So the craziest thing has been going on at work with a new co-worker. She has been here less than 2 weeks and she was very vocal from the start about how she recently left an abusive husband. I tried to empathize with her, saying you know, I've been there and if you need to talk, I'm here. Since then, she's shared a lot with me. A LOT. I don't want to judge a fellow survivor and so was trying to keep things polite, but it's started to feel over the top. Sharing all the things her ex-husband did to her. It's on a daily basis. And then she wants me to share back. And I have, a little, but not in great detail. She'll say, he did this to me, did your ex ever do anything like that? After a while, I had to tell her I'm not that comfortable talking about going into detail about these things, and she sort of sympathized, like, oh, you still can't talk about it? And I said, no, I've talked about it, for years. Over And over and over again. And I worked my way through a lot, and I feel like I'm truly beginning to heal, and I don't feel like it does me any good to kerp rehashing the past. Well, she apparently took offense to thst and has been very distant and kind of cold ever since. I started to feel badly about it, but I know I shouldn't feel bad for setting boundaries, right?
Sorry,I kept getting interrupted when I wrote that and didn't exactly get to finish. Anyway, I told this co-worker that it wasn't her sharing with me that made me incomfortable. It was her constantly asking me to share my stories. And if I shared a little bit, she'd press for details, and that was what made me uncomfortable. Yes, I have horror stories, as all of us here I'm sure do, but mine belong to me and I am very selective about how often and with whom I share them. And she doesn't seem to understand or respect that.
Hi Ava, it sounds to me that you are very honest with your co-worker and setting your boundaries is perfectly a good thing. You may have to say, "I know you are curious or interested, but I don't want to share my past stories right now". Perhaps she is really just trying to figure out that what is happening to her, if it happened to you then it validates what she is thinking?
Perhaps direct her to "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft. Let her read and explore on her own. I have a co-worker who is also in an abusive relationship. She is significantly younger than me and I see myself in her, but I am not sharing my whole story with her. I don't want to rehash it either. I am kinda past having to tell my entire story. She isn't asking a lot of questions, but I suggested several books to her so she can explore on her own. Perhaps, suggest a local support group for DV victims/survivors? She can talk to other women and perhaps share her story at length to others and get support/
I hear ya, you are not doing anything wrong and please don't feel bad about setting boundaries. Remember, we came from relationships where we were shamed for setting boundaries, where we were criticized for having limits and now, we are giving ourselves permission to set boundaries and it feels really weird. BUT.I can say from my experience, once you start to set limits and stick to them? It gets easier, because you then gain confidence and self respect and we begin to feel strong in caring for ourselves.
Be selective, there is nothing wrong with not sharing. I am selective too. I don't share all my details with everyone even those who have just left or who are thinking about it. I actually, make my history more "in general " terms. It just feels better for me to do that.
Follow your gut, your inner voice. If it says be selective, then do that. If it says share more, then do that. You are in charge of YOU. Kudos for you trying to help her and not judging!
ALso, one thing Janine always told me on this forum, is it is ok to take a break from being a survivor. Meaning, we don't have to have DV as the center of our life. Once we get away from it and start to heal and get a good distance into our healing..not looking back is really ok. In fact, it is very natural to want to put it behind us and go forward!
Thanks, Karen. Sometimes I just need to hear that it's okay not to be everything to everybody. Boundaries have been hard for me since I left. I'm getting better at it but sometimes I still hear that little voice telling me how selfish I am for it. I was talking to my wife about it last night and she asked me what's wrong with being selfish? Being selfish is putting your well-being first. It's knowing that you can't be anything to anyone if you aren't okay. To secure your own oxygen mask first, so to speak. And that's not only okay, sometimes it's absolutely necessary. And I guess I need to think of it that way. It's difficult for me to see someone in need and to not do everything in my power to help, but I also feel it's time for me to leave that part of my life in the past where it belongs and to start focusing on the present and looking to the future. I have an amazing life right now and I'm so ready just to live it.
Hey Ava, I agree, it is hard to not want to help when we see someone struggling. And, I agree with your wife, it can be very necessary to care for ourselves first, she is right that if we are not okay, it is very hard to help others be OK.
And, yes, there is nothing wrong with leaving the past in the past. Focusing on the here and now, that is what life is really about. We learn from the past, we grow and we start over, but we don't have to dwell in it. AND..if we are dwelling, well sometimes that may be OK too. Sometimes, we just have to feel what we feel.
You and your wife deserve all the joy and happiness that life has to offer. And also remember, you did help her, you gave her support, you listened, you are a witness to what it really means to be a survivor, you are showing her that one can start over and rebuild their life. You gave her information and shared some of your story. That is HUGE. You have done everything you can. She now needs to help herself and seek support from other resources such as a DV center.
You can't fix someone. I can't fix someone. They have to fix themselves. That feeling we get is because of the abuse in our past. It is that feeling that we have to make it all better, we have to fix it, and we can't not fix it, or something abusive will happen to us. It is a behavior that is very hard to change and get rid of.
You helped her Ava, she will remember all you told her and shared with her and hopefully go forward. Feel good about how you helped her, because the way I see it, you were great for her!
It's not only ok to set boundaries, but a normal and healthy person will encourage you to have those. My guess is she's hardcore in the middle of PTSD and that includes at times behavior that can seem erratic from the outside, like suddenly being cold after you made a reasonable request.
You did nothing wrong. And you know what? Even if you had said it was getting too much and you also don't want to talk about her experiences anymore either...that too would be totally ok.