Sleeping with the Enemy


Dear Dharma,

I never thought I would be one to say this, but I am in a very abusive relationship.

We’ve been together almost 4 years.  When we first met everything was great and before I knew it we had moved in together.

About a year in things started to change. I noticed he was drinking more often and started making ridiculous demands.  If I didn’t comply, I would get screamed at for hours, but the next morning he’d be sober and beg forgiveness.

He now goes through almost an entire bottle of hard liquor a day.  He keeps me up until all hours of the morning. I get degraded, berated and threatened and have even had things thrown at me.  And Lord help me if I refuse to have intimate relations with him at his command.

I am terrified to come home as I never know what I am walking into.  I am constantly going over the “what if’s” in my head.  What if I missed one of my million “chores a woman should do”?  What if the dog got into something? What if… anything.   It doesn’t matter what goes wrong, it’s always my fault and I feel the wrath.

I’m sleep deprived and a nervous wreck.  It’s affecting my performance at work and I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job and have no safe haven to rely on.

I’ve tried leaving before and it didn’t go over well, and now I’m terrified to try again. Once he’s in the “Red Zone” he’s capable of anything.  I know I wouldn’t stand a chance up against him and feel trapped.

How do I get out without getting myself killed? Can I survive on my own?  How do I get my old self back? I used to be such a strong person and I have no idea how I got here.


Dear Trapped,

Today I got a post from someone questioning what the hell Dharma was good for in this day and age when all we have to do is turn to Google and just like that we get our answers. I was all like phhht whatever.  But then what’s the very first thing I did after reading your situation?  I hit the internet hard to find out what kind of resources are available for you.  So fine, maybe Dharma’s good for nothing except to share some valuable research.  I’m okay with that if you are.

This website defines Battered Woman Syndrome as the following:

The woman believes that the violence was or is her fault.

The woman has an inability to place responsibility for the violence elsewhere.

The woman fears for her life and/or her children’s lives.

The woman has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.

Everything you wrote screams of this definition, wouldn’t you say?  I only bring it up so we fully know what we are dealing with here.  You know, just in case you didn’t realize how serious this is.

A few things stood out in your letter that had me breathing the smallest sigh of relief – it doesn’t sound like you are married (making it easier to disappear if you wanted to, no legal ties), there are no children involved (actually a big sigh of relief) and I don’t think he has physically beaten you.  Please understand I am not trying to minimize what is going on in absence of broken bones and black eyes.  I am not.  I am just so thankful we don’t have that to add to the awfulness of what you are already going through.

In order to go forward with my answer I have to assume you are ready to leave this jerk.  If you’re not, then… I don’t know how to help except to say nothing is going to change.  It’s been 3 years of hell and you can be guaranteed of a 4th if you stay.  Period.

So please say you are ready to leave, that it’s time to pull a Katie Holmes and get the hell out of there.  You may not have the luxury of millions of dollars and the paparazzi to keep you safe, but the first and best thing Katie had was a solid plan and that’s got to be your priority.  You also don’t have a whole bunch of angry Scientologists to contend with, so at least there’s that.

So again, the fruits of Google – please take the time to read the following sites and anything else you can get your hands on.  As you start to realize there are ways out of this, I am hoping your confidence will build just enough to save yourself before something even worse happens.

An Exit Action Plan: Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Stay Safe Action Plan

Safety Planning for Domestic Violence and Abuse Victims

I’m not trying to cop out of giving you my own advice, it’s just that it would be plagiarism and pointless for me to reiterate what they have outlined so well.

Oh – and can you survive on your own, you ask?  Yes, my friend, yes you can.  So much better than if you stay.

Be safe.



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Categories: Uncategorized


  • Jenny says:

    As someone who recently gone through a similar situation, I can assure you that you can make it on your own! It may be hard at times and there may be tears but you are way stronger than you give yourself credit for! Set up a plan and then run like hell! Once the plans starts motion, your strength will re-appear and you will return to the strong independent woman you once were.

    Kick that dirt bag to the curb where he belongs!

  • Who, me? says:

    Also consider trying Alanon for unconditional, anonymous group support, whether you stay or leave.

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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