Ask Erin: Help! I’m Still In Love With My Abusive Ex

Don't ever go back to abuse. (Image Credit: Thinkstock)

Don't ever go back to abuse. (Image Credit: Thinkstock)

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to…Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all. 


Hey Erin,

This is my second attempt at detaching from my abusive ex-boyfriend. We dated on and off for over a year and I can honestly say our love is passionate and euphoric. He is charming, attentive, silly and amazing, but there's another side to him and our relationship that I didn't want to acknowledge. 

He is also controlling, borderline obsessive (which can be flattering at times), jealous, and emotionally abusive. Small things could trigger condescending and questioning reactions that were obviously alarming and frustrating. If I didn't answer my phone, he would be suspicious of me. He didn't like me having any male friends or even respect that I had to maintain a healthy relationship with my ex-husband as we co-parent our two young children.

He finds people who love and care about me and are concerned for my well being threatening to him and our relationship. He's good at deflecting responsibility and would often say things like, " If you love me, you would do ______,"  and many other things that had me doubting myself, and usually led to me becoming defensive and an argument ensuing. 

He would be demanding of sexual favors, even in situations that were completely inappropriate, and would get upset and sulk if I wouldn't comply. For instance, I had terminated our pregnancy last year and it was a horrible decision, but I felt it was best under the circumstances. We couldn't engage in sex, as it’s very traumatic physically and emotionally, and he didn't understand why I didn't want to blow him in his kitchen as I was losing our child.

The big shift that led to the demise of our relationship was a few months ago, on a night that he stayed at my place. I had worked both my jobs that day and had made it abundantly clear that his presence was welcome, but I just wanted to cuddle and sleep. He agreed and, like many nights, I fell asleep feeling safe and loved in his arms. Thats not how I woke up. 

He had sex with me while I was asleep. I remember be roused by him thrusting on top of me, but I couldn't move my arms or legs, and I drifted back into unconsciousness. He claims he got frustrated, because it was like "having sex with a log,” and climbed off me to fall asleep. 

When I awoke he was gone. He claimed he didn't realize I was asleep and even mused that I helped him remove my panties — though I don't recall that at all. It felt so horrible and wrong. I knew my intuition wasn't wrong, and when I shared this with my best friend, she was quick to point out how horrendously black and white it really was. 

The man I loved and trusted, in a moment of selfish horniness, sexually assaulted me and had the nerve to call me crazy when I confronted him about it. Only after we had broken up and he was seeking reconciliation, did he truly apologize for those actions, though he still will not admit to it being on purpose. 

No man, woman, legal aid, or counselor has claimed there is a chance in hell that was an accident — yet I still kind of believe it was an accident. Maybe I was afraid of facing that truth for myself — to feel like a victim, and at the hands of someone I loved and wanted to spend my life with. Maybe it was because I couldn't fathom the reality of it in general.

After two excruciating months apart, I began to almost miss him more than I felt the need to defend myself. I found myself responding when he reached out. Then I saw him, and every feeling of love and joy returned to me. I just thought — how could this be wrong, when it feels so right? 

We’ve shared the past few weeks together and it has been wonderful — but perhaps in that honeymoon phase sort of way, and you know the inevitable outcome is that there is no longer a future with this man you meant to marry. 

For now, only my sister, my best friend, and my ex-husband know the pain he inflicted on me. They saw first-hand the horror show that was those weeks following that event. I began to find reason in their concern again and I stepped back once more. 

I’m finding it harder this time to walk away, because we have felt so good together, but I know it’s a fool's paradise. I feel so connected to him when we are together — it’s soul satisfying and explosive (I just don't like the negative explosions). 

I feel like a fool when I talk to those who know about this, because how could they ever understand that the same man that abused me and caused me so much pain has also given me so much pleasure and joy. What a mind fuck that is.

I guess what I'm asking in a nutshell, based on all of this is — am I making the right decision walking away, or is there a glimmer of hope for us yet? 

I can't express that hope to anyone else, and I'm even unsure of why I want it. Maybe I need some deep therapy and to be further removed from the relationship to truly see how harmful it’s been. Being in love has clouded my judgement and, as I've read before, gas-lighting and other abusive tendencies just further confuse the “victim.” 

Thank you for reading this insanely long vent and for considering the question I've posed. If anything, it was nice to write out how I've been feeling lately.

Thank you.


Deep breath. 

The short answer is yes, you are making the right decision walking away. And, no, there is NO glimmer of hope for this relationship. 

This man is an abuser, a gas-lighter, an asshole who clearly has problems of his own that we can be compassionate enough about to hope he gets help for… but his problems are not your responsibility. 

What is your responsibility? Parenting your two young children and taking care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being (both for you and for your kids). 

It can be scary to come to terms with the fact that you’ve spent time in an abusive relationship. But, that’s the truth. And what is scarier is what possibly could happen in the future if you were to stay with this man. 

You listed so many red flags and incidents of abusive behavior that I don’t know where to begin. And I am 100% sure that you go back and forth questioning if these incidents were indeed abuse. Because that is what he wants you to do. He wants you to question your own perception of reality. 

I want to reiterate. He is an abuser; he has abused you in a multitude of ways.

Just because it hasn’t escalated to what we might imagine when we picture domestic violence in our minds, doesn’t negate the fact that it is ABUSE. 

You don’t want this for yourself, and more importantly for your kids. Children model relationships after what they see. I am 100% sure that you would be devastated to find either of your kids in a relationship like this. 

Show them what it means to take care of oneself. Show them what courage and strength and recovery looks like. 

At the end of your email, you mentioned that it felt good to write this all out, as not many people know. That tells you all you need to know: talk about this. 

Our secrets keep us sick. 

You mentioned wondering if you need some therapy. Yes. Please, take the time and energy you have spent going back and forth with this relationship and funnel it into getting clarity and help for yourself. 

I would be more than happy to assist you in getting to resources in your area, be that support groups or counseling referrals. 

Walk away. Don’t look back. Don’t beat yourself up for the past. Move forward, towards health and happiness with your kids, your friends, your family.

Your children deserve that. And so do you. 

*If you or someone you know needs help or has questions about domestic violence, please reach out — The Hotline

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