July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Women Exiting Abusive Relationships Need Time to Heal

Dear Navidaters,

Our daughter Rena married a man who charmed her, us and everyone from the first date. We all fell in love with him. However, as soon as Pinchas and Rena got married, he let his true colors come through. He was constantly critical and disgusting toward our daughter. Privately and even in public he would insult her and put her down. We never actually came right out and told Rena that we thought she should divorce Pinchas, but we would drop hints and let her know that we were concerned about her.

Then, after a year and a half of marriage, and no children, the most wonderful thing happened. Pinchas decided he wanted a divorce. We viewed this as a gift from Hashem. But despite her terrible marriage, Rena was devastated that he was leaving her. She had a very difficult time dealing with feelings of abandonment. And also, after 18 months of abuse, I think she felt truly beaten down and worthless. At the time, all we could see was that now Rena finally had an opportunity to meet someone who would appreciate her and treat her the way she deserved. All Rena could see was her failure as a wife.

We forced her to speak to a therapist a few times, which she felt was helpful, but bottom line, Rena is not interested in dating now and, according to her, maybe never. She says she doesn’t trust men and is very happy living at home with me and my husband, where she feels safe. She has not gone out since her divorce, and of course, the clock is ticking away. My husband and I are very concerned that Rena will never want to date again and eventually will spend her life looking after us.

What can we do as parents to help Rena understand that what happened with Pinchas is out of the ordinary and that it’s safe to go out again and consider marriage? How does someone get over such a traumatic experience?

The Navidaters respond:

I can almost feel your desire and sense of urgency that Rena start to date and get remarried. It is palpable. I have to wonder if you have allowed yourself to process the pain and suffering that your daughter has been through and continues to experience. If you have, please forgive me. But I would be remiss if I weren’t to acknowledge that it would be emotionally easier to move on from this and see your daughter remarried than it would be to sit in this horrible pain. If you were to feel this, you may break down…and you may not have the luxury to do so.

I’m not going to save my advice for the end of the column. I’m going to say it right now. You and your husband (if he shares this “clock is ticking” mentality) should speak with a mental health professional right away to help redirect your energy and efforts. The very worst thing for Rena right now is to feel pressured to jump back into a relationship.

What does Rena need right now? She needs you to say You were duped! Nobody saw it coming. I cannot believe what you have lived through. She needs an emotional mirror. She doesn’t need to be moved through this quickly. She needs this to be validated. She needs time to process. She needs time to understand how she got into such an abusive relationship, and furthermore, time to understand why she stayed for 18 months. If she were to start dating without having processed her trauma and rebuilt her ego strength, the odds of her finding herself in another abusive relationship are quite good. So, let’s slow this down a bit. Of course, she is scared. Of course, she doesn’t want to date right now. Of course, of course, of course. Your new personal motto and mantra is of course.

Why of course? Two reasons. The first is, of course Rena’s feelings make sense. This speaks to the enormous amount of validation you are going to give her right now. Being in a psychologically, emotionally or physically abusive relationship throws off a woman’s inner compass. Abusive men tamper with their wives’ sense of reality. This is how they keep their victims coming back for more. They’ll tell you it’s day when it’s night. They’ll tell you it’s black when it’s white. Abused women stop trusting their own intuition and sometimes their sense of reality. She needs a safe place where she can learn to trust herself again. And that place is not with a new husband. It’s with you and her father; it’s with trusted relatives and friends. It’s in new experiences she will have as a single woman. The second reason is that Rena’s reactions, decisions and emotions right now are of course or on course. In other words, everything she is doing, feeling, saying and thinking is to be expected.

This is going to take time. Your daughter is in pain. Let her unpack her suitcase of baggage in the comfort of her childhood home so she will not unpack it in her next relationship. You can encourage her to seek therapy again; perhaps there is a local support group for women who were in abusive relationships. (The therapy is not to help get her ready to date again. The therapy is to help her find herself and heal.) And, you can encourage her to engage in therapeutic activities where she will slowly regain her confidence and sense of self. What does she enjoy? A gym class, a bike ride, a shiur, pottery painting, taking a long walk, seeing a friend, cooking… Many women exiting abusive relationships enjoy taking up karate or krav maga to learn self-defense. It can be very empowering. My hope is that as you become healthier in the way of pressuring her less, that she will feel more comfortable and commit to therapy.

Thank God, Pinchas wanted the divorce. You got your daughter back. That is all you need to think about right now. When Rena is ready, she will date again and hopefully find a man who is worthy of her. Try to stay in the moment. Take deep breaths, cry to a friend and take care of yourself. You’ve been through a trauma as well.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

Disclaimer: This column is not intended to diagnose or otherwise conclude resolutions to any questions. Our intention is not to offer any definitive conclusions to any particular question, rather offer areas of exploration for the author and reader. Due to the nature of the column receiving only a short snapshot of an issue, without the benefit of an actual discussion, our role is to offer a range of possibilities. We hope to open up meaningful dialogue and individual exploration.

By Jennifer Mann

 Esther Mann, LCSW, and Jennifer Mann, LCSW, are licensed psychotherapists working with individuals, couples and families in Hewlett, New York. As The Navidaters, they specialize in dating and relationship coaching. To set up an appointment, please call 516.224.7779. Sessions are held in the office or via Skype. If you would like to submit a dating or relationship question anonymously, please email [email protected]. Visit their website, thenavidaters.com, for dating and relationship advice and to learn more about their services Follow The Navidaters on Facebook and Instagram. Check out the hit web series “Soon By You,” and be sure to tune into the Navidaters After Show!

 

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