Any Suggestions On How She Can Get Out Of This Relationship Safely?
Dear Dr. Heller:
My daughter is in an abusive relationship which she wants out of, but can't summon the emotional means to make the break. She fears the man she's with. He has anger problems, controls her like a slave, and she is afraid of what would happen if she breaks off the relationship. He's threatened her with what will happen if she leaves. Her therapist is working with her twice a week, and she goes to DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) group three times a week. She's not on meds.
Is an intervention necessary here? How can she be supported so that she can make the break? She has completely altered her personality to please him, and is under much stress. The stress causes panic attacks, and she cuts herself. She's been hospitalized a number of times. I am 1600 miles away from my daughter, but talk long distance several times a week. Any suggestions you have on how she can get out of this bad relationship safely would be appreciated so much. I'm afraid the longer she's in this relationship, the more dangerous it will be for her, and the harder to leave. I know it must be her decision as to when and how to get out, but I feel she needs a support team to back her up. Please help.
It's obviously a difficult situation, and I don't know all the facts. Your interpretations of her mate may or may not be true as well. He could be everything you wrote, none of it, or somewhere in between - I don't know. I've seen many situations where what you wrote was absolutely true, and where the patient only called the mother while the patient was psychotic and rageful.
Whether your perceptions are accurate or not, the most important thing from my standpoint is medications. Individuals with the BPD under stress don't do well without them. That's why it's commonly incorrectly believed in the mental health profession that borderlines don't get much better - because they don't do well without the correct medications. There's lots of information in my books and on my Website that can help in this regard - including lots of scientific studies on medications. Without medications she's going to respond as if she were cornered, trapped and wounded.
The safety issue is another problem. Many abusive people do indeed harm and occasionally murder those whom they love when the loved one leaves or threatens to leave. This is a matter for the police, courts and family protection agencies. Many communities have safe houses, and courts are helping to protect against abuse. Many states require medical reporting of abuse, and require health care providers to be educated about it.