Dear Dr. Archer,
I was in a seven and a half year relationship and was mentally, emotionally and physically abused. I had huge self-esteem issues, and I found it difficult to leave him because of my fear.
I went to counseling and was diagnosed with mild depression and PTSD. Friends and family advise and help me. Out of this relationship, I have two children, too.
When I left, I went one and a half years of being single, focusing on my children and myself. Because of this, I have a very strong relationship with my children. They know I am keeping them safe. However, I got to the point that I didn't want to be alone.
I have been seeing a guy for nine months, and for the most part I am very happy. However, sometimes I dwell on my past and can't seem to do what is right in a relationship. Making mistake after mistake, feeling helpless and worthless, well sometimes it is difficult to show someone that you love them.
I'm in the process of seeing my family doctor for medication to help me not be so worried about everything, and to help me with my PTSD. I just wanted to write to you and see if you had any other advice for me until I can get my medication. What can I do to better myself as a girlfriend?
First, congratulations for getting yourself and your children out of that abusive environment. I realize that was a very difficult thing, but it was the right thing for you to do.
I'm also glad you gave yourself some alone time. Excellent! That was great not only for you, but for your precious children. And, I’m glad you have been prescribed meds. I hope they will help.
Realize that all of your problems now are related to self-esteem issues from the abusive boyfriend. You feel like you are not good enough and that makes it hard to do the right thing. Understand that your past relationship does not define you as a human being, rather it was a part of your life for a short period of time -- yes 7 years is indeed not long at all.
What you have to do now, Tasha, is learn to not dwell on the past. That does not mean forget about it. No, because what you went through was a very costly learning experience; I want you to learn from your past, but not dwell on it.
There is a quote by Eileen Caddy that says, "Dwell not on the past." Use it to illustrate a point, then leave it behind. Nothing really matters except what you do now in this instant of time. From this moment onwards you can be an entirely different person, filled with love and understanding, ready with an outstretched hand, uplifted and positive in every thought and deed."
These are words to the wise, Tasha. From now on, be the best mother you can be to your children. Treat your boyfriend -- and everyone else, for that matter -- the way you would want to be treated. Make a difference in other people's lives. Smile, be nice and say kind words to others.
Don't just better yourself as a girlfriend, better yourself as a human being. If you do this, you will no longer dwell on the past but give it the worth it deserves. I wish you a long, happy future.