Stella and I have been friends for a couple of months.Since then we have gotten much closer than we used to be and I fell in love with her. The problem is that she has a boyfriend for 18 months and she doesn’t know my feelings.We are close friends now and she tells me that her boyfriend does not treat her well. I don’t know what to do. Although she argues very often with him their relationship still continues.Please could you advise me what to do?
I have to wonder what Stella hopes to gain when she complains to you about how her boyfriend mistreats her.It is said that nobody remains in any situation unless it’s meeting that person’s needs. Stella has chosen a man who treats her badly and Stella also chooses to stay with him. I know it may sound crazy, but Stella is getting something out of staying with a guy who mistreats her. What is she getting?Many people put themselves in situations where they can play the victim. Now you’re probably wondering what on earth does someone gain out of playing victim?I’m glad you asked! It happens people who play victims are actually releasing mountains of anger as they play victim. It sounds twisted but here’s how it works.Each time the victim is mistreated and cries over his/her horrible fate, what the victim is really saying is ‘You bastard. . . . your horrible monster, look what you’ve done to me. Look how you’re ruining my life.’ Can you hear how much anger is being expressed by these words of woe?People who play victim learned this pattern early in life. The pattern usually develops when a child is not permitted to communicate anger toward his parents. Where does the anger go?It gets recycled, and resurfaces in many ways. Depression, anxiety, self-attacking thoughts and actions, and, of course, playing the victim. Her need to play the victim tells me that she is recreating an abusive relationship from childhood.This is what I call the repetition compulsion (the uncontrollable urge to recreate painful childhood experiences and relationships in the hopes of achieving a better outcome this time around). The repetition of a bad childhood relationship enables her not only to release the anger she couldn’t express as a child, it also helps her play out the fantasy that she can replay her history so that she achieves a happy ending.In Stella ‘s case, a happy ending to her childhood wound would be for her abusive boyfriend to be nice to her. Of course, the repetition will never work because she chose a boyfriend who abuses her like her parent(s) did.A leopard never changes its spots; once an abuser always an abuser, which means that she’s never going to get any better treatment from this boyfriend than she got from her parents. But Stella doesn’t know this, so she keeps hanging on to a bad relationship because she hopes for the gain–that she’ll finally succeed in getting the abuser to love her.To learn more about unfinished childhood business and how to break free of the repetition compulsion, see my Advice Archives. I also talk about the steps to freeing oneself from this compulsion in my Personality Profile consultation.I also think that Stella plays the victim so that she can receive the sympathy that she never received as a child. When her parents mistreated her, she was angry, true. But she was also hurt and nobody ever heard or understood her pain.I think Stella has recreated an abusive relationship so that she can not only release her anger but also, hopefully, receive the sympathy and comfort she didn’t get as a child. Here’s where you come in. You are apparently a shoulder to cry on.Now we have a second powerful reason why Stella stays stuck right where she is –she’s finally getting sympathy and understanding from someone. What can you do with all this information about Stella?You can talk to her and ask her if she knows why she has chosen a guy who mistreats her. You can explain to her about the repetition compulsion. You can also explain to her that she may be getting two gains out allowing herself to be mistreated–anger release and sympathy.Then you could talk with her see if she wants to move past her problem and allow herself to establish a relationship with you–a good man who will treat her well. You’ve got your work cut out for you.Once you open the door of insight for her, I hope that she steps inside and uses the information to begin her own healing process. Encourage her to use all the tools I offer to set herself free. This is the only way that she will be ready to have a relationship with you.