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Is This Relationship Abusive?

Is This Relationship Abusive?


Dear Rachel,

I have been dating for a long time. I am almost thirty years old, and I would really like to get married. I was starting to lose all hope that I would ever find someone, when I met Ethan six months ago. From the beginning he was attentive and kind. He seemed very in tune to my needs, and would buy wonderful presents. The first few months of our relationship were nice. However, I am starting to get very concerned about things.

I noticed that he likes things done his way. Meaning, eating out at his favorite place, at the time he wants; we only go to the movies he wants; etc. He also wants to know where I am if we are not spending time together. He’ll call my cell phone every ten minutes, and gets upset if I don’t answer. I hardly see my friends anymore, and I am beginning to feel very isolated. Also, I started to notice that he has an anger problem. He’s never directed it at me, but I see more and more his low tolerance for frustration, and how quick he is to lash out and throw things. I am hesitant to leave, as it took me so long to find him, and he keeps telling me how much he loves me, but, sometimes I get really scared. What should I do?



Dear Z.D.,

Some of the things that you have described are more than just a little concerning for meThis sounds like a very serious situation that you are in. It is understandable why you felt so good when you met this man who was willing to give you so much attention. It is confidence-building and exciting when we are on the receiving end of such lavish attention. However, some of the things that you have described are more than just a little concerning for me.

An essential part of any relationship is that the man and the woman have a relationship based on mutual trust, respect, kindness and understanding. From what you have described above, I am quite concerned that these elements are missing.

No one should ever feel scared when they are in a healthy relationship. There is a strong Torah commandment to love another like yourself. This philosophy is what helps keep relationships healthy and strong. All the more so does one violate that commandment when they instill fear in one with whom they are sharing a relationship. No one ever has the right to make you feel scared, isolated and alone.

You have mentioned a few points that indicate to me that this relationship is heading towards abusiveness. The way that you emphasized “his way,” and that he is taking great measures to keep you away from favored activities and friends, indicates that he is trying to isolate you, which makes it easier for him to control you.

The most important thing, which I cannot emphasize enough, is that you should cut off the relationship immediately. He may ask why, and I would not offer him much information as to the reasons why you feel the relationship is not working out. The more information you offer him, the more ways he can find to apologize and try to manipulate you into re-entering a relationship with him. Just let him know that you don’t feel that the two of you are compatible for your own personal reasons, and that you feel it would be better if you ended the relationship.

If, at any time, he makes you feel afraid, or you fear that he may turn violent, then you should turn to your local police station or social services agency to help you find a secure shelter where you can stay until the situation is resolved. There are professionals there who will guide you and help you both emotionally and physically. They will also help you find a therapist who specializes in women recovering from these types of relationships, or you may be able to join a support group, which you may find even more helpful in meeting women who have emerged from this type of relationship and become even stronger.

By developing yourself personally, you will be able to find your own inner strengthFrom the opening tone of your letter, I got the feeling that you were starting to get desperate to find someone. Unfortunately, this is a good match for someone who is looking for someone to control. When you find a therapist, I would also encourage you to talk to him or her about healthy relationships and building your own self-confidence. By developing yourself personally, you will be able to find your own inner strength and positive attributes that will help you feel good about yourself. By shining with these feel-good feelings, this will help you find a stable, healthy person with which to have a relationship.

Make an extra effort to reconnect with your friends. They can be an excellent source of support and guidance during a potentially scary and isolating time. They will be able to help keep you grounded and secure in the decisions that you need to make.

These types of challenges that people face are often the toughest to overcome. But I am sure that with the right support, you will be able to emerge from this situation a healthier, happier person. I want to wish you a lot of luck in your journey.


“Dear Rachel” is a biweekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Beryl Tritel.

Beryl Tritel, MSW, is a therapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ramat Bet Shemesh. She has been living in Israel for over 10 years with her husband and their 5 kids. She also offers Skype sessions. She can be reached at
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Boss Pittsburgh September 8, 2016

Here 🙃 Hey everyone Reply

Elizabeth USA May 16, 2016

Surely seems easier and cheaper to just change your cell phone, Stacy in Utah...and maybe it will be the end of things with B. Or isn't there a way to just block it so you don't see it? I had hubby do that on my computer anyway, so I never see any messages, if they come, from an abusive relative. And so almost 3 years out, no visits or contact otherwise. Usually people will harrass us in easy we just take that away from our knowledge. Unless you are afraid of physical harm...that is a different problem. Reply

Shoshi Toronto May 15, 2016

I just read your story I never thought that maybe the one who I found and I thought was my soulmate was abusing me emotionally and mentally. He always blamed me for everything, he judged me for my past and actually when he broke up with me I asked what I did to him -- his answer was--- Breaking up with you because of your past, and he told me this 2 years later after he disappeared out of the blue with no explanation. Believe me I cried and I grieved in a way I never did. He broke my heart in a more than a million pieces -- it's takes a lot of courage strength self love and self steem wisdom and so much more things to put yourself again together. But the truth is you will become a better person and you will find love from within. I still think for some reason that he really was my soulmate maybe I'm wrong, maybe I thought that I was able to heal him with love, maybe was too good to be true. I don't know.
I Just wish that the pain go away from my heart. Reply

Stacy W Utah March 25, 2014

My abuser Why is that women stay with their abusers? A little less than two years ago, I certainly couldn’t have told you the answer to that question. Now I can. And that’s because I did.

I’ll never be able to pinpoint the exact moment when my relationship with B started to become unhealthy. It could have been as early as the moment I met him. It could have been the first time he criticized my weight. It could have been when he started controlling who I could hang out with. It could have even been the very first time he called me a “stupid....” Really, at this point it all becomes a big blur full of screaming, name calling, and suicidal threats, not to mention one very unhealthy pattern of fighting and making up.

With each fight, the emotional abuse became worse and worse. With each honeymoon period that followed, he’d tell me things would be different this time around and I would always believe him because I thought that our love could conquer anything. Eventually, I became convinced that I was just lucky to stand in his presence. I did anything that I possibly could to prove to him that I was worthy of his love. I gave him every single penny of the mere $100 biweekly paycheck that I earned at my student job. I stopped talking to people he didn’t want me to talk to. I ditched classes to drive an hour so I could bring him lunch at work, just to turn around and drive straight back home to school. No matter what I did, it never seemed to be enough. I was always too fat, too loud, too needy, too something.

I guess the reason that I’m thinking about all of this is because I’ve recently been pressured by my current boyfriend to take out a restraining order so that B will stop sending me harassing text messages. This would involve me going down to the County court house to file for it, giving a copy to the County Sheriff’s Office to serve to him, digging up phone records of said messages, and then presenting my evidence against him in a civil hearing in which he will be in attendance.

And I guess maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal to someone who hasn’t been in an abusive relationship. But to me, B still seems 50 feet tall and I still feel like I’m 6 inches. It’s not that I admire him; it’s just that I’ve been so accustomed to thinking of the two of us in this metaphor for almost two years. It’s the equivalent of conquering a giant to me. It’s overwhelming and seems impossible and I just don’t feel ready to do that yet.

I’ve made a lot of progress since I left B, and I’ll continue to do so. I’m just not ready to stand up and face this particular demon yet. I don’t know if I’m wrong to ask my boyfriend to stop putting pressure on me to file the court order. I don’t know how to explain where I’m coming from in this situation. I feel like unless you’ve been abused like this, you can never really understand the long-term implications and effects of it. The only thing I do know is that I’m not ready to face B in a courtroom. I’m not even ready to look at him or hear his voice. Just because I’m getting better doesn’t mean I’m back to the person that I used to be yet.

So why do women stay with their abusers? I can’t really speak for all victims of domestic abuse, but I know why I did for over a year. I did it because I didn’t think I was strong enough to leave. For me, it wasn’t that I’d never considered leaving; I said to other people numerous times that I knew the relationship had become unhealthy. I knew that if I didn’t get out of it, the relationship would continue to consume me until the only thing left was a thin emotional skeleton of what I used to be. I stayed because B had convinced me that I wasn’t strong enough to leave him. It took me months to finally leave after that. Despite me knowing I needed to do it and despite my best friends telling me that I had to do it, it was something I had to do on my own time. I think that might be the case here again. I have to wait until I feel strong enough to face him again, because until then I won’t win any kind of battle against him, in court or otherwise. Reply

Anonymous Arizona, U.S.A November 20, 2013

The time to get out is now! To all Ladies who feel abused. I watched my mother be abused both mentally and physically. At eleven years old I tried to shoot my father who was doing this. She had lost all friends. She couldn't leave the house unless with him. She was beaten, called names, made to stand in the corner. He left when I tried to shoot him. She was still in love with him for years after. No one person has the right nor was ever given the right to break another's emotions. No one person was ever given the right to enslave another because of their own insecurities in life. Two people who truly Love each other, will truly respect each other. I grew up very fast and learned from my childhood. There has got be more to the words of "I Love You". You Ladies are the mothers of our world. You are very special people. You deserve nothing but the best life can offer. You deserve happiness. We all need Love. However, don't settle for anything less. If you aren't feeling this...GET OUT NOW!!! Reply

Anonymous miami, fl October 2, 2011

Abusive boyfriend too Hi,
I am in a situation far worse than this one, i started dating a man who is 23 years older than me, i have known him since i was 16 years old, and he was always such a loving friend to me throughout the years. He is wealthy, and he always wined and dined me and told me how beautiful and special i was and how much he loved me. I am turning 32 this year, and i have been with him for a year, and he has been so emotianally abusive, as well as physically abusive. I am struggling to get out of this relationship, because he constantly manipulates me and i have known him so long its hard. He has hit me, he is always blaming me for anything and everything, calls me names etc. I cant belive i let myself get this deep because i am pretty, smart, sucessful, and come from a affluent jewish family. So does he. he recently broke up with me, blaming me for trying to hurt him, and i am relieved. But still hurting. I say that if a man starts displaying any controlling signs to just RUN FAST NOW! Reply

Lisa Providence, RI July 28, 2011

Get Rid of Him! You deserve respect, just like everyone else, but "Ethan" clearly isn't capable of understanding that!

You may need to get the law involved, but you deserve a man who knows the meaning of RESPECT! Reply

Miriam Berg São Paulo, Brazil February 11, 2011

Enough is never enough! You are living what you need at this moment so that you better understand you must only receive the person that is the best for you.
You need to take this garbage out of the door in order to receive the real one, to have "THE" fresh air in your life. Do not struggle, don't think about what you might not get. Focus into the GOOD that you deserve, the one that G'd sent you!
And the most important be the perfect girlfriend, wife and friend.
With this one, not even a day more!

abdul Aleppo, Syria February 8, 2011

humanity Dear Rachel'
why don't we change lovefrom indivdual to the whole humanity?why don't we make others like us and we love the others?Why don't we live and allow the others live?Why don't we live a peaceful life and make our neighbours live peacefully? why we like everything to belongs for us only and deprive the others from it. we want to live in peace and you live in peace? Reply

Chaia Bela February 8, 2011

Abusive Boyfriend You must protect yourself and break away from this relationship.
BUT, remember Hashem always wants you to learn...
You have learned what you do not want in a partner, and have learned what to seek in a new relationship. Conditional love is no love at all; whether you are 25,35, or 65! Reply

Vicereine February 8, 2011

Please, Please End the Relationship As I read your letter my heart cried out for you. I was in an abusive relationship for far too long and it started exactly like this. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY! I pray that you take the advice that was given to you. I've been single for over 5 years ; 3 of those years were much needed after leaving an abusive relationship, the other 2 have been a time of wonderful intimacy between me and G-d. I understand feeling like you will never find someone, but do not ever settle for someone who makes you feel less than what and who you are. Your friends are a part of you; your likes and dislikes are a part of you and is what makes you unique and beautiful.

I can not say this enough: leave, leave, leave, leave, leave. Cut off ALL communication with him once you leave and do not turn back, please. You are precious. And not everyone deserves or knows how to handle a rare and beautiful gem such as yourself. But the one that does is on the way and will appreciate what a gem you are! :-) Reply

Pearl Schmier, LCSW, ACSW Allentown, Pennsylvania February 8, 2011

Abusive Relationships As a social worker with extensive knowledge of abuse and domestic violence, I applaud your answer to end the relationship immediately. There will be promises, cajoling, flowers, etc., but none of that will ever change who he is and what the relationship will devolve into. Always remember your own self-worth and understand that you are not someone's pawn to be manipulated emotionally and (likely) physically. Reply

Anonymous February 8, 2011

No matter how difficult, the reality is that being single is better than finding yourself down the road in an abusive relationship which is a nightmare.
BTDT Reply

susan rexford, ny February 8, 2011

listen to the advice!!! leave him immediately. find your strength. and tell your story to others. help other women find the strength to leave as well. you can rock woman! Reply

Marilyn Allen London, UK February 8, 2011

Listen to your instincts I know you like the attention he gives you but abuse comes in different forms and it is only a matter of time before he starts to direct his anger at you. Be strong and do the right thing for you, walk away with your dignity intact please. Abusers are skilled seducers! Good luck. Reply

Elizabeth NC, USA February 7, 2011

RUN, RUN, RUN!!! These type guys have to marry quickly in a relationship, or they would be found out. My young mother married my dad after only about 5 months...very wrong thing to do!! She never left him, but she and WE and others suffered until he breathed his last (last January at 81 years old). If you think a woman suffers, so do the children and that pain of watching the suffering of one's children will eclipse any suffering the woman might have, as intense at that could be. I do not miss him. And honoring him as the commandments tell us to do was very difficult all of the 57.5 years of my life until he died. I did not wish him dead, I wished him changed. And it did not happen in all those least not enough. You are so fortunate to be able to see the huge red lights warning you to get out of there!! Sometimes these people are so clever, you never see the warning lights until it is way too late!! Good advice NOT to say much about why you must break up. They use everything badly. Reply

Anonymous Saint Cloud, Fl February 7, 2011

Abusive Boy........ Dear Rachel
Thank you for an interesting and sad topic is hard to know and see somebody dear to you facing such a situation, and the worst is when they do not see it , they think it is normal love. My sister has been in this situation for over 30 years with her husband and no one dare to say a word she would not permit, he is 17 years older. I think sometimes it is easier to give opinions when you are not in the problem. and the person do not want the help
Only I feel fustrated we dont talk as much I pray for her . Reply

Anonymous Omaha, Nebraska February 7, 2011

Abusive Boyfriend He has all the makings of an abuser, and so the advice to end the relationship is a sound one for your own safety and well-being. I have worked in criminal justice, and have witnessed many such cases. First it is isolation, then he will become verbally abusive. You say he lashes out and throws things. This is a very bad sign. The next phase will be physical abuse. Don't sit around and wait for that to happen. He will try and control every inch of you, and this does not bode well for any relationship. Women have suffered serious injuries as a result of domestic violence, and believe me, the picture is not pretty. Keeping tabs on your whereabouts, and isolating you from family and friends are the classic signs of an abuser. You may not think so, since he was so sweet and accommodating in the beginning. But please get yourself out of harm's way, before it's too late, or before you wind up at a women's shelter to escape the violence. Good luck to you. You will need it. Reply

Debra Chester-le-Street, UK February 7, 2011

I completely agree Please, please, please, please, please, break off this relationship. I was in an abusive relationship and it started out exactly like yours has. Be prepared for him to tell you he loves you and will send you flowers and and try to wine and dine you. He'll tell you he will change, that he will do anything for you. DON'T BELIEVE HIM. I am very concerned for you. Please know that you can make the conscious decision to fall out of infatuation (or love if you thought you were headed in that direction). You need to make a logical decision to keep yourself safe. And once you break it off with him, do not talk to him. He will say things that will be so very difficult for you to continue on with your decision to leave. He will be his old self, just like when you first met him but he will gradually return to his true self. I beg you to please get away from this man. I have been there. I pray you do not go down that road. May G-d bless you. Reply

Irene Esparza Lubbock, Tx/USA February 7, 2011

You do not need him! You do not need him telling you that he loves you all the time.....You need him to show you that he loves you.
Get out of the can find guys like that on every corner. Reply

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