Dear Carolyn: I was in a relationship that ended almost a year ago. I have made peace with its ending because it was bad for both of us. She took me for granted and I became a version of myself that I really hated (a doormat, to be blunt).
I moved away not long after the breakup and we have not seen each other but are still in contact. I still care about her very much, but have no interest in dramatic history repeating itself.
Problem is, she is troubled – childhood trauma, personality disorder(s) – and leans on me every time something bad happens. She lashes out when my support isn’t “enough.” She becomes belligerent and confrontational, and I feel her expectations of me are unfair.
I am growing very tired of the guilt trips and confrontation. I don’t want to cut her out of my life, but I don’t know how to deal with this situation at all. – D.S.
So, you’re standing by an unlocked exit, saying, “It stinks in here, but I don’t want to leave.”
If your history with and fondness for her obligate you in any way, in fact, you owe it to her not to take her abuse. Having a loving doormat handy is one way emotionally unhealthy people can postpone (and postpone, and postpone) doing the hard work they need. This enabling mimics an addiction, sating you both short-term but stunting you both over time, so it must stop.
It’s easier than you might think, especially since you moved. That means your “still in contact” is all happening via one communications technology or another, which means you can simply choose not to respond.
When your “support isn’t ‘enough,’ ” this is your new mantra: “I’m not equipped to give you the help you need.” Suggest she see a therapist, help her find one, direct her there if she has one, but don’t serve as an untrained substitute for one.