that you were hurting me, you replied coldly, "I donít really care how you feel." Throughout the entire course of this relationship, I felt that that this was your primary attitude toward me. You repeatedly hurt me, I repeatedly tried to talk to you about it, and you repeatedly pushed me away. Even now, I feel an incredible sense of betrayal, like I plucked my heart out and left it totally exposed and vulnerable to you on the table, only to have you trash it over and over. What happened in Maryís office--your throwing my expressions of pain back in my face--was the ultimate blow. The thing that hurts the most, is that in two years, after I gave so much of myself to you, you never, ever once genuinely acknowledged the pain you caused me. I doubt you ever will.

If there is one thing I would like to know, it is this: Why did you have to hurt me so much??? Why did you have to drive me to the point where the only way out of my pain, was to say goodbye to you as a lover forever??

You will never know just how much it hurt me, to love you but then have you repeatedly push me away.

Your experience with Sandy was very painful. Yet you told me you felt that the ultimate purpose for it, the lesson you learned, was that it showed you that you could love someone despite their faults. Perhaps the reason for our relationship, was to show you that someone could love you, despite your faults. As I have said, you have many wonderful attributes which drew me to you in the first place, and which I grew to love. And when I held you, it felt so beautiful and right, to have you in my arms. You will have to accept this on faith if on nothing else--I truly loved you. Ultimately, however, I could not handle being pushed away. I truly hope that in your next relationship, if it is with the right person, that you will be able to love her without pushing her away.


R. About This Letter Itself

I stated in my opening paragraphs, my reasons for writing you this letter. I also told you (after aerobics class once) that my purpose in writing this letter is not to reopen a dialogue between the two of us about our relationship. I am not interested in apologies, rebuttals, or excuses. Please do not try to "win me back," as I can see right through this. I know that if we were to reunite, within several weeks you would be back to the same old thing--snapping at me, giving me the silent treatment, and attacking me because I simply dared to show my feelings. In my mind it is really impossible for me to ever get back together with you, because it would just be too emotionally devastating if you ever hurt me again, and I cannot afford to take the risk. I cannot ever place myself again in a situation where I am so unraveled that I am throwing furniture and kicking in walls. It should be clearly obvious to both of us, that this is just no good for me. My position is clear. So what will be the outcome on your end, after having read this letter?

Once again, I know that I have absolutely no control over your response. Perhaps I will never even know what your true response is. However, I can very well envision the following thing happen.

I can hear you bitterly denouncing me to your family and friends, exactly how you did with Sandy. For example, you criticized Sandy for saying that you caused her "mental anguish." You criticized her for claiming the two of you were incompatible. You were bitter that she "forced" you to see a therapist. You said with scorn, "She wanted me to move to Virginia with her!" and "She thought people have to live together to have a relationship!!" You cursed her for having written that last letter to you. I can hear you complaining along these very exact same lines, about me! Youíll just lump me in with Sandy, as someone who mistreated you and "never loved you." Youíll criticize me for having said that you were abusive. Youíll tell your next lover, "She wanted me to move in with her!!" Youíll angrily describe how I "wiped" you out of your money, by "forcing" you to see a therapist. (Youíll never consider going to another therapist yourself, since theyíre all "out to get you.") Youíll make all kinds of scornful comments about me to other people. Youíll continue to deny that you ever treated me poorly, and youíll never take any responsibility for our troubles, perhaps instead blaming it all on Mary, a convenient scapegoat ("Our so-called couples counselor broke us up!"). Youíll seek or expect sympathy from others for having been victimized yet again. For example, youíll tell everyone about how you treated me so well, helping me study and standing by me for my boards, only to get promptly "dumped" after we got back from Los Angeles. Of course, other people will not know anything about the real story--your up-and-down treatment of me for two years which nearly drove me to a nervous breakdown. Despite the fact that you hurt me repeatedly, I would bet that you are already spreading the word about what a jerk I was!! Painting a portrait of me as aggressor and you as victim might make you feel better and gain you some sympathy; however, it will be on your conscience, that this was not truly the case.

In general, perhaps you will become even more bitter, and sadly, perhaps you will hate yourself even more. Perhaps this letter will only bang home the message that, as Sandy said, you would never be able to have a relationship. Perhaps it will just cast you further down the road of bitterness and pessimism about life.

I hope that this is not what happens.

Instead, I hope that any lessons you learn from our relationship in general, might set you on a path toward a happier life and happier relationships in the future. By writing you this letter, I hope to have given you a place to start from, whether it be with a therapist or just on your own. Please note that I am not leaving you in the same manner that Sandy did. I truly believe that you do have the capacity to learn and change, and that it is very well possible for you to have a good relationship in the future! You just have to be willing to learn from your experiences, and trust in yourself that you will be able to grow from them. Look ahead, and decide in which direction you want your life to go. Donít keep making the same mistakes over and over.

It is your choice where you will go from here. For your sake, I hope you take the positive road.


S. Conclusion--Life Goes On

The last two years have been difficult for me. Without a doubt, other that coming out to my parents ten years ago, this has been the greatest emotional crisis of my life. I was in a lot of pain, things werenít really getting better, but at the same time I loved you, relished our good times together, and couldnít bear the thought of leaving you. I kept remembering how horrible I felt in March--racked with tears, wanting you back. I guess at that time I just wasnít ready for it. However, this time I was.

Iíve been doing okay. As I told you, I bought a computer, which Iím having a lot of fun with. I have direct access to the Internet, and I signed up with AOL and Prodigy as well. Iím actually enjoying work more--I feel like theyíre trusting me more. It feels good to be given more responsibility. Iíve been traveling quite a bit (weekend trips). Iím actually enjoying life. Iíve been more connected with my friends, who I feel Iíve somewhat neglected over the past two years (my fault). Iím continuing to see my therapist--thereís certainly no dearth of things to talk about with him. Iíve really appreciated his support, as well as that of my friends and family.

In therapy, I am trying to understand several things about myself--for example, why I allowed myself to be so diminished in this relationship, why I tolerated such internal conflict, and why it was so difficult for me to extricate myself. I am examining the role I played in the various vicious circles I described. After all, we were two people relating to each other; I realize that I cannot blame it all on you! I am still coping with a great deal of pain and anger. However, I am doing everything I can to face these feelings and to try to resolve them; the last thing I want to do is just push them aside, as I know they will only rear their ugly heads somewhere else. I donít want to take my angry feelings out on the next person! Finally, I am trying to place the joys and sorrows of our relationship in perspective. After all, we were friends and companions for two years; we shared a lot together and we gave each other gifts that will last a lifetime. I loved you, and I know you loved me. I learned a lot about myself and about life. Despite the pain, I can also see that much good came from this relationship, and I am allowing myself to grieve its ending.

Hopefully, you will be able to see this ending in a positive light also. It is my genuine wish that you will be able to derive some good from this letter, and from the whole experience. I really hope you can find a good therapist and work with him or her. (If you donít know where to begin with a therapist, perhaps you can start with this letter.) Change is always possible, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Being in therapy is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It shows that you are willing to learn about yourself in order to set a better course for the future. Why do you think Iíve been seeing John for eight years?? I hope you can begin dealing directly with your anger, bitterness and low self-esteem, and that you can learn how to express your feelings in a better way. "Blowing up" and "shutting down" are not healthy means of communication. Besides raising the defenses of the people around you, they will also eventually impact negatively on your own physical and emotional well-being. I also hope that you can begin to empower yourself a little more. You cannot make anyone else responsible for this, or wait for someone to come along and "make your life better."  It is up to you to determine the path your life will take.

I donít know if this will make you feel any better. But I want you to know that despite everything, despite my anger and hurt over what has transpired, I know that you never meant to hurt me, as I never meant to hurt you. I know you were doing the best you could at the time. There were things in your past that drove you to behave in certain ways, out of your control. Deep inside your heart and soul, you are a good person, worthy of love and entitled to happiness. I canít be with you anymore. But just because it didnít work out between us, that doesnít mean you canít have a great future with someone else. Please donít give up on yourself, or become even more embittered--that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

After A While

by Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesnít mean leaning
And company doesnít mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses arenít contracts
And presents arenít promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrowís ground is too uncertain for plans.
And futures have a way of falling down in midflight.
After a while, you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong.
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye you learn.


Bibliography

The following two books were extremely helpful to me. I recommend them highly.

Evans, Patricia. The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How To Recognize It And How To Respond (Second Edition). Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 1996.

Kingma, Daphne Rose. Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1987.
 
 

Here are some other books that I quoted and/or found useful.

Berzon, Betty. Permanent Partners: Building Gay and Lesbian Relationships That Last. New York: Plume, 1988.

Brandon, Nathaniel. The Importance of Self-Esteem. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1992.

Evans, Patricia. Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out: On Relationship and Recovery. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, Inc., 1993. This is the sequel to the above. Not as good.

Forward, Susan with Torres, Joan. Men Who Hate Women & The Women Who Love Them. New York: Bantam, 1986.

Jeffers, Susan. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1987.

Kirshenbaum, Mira. Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay. New York: Dutton, 1996.

Kuriansky, Judy. The Complete Idiotís Guide to Dating. New York: Alpha, 1996.

Wegscheider-Cruse, Sharon. Learning To Love Yourself: Finding Your Self-Worth. Deerfield Beach, Fl: Health Communications, Inc., 1987.

You can find these titles at any major bookstore--Borderís, B&Nís, or Geneís.




Epilogue

My journey was not over once I broke up with my borderline lover (my "exBP") and mailed her the letter.  I still had a lot of work to do on my own.

I continued in therapy, trying to learn why I had stayed in an abusive relationship for two years.  I recognized that I had classic characteristics of co-dependency--for example, sacrificing my own needs in order to try to "save" the other person.

Several weeks after I mailed the letter, I stumbled across BPD Central on the web.  I joined a nonBP Internet support group and became a frequent participant. I found this forum to be extremely helpful.  One of the things I had been desperately seeking was validation.  I had been feeling all alone.  Here, amazingly, were a number of people who had all been in a similar situation.  For the first time, I felt truly understood--in a way that my friends, family, and even therapist could not provide.  I saw that my ex-borderline lover had suffered from a distinct syndrome--this helped me place in perspective what had happened to me.

For about a year after the breakup I suffered from mild post-traumatic stress disorder.  My therapist referred me to a psychologist who taught me some self-hypnosis techniques to use when I found myself in "flashback" situations.  This did help to some extent.

I was also very angry, for a long, long time.  However, in retrospect, I think that a lot of that anger I felt was HEALTHY--as it steeled my resolve to NEVER become involved with this person again, despite her efforts to try to win me back.  (Unfortunately we were forced to remain in contact as we were both members of the same organization.  Even though we saw each other frequently, we did not speak-- by my choosing.)

The anger did subside a bit, and I left the nonBP list, thinking it was time to move on.  A full two years after the breakup, though, I became embroiled in a legal matter with my exBP.

This turn of events stirred up all those angry feelings again.  I found myself extremely frustrated as she mounted her version of a "distortion campaign" against me.  My emotions became so strong and out-of-control that my therapist briefly put me on medication, which helped.

The legal issue was eventually resolved in my favor, and I had the added benefit of not having to remain in contact with her.  Another year or so went by.  I went on with my life.  I bought a house, began raising two beautiful cats, and continued to grow personally and professionally.  However, I still did not feel ready for another relationship.  My recovery was not yet 100% complete.

In June of 1999 (almost three years after the end of the relationship), I had the unexpected opportunity to attend a retreat in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, run by nonBPs for nonBPs.  For some reason--I could not determine exactly why--I felt that I should attend this gathering.  I THOUGHT I had worked through all the issues, but I guess I hadn't.

The last night of the retreat, I found myself with six or seven fellow attendees around a campfire.  We smoked from an Indian peace pipe and took turns holding a "talking stick" and saying whatever was on our mind.  During my turn with the "talking stick" I had an emotional breakdown of some sort.  Or perhaps "break THROUGH" is a better word.  I felt the last barriers standing in the way of my complete recovery come tumbling down.  To this day I am not sure exactly how to describe that experience--except that it was a spiritual one, and once that final hurdle came down, I was able to move forward at last.

Two days later, I was involved in a car accident.  My car was totaled but I walked away without a scratch.  This event was like Part II of my spiritual rebirth.  It had an almost surreal quality.  I saw the wreck as a metaphor for my BP relationship.  Even though there had been terrible damage, I emerged from both of them intact, with a newfound appreciation of what I DID have.

Three weeks later, I met the love of my life.  We have now been together almost four years.  Ours is a solid, loving relationship, with mutual respect and caring--completely unlike my former BP relationship.  It is amazing how different things are now.  For those of you who think you can never again be happy--think again.  I am living proof that is IS possible to ďrise from the ashes,Ē and live and love again.


Here is my best advice for those who have just left a relationship with a person with BPD, and do not wish to go back. Remember, this is from my own personal experience.  This is not necessarily the best advice for everyone.

1) Get therapy.  I cannot emphasize this enough.
2) Consider joining an online support group.
3) The borderline individual may try to ďwin you back.Ē  The best way to combat this is to minimize contact as much as possible.  If there is any way for you to break off ALL contact, do it.  It may feel painful now, but you'll be a lot better off in the end.  (Of course, this is not possible if there are children involved.)
4) Consider writing a letter to your ex. Sometimes writing things out helps you understand things better.   You donít necessarily have to mail it, as I did.
5) Be VERY careful about entering another relationship too soon.




LINKS

There is a ton of information on BPD out there in cyberspace.  Comprehensive listings may be found elsewhere.  However, I would like to mention four sites which I find particularly noteworthy.

BPD Central
The 'original' site for people who care about someone with BPD.  Sections on the basics of BPD, abuse, caring for yourself, and experiences of BPs and nonBPs.  This site is run by Randi Kreger, the author of the indispensable (to "nons") book "Stop Walking On Eggshells."

bpd411.org
Site run by a pair of "nons" who wish to help others in their journey of healing.  Many excellent articles in the Resource section.

Dr. Irene's Verbal Abuse Site
While not specifically about BPD per se, this site is a goldmine of information which would be helpful to any person who is experiencing verbal or emotional abuse.

Anonymous Account of the Borderline Personality Disorder
Something different... In my opinion, the best presentation ever of the dynamics of BPD.  The author hypothesizes that BPD is the result of the individual's somehow being "trapped" at the developmental stage of a child.   This article really left an impression on me.  It made a lot of what I had experienced easier to understand.  Written in a non-judgemental tone, the article portrays the essential "humanness" of the borderline individual.
 


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