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Notes from the Underground - Partner of a Survivor


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Indis and Panz,  can't say how much I admire you for your courage in trying to heal.  I am a survivor of a comparatively mild dose of chronic childhood physical and verbal abuse (angry-alcoholic household) and can't even verbalize what the lasting effects have been. I suspect that it has led me to have closeness issues, guided my choice of mates to those kinds of men who were 'safe' - e.g., who I would never feel too close to. I theorize that it's exhausted whatever reservoir of "bounce back" I was born with,  and now I am brittle as heck.  I break down into year long MDD episodes when the stress overwhelms. 

Probably contributed greatly to the dissolution of my first marriage to a brilliant silent type who had anger issues of his own. Second marriage - thankfully on its way to dissolution - was to a con man (who by definition would have closeness issues, no?  If I am an object to be used, no danger in being suffocated by closeness!). Current SO is a casualty of the Catholic priest-childhood-rape scenario.  Did not know this for a year - only felt the fallout and was willing to put up with it because of his great compassion and fundamental sweetness, so different from DH #1 and FH #2. 

He's still sweet and compassionate, but the fallout from years of childhood rape has left its mark and I'm burned out by the fallout.  The fallout, to me, has been:

1)  Whenever we're together for a weekend or longer, he has a gut level escape response after the first twelve hours.  Hyperventilates.  Shakes.  I used to think this was because he did not care for me.  It is because he is phobic about closeness. Once, after a day of the most wonderful closeness, spiritual and physical, he once left for a pack of cigarettes and didn't come back.  Period.  I didn't hear from him for a month.  Why? Panic (his). --  E.g., he was VIOLENTLY 'not there'!

2)  He has stood me up on a number of occasions.  As in, making plans to meet me and not showing up.  Again, panic.

3)  Although he has extremely good 'people skills',  he dislikes people.

4)  My divorce has been dragging on for almost four years.  I've known him for three of those years.  During that entire time, we have been exclusive.  What I mean is, HE has been exclusive.  (me too).

5)  Although I have never witnessed them,  he tells me that on occasion he has periods of uncontrollable, white hot rage. He says he deals with it by overstructuring his life. 

6)  He absolutely will not revisit those dark places to date with therapy.  It is not my yob to attempt to 'fix' him. 

7)  Speaking of dark places - he can't sleep without having lights and TV or radio on. 

8)  In our humorous conversations about a possible future together (NO!! Not marriage!! I don't DO that well!!),  we talk about buying a duplex and each living in one half.  Or about buying houses next door with a connecting tunnel.

9)  We laugh about this - such an arrangement feels PERFECTLY comfortable to me!  We make up elaborate scenarios (hilarious)  about the ways in which we will compromise between our respective needs for a buffer space vs. our respective needs to be together. 

I think I may have chosen men who I was comfortable would not try to get too close.

I also am extremely content to be left alone!  I love my bookwormy existence when I'm medicated and not being strangled by MDD.  I get  enough social contact from my modest sales job (thankfully have been able to keep for seven months!  Yay me!) That amount of 'people contact' is enough for me.

So,  I am the walking wounded in a relationship with the post traumatically stressed.  Although the relationship has been companionable and rewarding for the most part, apart from those instances of predictable panic on his part every time we feel particularly close,  I think I've about had it with the lack of predictability and may not pick up the phone next time he calls.  It has gotten to be too exhausting.  After all, there ARE times when a stand up will simply not do because it makes YOU look foolish. Like at a going away party, or like at a corporate event when it's "employees and SOs only - please RSVP".

Any suggestions for me?  I feel a mild longing to have this work out, but it's not going to if DSO continues to have these violent "pull back" reactions when we feel close;  and if I continue to be quite content to practice damage control by being left alone.

Thanks.

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Chuck, thank you much for responding.  Didn't write the above for accolades, though ('Sounds like you've got it...). 

I wonder if anybody else has ever been in this kind of companionable walking-wounded-meets-post-traumatically-stressed relationship, and how it resolved?

I have genuine fondness and affection for this man, and have thoroughly enjoyed the sweet, low key times and things we have done together. 

Am in a part of the country to which I'm violently allergic - came back here yay these past four years ago for the specific purpose of unwinding this travesty of a marriage.  This geographical area is contaminated by its association with FH.  I intend to get the heck away to where I can feel healthy as soon as this is unwound.

Obviously, since I 'came back',  I tried the geographic cure previously, and it worked in spades.  I'm going back 'there'.  Thankfully, I have friends with whom I can stay -- OK, OK, ONE friend with whom I can stay - till I get back on my feet, as far as can be expected.  I am so appreciative of this friend that I have made a study about how to be a welcome house guest. 

Right now, I am passing time and attempting to learn my new (hard) day job type thing enough not to be fired.  And relearning how to appreciate being part of a well functioning group with a common purpose. Although I'm very fond of this job, and have been able to keep it thanks to the fact that I've been able to keep the company secret from FH  (in prior one, he was sending State Troopers to work inquiring about me because of his trumped up complaints;  subpoena-ing the management every other week;  coming by more often than was welcome to keep tabs on me - you know the drill), I don't think it is a good reason to stay in an area which is like Chernobyl to me.

Really.  I want out of what is otherwise a stagnant backwater in which I hold none of the cards.  I live in a small town in one of the wealthiest counties in the country.  As a con man, FH is extremely persuasive in his PR campaign.  I am a drop down alcoholic.  I was jailed for a couple of years for major league cocaine distribution.  I turn tricks in the parking lot at lunch for extra cash.  Needless to say, although I do come equipped with MDD and ADD (complete with meds and shrink!) , I do not sport the other aforementioned features.  I would say that, as far as fallen women go, I am more of the Honda Civic than the Lamborghini variety.

Women in the provinces (stuck in the sterile suburbs for the purpose of breeding,  and isolating their progeny from the evil influences of Outside)  lead boring lives, and avidly grasp at any excuse for excitement - gossip being their primary avenue.  In a more urbane environment, FH would have been laughed out of town.  Here, the stay at home mommies cross themselves, clutch their offspring  and grasp their rosaries or whatever when they see me in the supermarket.

I am going back to a more urbane environment.  But I am not willing to flee with one suitcase,  FH's fervent hope.

Therefore, looking for a new relationship - another thing to keep me in Chernobyl -is not on my list of priorities.  My current SO is from Outside, thankfully. 

But I am getting weary of being stood up and having to look at SO's physical symptoms when faced with too much togetherness.  Although I do know it's not about me  (At some level, How Can it Not Be About Me??? ),  I'm not convinced that it's OK for me, particularly since he has really made no effort in his overstructured life to structure in some therapy.  Even if it triggers those white hot anger sequences of which he speaks, but of which I have no inkling.

Again -  how have those of you in this community, who have suffered from genuine trauma in your childhoods,  dealt with those of us who are only moderately wounded? Have you ever pulled it together enough to stop hyperventilating? Am I looking at a forever period of phobic escapes?  Has it diminished over time? 

Please help me to understand.  Thank you.

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