the dangerous obsession
Tuesday December 02, 2008
Dear Dr. Miller,
First, your books and website have helped me enormously in my recovery from
child abuse, which was physical, verbal, and emotional. I am also fortunate to
have a therapist and a close friend who understand me.
I am writing because this year I have been obsessed with a boyfriend I had
while in college. I dated him 20 years ago, and in spite of my intense love
for him, the relationship was not at all good. My boyfriend really enjoyed
teasing me, similar to the way he teased his sister. He would constantly tell
me I was crazy, be sarcastic when my voice sounded affectionate to the point it
was almost maternal, and constantly criticize me for having said one thing or
another to someone else. Whenever I complained, he would tell me that he had to
irritate me. I would angrily remind him that I was not his sister, and I did
not enjoy being irritated. To make a long story short, I eventually broke up
with this boyfriend because I could no longer endure his constant sarcasm.
This past year, a book I read brought memories of this boyfriend to the
surface. I thought I had recovered from him long ago, but as my feelings were
very intense, so I discussed them at length with my therapist and friend. I
have realized that my boyfriend was extremely immature and insecure, and his
teasing was verbal abuse. Much of his treatment of me was also emotionally
abusive. I realized that although my boyfriend had at least some
characteristics of everyone in my family, the way he treated me most closely
resembled the way my mother had treated me. In fact, in many ways it was almost
As for my boyfriend, I realized that by treating me the way he treated his
younger sister, he was actually taking out the resentment he felt towards her on
me. The difference was that because his parents were absent, he felt that he
could win in our relationship, and so he tried to dominate me. He never quite
succeeded, however, because I tried to discuss our issues honestly, and would
articulate my feelings, but naturally, he found this overwhelming. He could
never understand that I wanted him to treat me better, because he thought he was
treating me very well.
Given I have so many issues to recover from in my life, I found it odd that I
was so obsessed with this former boyfriend, and that he was constantly on my
mind. However, having read so much of your work, I suspected that my mind was
trying to tell me something, so I did not repress my feelings, but allowed them
to come. Eventually, I was rewarded with an amazing insight. I had always
wanted my mother to love and understand me, from the time I was a very little
girl. I sometimes pictured myself as a very little girl with my boyfriend, a
very little girl who wanted this tall young man to take care of her. I found
this odd, but one day I realized that I had simply transferred the unfulfilled
longing for my mother’s love to my boyfriend. The fact that his treatment
of me so closely resembled hers only reinforced my suppressed childhood longing,
and brought it to the surface. Once I felt this connection, I felt as if a
large weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was able to forgive myself
for having dated him, instead of blaming myself for not having been wiser. I
was able to forgive the poor, lonely student I used to be, as well as the little
girl who so desperately wanted someone to love and take care of her.
Since gaining this insight, I think about my boyfriend much less. He seems
more distant, and I see him for the bad, emotionally abusive guy he really was.
I still think about him from time to time, but I don’t try to repress the
memories at all, because I believe they may reveal more information about
Please feel free to publish this letter on your website.
AM: I willl publish your letter with pleasure because it illustrates a problem many many young women have without being able to bringing it to the happy ending as you did. They “love” the man who treats them the way they don’t want to be treated, they do whatever they can to “save” HIM (!!!), to help him to become the way they need to have him, they pity him, even if he shows sadism, they even marry him, get children and when he starts to beat the children or even them, they BEGIN to think about separation. But very rarely they made the connection between their suffering caused by their partner and the suffering they had to endure as the child of their own parents. If they do it they can save THEMSELVES. Thank you for your letter and congratuletions!