When I was in college I dated the best friend I ever had. We had been best friends for four years. We had so much fun together; we could laugh about everything and enjoyed common interests as friends often do. What I didn't realize throughout the 4 years of our friendship is that this young man had some serious issues, the kind that only come out once you get close. I'm not talking about "issues" like subscribing to Maxim or drinking cocktails and running half naked around your college campus in the middle of December (I'm pretty sure I was mostly clothed... the night is a little fuzzy). I'm talking about issues like believing fervently that his ex left him because she was cheating (she wasn't- she just wanted to get away from him), and screaming in your face when you decide to do something he doesn't agree with.
I begged him to get therapy. He wouldn't. So instead of nagging, begging, and threatening my best friend and lover to go, I went instead. And I learned something that changed my life: this man wasn't the problem. The problem was me. Because even though he had issues and needed to change, I needed to change too. I was attracted to men that I thought I could "save," men who I thought no one else understood, men who "needed me." The truth was I needed them to fill some void in my life that no one could fill.
After seeing a therapist I regained my courage and found the strength to leave the relationship. I tried to keep our friendship, but he couldn't handle that. It still hurts, but in the end he is the one who lost, not me.
I also did the best damn thing I ever did in my entire life: I took time between my relationships to start focusing on me. Who am I? What was I really looking for? Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to spend quality time with yourself, especially when you suffer from a low self-esteem and depression. I had confused relationship drama for passion. I had used books, fantasies, drinking, friends, and men to block my reflection; I was afraid of being alone and seeing myself for who I really was. But in the end EVERYONE will be forced to face themselves. I hated myself for a long time. However, once I spent time alone (and I mean I spent a year or 2 between dating at times), I realized I was a pretty cool person. I learned to love myself, and that is the greatest gift you can give. You can't love others in a healthy, whole way until you love yourself first.
I currently have a loved one who is suffering through similar emotional abuse. Only it's not some college romance she can easily walk away from. Children complicate everything. I remember in my situation how the young man used things that I loved in order to control me. I know there are millions of women and men who are trapped in similar circumstances. If I could change one thing, I would change my loved one's life. I would make her strong again. I would have her see herself the way healthy individuals see her: as a caring, beautiful, acceptable woman who is lovable just as she is.
In the end, there's nothing I can do for her just as there was nothing I could do for the young man who was once my best friend. I can only pray and hope they find their way- No one can do that for them.