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I started dating this girl just over a year ago. We first met 7 years ago at college; we were only acquaintances back then. Fast forward a few years, we recognized each other at a work party and discovered we both work for the same bank.

We hit it off right away, and she had no problem expressing she was interested in me. I found her fascinating too. She's clever and witty, makes me laugh, and she showers me with a ton of affection, constantly. When she asked me out, I took a while to respond because I had to be sure. After my first (and only, at that point) relationship, I was single for 4 years, and I was very happy by myself and a relationship wasn't something I was looking for, as I was focusing at getting to a better place professionally.

I couldn't ignore her, however, and decided to give the whole dating thing a try. Just before our first date, she told me she was a high functioning autistic, she has aspergers, and has trouble dealing with social situations. Furthermore, because of her very violent and abusive ex (from whom she had to get police protection and relocation), she suffers from anxiety attacks, depression, and PTSD. Poor thing has scars all over. Still, I was determined to give it a go and knew it was going to be hard work, but I thought I could be a good support for her help her heal.

Almost immediately, I noticed that I would have no space for myself. She moved in, 2 months later, with me, without asking me; one day she came, and never left. Slowly all her stuff were moved and when I tried to talk to her, she would get hurt and assume I wasn't serious.

Over the year, I've begun to see the "real her", and the "real her" is a very sweet girl who doesn't want to hurt anyone and just wants to make some friends.

Due to her Aspergers, or anxiety, or past (or all of them), she can't seem to make any friends at all. I am quite a social introvert myself - I have plenty of hobbies and plenty of groups of friends due to those hobbies, and I spend time with the groups, in my own terms. I definitely hang out once a week at the least, plus most weekends. Obviously, I took my girlfriend to each of the groups, and initially she seems ok, but she has this strange thing of deciding that she doesn't like someone. Once she does that, she does everything to avoid that person. I have tried talking to her about it, and she just says they remind her of her abusive ex and withdraws into herself, and says she doesn't want to talk about it. Any further attempts seems to send her down the depression spiral so I let it go.

For example, I surf a lot. One of my surf buddies is a girl around my age. She's not single, but she's in a long distance relationship. I have 7-8 people I can call friends that I regularly surf with. This girl and I are very close friends, we've known each other for 4+ years, we get along well, we went Pokemon hunting when GO was a thing, and we went to watch animated movies when there was one. All of that was with the group. We never did anything together alone. When I introduced my girlfriend to the surfing group, she said she wasn't comfortable with how close my female friend was with me. No amount of trying to explain that there is absolutely no romantic interest between us seemed to satisfy my girlfriend. When I would try to arrange dinners with the rest of the friends, without the female friend, my girlfriend would say she is not comfortable with it, and the rest of them would know the girl is missing and not hang out. I now barely surf, because, even though my girlfriend says I can go surf, she becomes miserable when I go and sulks about it a lot. I'd rather not go surf knowing I am hurting my gf and I can't seem to enjoy the activity anyway.

Repeat that for most of the other groups of friends. One of them had a very small wedding and didn't invite my girlfriend (the wedding was planned before we started dating). Now my girlfriend doesn't want to hang out with them, because she has been excluded and bullied all her life and this friend brings forth those memories. Another group of friends I play Xbox games with, asked her a lot of questions and she doesn't like him. So now I don't invite them over to my place to play games. Yet another group of friends I rollerblade with came across as very aggressive, so now she doesn't want to hang out with them. You get the idea.

I can see why she can't make friends, and she relates one event to another and ends up stressing and having anxiety attacks about events that occured several years ago. You know how we heal from something bad over time? She doesn't seem to heal at all. Any time any of the topic of my friends comes up, she starts crying all over again as though it only just happened. When I ask her to let go, she says, "what does that mean? I don't know what letting go means and I don't know how to do that, I wish I could make friends and I wish I didn't stress, but I can't help it". So I don't know how much of this is PTSD and how much is her Aspergers. Or both.

Anyway, this relationship is costing me a lot of friends and I'm having to wear a lot of hats for her. She has no friends, so I have to be there constantly for her as a friend. She has no parents and I have to mentor her, she has no hold on facial expression and social situations so I have to constantly answer her about people's intentions and why something should be done a certain way, and why she doesn't deserve the pain. Among all this, the real, witty, charming girlfriend comes out very very rarely and I am finding it hard to maintain romantic interest in her.

At the same time, I am heartbroken for her and every time I imagine myself in her shoes, I am terrified. I can't imagine having no one to talk to, no one to ask how I am, not knowing people's intentions (She says that a person smiling and person being angry appear the same to her and she can't tell the difference), and I feel terrible and selfish when I think I should end the relationship so I can heal. She honestly believes (thanks to her ex) that she is worthless and has some serious lack of self confidence. Any time I give her a compliment, she questions and doubts and asks for explanation. she constantly asks if I love her, and if I am going to leave her. She says she can't tell if I love her, even though I take care of her and care for her and show her, both by words and actions, that I love her. It makes me sad that she can't tell I love her.

At this point, I'm having trouble deciding whether or not I should stick with her because I like her and try to work towards healing her, or if I should end it here and hope she can recover by herself. I have no doubt she loves me, and I've always heard about how difficult it is to find someone who truly loves you so letting this go seems, at times, foolish.

How can I talk to her about how she should forgive people, starting from herself, and that it's okay to give people second chances and to hang out with others in a group if she doesn't like one? I get no chance to talk about all this because she withdraws into herself every time I attempt.

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    Hello, LocustHorde! This sounds like an interesting question, but "What should I do" is off-topic here - we cannot tell you what to do, you have to decide the goal :) . You may want to forgo that part and to stick only to the final questions on how to talk to her about these topics without hurting her. – LinuxBlanket Sep 3 '18 at 16:44
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    I believe there is no such thing as breaking a relationship for "selfish reasons". If a situation makes you miserable, you should escape that situation, and if it means ending a relationship, then be it. That being said, we are not here to tell you what you should do, we can only help you comunicate with someone in order to achieve a specific purpose. So, once you have decided what you want to communicate to your girlfriend, you can edit this question and ask us to help you achieve your purpose. – Ælis Sep 3 '18 at 16:46
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    @LinuxBlanket I've edited the question; it should be on-topic now. – gparyani Sep 3 '18 at 19:25
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    Do you think she would be open to the idea of regularly seeing a therapist? (I don't see anything about it in your question) Maybe such a person will actually begin the healing-process and it would improve your relationship as well. – Radu Murzea Sep 4 '18 at 10:35
  • Autist do not need many friends, if any. Is there any of your friends that she accepts? – Santiago Sep 4 '18 at 14:27
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Disclaimer: I don't have Asperger nor autism, but I do have emotional dependency, PTSD, anxiety attacks, social anxiety and depression.

This may seem blunt, but you can't really help her. Unfortunately, she is the only one that can help herself and no matter how much effort you put into it, it will probably not work if she is not willing to acknowledge the fact that she needs to work on some things.

Staying in a relationship because the other person loves you, and it is difficult to find someone who truly does, is not really healthy for you nor for her on the long run. You might end up being more and more frustrated as the time goes.

It is probably comfortable for your girlfriend to rely on you for her emotional stability. With you, she does not really need to make friends because she has you around. And you stay around more and more because you see your friends less. When she decides she does not like some of your friends, she then get you for herself only for some time. What this might do unconsciously for her, is comforting her brain that, if she distances you from your friends, she gets rewarded by more attention and more care.

This might all seem like not such a bad thing, but comforting her brain about something that is making her anxious is the best way to make sure she will get more and more anxious as time passes.

I would also like to point out that there might be a red flag when she says she does not feel that you love her. It can be caused by depression, or by anxiety, but it can also be a way emotional dependency is expressed. And if you feel like her whole world revolved around you and only you, it probably is.

I would advise you to try and take time for yourself, with your friends or so. It does not have to be a lot at once, but little by little, do things for yourself. You can't be all in one and her stability should not rely only on you, because it is not healthy for her , but also not fair for you.

How can I talk to her about how she should forgive people, starting from herself, and that it's okay to give people second chances and to hang out with others in a group if she doesn't like one? I get no chance to talk about all this because she withdraws into herself every time I attempt.

To reply to this question, I think maybe you should write her a letter. That way, she can read it whenever she feels strong enough, and/or read it in multiple parts to make it easier on her. I think you should be very clear yourself on what you want to achieve first. If your goal is to see your friends, write that. If you want her to give your friends another chance, write that. If you want her to believe you when you say that there is no romantic interest between your female friends and you, make it clear too. Maybe talking to your friends to avoid any burst of anger around her could also be useful.

If you feel like you want to help her further, you could offer to work with her on her anxiety. There are a few tools that are very effective, but require to be exposed to situations that scare her a little bit. It's one of the best way to get out of anxiety actually, but she must be willing to take the step. If she is, you could arrange social gatherings with your friends, first a small amount of them and for a short time, and then increase little by little.

Maybe you should also make it clear that it is not because she does not like some of your friends that you will not see them anymore. You are allowed to see your friends by yourself as well and have activities that don't involve her. It is actually healthy.

Maybe you could also ask her if there is some activity she would like to do but does not for some reasons. And then offer to do them with her, because it might make her more comfortable to do it with someone she trusts around her. That could allow her to make some friends if she wants to.

If she is not seing a therapist, maybe you could tell her that it seems very important for you that she does. She might not want to, because the status quo is comfortable, but a good therapist will help her work on dependency, anxiety and depression.

She will most probably not like the change, but it is going to benefit her on the long run. Anxiety is a tricky thing and so is PTSD. But they can be fought step by step, as long as she is willing to try.

Communication is important and you might want to ask her to find a way to have those conversations, even if they hurt. Because if you want to have them and she does not, but it's her way every time, you might get frustrated and it might pile up with time.

Try to be clear in your mind and make sure you emphasize the fact that it is extremely important for you and for your relationship that some things change. I wish my ex would have written me a letter before deciding he could not take it anymore and leave, so I could have made the changes before we reached that point.

Good luck to you!

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    Hi Rose, thank you very much for your insightful reply. I have decided to take your suggestion and write a letter to her, but I am slightly worried that she will see it in a bad light and hold on to the bad part of the letter and hurt more. Still, I don't see any better ways for me to deal with this, so thank you! – LocustHorde Sep 11 '18 at 7:50
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    Hey @LocustHorde! Glad I could help :) I hope it will help. But try to keep in mind at the end of the day that you can not change her or the way she perceives things. This is up to her perception at the end of the day, and then you can see if it does change. If it does not, then you can decide on staying or leaving. At least, you will know you did all you could to try and help her. But you can't help someone that does not want to be helped. Maybe you can offer in the letter to accompany her to therapy if she is willing to go. Might make he more comfortable going there :) – Rose Sep 11 '18 at 9:11
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Everything I will say may sound rude, but it's how I see things from outside.

In a relationship there are 2 people involved. You can't stay together just because she loves you. The question is quite simple: do you love her?

Do you feel guilty leaving her because she needs you? I know that it may sound selfish, but do you think you can be her psychologist forever? Imagine in a couple of years time when you will end up with no friends (it's already happening) and a completely frustrating relationship. In my opinion she should immediately start showing some willing to fix things up.

It's not clear to me if she already sees a therapist, but she should start doing it. There is no other way out.

Since it looks like it's difficult to talk with her about these issues, write her a long letter where you write everything. If the letter is not enough, just give her an ultimatum.

I think that after these steps you will have done everything you could to save the relationship.

Good luck!

  • Hi, I've been trying to talk to her about seeing a therapist. She has had CBT in the past to heal from PTSD, but she didn't like the doctor (I think it's hard to like someone who's poking at your bad memories). She went through the whole 10 sessions, and says it helped her. She has now been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, and depression. I'm trying to talk to her to see a professional to address these issues. Thank you for your answer. – LocustHorde Sep 11 '18 at 7:53
  • Hi, yes I see your point. Going through a therapy is never an easy path. But I don't see any other way out of this problem. Friends and family cannot replace a good doctor. – Val Sep 11 '18 at 8:03
  • @LocustHorde - You usually got through a few therapists until you find one that you click with. Don't get discouraged (and try to help her not to get discouraged) if the first or second one don't work out, it's usually worth it to keep looking. – Ruther Rendommeleigh Jul 10 at 15:05
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Building on excellent answers above, I think another important question for you to ask is what you want.

You can’t change someone when they refuse to change. But you can, and only you can, decide what kind of relationship you want and what is acceptable or not. It is not being selfish. It’s being responsible.

You have shown a great level of empathy for her and devotion to this relationship. However, I see a lack of compassion towards yourself, respect for your own needs and abilities to set boundaries when they are violated.

It seems this relationship has been really draining you, isolating you and bringing more pain than happiness to you. So why have you stayed?

I’d recommend that you shift the focus from her to you and that you seek therapy as well. It sounds to me it’s not just her that needs to heal. And you are most likely not equipped to help her.

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I am no psychologist nor a neuropsychologist myself, but I will share my thoughts from my past experience and learnings. I think you should hear some more ideas before you made decision to take any steps, decisions that may best fits into your environment.

Every state of the mind is physical state combined with chemicals. You cannot change something so hard wired and boosted with hormones overnight, and I think you are also not expecting that as well. I would say that there are two choices you have, to try and change something at her, or to break up.

I was in a similar state-of-mind with my still ongoing relationship, where I was overreacting and kind of a forbidding any other male relation with my girlfriend. Not all of them of course, but those who I considered as threatening to my relationship or to try to abuse my girlfriend. I am very good at recognizing patterns and body language. You see, I am considering myself as a very reasonable and thoughtful person, but it took me a while first to notice the not desired state-of-mind that I have, and then to try to change it. My wake-up thing happen when I tried to realize what will happen if I lose her by any cause. There was not a single situation that I can easily survive that, and not because I really was so madly in love - but the fact that all of my daily routing was in schedule with single person. On the other hand, I also got the feeling that I am controlling in a way some other person's life. If I continued like that, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have still my relationship. And the change was also not overnight, but a process for which I was thinking on daily basis to change my emotions. Change in environment can also helps this process.

While my methods worked quite well for me, I think they don't apply in your case. She is still not aware of the current situation, and thus you have even harder problem. You can have a discussion with her to pinpoint some reaction that was not right. I will use some happy moment to address those bad-behaviours. For example when you go on a dinner and you express your feelings about how much you love her, and then you say that there is nothing for her to worry about especially not like "that" and "that" situations, and instead of enjoying the moment she get anxious. Our minds are very adaptable and if you keep repeating something over and over again, they will get used to it and that's how you build a habits. Only in those happy and feeling-safe moments you will start changing something at her deep down.

You also made some mistakes and I think before you become aware, you will make them again. You need to learn how to express things that you don't like (to happen), and make sure others are getting that. Moving in like that is totally not OK for a person who does have a control in their live and have career plans. You should have made some statements back in the second or the third day, but now it is too late. And I am telling you this not to get rid of her, but to think about your next action. She maybe is so pure and insecure, but you need to define red lines and keep to them. Her lines are not to let you go in any case, and she is keeping to them.

Just keep in mind that before any action you take, there must be a good emotional coverage or otherwise things will start breaking apart. That's why you address something bad in a good moment (Sine wave) so things are normal. It is also called a sandwich techique - first you say something good, then something bad then again something good. Always serve it like that or otherwise she will feel threatened in her deep primitive part of the brain will be activated. The way that someone will star listening to you what you are saying and taking that information as really important is when they feel very safe.

This could be a long process and you might ask yourself if you are ready to do such a thing. I can only assure you that if you manage to change someone's life to be a better (not even with you around), is the most amazing feeling. I am trying to push my girlfriend now to do things that she was not feeling ok in the past, mostly because of me. And even those small steps makes me feel very happy and accomplished.

Final note: Any relationship should be based on pushing yourself and your partner to become better on any field - if you want to have lifelong one.

Edit: I forgot to mention that his ex-boyfriend abuse was also her fault because she allowed that and lacking a self control in her life. You should talk this with her, and as soon she realize this, you will start to feel the change. Why? Because if you are aware that it's your fault for others to abuse you and make you feels bad, you are not looking for a problem at others, and thus, you start thinking that not everyone is the same and will do the same.

  • Hi, thanks for your time and a very helpful answer. I'm going to take Rose's advice and write a letter, and make sure I keep a good balance of compliments in there, as you suggest in your sandwich technique. Your last edit though, I have tried as you suggested, but she feels that she deserves to be treated because she is worthless, and so it doesn't help either of us. This is one of the things I'm hoping she can learn to heal from as well – LocustHorde Sep 11 '18 at 7:55
  • I'm reeeally not convinced that telling an abuse victim with anxiety disorders that the abuse was their fault is a good idea. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something? – Ruther Rendommeleigh Jul 10 at 15:12

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