Dear Dr. Darcy:
Last month my girlfriend left me following an intense fight. Although at first I didn’t see her point, I recognize now that I was verbally abusive and I deeply regret it. I’ve apologized and begun therapy but she refuses to take me back. I don’t know how to assure her that I will never be abusive to her again. She says that maybe we’ll be together when I’m done with therapy but realistically speaking she’s 35 years old and wants to start a family, making it doubtful that she’ll be single when I’ve done the work that I’m committed to doing. It seems so pointless for me to have finally realized this and to have to lose the woman I love just as I begin my recovery.
Thank you for having the courage to share your story. All too often people presume that domestic violence is absent from the lesbian community—a misnomer that I’m thrilled to help dispel.
I hear how deeply you care for your ex-girlfriend and how remorseful you feel regarding how you treated her. Having said that, I’m here to tell you that your road to recovery extends many months, if not years, ahead of you. And if you love this woman as you claim to, I would ask you to trust me when I say that this woman will experience more battle wounds if she shares your journey with you. You do not possess the skills necessary to ensure that she’ll be sheltered while you work through your issues. If the two of you are meant to be together again, you’ll find each other. Consider this your opportunity to send her off with the most selfless gift of all—her safety. Furthermore, without the loss of the relationship, you’ll likely lose the motivation to do this work.
Get yourself into therapy, otherwise you’re bound to repeat this pattern again and again. The question isn’t will you find her at the end but rather, will you have found yourself?
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Dr. Darcy Smith received her Masters degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from New York University. She has been a practicing social worker for over 10 years and is in private practice in both New York City and New Jersey.
*This column is not a consultation with a mental health professional and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own therapist or counselor.