Jump to content
CrazyBoards.org

Helping my girlfriend


mbwsu

Recommended Posts

I have a girlfriend, and we have a very close, serious relationship. I'm not going to go into detail or explain history, but we were best friends for a LONG time before we actually "got together officially", and now, as a boyfriend, things are going amazingly well. I always ask her to tell me what I can do better or change, and she always tells me everything's perfect and I'm an amazing boyfriend and she's so in love with me. When we're together, everything is blissful, everything is PERFECT. The problem is, I am in college on the other side of the state, and she is back home. I come home about every other weekend, and that is tolerable. The stretches taht I'm gone are tough, and she gets sad, but normally it's not too bad. We talk on the phone for over an hour every night, and write letters almost daily. It's been like this for 5 months without slowing one bit, it's actually increased.

However, she used to cut quite frequently. Normally on her thighs. They aren't deep, open gashes, but they are good, long, cuts, and they always come in bunches of 8 or 10. I remember so vividly when she first told me last summer that she cuts, and we were just close friends, and I cried and cried, thinking about the pain she was in that drove her to that. Now, as the boyfriend, I feel even more obligated to help. I feel i want to help more than ever. The cutting has slowed in frequency, with the most recent relapse occurring the NIGHT BEFORE I got home to see her for a three-week christmas break (oh, how that boggles and frustrates me). She said it was because of stress with parents and school and missing me, but we had been talking for weeks prior about how amazing break was going to be, we were going to be together everyday and all our problems would fade away and things would be perfect. And yet, the night before this amazing period of time began, she slipped away and cut.

My mom is an alcoholic, and my girlfriend's cutting and my feelings about it remind me of my mom's battle with alcohol. I feel like I'm failing, because Im not making my girlfriend happy enough to not want to do that. And that's how I felt with my mom- "If she really loved me, and knows how much this hurts me, why does she still do it? It must be something that's my fault..." I hope that doesn't come off as selfish... It looks that way typed...

I don't know enough about the subject, I don't know what its like to be driven to that point. Ive read about it, but I dont know much about it from the perspective of a self-injurer. I'm coming to this board humbly, as someone trying to learn, to help the girl i love. I'm not trying to antagonize or demonize cutting or cutters, I'm not trying to criticize, all i want is to help her get through this. I have been trying to tell her to come to me when she has an urge to SI, because every time we talk when she's feeling down, the conversation ends with her a lot happier than at the beginning.

So please, help me with any strategies, ideas for conversations, ideas to help her. Should I wait for another relapse to bring it up again? It's been about a month and a half, and I know she hasn't cut since because I see her naked just about every time I come home. I always make a point to tell her how beautiful her legs are and how much I love them. She's relapsed with a maximum of 3 months between incidents, so I'm still worried.

I just get so scared every time that she says something is wrong, that she'll resort to cutting. I want to be there for her, I want to help her, so please, please, help me do it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me tell you now: You won't be able to fix this.

Only your girlfriend can stop cutting, if she wants to, by seeking help and learning other coping mechanisms. Even if you could be the perfect boyfriend and have a blissful relationship, she would still encounter stress and pain and still want to cut. That aspect of life isn't going away for anyone here. Cutting is a way of dealing with pain and stress, and it happens for numerous reasons. I can't guess at what goes through your girlfriend's head when she does it, everyone has their own private reasons.

In fact, the sort of relationship you describe, intense, where the emphasis is on perfection and bliss, can be very stressful for people. People have emotions and can get sad, and you don't seem to leave any room for your girl friend to feel that. Personally, I'd be tempted to cut if my boyfriend insisted that everything was perfect every time we saw each other. That is a hell of a lot of pressure.

The best things to do are to research it, something like our pinned resources or www.siriusproject.org might help. Then you have to decide what will be supportive to your girlfriend and be appropriate to the relationship. Your girlfriend might need some accountability, but you aren't a parent for her. She can't come to you every time she wants to self harm, she will need to face this stuff on her own, with the help of qualified professionals. You might want to talk to her about it in between an episode of self harm, it will sound less critical then, as she is less upset. You might want to ask her what her reasons are, what the cutting feels like to her or does for her. You might ask her if she could trust anyone with this knowledge, if she felt she could see a doctor.

I have a relationship that sounds as close as yours, me and my honey are long distance too, and both are recovering from self harm issues. If ones of us lapses, we usually mention it. If my honey tell me he has, I just ask if the wounds are clean and if he has sought medical attention for them if they need it. Sometimes we talk about what might've triggered it off, other times we don't. I have told him that he can contact me, but I have given him numerous help line numbers that he can call. It does hurt me to know that he does it, but since I do it myself, I understand that it's not about me or him being unfulfilled in our relationship. I always encourage him to see his doctor, and to be honest with lots of people in his life, so I don'tbear the brunt of it. This is reciprocal.

I'm curious as to the association with your girlfriend and your mother. Every relationship has a dynamic, and if you seem to have slipped into a rescuer/care taker role, this can erode a healthy relationship. You need to encourage and value your girlfriend's independence and coping skills as much as you cherish her in other ways. You also need to realize that shit is going to happen to her, despite your desire to shield her from it, and she has to learn how to cope as her own person.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

what Karuna said. let me add a couple of things: first of all, this isn't the end of the world. it's a shitty coping mechanism, but it's not like your girlfriend is commiting criminal acts. don't let the SI become THE ISSUE in your relationship. not a great coping mechanism, yes, but that's all it is: a coping mechanism. not a reflection on you, or your girlfriend.

second, i'd suggest you do some work on the alcoholic mom thing. i bet you've got a couple of buried land mines there. have you checked into Al-Anon or Alateen? i hate to say this, but your attitude about your mom's drinking is not a healthy one. don't let it create problems down the road; deal with it now.

other than that, basically, you can't fix it, you can't change it, enjoy your girlfriend for who she is and what she brings you. the cutting is a small part of her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey mbwsu,

I feel sad that you and your girlfriend have this kind of confusion in your lives. As others have said already, cutting is a form of managing emotions, albeit not a very healthy one because it's addicitve and causes lasting harm to one's body. The idea is to get to a place where cutting is on a continuum of self-managing behaviors---preferably at the far end with lots of other self-managing things that are soothing and comforting in between.

Your gf is making a choice to self injure, even though she may not feel like there are other options or if there are other options, that they work as well as cutting. Asking her how you can be supportive is usually a good step. And know that you have the right to keep your own boundaries as well.

It's not going to help if you become the 'monitoring parent', but as a loving partner, it's definitely within bounds to say something like, "I really care about you and I feel sad when I think about you hurting yourself as a way to manage what's going on inside."

Offer to help brainstorm other options? Help her find a really skilled therapist? Google "secret shame" for a really good website about self-injury information for her, for you, how to find a therapist, ideas of what to do instead, etc.

Peace,

Wooster

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, I'm really impressed with the straightforward, honest replies you all gave me. I've tried to be careful to avoid some of the pitfalls you all mentioned, such as the "care-taker/rescuer" role and the "monitoring parent" idea. I was always very conscious to tell her that I know she's stronger than that, and that she has so much going for her and she can beat it on her own, but I'm there to help any way i possibly can. But she rescues and takes care of me nearly as much as i do her. I do like being the caretaker, knowing that I'm needed, and that I'm helping the girl i love, but doesn't everyone want that on some level? I think so, and so i always come to her when i need help and tell her I need her to comfort me, and she always does, and I can tell she's glad to do that for me. And through simple body language things like laying in her lap, or letting her be "Big spoon" when we're cuddling, I try to show her that I need her too, and that she's strong and able to help me.

As for putting pressure on us to have a perfect relationship, I don't really. I very much see how that could be an incredible load to bear, always being pushed to be happy and ignore bad feelings brewing inside until they explode in harmful ways. But our time together is perfect only because we get along so flawlessly. We never argue about anything, sure we get a little irritated but it only gets to the point where we laugh and say "God! You're so annoying!" then whoever's being annoying will say "Really? Am i really honestly being annoying? Or are you just joking?" and then if the answer's "Yes" then we are able to fix whatever the behavior is that gets on the other's nerves. I know it seems small and insignificant but it leaves us feeling like there's nothing wrong with each other at the end of the day, and that goes a long way.

I'm worried about having our first true, real, bad fight. It's been so good for so long that I'm worried that we haven't learned each other's ways of "couple-quarrels", adn that it'll be worse than it should be, and she might turn to cutting. But thinking about it, there's NOTHING i can do other than be supportive and try and emphasize how much i love her and how couples argue and it's normal, when it happens.

But as for now, I'll keep reading, learning, and supporting her in a passive, loving, but not pressured way. here's hoping this period of not SI-ing will last a long long time.....

As for my mom, that isssue was purely brough up for an allegory, as a parallel to illustrate my position on my girlfriend. That is pretty much a dead issue at this point. She's been alcoholic since long before i was born, and has been to 28day inpatient treatment and goes to AA and is "supposedly" sober. I dont have any hard reasons to believe shes drank since her last known relapse, which was... oh... a year and a half ago.....?

This may sound odd, but I have a feeling my mom is drinking in secret, and i think this BECAUSE shes going to AA. Of course, true AA program-followers go for their whole lives, because alcoholics are always alcoholics, whether they're drinking or not. However, that's not how my mom is. I know my mom, and if she was having no drinking, or no seriously tempting, difficult thoughts about drinking, she would NOT spend her time going to AA. that's just how she is, sort of an "if it aint broke don't fix it" idea. I dont really get why she's like that, seeing as shes a school nurse and she pushes treatment and help options to kids every day, but thats just how she operates.

But as for ME thinking about that issue, i honestly can say now that i'm truly apathetic about it. You could call it apathetic or you could call it numb, removed, or turned away from the issue, but if she is drinking, i just don't want to know. Ive exhausted myself on the issue so many times that it does nothing but drain me and my will to care for her. And i want to care for her, but being consistantly let down is not something I want to keep going through after my 8 or so years of actively dealing with it with her.

Once again, thank you so much for all your help, this is truly a great community. I'm glad i found you all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was always very conscious to tell her that I know she's stronger than that, and that she has so much going for her and she can beat it on her own, but I'm there to help any way i possibly can.

I would be careful how your word some of that. She may not feel like its something that she can control. She may not feel that "she can beat it on her own".

The stress and pressure of have to feel that she's "stonger than that" may leave her feeling really crappy over not being stronger than that and she may cut just to deal with the feelings. It is very likely that this is not something she can overcome on her own. She probably will need therapy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Selene beat me to it!

Also, not to be negative, but when two people have a "perfect relationship"...

Quote...

"As for putting pressure on us to have a perfect relationship, I don't really. I very much see how that could be an incredible load to bear, always being pushed to be happy and ignore bad feelings brewing inside until they explode in harmful ways. But our time together is perfect only because we get along so flawlessly."

When two people that have so may problems say this I suspect there are many things that aren't being brought up and that the relationship has elements of escapism that may not be healthy or honest. (not in a sense of lying, but just in a sense of living in denial of things.)

Just a 'thought'. May be way off base.

Is she UW? (on the other side of state from wsu?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok... So it looks like i'm getting two different opinions, and it's a really delicate situation that needs to be balanced between support and criticism. earlier replies said "focus on her independance and its something she needs to overcome on her own" and others say "she may not be able to do it on her own and telling her she can may make her disappointed in herself. I totally see the validity of both statements... So complex.

Well, I'll just have to play it by ear and be encouraging/supportive but not so much it seems like she's helpless, but not so little that it seems like I'm leaving it all to her... We'll see.

Steve's mention of escapism really made me think, and I see how that can be unhealthy, but this aspect of our relationship really keeps us going, as it gives us something to see as "how great break will be" and, more generally, how great our lives can be. When there are a thousand things in the rest of our lives that bother us, we always have each other to come to for something happy, special, and comforting. But isolating that can make the rest of life seem much worse. So i guess a lot of communication and more frequent visits are the way to combat it, to make our happiness an element of both our daily lives, as opposed to a seperate life... Not sure if that makes sense.

And she has been in therapy in the past, but i haevnt heard of her going in a long time. I think that if she tells me about another episode I'm going to suggest that she talks to her parents and gets back to professional help. I don't think telling her parents without her consent is the right answer, as it'd push her away from me and dissuade her from coming to me in the future.

And no, she doesnt go to UW, but YES, I'm in the wheat field abyss of pullman, wa at Washington State University... 5 hours drive each way... Ugh.

Again thanks for all your help and any more insight would be much appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't take my "criticism" too seriously. Just pause for thought - as it appears you are!

And remember when you are looking at differing opinions that we are all coming from our own wierd spaces. They are POV's to CONSIDER, but YOU are the one directly involved. You count a 10 for each of our 1's.

Just be seriously thoughtful and communicate.

It's the best you can do. Really, ALL you can do.

Good thoughts to you both.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok... So it looks like i'm getting two different opinions, and it's a really delicate situation that needs to be balanced between support and criticism. earlier replies said "focus on her independance and its something she needs to overcome on her own" and others say "she may not be able to do it on her own and telling her she can may make her disappointed in herself. I totally see the validity of both statements... So complex.

Well, I'll just have to play it by ear and be encouraging/supportive but not so much it seems like she's helpless, but not so little that it seems like I'm leaving it all to her... We'll see.

Lots of things have been said here in this thread. There is a delicate balance to this. What was being said was that it... I don't know the best way to say this... it might not be the most helpful thing in the world to tell her that she is "stronger than that" and "can beat it on her own." It is a big way to set her up for a fall and puts a great deal of pressure on her.

cutting is a copping mechanism, as has already been mentioned. It is not the most healthy thing to do, obviously, but that is what it is. this means that she does not have the tools to deal with certain stressers in any other way. This is something that has to be learned. Cutting is an addiction. Addiction itself is considered a disease. Many people have many different kinds of addictions and they are very hard to give up sometimes, hence relapses. If it was easy to stop, believe me, people would stop. I have had issues with cutting since I was 12 and I am now 21. I do not *like* it, but it is very hard to get over.

you can support her as a boyfriend, but you cannot save her. I would say that the best thing would be therapy. She needs to learn coping mechanisms other than cutting and a professional can try and help her to achieve that. You are not a trained professional. You can talk to her, voice your concerns, and suggest it. Cutting is not only an issue when you see the physical relapse, though... it comes with a whole way of thinking and dealing,... so I would not suggest you wait for her next relapse to talk to her as you mentioned before.

So, yes, it is something that she needs to deal with on her own, but you can still support her on her road to recovery... preferably in a nonjudgmental kind of way. Validate her feelings without making her feel as if there is any pressure being put on her.

it is really late, so i am sorry if the english doesnt make sense... oh look, it's 3:30am!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...