my coworkers know I’ve been in a volatile, possibly abusive relationship — can I bring my fiance to work events?

A reader writes:

I was in a very volatile relationship for the past couple of years. It all began around the same time that I launched into a new career with a new employer.

Somehow I was able to continue my job and survive. However, my boss found out that my fiance was charged with domestic violence. He got off, we reconciled, and I started bringing him back around my work events. It was very awkward. But it went okay.

Then we broke up again four months ago. Except this time I was left locked out of the house and he left me without much money, so I had to ask my employer to advance me a paycheck. I had to have money for furniture and a lease payment on a new place, etc. I was panicked!

He said he did that because he thought that I called the police on him again during a fight. I had not, but he said he was terrified of me and couldn’t be around me. He told his whole family that I am a nightmare and cut me out.

I have since flourished in my business and I am back on my feet. Well, two weeks ago, he came back and begged to have me back. He said he loved me and couldn’t live without me. He said he made some very big changes in his life and he can’t live without me.

We have been doing well and now he wants to attend work events with me again. I tend to think it would be career suicide. My coworkers rallied around me and really tried to help.

Now, if I bring him back, I am worried.

My fiance says that I am being dramatic and that people make mistakes and have drama and he wouldn’t see the problem with being introduced back into the picture.

I asked my therapist and she thinks it is a HUGE professional mistake. But she only hears my side of things.

What would you think if your employee did this?

Yes, your therapist is absolutely right. Do not bring this guy back to work events. It would make people seriously question your judgment, and will probably injure your reputation in ways that will be very hard to recover from.

When you ask your workplace and your coworkers for help landing on your feet after someone mistreats you so profoundly — locking you out of your own home, taking your money, and what sounds like possibly physically assaulting you (the details are vague enough that I’m not positive about that, but it sure reads that way) — people are usually very glad to be able to help. But if you then get back together with the person who did those things to you … that’s a bad dynamic to bring into your workplace.

Even with coworkers who understand that separating from an abusive relationship often takes multiple tries, they’re likely to be really frustrated if they see you get back together with the person they just helped you leave. Your personal choices are your choices to make, of course, but it’s really not fair to ask your coworkers to socialize with this guy; they’re not going to want to, and you shouldn’t inflict him on them at work events.

You want to keep drama out of your work life, not introduce it there. Your fiance is telling you that “people have drama,” but actually most people don’t have drama like this, and they definitely don’t bring it to work. It sounds like your fiance is trying to normalize all this in your head, but it’s not normal, it’s not okay, and coworkers aren’t going to feel okay about it at all.

You should keep going on your own to those work events though. Sometimes people in bad relationships (you say volatile; I’m going to say bad) end up isolated from everyone else in their life. Make sure you don’t do that.

This is a work advice column so I’m trying to stick to the work issues, and I know you have a therapist (and I’m really glad about that), but in case you need it now or in the future:

{ 700 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Poster*

    To the OP, best of luck. What you’re going through sounds incredibly tough and I just have no idea of all that you’re dealing with. I really don’t.

    But consider me part of your cheer section.

    1. AMG*

      Same here. Speaking as someone who has lived in dysfunction, the crazy can feel normal, and the normal can feel crazy. Make sure you stay connected to work, protect it from the drama, slow down with the guy, and remember your value.

      I am confident that as you scroll down, you will see people agreeing with Alison and offering their support as you navigate this. Add me to the pile as well.

      1. Forever Anon*

        Add me too. I grew up in a dysfunctional environment and my teachers were my lifeline. I imagine the same is true for adults who are in toxic relationships.

    2. SometimesALurker*

      Ditto. Do what you need to do to stay healthy and safe and know that hundreds of strangers are thinking of you.

  2. Amber T*

    OP, you asked Ask A Manager a work related question, and she gave you a work related answer, but please consider poking around other advice columns for other advice as well. Alison teams up with Captain Awkward (her advice is often posted here and visa versa), so please head over there as well and just read other’s stories. You have people rooting and cheering for you.

    1. Amber T*

      Whoops, I kinda wanted to go anon for this, but oh well. This hits close to home, so my advice isn’t the best. But this is a much bigger question than you’re asking, with a much more complicated answer than Alison (or anyone, really) can truly give. Please check out all and any resources out there, OP.

      1. Just Me*

        Agree, for me too. I do admit that my personal experience definitely influenced my thoughts about this. Which are completely not work-related so I won’t talk about them here.

    2. Lindsay (Not a Temp Anymore)*

      Third-ing this. My head was screaming Captain Awkward the whole read. Good luck, OP!

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yep, my inner monologue went something like “Ohgodohgodohgod evil bees please write to Captain Awkward the house is full of bees” the entire time I was reading this.

    4. AnonEMoose*

      Fourth-ing Captain Awkward.

      OP, I’m seeing a lot about your fiance and how he feels and what he wants. So I’m going to ask. What about you? How do YOU feel? What do YOU want?

      Please, please take care of yourself, OP. I’m worried for you.

      And to answer the original question – no, don’t start bringing him to work events again. This would have a negative impact on your career. (Which, really, may be what he wants. Abusers do everything they can to isolate the person they’re abusing. Your co-workers were supportive of you, and so in his mind, they may represent a threat to his control of you.)

      Now, it’s absolutely not my place to say whether or not your relationship is abusive. But this isn’t normal, this isn’t ok, and I’m asking you, please, consider his actions in the light of what I said above. Best of luck to you, OP. Please make sure you keep a Team You (as Captain Awkward puts it) around you, whatever you decide about your relationship.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. The fact that he is insisting on being there is again his abusive self wanting to insert himself into your decision-making, questioning your judgment, and spoiling your life. If I were your boss, and you did this, you would be in great risk of being fired if any work cause presented itself and first to be laid off if we retrenched.

        Every day we read in newspapers of abusive partners shooting up the workplace and often it isn’t only the partner who is injured or killed, it is some hapless co-worker. I absolutely would not want someone with a history of domestic violence associated with my workplace and if I saw that an employee whom we had helped rescue from this situation had invited him back for another round, I would be inclined to protect the rest of us from the consequences by getting rid of her. I certainly would not see this as a person I would ever promote or recommend highly.

        Your boss may not be so harsh as I would be, but I wouldn’t count on it especially after you brought this drama into the workplace before.

          1. Artemesia*

            I had compassion the first time; I have none when the employee brings this danger back into the workplace AFTER she had the chance to end it. I have lots of compassion for the bystanders who end up dead or injured because a co-worker brought their domestic situation into the workplace. (and no every stalked person is not responsible for this; but someone who invites the violent partner back into the workplace is responsible for what happens) I have been in a workplace where a deranged stalker targeted a co-worker (through zero fault of his) and it is terrifying. A workplace should do whatever they can to protect their employees.

            1. AMG*

              This strikes me as practical albeit unfortunate. I think when you are forced to make a hard decision that negatively impacts someone, you can be seen as unsympathetic but it doesn’t mean that you actually lack sympathy. Artemesia can’t protect her employee from herself, but she can protect her other employees. It’s a fact that she has been forced to deal with, and a very real-world situation in which other people have done the same thing.

            2. Jennifer Wasinski*

              100% agree. Work is work. This is no place to bring drama. Your coworkers don’t want to be put on the spot listening to what he did or knowing in this case. Awkward for them. I mean how should they greet him? Hello you’re the reformed abusive boyfriend? Chances are good he isn’t reformed and most likely to abuse you again. I speak from experience. You’re doing well which is why he’s around. Most abusers like to bring you down and he probably knows how to screw it up for you. My advice find a way to stop loving him and literally run for your life because you are

              1. tigerStripes*

                I agree. Please get away from him. Change your locks, change your passwords, if you let him on any of your bank accounts, move your money to somewhere private. He locked you out of the house and left you in a terrible position. This is not OK. This is scary and wrong.

            3. peachie*

              “I had compassion the first time; I have none when the employee brings this danger back into the workplace AFTER she had the chance to end it.”

              Artemesia, you’re projecting here. I get where you’re coming from–you went through a frightening experience where a co-worker was violently targeted, and you don’t want to experience that again or put your employees through it. I get that.

              The thing is, you’re letting your (valid!) fear cloud your judgment, and that’s (a) making you come off as lacking compassion, and (b) causing you to make [theoretical] decisions that won’t actually prevent the outcomes you fear and may even encourage them.

              Not wanting the abuser-in-question at work events is reasonable (though I’d argue that the victim would be in the most danger by far), and I think communicating that expectation to the employee would be a fair course of action.

              The thing is, the violence you’re afraid of is much, much more likely to happen unannounced–it sounds like what happened with your former co-worker’s stalked happened during the workday, no? And, given the connotations of “stalker,” I’m going to assume they were not invited.

              Insisting (even personally, as in the implication that you would review a victim who stayed/got back together with their abuser less favorably) that the victim leave/refuse to take their abuser back* not only ignores the well-documented tactics abusers use to manipulate their victim–it creates a potentially hostile situation. People are afraid to end a relationship with a known-to-be-violent individual, and they’re right to be afraid. The most dangerous time for an abuse victim is when they leave–that’s when the abuser is most likely to lash out violently, INCLUDING incidents such as stalking/harassing the victim (and their coworkers) at their workplace.

              And, relatedly, do you think someone who is THAT violent/abusive would take kindly to a workplace that fired their “property” (ie, the victim)? ** Especially if the employee catches on that the firing was related to the relationship, you’re setting yourself up for a much more hostile situation–one in which the victim’s workplace (and by extension, boss/coworkers) could become a target for the abuser’s violence.

              Finally, and on a different note, it comes down to this: ABUSE IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT. If you believe that, please try to keep it in mind and examine your own judgement and biases. If not, please ask yourself why you don’t believe that. None of your employees deserve violence like this. It’s cruel to extend compassion to employees who MAY face violence while withholding it from an employee who is currently experiencing it.

              *Obviously, I am not saying victims SHOULD stay in abusive relationships or that they deserve any potential violence sparked by their leaving–OBVIOUSLY this is not the case, and I would love if all who are in abusive relationships could get out. The fact is, though, that many can’t right now, and pressuring someone to make such a move before the timing is correct could seriously endanger their safety. (Plus, it assumes that you know more about the abusive relationship than the victim does.)

              **Similarly, I’m not saying that an employer can never, ever fire an abuse victim under any circumstance, nor am I blaming the manager in this theoretical situation if the abuser attacked the workplace as a result. Abuse is only the fault of the abuser’s. I bring this up because your proposed solution of firing an abuse victim to avoid workplace violence would not reduce the likelihood of violence and might even increase it.

              1. Zombii*

                Of course it’s not the victim’s fault, which is why it would be completely unfair to fire someone who was being stalked or was trying to leave a relationship, or had left, and was still being contacted by their ex in inappropriate ways at work. This is not the situation we’re discussing.

                The situation we’re discussing is someone who was able to successfully extricate herself from an abusive relationship (it sounds like at least twice?), but then has gone back to the relationship, and wants to pull her coworkers/workplace to go back into the relationship too.

                This isn’t about blaming the victim, this is about setting and enforcing reasonable boundaries, using whatever action is necessary to do so. Sometimes enforcing those boundaries will affect victims, and that’s unfortunate, but the line has to be drawn somewhere—and drawing the line at the point where someone willingly, repeatedly re-involves themselves in a bad situation, and then brings that situation into work, is a valid response.

                Tl;dr: No one is obligated to endanger themselves, or those around them, in the interest of “fairness.” I’ve cut people out of my life before who were in similar situations (left but kept going back), and sometimes I hate myself for it, but I get to decide my own boundaries, I can’t force them to change theirs.

                1. Green*

                  If I were the employer and she brought him around to work events, I wouldn’t fire her. I *would* say that he is not permitted to come to work events and would ask him to leave.

                2. Tui*

                  “Tl;dr: No one is obligated to endanger themselves, or those around them, in the interest of “fairness.””

                  “Not firing someone” seems like a pretty advanced definition of “endangering yourself”. Nobody is quibbling with this guy not being welcome at work events. But firing someone in an abusive relationship – whether or not you, as an outsider, have decided that they no longer qualify as a victim – is going past protecting yourself, in my opinion.

              2. Brian*

                I have represented employers for many years, and totally endorse Artemesia’s comment. Once client had a woman working for them who was in an abusive relationship, on and off, just like the one described in the OP. One morning, after a fight, the boyfriend followed the employee to work and tried to run her off the road. Instead of going straight to the police, she went in to work. The boyfriend followed and started shooting. Two were killed, the woman was badly wounded, and several more co-workers were wounded. Compassion is great, but where the safety of others is concerned, there is a duty to protect them. I would and have advised clients to terminate employees who are in abusive relationships which have spilled over into the workplace. Abuse is not the victim’s fault, but the employer must concern itself with other employees, too, not just the victim.

        1. Electric Hedgehog*

          You know, this comes up fairly frequently on this site, but I would not jump straight to workplace violence threat when considering the risks of a domestic abuse situation from an employer’s perspective. Physical and emotional harm to the employee? For certain. Judgment and productivity concerns? Yes. Morale problems? Without a doubt. But I think the actual risk of workplace violence by a non-employee domestic partner is very, very small. I’d be much more concerned about the physical safety of my employee and his/her family. (I did once have a coworker who killed himself and his two small daughters during a bad divorce, so that’s where I’m coming from.)

          1. JustaTech*

            In my city we had two cases of workplace violence where an ex stalked an employee to work and in one case killed the employee. Both cases made the news because both people worked at huge places (including a university) so thousands of people were put on lockdown.

            But in neither case did the employer blame the stalked person for the risk/violence.

          2. Allie*

            I used to work in the criminal law system, so I’ve seen the worst of humanity – but I’ve personally experienced what it’s like to be threatened by someone else’s abusive partner (because the judge I worked for sentenced him) and seen the aftermath of that on others. I’m sympathetic, it’s a complicated psychological situation. But choosing to bring someone like that to work events, and that’s just beyond what’s acceptable. Being sympathetic doesn’t mean you don’t ignore your own safety.

          3. TrainerGirl*

            On the second day at my very first temp job in college, an employee’s stalking ex-bf snuck into the building, hid in a bathroom and attacked another employee when he was not able to get to his ex-gf. You might think the risk of workplace violence is very very small, but it isn’t small to the people it happens to. I don’t agree that this is something you play the odds with.

            1. Michelle*

              When my nephew was in high school, he and a friend were walking around the neighborhood when it suddenly began to rain. Just as the friend’s mother pulled up to give the boys a ride home, lightning struck the ground mere inches away from where they were standing. Close enough to feel the heat, and make all of their hair stand on end. Any closer, and they might have been dead. However, while actually getting struck by lightning is no small matter for those to whom it happens, the odds of it happening are still small.

              A rare event does not become less rare just because the consequences are severe, nor does it become more reasonable to arrange one’s life around possible tragedies that are almost certain never to happen.

          4. Clorinda*

            It’s a real risk that can be foreseen. An employer who let the abusive partner into social events, or even into the workplace at all, might well end up liable if something happened.

        2. Courageous cat*

          “I absolutely would not want someone with a history of domestic violence associated with my workplace”

          Not only is this just generally a terrible thing to say, but if you’re a manager, then surprise – this ship has probably already long sailed, and you never even knew about it. I think this response is too rooted in fear to be fully logical.

          1. Chriama*

            It doesn’t have to be logical to be influential, though. I don’t think most managers would be explicit about it like Artemisia. But would they be concerned, yeah? Would they be fearful and angry with OP for bringing someone with a history of violence to their workplace, yeah? They don’t want to be known to a known abuser. And it will influence OP’s ability to stay with the company for sure. Because when people make us uncomfortable (even when it’s due to who they associate with), we don’t want them around us.

          2. Artemesia*

            Domestic violence is, well, violent. The OP is talking about bringing this person back into a workplace where they already KNOW he is irrational and violent. This is a choice the OP is making. It has consequences, the least of which is trashing her own reputation.

            1. fposte*

              Your initial claim was a broader one about keeping anybody with any history of domestic violence out of your workplace, though. Which is, as I note, illegal discrimination in several states, including, I believe, one where you have lived.

            2. Courageous cat*

              Yes, but your comment of not wanting anyone with even a history of domestic violence in your workplace is a lot different from what you’re saying here (being fearful of a known abuser coming into the workplace).

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The other thing to remember is that the kind of violence that constitutes DV can be diverse—it’s not exclusively physical.

              1. Green*

                In many states, “domestic violence” charges can also include property damage. Obviously neither are healthy ways of interacting, but breaking sh*t is very different from hurting another person.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Breaking things can hurt a person (as can emotional/verbal abuse, which is effectively a form of psychological abuse). What if the thing being broken is a family heirloom? An urn full of ashes? What if the abuser is breaking property in a manner that makes the victim fear for their physical safety?

                  I think it’s really dangerous for people to try to categorize which forms of abuse are “more or less violent” and consequently, more or less worthy of protection/intervention or inclusion in the definition of DV and IPV.

                2. AnonEMoose*

                  Breaking personal possessions can also be part of the path of escalation to physical violence against a person. It’s another way in which the abuser demonstrates control and intimidates the victim.

        3. Chriama*

          I think most bosses won’t be as harsh as Artemesia and actively look for reasons to fire you, but they’ll be very concerned and will probably respond disproportionately to any incidents that could be related back to him. Most people are passive and don’t know how to deal with situations like this, but you can bet it will be eating away at them. And it will influence how they perceive you, so your mistakes will stand out more strongly and your achievements will pale in comparison. So if there’s ever a need for layoffs you’ll probably be first on the list just because of unconscious or semi-conscious discomfort at the idea of someone with a history of violence being in any way connected to their office.

            1. fposte*

              I believe it’s California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, though this is from a few years ago. I think other states legally mandate time off in the event of a crime of domestic violence but don’t get into the job-discrimination thing.

              It would still be legal to fire the OP for problematic behavior (like if she brought her BF to work after being told not to, for instance), but the law forbids straight up saying “domestic abuse = not working here.”

          1. Observer*

            If you noticed, Artemesia says she would fire her for business related reasons, (or put her on the top of the list when layoffs loom). And the reality is that in a lot of cases, it’s going to happen, simply because most people don’t perform at their best when they are being abused.

            1. AthenaC*

              Exactly. It’s crappy, but it’s helpful information to have about how it works in most cases. OP’s coworkers were supportive of her, but: 1) that is NOT the norm; and 2) there will be limits to their sympathy.

        4. NW Mossy*

          I know that sometimes I have to make tough decisions when I manage, but firing someone who may very well end up even further in harm’s way due to the loss of income would be unbelievably difficult for me morally and ethically. I’d be reaching so far into my manager toolkit of other options to keep the employee’s work performance on track that there’s a serious risk it would swallow me whole, but I just don’t think I’d be able to live with myself as a human being if I didn’t make that effort as fully as I’m capable of doing.

          1. Koko*

            Seriously, way to force someone into being even MORE dependent on their abusive partner by cutting off their source of income and removing possibly the only physical location in their life where they can be free of their partner’s influence for a few hours and the only social network they may have that isn’t controlled by the partner. All because you’re paranoid about the fairly remote risk that the partner MAY come to the workplace and hurt someone? This is, if not victim-blaming, awfully victim-punishing and victim-revictimizing.

            1. Artemesia*

              The ‘victim’ apparently is considering bringing the violent partner into the workplace. People are responsible for what they choose to do.

              1. Koko*

                Your comment above said you would fire her simply for getting back together with him. Which I agree, is her responsibility and not a judgment in which her workplace should be intervening. And as fposte says, what you suggest would be illegal in many states.

                As for bringing him to the workplace, I would probably flat-out tell her he’s not permitted to attend, because that falls in the workplace domain. I don’t think the fact that she asked/considered bringing him is such an egregious lapse in judgment that she should lose her job over it, especially considering the overall impact that would have on her. It’s talking-to-level-lapse, not firing-level-lapse.

              2. Pinkie Pie Chart*

                You aren’t in the relationship, so you don’t know whether or not they are victimized. Turning the LW into a quoteunquote victim blames them for their partner’s decisions. No one chooses to be a victim, no matter what it looks like from the outside. Give them the benefit of a doubt and stop pointing fingers.

                1. Night Cheese*

                  As someone who’s been in an abusive relationship, thank you for saying this. It’s easy to point fingers and criticize when you’re looking at it from the outside in.

                2. Zombii*

                  Genuinely curious: How can you say that calling someone a victim blames them for their aggressor’s actions and then say no one chooses to be a victim? These two statements contradict each other.

                  Also, calling the police on her partner (at least once) implies that she was victimized (at least once, and probably also the time that he thought she had called the police again). This doesn’t make it her fault. I don’t understand how refusing to acknowledge things the letter says has anything to do with giving the LW the benefit of the doubt.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Zombii, from context I’m quite sure that Pinkie Pie Chart is talking about the use of scare quotes around the word victim.

                4. So Very Anonymous*

                  THANK you. The phrase “history of domestic violence” being used here has been bothering me. An abuser has “a history of COMMITTING domestic abuse,” which is qualitatively different from the “history of domestic violence” that a victim has.

              3. New Bee*

                In this case, sure, but sometimes the extent of the abuser’s control means she has no real “choice” (e.g., if he is her only ride to work).

              4. peachie*

                I encourage you to educate yourself on why abuse victims “choose” to stay with their partners and self-reflect on why your attitude toward abuse victims is so cold [and potentially illegal*].

                *As fposte mentioned, firing someone FOR being in an abusive relationship is not only callous–it’s illegal in some states.

                (And please don’t scare quote ‘victim’. It’s both cruel and petty.)

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Yes. The scare quotes are so wholly inappropriate, obnoxious, insulting.

                  Do what you want – have whatever compassion you want to have, or none. Make an effort to know something about the cycle of domestic violence and victim/abuser psychology or don’t. But don’t insult a victim of abuse as a “victim” of abuse.

              5. Fiennes*

                The LW said only that he wanted to come to work events; this may or may not involve her workplace.

              6. Cary*

                The op is considering bringing her abusive partner back into the workplace. However, his pressuring of her to come to a workplace event is part of the abuse. He wants to be in total control of her, and that involves inserting himself into all parts of her life. As another commentor noted he may also be trying to isolate her by souring her work place relationship.

        5. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Years ago an abusive boyfriend showed up at work looking for his girlfriend. When he was told she wasn’t available, he backhanded the woman who spoke to him. The girlfriend got fired, maybe not fair but at the time our boss decided that the safety of 20 other people outweighed the needs of the other. Everyone knew he was abusive because she constantly spoke of his jealousy and as far as I knew she made no attempt to leave him. There was no EAP in place at that time and DV wasn’t on the radar the way it is now.
          Domestic violence is a sad fact of life and sometimes there are no good choices to be made. But in this situation I would make it very clear to the employee that the bf is not welcome under any circumstances.

          1. Lissa*

            holy crap! I hope the cops were called after he assaulted the employee and he was arrested. That’s…mind boggling. (I mean, I know, not really, people do horrible things, but in my experience most of them tend to at least try to put on a good face around people they haven’t already been working on…assaulting strangers like that is just…wow.)

            Don’t get me wrong, I feel terrible for the girlfriend too, but can’t help but put myself in the position of the employee. I worked with a couple people with terrible/abusive partners and had to tell them they weren’t there/available a couple times, as well. Ugh.

            1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

              This all happened back in the mid-80s so again, domestic violence was treated much less seriously and sometimes as a joke. My boss just wanted the problem gone, the co-worker who was struck was not badly injured and no police were not involved as far as I know, the whole thing was hushed up. Again it was different times. People have a hard time these days realizing that once upon a time, someone could come to work with obvious bruises and no questions asked. It took several tragic high profile cases in my region before it was openly acknowledged as a serious issue.

              1. Lissa*

                Ooh, yeah, that makes way more sense knowing it happened 30 years ago. It’s hard to believe how much things have changed, I think because things still are far from perfect today, we forget that in some ways there have been quite a lot of improvements.

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            I don’t understand why they jumped to firing the employee, rather than having the abuser arrested and banned from coming anywhere near the premises?

            1. Ted Mosby*

              That would have been more fair but the fact is in the real world his presence was a consequence of her employment. Abusers rarely respect restraining orders. Firing her was probably the best chance of having him never come back.

              1. Mookie*

                Treating someone as a pariah and denying them employment because of what another person did to them (and to a stranger) seems so unfathomably cruel and irrational, I can’t really comprehend it, frankly. It’s like blaming someone for being the victim of a hate crime because they brought their identity, their unfortunate gender alignment / ethnicity / sexual orientation, to work with them.

                1. (Another) B*

                  Not quite – a person’s gender/ethnicity/orientation is not something they can choose. The person in the relationship is choosing to be with them.

        6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I am stunned and disappointed. The victim-blaming, the minimizing the danger to OP (“after you brought this drama into the workplace before”) while simultaneously aggrandizing the danger to other employees in the workplace, the intent to blackball anyone with any history of DV, the fact that this course of action further imperils DV victims and is illegal in several states.

          I know there are employers who feel this way, but I want to strongly advise considering getting training in this subject. There are professional programs that offer employers training and counsel on how to assist or manage situations where you have an employee in a high-risk situation. Perhaps having clearer tools would also help shift attitudes.

          1. NW Mossy*

            I’m glad you mentioned this, and definitely an area where HR/Legal can give a manager help and guidance on how to manage an employee in a DV situation. This is not the sort of thing than an average people-manager will deal with frequently enough to develop expertise in it, and even big organizations might only see it a handful of times across their employee base. Seeking expert guidance is rarely a wrong move when the situation is unusual and high-stakes; this would qualify on both counts.

          2. Expat*

            Yeah. I’m having trouble picking my jaw up off the floor. Some of the comments on this subject have been egregious.

          3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Training is desperately needed in the workplace. Sadly, last year a co-worker came to work with a black eye and management did and said nothing….
            We were a union workplace with EAPs in place and yet this passed by unremarked on. You have to balance the privacy of the worker vs what can be offered to someone who obviously needs help but doesn’t ask for any. And yes, she did say that the bf gave her the black eye but shrugged it off. It’s a lose-lose situation all around.

        7. So staying anon for this :(*

          I had to comment on Artemesia’s perspective. I have been on several sides of this issue. I survived a long term abusive relationship. I was in a supervisory role at work. Not many knew about my problems, but enough did that bruises and absences were correctly attributed to my awful domestic situation. I survived, but was soooooo embarrassed. To bring the jerk back into my life, which unfortunately I did, was even more embarrassing professionally. I did NOT include him in any work events, hard as that was. Eventually we broke up for good as the abuse worsened. The promises are empty, the acting is phenomenal. I finally asked myself what I would do if someone treated my daughter this way, and I had my answer. OP, please be careful. Keep this guy out of your work place and away from your work friends. As someone else stated, if he has really changed, he will understand. If he hasn’t, you will know soon enough, sadly. I wish you the best and I beg you again, please be careful.

          1. Zombii*

            I woman whose jealous, controlling s/o would show up at my place of work (bookstore), and hang out for 3 hours waiting for me to be done with work. I was too stupid to be embarrassed about it until someone asked a few pointed questions and I was like Oh sh!t. That answer makes it seem like he’s jealous and controlling! But he—wait, he totally is. Oh sh!t. I got out eventually Sometimes it really does take a while, unfortunately.

            He still texts/emails me sometimes but I ignore it. A few people have suggested blocking him, but I’m afraid that would mean I’d never have a warning if he ever gets ALL-CAPS scary and decides to get violent. It seems like one of those forever-things and I hate it.

            1. Anon just for this*

              I broke up with a person nearly 15 years ago. This person stalked me to every job I had and would sit in the parking lot, come to my register, sit at the cafe, etc (depending on the place). Never interacted with me, and these were all public places, but he would sit there and just watch. He finally backed off when I met the man I eventually married and HE would occasionally come to where I was working to have coffee. I kept that first guy on social media on very restricted settings for exactly the reason you gave – I felt like I needed to know when he finally went off the rocker and decided to try to contact me again, or find where I was living and working (I had moved to be with my now-husband). Finally, about a year ago, I made the decision to go ahead and block stalker and his “girlfriend” (who I am certain was just his account as well). Blocked him on social media and email, but not by phone because I didn’t have his number and didn’t figure there was any way he had mine.

              I don’t know who leaked it, but he got my phone number, and called me so I could be on the phone with him when he committed suicide. I called in a wellness check (he claimed he’d OD’ed on something) and texted him once to never contact me again, and blocked his phone. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead now and I don’t care.

              All that to say, you do what you feel you have to, and if your gut is telling you something, then believe it. I always knew my stalker would have an ‘extinction burst’ event when I finally cut him off; I’m just glad it didn’t happen near me.

        8. A.*

          Workplace violence is the worst case scenario, and for the sake of the OP I hope the fiancé is genuine about making big changes in his life and turning things around for the better so there is no risk of any kind of violence happening to anyone. Reading the letter, I am not convinced the fiancé has changed at all, but I don’t know him.

          However, whether he means well or not, there is a very good possibility some of the colleagues will go straight to imagining worst case scenarios in their head if this guy shows up at a work function. If the boss feels like the staff is not safe, that is not going to go well for the OP.

          Even if OP and the fiancé’s relationship is in the process of being mended into a more healthy one, it is WAY too soon to be bringing him around to work events. It’s only been a few months! If the fiancé can’t accept waiting so he doesn’t damage his partner’s professional reputation, there’s still a big problem that needs to be addressed.

          1. Observer*

            The Fiance has clearly NOT made any changes. If he had, he wouldn’t be pushing the OP to do something that’s against her better judgement, normalizing his behavior (“everyone has this drama”), questioning her judgement (“being too dramatic”) and getting her to question her therapists not taking his opinion into account.

            That is NOT the behavior of a person who is trying to back away from abusive behavior!

            1. Mookie*

              Yes. This is bog-standard gaslighting: “my behavior towards you is normal, everyone experiences this, you need to minimize what I did for my peace of mind by introducing me to your colleagues, I want to invade every aspect of your life so you know in advance the damage I can wreak upon you and the people around you if you provoke me again.”

            2. Dust Bunny*

              Yeah, this.

              Um, no, not everyone has this drama. This drama is not normal, and everything else in this letter is such classic controlling BS I don’t even know where to start. LW, wherever you are now, I hope it’s not with him because nothing in your letter suggested he had changed at all.

        9. Elizabeth H.*

          What newspapers are you reading?? Saying that “every day” we read about an abusive partner shooting up a workplace is not accurate at all, it’s a major exaggeration. Workplace homicides do occur (it looks like a little over 400 per year on average?) but only a smaller percentage of them are domestic violence related and very few are multiple homicides. Compared to the overall rate of domestic violence the likelihood that a domestic violence situation will result in such an event is vanishingly small. It’s not something that never happens but it’s certainly very unlikely. Of the homicides the significant majority are robbers, assailants etc. and fewer than 20% some kind of domestic partner of relative. Example source:

        10. Effective Immediately*


          There are plenty of risks in the workplace, including active shooters for basically no good reason. I’m going to make an argument from authority here as someone who works in a field where people are fairly regularly killed just for being in it, in addition to saying: you might have abuse victims (particularly if you employ a lot of women) now and not know it. What’s to stop their partners from engaging in harmful behavior? Frankly, if anyone knows your views on DV in the workplace, they might keep it from you–which would make it a wholly unknown risk. I would rather know that an employee’s coworker is potentially violent than be surprised (which has actually happened to me before, when an employee’s partner showed up, got past security by saying he had to use the bathroom, found her and started choking her); at least then I could put some things in place to try to mitigate the risk.

          Firing someone essentially for being in an abusive relationship (and thus pushing them further into the relationship by removing their financial independence) and not being a model victim is…something worse than awful but I can’t come up with a word. I’m aghast that someone would actually say that.

      2. Sadsack*

        Yes, I encourage OP to seriously consider this advise. Do what you feel is best for you. Tell your boyfriend thst you are not comfortable with bringing him to work events, period. If he doesn’t immediately take no for an answer, then how exactly has he changed? It means he is still attempting to control you. I know this is a work blog and we are asked to stay on topic, but your situation is too dangerous to keep me from telling you that I think you should really pay attention to all of this and consider if you should continue in this relationship. I read your explanations for his treatment of you. It’s all so troubling. Some who loves you doesn’t treat you like that, ever, no excuses. And trying to get you to bend to his will by insisting he accompany you is just the beginning of things going back to what they were, nothing has changed. Please take care of yourself.

        1. JB*

          Yes, this.

          If he has truly changed and is truly sorry, he will understand why him coming to work events is a BAD IDEA.

          If he doesn’t understand and accept that, that’s a major red flag for him not having changed.

          1. Dorothy Lawyer*

            If he were a normal person, he would be extremely EMBARRASSED about what had happened in the past, and wouldn’t want to come to OP’s work events, knowing that co-workers knew that history. This insisting on inserting himself makes me even more sure that he is not normal…
            OP, I wish you the best of luck.

          2. Anon this time*

            It bothers me a LOT that OP says he implied the coworkers should understand that people make mistakes and everyone has drama. My concern is that he’s trying to normalize concerns that are not normal. The behavior described in the letter is. Not. Normal. Explaining that this behavior is far enough outside of the norm that it would make coworkers uncomfortable to be around him is a way OP can impress on the boyfriend that the previous behavior was serious, not just “drama,” because understanding that is a necessary part of rebuilding trust. I’m not going to pretend I’m not concerned for OP’s safety during this conversation, though, so OP, please follow your best judgement.

            Please continue therapy. I was at one point in a relationship that many people would have considered abusive, and told me to run for the hills. It eventually worked out, but not without a lot of work on both of our parts. Having help from a therapist would have helped us both and made the process much faster. Just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it’s the same for you. It includes factors none of us could know, but your therapist likely has a pretty good idea. Don’t discount that the therapist only hears one side-how you perceive the situation matters! If he’s willing to go, too, that’s even better. Most abusers will not change -it doesn’t benefit them to change, the abusive behavior gets then what they want-and to transition to a healthier relationship, he must recognize that neither of you has the right to harm the other, physically, mentally, or emotionally, and breaches of that rule are not acceptable. Your therapist can help you learn how to say what you need to be a partner in this relationship, recognize dealbreaker behavior, and stay safe if you ultimately decide to move on. I think a lot of people assume if a relationship is ever unhealthy, it can never be healthy, and that’s not true, but it would be naive on your part to just assume you’ll be the exception to the rule. You both have to work to change your story. Since you’ve chosen to try, you have to be painfully real with yourself and your boyfriend. It hurts, and it’s hard, and sometimes it means the end of the relationship. But if the relationship survives being real with each other, even when it’s hard, it means a more honest, mutually supportive relationship. I wish you the best, whatever that ends up meaning for you.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes, very much this.

              OP, consider how he justified locking you out and stealing money. There is no universe in which that reaction is reasonable UNLESS he’s the victim of DV. Being mad or worried that someone will call the cops because of your behavior does not justify what he’s doing or saying. You’ve made a decision about how you want to manage your relationship to him, but I’m glad that you also realize that your coworkers are not going to be on board.

              What he has put you through is a big deal. It’s not low-level “drama,” and it’s not a normal mistake. Your coworkers are not going to respond to him as if he made some minor mistake. What will he do when they’re not warm toward him? Rail about how horrible they are? Make you feel guilty for working with them?

              I would have real trouble containing my feelings if I had to interact with someone that I thought was actively hurting a coworker. I wouldn’t be mad at my coworker (perhaps a little frustrated, even though all my training and life experience tells me to be patient), but I would have a hard time masking my contempt for the boyfriend.

              1. Liza*

                Yes…this is important:
                “Being mad or worried that someone will call the cops because of your behavior does not justify what he’s doing or saying.”

                Most people would/should use “she’s going to call the cops on me” as a reference point from which to examine, modify, and cease their behavior.

                Not to justify further bad behavior.

            2. TootsNYC*

              “Don’t discount that the therapist only hears one side-”

              I just want to say: Your therapist is not just hearing your side.
              Your therapist is applying years of knowledge about how people communicate and giving you expert advice!

              1. fposte*

                Ooh, yes, excellent point. She’s going to have a reasonable idea of what areas people tend to misrepresent and how they do it.

                1. fposte*

                  Sorry, weirdly incomplete thought–I mean that if your side were somehow unlikely to be accurate, your therapist is going to be familiar with that behavior.

              2. LN*

                yeah, this is really important. your therapist isn’t just a friend or a conversation partner, they’re trained in hearing “one side of the story” and extrapolating the rest. of course therapists aren’t perfect, they’re only human, but judging interpersonal situations based on only your perspective is literally their job.

              3. Anna*

                Exactly this. OP, even if your therapist were hearing both sides, chances are good they would strongly recommend the same thing.

            3. Geoffrey B*

              All this. I also want to underline that from the OP’s post, it’s only *two weeks* since Fiancé came back with promises of change. In the context of trying to repair a dysfunctional relationship, that’s no time at all.

              If I were in the OP’s shoes, I would want to see evidence of *long-term, sustained* change before I started any moves towards “business as usual” on this kind of thing. Or indeed before I started considering him as “fiancé” again.

      3. Bwooster*

        I would be cordial and polite. I’d hate both the situation and the abuser but I would never allow myself to be a tool for the abuser to wield against his or her victim for the satisfaction of delivering a clever zinger.

    5. Jerry Vandesic*

      OP: I’d suggest the reaching out to Dear Prudence on Slate. Mallory Ortberg (aka Prudence) does a live chat every Monday at noon. But if you do reach out, I’d suggest changing the question from “should I take my abusive fiance to work events” to “should I take my abusive finance back into my life.” The issues you are facing are much bigger than his presence at work events.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        If OP doesn’t want to wait until Prudie is on, Dear Irritable Scientist will tell OP right now that the answer is “HELL NAW.”

        I’m a very pithy advice columnist.

      2. Sadsack*

        This makes me curious what OP’s therapist had to say about their getting back together. This is really very sad.

        1. Koko*

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the therapist didn’t say anything about it.

          I’ve been in an (emotionally) abusive relationship while seeing a therapist before and my therapist never told me her feelings about it or what to do about it, though I could guess pretty well what she thought. She was there to ask me questions and help me process what I was feeling and give me tips for navigating problems. So she wouldn’t tell me to quit my job if I was having major work issues – that big of a decision she would have turned back around by asking me questions about whether I think I should quit – but she would give me advice if I had asked how to prevent a coworker from getting under my skin or how to calm myself down after an upsetting meeting. She never told me to break up with him – again, she’d try to ask questions to help me arrive at that decision myself if it was going to happen – but she would give me advice on how to deal with the anxiety attacks that our fighting gave me, or help me deconstruct some poison pill he’d planted in my brain and see the situation more clearly. Most therapists will only offer their own opinion when it’s about giving tactical advice for getting through something, but not when it’s about whether to do the something or not.

          1. Bolistoli*

            Sadly, I think this is a bit on the malpractice side for a therapist, if there is violence involved. I saw a counselor about a failing marriage, and she made sure I was at least aware of my options (e.g., women’s shelters, stay with a friend, call the police if he got violent, etc.), just in case. She didn’t offer this out of the blue, it was in response to some mild worry I had, so I don’t think she was overstepping/overreacting. Obviously, a therapist can’t make us do anything, but a competent one doesn’t just try to direct you to make your own decisions. If there is danger, then I think they have a duty to do more than just ask questions. It’s a different story if there is no violence, threat of violence, or fear of violence (which could have been very much the case for you), but OP’s bf was charged with DV (and “got of’f”). That makes me very worried for her, especially if she is not being completely honest with her therapist about her bf.

            1. JessaB*

              Be aware that the most dangerous time for anyone in an abusive situation is when they try to leave it or get the person out of their lives. OP please please please talk to all the resources already recommended and make sure you stay safe if you choose to end it.

            2. Natalie*

              From what I understand, counselors are supposed to handle DV on a case by case basis, using their best judgment. If the therapist thinks recommending women’s shelters will do more harm than good (for example, by pushing the person out of therapy) it’s all right for them to keep quiet on it.

            3. Anon for this*

              As someone who has been in an emotionally abusive relationship, my reaction at the time to anyone who suggested I leave would have been to completely ignore them, and if it had been a therapist, I would have stopped going.

              Emotional abuse is weird. For me, it was a combination of being told I was the only one who could help him and that I was worthless without him. He needed me, but clearly not as much as I needed him. It was empowering, to be told you’re needed, and you need to stick around because you need to help him. And if you leave, he’ll fail, but you’ll fail much, much worse.

              I didn’t go to therapy during (partially because I didn’t think I needed it, partially because I had been raised in a household to believe therapy was only if there was something “seriously wrong with you” (mental health is not a topic discussed easily in my family)). By the time I did get my butt into therapy (a few years after the fact), it was the guidance to figure out the problems and the solutions that helped the most. If I had been told “your problems are A, B, and C, and to fix them, you need to do X, Y, and Z,” my response would have been “Well, no, because…” and that would have been the end of it. A good therapist’s job is to ask the right questions, help you figure out the root of your problems, and help you figure it out from there.

              I’m sorry if my response got a bit off tangent, but the rambling started (the irony of today’s later post is not lost on me), and I do think it’s important to get out there.

            4. Zombii*

              Trying to direct you to make your own decisions is exactly what a competent therapist does. This is incredibly frustrating when you just want someone to tell you what to do, but learning how to process things, and make your own decisions can be the most beneficial result of getting therapy.

      3. Victim Advocate*

        Another important resource I’d recommend to anybody dealing with abusive behaviors is the book Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. It’s truly enlightening to anybody that has not experienced abuse firsthand; and it’s downright eerie how accurate the book is for anyone that has. Most importantly the author gives pragmatic advice to those looking to escape the cycle of abuse, since it is the most dangerous point of an abusive relationship. Best of luck to the OP.

    6. seejay*

      Yes, I wanted to echo “go read/ask Captain Awkward PLEASE”.

      And please, for all the love of holy, keep your personal drama out of the office. Heed Allison’s advice in this. Yes, people have drama, but relationship drama doesn’t need to go into the office with you.

    7. Sibley*

      Another recommendation for Captain Awkward. OP, take care of yourself, keep seeing your therapist, and good luck.

  3. Jenbug*

    Thank you for sharing resources, Alison.

    From a professional perspective, I would absolutely be willing to help a coworker out of a situation like this and I would not be comfortable having that person around.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Seconded – I’d be extremely upset at feeling obligated to socialize with a known abuser at a work event. I’d probably end up avoiding OP as well just to try and stay out of the whole thing.

      1. thunderbird*

        Also in agreement. Always willing to help someone in a bad situation, and would not be comfortable if I had to interact with the person who created serious problems for someone. Also agree with Jadelyn that I would likely start to avoid coworker more going forward. I only have so many mental/emotional resources to get through my own day and would avoid those who over tax those resources. Which all results in the OP potentially becoming more isolated and less supported.

        1. pope suburban*

          That’s me as well. I am happy to help anyone out of a dangerous or unhealthy situation, because, well, I feel that’s just what one does (According to one’s ability, of course; I wouldn’t insist that everyone has to go all-in all the time in any way). But being expected to interact with a violent person? In a setting where I can’t necessarily leave easily? I couldn’t. I’d feel awkward all night, and I don’t think I could bring myself to say a single polite thing to someone I knew to be violent, abusive, or degrading. It’s not something that anyone *should* expect of me, either. OP’s coworkers have feelings and limits too, and this guy does not get carte blanche to trample those things on top of everything else he’s befouled.

        2. Jenbug*

          yeah, it takes a toll on your emotional bandwith

          I helped a dear friend (who was my roommate at the time) extricate herself from an emotionally abusive relationship and it was difficult for both of us.

      2. LKW*

        This is a really good point. It is highly likely that the abuser will notice that people were avoiding them or just him and throw it back at the OP that SHE has damaged HIM. And that he’s embarrassed and that people were rude to him. It becomes about his feelings. From that point on he may make demands that she not socialize with anyone at work. That she work remotely if possible. That she leave that job despite flourishing because her co-workers know what he’s done and aren’t having it.

        OP – you really need to keep him away from work. You really need to keep him away from you as well, but one step at a time.

      3. Lissa*

        Yeah, same. I had a coworker with an on-off abusive partner who’d had the cops called on him several times, etc., and honestly it was all I could do to be civil to him when he came into work to pick her up.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t know if I’d avoid OP (although I’d avoid her at this event if abusive-on-and-off-fiance is at her side all night), but I would have an extremely difficult time masking my feelings for the boyfriend/fiance.

    2. Newby*

      Honestly, if I helped a coworker out of an abusive situation and then found out they got back together, I would be seriously questioning her judgement even if I never had to interact with the abuser.

      1. Shannon*

        I agree. I know that’s not fair, because abusive relationships are a lot more complex than “he did X horrible thing, so I should DTMFA.”

      2. Oryx*

        As someone who’s been in an emotionally abusive relationship, it’s not quite as easy as just leaving and being free, one and done. It’s a cycle: Abuse –> Separation –> Abuser begs to come back / grand gestures / promises the moon / all the I Love Yous –> honeymoon period –> Abuse

        The longer you’ve been together, the deeper you buy into the cycle and the harder it is to really get out. So while I understand that inclination to feel that way, please recognize it’s more complicated than that.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          This. I look at journal entries I wrote at the time, and it’s so strange and obvious to read what happened. However, when I was living this and writing about it, my sense of reality and what to do was warped. Leaving was really, really hard. Completely worth it, but it was hard.

        2. Observer*

          But that’s not really relevant. What the OP needs to understand is that even a lot of very nice people are going to react very, very negatively to her bringing the guy back into the office / to work events. It doesn’t matter if it’s objectively fair. It’s still something that would harm the OP.

        3. TrainerGirl*

          I can relate to this. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for about 6 months 10 years ago. I first got the feeling that I should stop dating the guy about a month in, but…I felt sorry for him. He had a bad situation, not much money, etc. But he did me a favor, and one day told me that he’d read my e-mails, gone through my phone, etc. and that was it. I broke it off and never looked back. Over the years, he tried to get back together with me multiple times, even going so far as to ask me the day his mother died. Even my mother thought I was an awful person for saying no, but I knew that no good would come of it and he never changed. I’m just glad it didn’t take me that long to realize it.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I wouldn’t question her judgment, just because anyone with experience with DV or with loved ones who have survived DV knows that this isn’t a matter of “poor judgment.” But I would probably feel tremendously sad and worried.

    3. AGirlCalledFriday*

      My concern here is that the boyfriend knows that the coworkers have helped you…and may have a more sinister intention of finding out who is helping or perhaps encouraging you to leave him, which male you might be closest to…which coworker he might ‘blame’ for your leaving him. This could put your coworkers in a dangerous situation IF your boyfriend is physically or emotionally violent.

    4. Bonky*

      I’ve been in the employer’s situation here, and it’s just awful. The lady in question is still married to the scumbag, and I am very fond of her. I have great difficulty being civil to him when I see him (which, thankfully, is very seldom), but I’m also aware that any adverse reaction to him from me may have awful repercussions for her, so I stay pretty buttoned up.

      Happily she and I have a really good work relationship, and she’s been able to open up about it, and for tentative plans for the future. I’m as supportive as I can be, but there’s a very limited amount a colleague can do other than be a kind listening ear and make it clear to the victim that what’s happening is totally out of the ordinary, and totally not OK.

  4. neverjaunty*

    OP, just sticking with to the work issues here: as AAM correctly noted, your fiancé is flat-out wrong about how your co-workers will perceive you showing up with him. Since he is wrong about that, you can safely assume he is wrong about how this will affect your career. And I assure you it will, for exactly the reasons you mention.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yes. OP, If I’m putting myself in the shoes of your coworkers, I *at the very least* would have a hard time being cordial to your significant other after knowing everything you went through with him. People may argue that that’s not right or fair, but I do think it’s honest.

      1. k*

        Agreed. I have a friend in a troubled relationship and when they reconcile it’s difficult for to see him on social occasions. And this is one of my dearest, closest friends; someone I love and want to be happy so I try extra hard to be understanding despite disagreeing with her decision. Coworkers will not be as understanding as a close friend would. The only thing they know about your relationship is the worst of the worst. I can’t imagine your coworkers not seriously questioning your judgement, which is obviously impacts your professional reputation.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Agreed. I don’t even think it’s unfair; I think it’s making decisions based on observation of past behavior, which seems smart to me.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          This is what I was thinking. People don’t want to be around violent people. I wouldn’t attend, and I would tell my manager why. It’s not something the OP wants to start.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Even if he isn’t violent–he’s so far outside the norm of acceptable behavior!! Truly, he is. This isn’t just “people have drama.”

            Decent people don’t lock someone out of their home and leave them without money. He’s not a decent person.

            So, I don’t want to be around someone who isn’t decent. Who doesn’t bow to the basic standards of reasonable behavior and decorum.

            I don’t want to interact with them–they’re already on the OTHER side of the line, and I don’t know how far they’ll go.

            Even if I don’t fear violence, I don’t want to be in a conversation with someone who is suddenly arguing that women deserve to be mistreated; or who steals from me; or who does any other number of awkward or bad things.

            Sure, lots of other people could do that. But I already -know- that this guy is on the other side of that line. I wouldn’t want him around.

          2. BananaPants*

            Agreed. I would not attend a work event with someone I knew to be volatile, abusive, and potentially violent. To be blunt, that’s how innocent bystanders/coworkers end up dead.

        2. Cleopatra Jones*

          I would attend but I’d definitely be on high alert. I would feel like I’d have to be psyched and ready to intervene if I picked up on the slightest sign of abuse.

        3. Shannon*

          I’d attend, but I would attend on alert, constantly watching this guy and probably armed with at least mace.

        4. aebhel*

          Same. I’ve experienced domestic violence, and it doesn’t sound like the fiance in question has even a modicum of self-control, so it’s very easy to see him blowing up at a work event. Do not do this, OP. Ideally, dump his ass, but if you’re not going to do that, don’t bring him around your coworkers. This is not normal drama, this is a very scary and dangerous man, and your coworkers will not be comfortable around him.

      3. Aurion*

        Yeah, this. I flat out would not attend any events that had the fiance there. I’m not interested in socializing with someone who would lock their partner out of the house without money or resources.

      4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I think I’d probably be really false-cordial. “Oh, hi, Joffrey! I heard you haven’t engaged in domestic abuse and gaslighting for a whole two weeks. Keep it up! I hope the strain’s not too much to bear.”

        1. Chicken*

          While I would also have trouble socializing with someone in this kind of situation, I hope you wouldn’t actually say that. It’s the kind of thing that could exacerbate abuse. While someone’s abusive behavior is in no way your fault, there’s also no need to say something inflammatory like that.

          1. neverjaunty*

            And this is why I would not want to socialize with someone like that. It’s be a constant balance between not wanting him to think he had everyone fooled (and thus signaling to the OP that his prior behavior was fine), and not wanting to piss him off to the point that the OP would suffer.

            Making co-workers play an impromptu game of Please the Douchebag is really not a good career move.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Exactly this. I’d be freaking out over whether I was being the precise right amount and kind of socially-pleasant with the guy, lest it make things worse.

              I walked on eggshells to keep a man happy (or at least minimize his anger) for 20 years. I’m not doing it ever again.

        2. Alli525*

          Ugh. My best friend’s ex wasn’t/isn’t even remotely abusive (just a jerk), and they’re still friendly, and it takes everything inside me not to be false-cordial when we hang out in a group. I mostly just try to ignore him, sometimes pointedly and sometimes just by – mysteriously! – always being on the opposite side of the room.

      5. Antilles*

        People may argue that that’s not right or fair
        I’d say it’s completely fair. There have been multiple different events here over a period of months/years – a domestic violence charge*, nearly making her homeless by cutting out access to her place, plus whatever else has occurred in the “couple years of a volatile relationship” that isn’t covered here.
        If it was one lone incident, maybe it could be unfair for your co-workers to judge based on a single mistake. But we’re looking at a pattern of issues and it’s been such a short period of time (two weeks!) that there’s no real evidence that things have changed.
        *No, it doesn’t matter that he “got off” of the charges. The mere fact that there was an incident severe enough to get the cops involved, file charges, and go to court makes it part of the pattern.

        1. Aurion*

          I don’t think it’s even unfair for people to judge you for a single mistake, depending on how severe that mistake is. The domestic violence charge alone, without all the other red flags, is well over that line for me.

        2. Leatherwings*

          To be clear, I think it’s pretty fair too. I just wanted to head off arguments that the coworkers shouldn’t feel that way if they were to come up.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I can see a single DV charge being unfounded or not a true indicator of the situation. But interestingly, the OP doesn’t say, “It wasn’t fair, the cops overreacted.”

          She says “he got off.”

          And of course, the guy then locked her out of her home without money.

          1. Zombii*

            My (blatant, uninformed, probably-reaching) speculation is that she didn’t say that because it was more concise than giving specifics. Whenever I’ve known about someone “getting off” on a DV charge, it was because the victim either dropped the charges or refused to testify if it was too late to drop charges.

            Even if the neighbors called the cops, police still won’t charge a person with DV unless the other person is willing to press charges. It has to be the victim, witnesses can’t do it. (At least around here—if it’s different in other states, please let me know.)

            1. Anna*

              I may be wrong, but I think more and more states are making it so that the victim does not have to go through with pressing charges for just that reason.

              Back in the day, when domestic violence was more of a “personal issue” between couples, neighbors could press charges against someone for disturbing the peace (or similar). So even if a spouse couldn’t or wouldn’t, their neighbors might because the abuser was upsetting them. As DV became talked about more, it became somewhat easier for victims to press charges in the system, which solved the problem of it being just a relationship misunderstanding, but created the problem of victims being scared to go through with it. I think we’re in a transition period where we’re trying to do both.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Given your employer is aware of recent events there is a good chance that the police could get called in and a restraining order filed if your fiance shows up at work. Please don’t do this to yourself. Your therapist is giving you solid advice. Listen to her – she is trying to help you through a traumatic time.

      Prayers and best wishes that you get through all of this.

    3. Bwmn*


      This letter also reminds me a bit of the letter yesterday about someone showing up dressed as Jesus. AAM’s response was about how HR ends up being “sticks in the mud” because of issues they have to worry about. This letter reminds me of that, but with a much more serious tone. It’s very critical for your employer to take these concerns seriously because in addition to impacting you, issues like this relating to violence in the workplace (directed towards the OP or other coworkers) is increased. So while the OP’s in one position to make decisions about her life and how that impacts her friends, I think it’s important to keep in mind that the employer is inclined to keep “worst case scenarios” in mind with the hope of keeping everyone safe at work.

  5. this*

    You say it has only 2 weeks. You need to treat this like a new relationship while remembering the past. As far as work events go definitely treat this like a new relationship. Most people are very unlikely to bring someone theyve only known for 2 weeks to a work event.

    1. Dang*

      This is a great point. You most likely wouldn’t bring a new SO to work events. Treat this like a new SO situation from a professional standpoint.

    2. Fiennes*

      It’s also telling that he is already agitating to go to work events. In my experience, most spouses are lukewarm at best about attending the majority of work events. (Letters to AAM suggest this as well.) BF’s desires don’t have anything to do with LW’s work/career; they’re about his wanting to instantly, fully regain his position as her partner. That call is LW’s to make, but as a general rule, your relationship decisions shouldn’t determine your professional conduct.

      1. Jadelyn*

        That’s a great point, and definitely something else to consider. It ends up feeling like BF’s attempt to reestablish “normalcy” before OP is ready for that, which is a huge red flag tbh.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, it really sounds like that to me too. Most people don’t care that much about partners’ work events–this is somebody who really wants to reassert this as his rightful place.

            1. Expat*

              I actively avoid going to my husband’s work events. (Five year streak!) That he’s so eager to go also strikes me as an alarming desire to seize control of the narrative surrounding the relationship.

            2. Allie*

              I’m the same – in the 10ish years my spouse and I have been together, I can count the work events we’ve been to at each other’s places on one hand.

          2. Anon for this*

            That and seeing what impression LW’s acquaintances have of him and what he may need to do about it.

      2. Tragic The Gathering*

        This makes me think of the OP from a week or so ago who wanted to attend his SO’s mid-day hours-away work event and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t a great idea.

        1. automaticdoor*

          YES. I thought that one was so weird, especially given the plethora of other options. Seemed very controlling to me too.

          1. That's a Great Band Name*

            Agreed – although I thought it was more enabling than controlling behavior, but either way, so odd.

    3. Electric Hedgehog*

      Similarly, you wouldn’t live with someone you’ve dated for two weeks, or share a bank account, get loans, etc, etc. OP, you know you best, and you are an adult who is free to handle relationships as you choose. But I would advise you to, if you wish to re-explore this relationship, move VERY slowly in terms of giving your fiancé access to the more vital parts of your life. You’ve already felt the effects of being denied entry to your home. Don’t give him the ability to do that again for a long, long time. Don’t give him access to your bank account for the same reason. Maintain control over your life – and that includes making sure that he doesn’t interfere with your work relationships (which seems to be your safe hrbor right now).

      1. spocklady*

        Also consider, a reasonable person will know that denying you access to your home and most of your money is a huge huge deal, and the kind of thing that will require a lot of long-term work to come back from. If he gives the impression that he understands this, he won’t rush you. He will understand that OF COURSE you’re hesitant because it’s prudent in this situation.
        If you see him pushing you to move things faster — and I think pushing to come to your work functions counts under this heading — that’s a strong sign that he is not taking his promises to change seriously.

      2. Tobias Funke*

        A lot of people DO live with someone they’ve dated for two weeks and get bank accounts and loans. They’re usually people who have long and storied trauma histories telling them it is a good idea.

    4. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

      I think this is a really good point. The way I see it, no one is entitled to a reset. You may have granted this person one, but your coworkers haven’t. Most people will take into account all of a person’s past actions in their judgment of that person. This is a very normal thing for them to do, and yes, taking this person to work, and introducing them as your fiancé, is going to make coworkers question your judgment. He’s either like a new guy, in which case, why is he your fiancé and not subject to the careful selection process of new dates, or he is the same a-hole who locked you out of your home.

  6. DMC123*

    I agree with Alison. I’m not sure how he keeps convincing you that things will be different and better this time but that’s your personal choice to make.

    I could not stand by someone who kept taking back someone who treats them like this and then is surprised each time it happens. Your coworkers know too much to keep welcoming him back to events. I hope that you will one day realize you are better off without him. Or that somehow he has in fact truly made major life changes and treats you as you should be treated. It will be hard for people involved that know you either professionally or personally watch you keep going back to this person. Whatever you do, don’t burn your bridges at work and if your safety is threatened, get out.

    1. The IT Manager*

      This. THIS! From what I read in your letter, I think it is very poor judgment on your part to get back together with him and your employer and co-workers are way more invested than me. Remember they’re on your side, only got your POV of the incidents, and supported helping you get away. They are going to be very disappointed to see you throwing away their help and all your own hard work to break away to get back together with your abuser. It doesn’t make your judgment look good, and they won’t want to socialize with this guy at all since they know how badly he treated a person that they value.

      I can’t really understand why it is so hard to break away from an abusive relationship, I know factually that it is, but I personally don’t understand why. Many of your colleagues will feel this way too.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Others have recommended Captain Awkward for people in bad relationships. It is also a good resource for understanding “why does my friend keep going back to that jerk?”

      2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        I don’t think it’s helpful to tell the OP they have poor judgement. Abuse (yes, I’m using that word) has that effect on people: it grinds them down and stops them trusting their own decisions. To survive in a relationship like this, you must cut off from your knowledge of how bad it is, which also stops you leaving.

        Please look up the cycle of abuse. Please don’t criticise OP for being unable to leave- they may just stop reading.

        1. Jade*

          That’s why her keeping her relationships at work is so important. These people are a link to the world outside this relationship. Do what you can, OP, to keep these people in your life.

        2. Jess*

          I think that’s a key point here – the effect of the relationship has been that this type of behavior has been normalized for OP. Maybe a good first step is truly understanding that this type of “drama” in a relationship is so not normal. At all. As in, it’s reasonable to expect that the adults in your life, most especially your partner, will behave like adults and control their behavior (no matter how angry they may be).

        3. TootsNYC*

          I took it that her point was not “you have poor judgment,” and to criticize the OP.

          But to say, “if my reaction is any indicator, there is going to be a reaction like this. Even though I intellectually know how tough it is, in some very instinctive ways, I still react this way–and your colleagues will likely react in the same way.”

      3. Accountant, CPA and bottle washer*

        I’m with IT manager. He is gaslighting you, trying to make things appear normal. They are not. Nothing that you have posted here is normal, loving behavior. Back to the work aspect of this – I would probably NEVER plan on bringing him back to work. If I were your co worker I would have serious questions about your judgement just getting back with him. If you started bringing him to work functions? yeah, no.

      4. Chriama*

        > I can’t really understand why it is so hard to break away from an abusive relationship, I know factually that it is, but I personally don’t understand why. Many of your colleagues will feel this way too.

        OP, this is really something to think about! You have your reasons for thinking the relationship has a real shot this time. I don’t think it does. Alison doesn’t think so either, nor do many commenters here. Odds are *highly* likely that your coworkers won’t think so either. It can be hard to have perspective when you’re right in the middle of things, but focus on *what* they’re likely to feel rather than *why* they’re likely to feel that way or whether or not those feelings are an accurate assessment of their feelings. People will be looking at you with concern, frustration, questioning your judgement, and maybe fearful for their own safety. I don’t think that’s something you want to bring into the workplace.

      5. Koko*

        I have been the one who can’t break away from an abusive relationship and I personally don’t understand it either. It’s something that defies understanding.

        I lost a lot of friends when I was with him, not just the couple of people who dropped me directly but many more who I stayed friends with but grew emotionally distant from because I stopped telling them about the problems we were having because I knew they disapproved, I knew they were fed up with me spinning the same yarn over and over, and I wanted to protect him from their judgment so that I could still take him places with me. Years later I still struggle to be emotionally vulnerable and honestly share problems with friends. Keeping it all concealed became a habit that has been hard to break.

        I can’t tell you why he was so important to me that I did that. But he was. And there was absolutely nothing any of my friends could have done ultimately to convince me otherwise. I had to get there on my own. The best thing they could do was be a safe place for me in the meantime, and to give me general emotional and social support non-specific to my relationship situation so that when I was ready to leave the fear of being totally alone was one less thing for me to have to contend with.

        1. fposte*

          Honestly, I think that when you look at human behavior it’s more surprising that people *do* succeed in leaving abusers. We suck at quitting stuff that’s bad for us but that sometimes makes us feel really good, and quitting smoking doesn’t even require moving house and changing our credit cards.

        2. Bonky*

          I’ve been there too. It’s more than 20 years ago, and I still have nightmares about still being with the guy in question, and in which my (wonderful) husband doesn’t exist.

          I was also separated from all my friends, who were ‘bad for me’; and the overwhelming emotion he made me feel (and which was key in making me stay) was one of guilt. It was all my fault. His sadness was my fault. His anger was my fault. His violence was my fault. My situation was my fault. If I left, it would be unpardonable. He would hurt himself. It was my fault.

          I did leave…and the guilt was horrific. I ended up in therapy, I became clinically depressed (which, amazingly, I hadn’t been during the relationship itself – it had a lot to do with the belief he’d sowed in me that leaving him would be an earth-shatteringly wicked thing to do), and it was a terrible time. But since then? I’ve had a wonderful life, on my own and partnered.

          All love to OP. From outside these situations look so black and white. In your head, it’s different tones of grey all the way down.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I know that it is difficult for people who have not been in a DV situation to understand the psychology of what happens in those relationships. But here’s what I can promise you: victims don’t “go back” to their abusers because of poor judgment. And shaming a victim for doing so, or making them feel irrational/weak, exacerbates their vulnerability. So I’d like to push back—hard—on folks who are blaming the OP for this situation.

        That said, I agree with Alison that your coworkers will likely be alarmed if they have to interact with your boyfriend in light of their experiences seeing you go through these awful situations with him. So I think OP’s judgment is correct when she says that she’s worried this will create an uncomfortable dynamic that will undermine her professional relationships and credibility.

        Please don’t bring him to events, OP. And please keep speaking with your therapist and maintaining your outside relationships. It’s going to be important to have outside perspective, because your gut reaction on this was right. And his reaction to that was to tell you you’re being ridiculous. You’re not ridiculous; you’re right. Just remember that.

      7. Office Mercenary*

        “I can’t really understand why it is so hard to break away from an abusive relationship, I know factually that it is, but I personally don’t understand why.”

        For starters, domestic violence victims are most likely to be murdered AFTER they leave their abusers. As many people have already mentioned in this thread, abusers systematically isolate their victims by denying them access to their friends and family, and take away their financial resources (as in the LW’s case). On top of that, many abusers threaten to hurt anyone who helps them escape, or to hurt children or pets that might remain in the household. That leaves the victim with no money, no friends, and the fear that their abuser will hunt them down and kill them and anyone who helps them. In the meantime, day-to-day risk management and harm reduction strategies can look like Stockholm Syndrome to outside observers.

        For example, when I wanted to leave my abuser, I asked my/our friends if I could stay on one of their couches for a little while. I didn’t have many friends of my own because he was so controlling, and some of the people who I asked didn’t believe me when I told them he was violent. Others believed me, but thought I was just being dramatic and I should just forgive him. Others just didn’t want a house guest. I was only working part time due to health issues (which were aggravated by the stress) and couldn’t afford to move out. In the meantime, I argued, begged, nagged, and pleaded with him to get whatever small changes I could. Eventually he got blackout drunk two nights a week instead of five. He stopped trying to pimp me out to his friends. He stopped hanging out with the two drug addicts who stole cash whenever they came over. As exhausting as it was, I was glad for these small bits of progress because they meant less violence towards me, but I know to people outside the relationship they looked like I was deluding myself into thinking he was going to change entirely. To make matters worse, friends and even my therapist had this preconception that all abuse victims are brainwashed and would set me up with impossible questions, like “Oh my glob, what do you see in him?” If I answered honestly and mentioned one of his positive qualities, they would throw up their hands and say, “Oh, you’re brainwashed, there’s nothing I can do for you.” I already knew the situation was unfixable, but they were more interested in judging me than actually helping.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thank you so much for sharing this, and I’m so sorry you had to go through these experiences.

        2. Koko*

          Another things that maybe people who haven’t been there don’t realize, is that abusers don’t look like monsters. They don’t walk around angry all the time, glaring, telling you to shut your mouth. They are hot and cold, and they try to make you believe that when they’re cold it’s because of something YOU did wrong. And then when you apologize/forgive them, they reward you by being really over the top nice for a while. They’ll do something really kind like sit with you at the hospital while your mom is having surgery and let you cry on their shoulder.

          From the outside we see the relationship as negative and think the solution is to discard the entire relationship. From the inside the victim often sees it as a mixed bag and thinks the solution is to just learn how to stop provoking those negative reactions and then you could have the positive stuff all the time, and wouldn’t that be great?

          1. Not A Morning Person*

            This so reminds me of an old cartoon strip…not a funny, but a serious story strip: The woman met a glittering monster at a party. Everyone told her he was a monster but he was so charming and so attentive when he approached her. He told her that only she could see the real him inside the monster, that she was the answer to him revealing his true nature. He dazzled her with attention and asked her to leave the party so they could get to know one another better and she went with him. Outside he smiled at her and his teeth were so large and so sharp it scared her. He again told her, you aren’t like the others! Do you think I’m going to eat you? I thought you were better than that. And so in an effort to be a good person and give him the benefit of the doubt, she relaxed. And then he ate her…
            This is a horrifying example of a relationship story that is too often true. We try to be “good” people who seek the good in others and give them the benefit of the doubt. Even when there is good evidence that the person is not good for us or to us. In some cases, it is dangerous and harming to relax your guard and be trusting. Dangerous people often know how to be charming and play on the guilt we can feel when we are told we aren’t nice for holding them accountable for their hurtful behavior.
            OP, please take care of yourself. Spend more time with your therapist. Spend more time with people who can help you reset your expectations of what love looks like. It is hard to leave a situation like this. It works almost like an addiction. When it’s good it feels very, very good, and when it turns bad it’s horrid. Please keep in touch with your friend, family, coworkers, anyone who you can turn to for help when you need it. You are in my prayers.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes! Some of the most horrific abusers I’ve met were devastatingly charming, funny, or easy to hang around with. It would be much easier for the rest of the world if they came with “OGRE” signs hovering over their heads, but alas.

          3. Slytherin HR*

            Very good point. Years ago at a different job, I had a co-worker who had gotten out of her last abusive relationship a few years prior to me starting. She told me once in explanation that when he was awful, it was the worst but when he was good, he made her feel really loved, like the best friend in the whole world. It was the first time hearing someone explain that aspect of abuse patterns and it really stuck with me.

        3. Office Mercenary*

          OP, if you’re still reading this very difficult thread:

          I don’t know you or your situation, but between your fiance and all the people telling you to DTMFA, you might feel like everyone is undermining you and questioning your judgment. I’d like to take a moment to congratulate you. You got your own home and you’re flourishing in your job! You’re in therapy! Those are huge accomplishments. Go you! Does it feel as good as it sounds? Because it sounds pretty great to me!

          You also have people in your corner. That is a BLESSING. Your coworkers are on your side. Please do not underestimate how precious those social resources are. These people rallied around you when you needed help, and they have shown themselves to be trustworthy. Do not jeopoardize those relationships by making them interact with your partner.

          I noticed that you say your relationship became volatile roughly the same time you started this job. Once the relationship ended, your job flourished. Now that the relationship is starting again, your partner is trying to insinuate himself into the very group of people who helped you get on your feet again. Is he jealous of your career? Of your coworkers? Does he support your career goals? Encourage you to have friends?

          Whatever you do going forward, think about all the progress you’ve made and how to hold onto that progress. You have your own space, and he can’t throw you out of it. You have your own career and your own social safety net. Protect all of these things, because they are valuable and will keep you safe. Don’t let him or anyone else take these things from you. Above all, please be kind to yourself.

          1. Not A Morning Person*

            Such good advice. OP deserves credit for getting her life on track and her career on track. Develop your resources among your friends and coworkers! They are your safety net.

          2. automaticdoor*

            This is a lovely and kind comment and I agree. OP, you have come a long way! You are flourishing! Take care of yourself first–oxygen mask comparison here.

          3. spocklady*

            Hear hear! OP, I hope you can feel proud of what you’ve accomplished, because it’s huge. You’re standing on your own feet. Congratulations! Keep listening to that voice inside yourself; it has gotten you this far.

        4. Anon response*

          “I can’t really understand why it is so hard to break away from an abusive relationship, I know factually that it is, but I personally don’t understand why.”

          I think the original commenter was making this statement to help the OP understand what her coworkers were likely to think/feel about her fiancé.

    2. Jadelyn*

      In similar vein to DMC’s concerns about standing by someone who keeps taking an abusive BF back – be aware that if he pulls another stunt that ends up with you needing material help (financial, etc.), the people who did it once are extremely unlikely to be willing to extend you that same support a second time with the same abuser.

      1. Collarbone High*

        Very true, I saw this play out with a former co-worker who was in at the very least an emotionally abusive relationship. The first time he kicked her out (of an apartment she was paying for), everyone rallied to help her with money, place to stay, emotional support. It turned out that was an awful cycle that repeated itself every six months or so, and she always went back. The support dried up after the second trip through the cycle. Part of it, I think, was compassion fatigue, part of it personal safety (he would come looking for her at colleagues’ houses), and part of it a sad, resigned sense that any support would ultimately be wasted effort.

  7. yo yo yo*

    I am trying to keep this work related, but OP remember, it has only been two weeks. Maybe your fiancé has changed, maybe he hasn’t, but to still consider him your fiancé without taking the appropriate amount of time to evaluate his ACTIONS, not his words seems like a big leap. Relationship-wise, I would take a step back from the relationship and give him a chance to prove himself, again with ACTIONS, not words. That will at least give you what you need to ensure your coworkers that your relationship is healthy and safe.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      This. You’ve said twice in your letter that he says he can’t live without you, and not one word about what you want. Find out what you want, and insist that he support that. That’s what people in loving relationships do. Make him EARN you, every single day, from this moment forward. Insist that he step up. He is clearly getting something from his relationship to you. What are you getting from him? Make sure you’re not settling for too little.

      Since this is a job site, you could think of it as handling a poor employee. You would outline your expectations, insist that they be met, and jettison them if they failed you one more time.

    2. AnonAcademic*

      Yes! I’m thinking that even if the OP wrote in saying they had a totally run-of-the-mill breakup with their partner over what brand of cheese to buy or whatever, since OP’s coworkers helped her move out, I would recommend not bringing the partner back around so early. Partner has lost credibility as a good influence in OPs life due to their own actions, and it is on them to fix that. It’s not on OP to do damage control for them at the risk of alienating her coworkers and undermining her job security.

  8. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    OP, you are not doing well. He is doing well because he is getting what he wants, and he is successfully gaslighting you into running social interference for him and rehabilitating his social presence in your life. By dismissing his own abusive actions as mere drama, he’s proclaiming his intentions to abuse you again.

    You should not be bringing this person back into your life, let alone your work events. Do not marry this person, do not live with this person, do not communicate with this person.

    As for work, this is not drama, this is an abusive and toxic person, and your employers went to the extraordinary step of helping you financially to separate from him. Bringing him to them would be professional suicide and permanently call your judgment into question.

    1. Anna*

      I have long said that at some point they are not apologizing for what they did, they are apologizing so they can do it again.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I just want to share one of my favorite quotes about apologies:

        “I’m sorry!” I cried.
        He glanced at me wryly. “Only insofar as you enjoy being sorry, my dear, which, while it is a considerable amount, occurs only after the fact, thus making it a singularly ineffective deterrent, yes?”

        That burned itself so deeply into my brain the first time I read it that I can quote it verbatim at will – OP, please consider that he’s only as sorry as he wants to be, and only after the fact. It won’t stop him from doing it again. If he were truly remorseful, he’d have made changes after the first time, not after many times and it sounds like multiple major events where the cops may have been called by someone(!) – he will grovel and beg after the fact, but it will not prevent him from doing the same thing later.

          1. Jadelyn*

            :) It’s from Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. Seeeeeriously NSFW books, but super good if you’re into fantasy.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yes! And IIRC, it’s actually being said in affection in that scene, but it’s applicable to all sorts of other situations too.

              1. Jadelyn*

                It is, yes – Delauney to Phedre the first time she sneaks out to go visit Hyacinthe after going to live with him. It’s kind of a fond “yes, I know you’re sorry, I’m not *mad* at you, but it doesn’t change that you did a bad and are in trouble.”

                1. Kelly L.*

                  That’s what I thought! He loves her so much, but they’re just such a temperamental mismatch!

            2. spocklady*

              There’s another good one I just read, where character A is explaining to character B that, in character A’s language, there is no word/phrase for “I’m sorry.” What they say is, “this action will have no echo.” In other words, I will mend my actions and this will not happen again.

              OP, it sounds like your ex has been saying “I’m sorry,” but is he showing you that his actions will have no echo?

              Good luck and best wishes. I’m rooting for you.

                1. spocklady*

                  It’s from the Six of Crows series, by Leigh Bardugo — imo much better, with richer characterization, than her first series.

    2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      “he is successfully gaslighting you into running social interference for him and rehabilitating his social presence in your life.”

      This. 1000000000x this.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        I want to reiterate for emphasis: HE. IS. GASLIGHTING. YOU.

        It sounds like you have a fantastic career and a good group of well-intentioned coworkers. I’d keep the fiancee as far away from your work world as possible. You deserve to have professional (and personal!) success, and he’s a hindrance.

    3. EmilyAnn*

      +1000, especially on the fiancée trying to minimize future behavior by referring to it as “drama”.

    4. Nea*

      So. Much. This. I note that it isn’t OP but the once-ex who is insisting that he be taken to work functions. OP, please ask yourself – if he wasn’t pushing for this would you want to? Why is he pushing for that so quickly after you made up?

      This is a red flag the size of Rhode Island right there.

      1. Nea*

        Replying to myself because I can’t edit – OP, You don’t want something and think it would be Bad. Not-ex wants that thing and says that it “isn’t a big deal.” OP, this isn’t about what *he* thinks it is. It’s YOUR career and YOU make the decisions and YOU have perfectly good instincts.

    5. paul*

      More gaslights going on than Victorian era England from what the OP’s described!

      OP, get out. Seriously and for real.

      1. Nea*

        As someone once said elsewhere, “Can someone turn the gaslight up so I can clearly see the situation?”

    6. Pup Seal*

      Yes this 100000%.

      What struck out to me was this: “He said he did that because he thought that I called the police on him again during a fight. I had not, but he said he was terrified of me and couldn’t be around me. He told his whole family that I am a nightmare and cut me out.”

      OP, please consider this. Is it ever okay for a love one to call you a nightmare?

      (The answer is no, btw)

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        The correct answer to “what do you do when you think your partner has called the police on you” is not to histrionically proclaim that she is a nightmare to your whole family, it’s to fall to your knees going “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE I NEED HELP.”

      2. Spoonie*

        And consider the reverse of the situation. Your coworkers know things about him from what you’ve related to them. His family knows his version of events and believes (probably highly untrue) things about you. How are you going to feel about being around his family now that you are supposedly a nightmare he’s terrified of?

        Why is he pushing so hard to be part of your work life when he has to logically know that you’ve related things to them, even if you haven’t told him that? That speaks to an attempt for a level of control from him that would give me major pause, and I would have to really reconsider the relationship. Two weeks is not a lot of time at all, especially given the rocky timeline you’ve had.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Also, I’m sorry, *he* did something that resulted in *someone* calling the cops (whether it was the OP or not is irrelevant). And HE was “terrified” of the OP???

        Abusers need to control the situation and the perceptions around the situation in order to get away with what they do. This is a classic example. Instead of it being about what he did that made ANYONE feel like calling the cops was necessary, it’s about his poor delicate feelings being hurt because the cops were called and his sudden “fear” that apparently (in his mind) justifies locking the OP out of their own home and stealing their damn money. He’s refocusing the entire situation to be about his hurt feelings and his fear and his needs, not the fact that whatever he did made LITERALLY ANYONE feel like calling the cops was necessary.

  9. Concerned Commenter*

    I am glad you are okay and reaching out for help OP. What you described is an abusive relationship- I do not say that to judge or alarm you but that is what you are in. In addition to having DV hotlines in your phone you may also want to consult with an attorney because depending on where you live you may be entitled for certain protections at your job; i.e. they can’t fire you for having a restraining order, needing to take time off work to go to court or for being in an abusive relationship. Stay safe

  10. Dang*

    Agree. It would be a huge mistake to bring him around after all of this. And AAM is right that most people don’t have this much drama and they don’t bring it to work.

    If you were my coworker I would feel unsafe around your partner and I would also feel very worried for you. But with a coworker relationship it’s different than a close friend. So even if your coworkers don’t say anything to you, it doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned.

    1. Kalamet*

      Dang makes a good point about feeling unsafe. Putting aside the idea of “drama” and whether everyone has it, your coworkers currently know your BF as a dangerous person. It would be disrespectful to force his presence on people who might be fearful or uncomfortable around him. It’s important to remember that your coworkers aren’t under any obligation to forgive him, even if you have. And if BF has any consideration for your career and your relationship, he will understand that.

      I do agree with Alison that *you* should still attend work events on your own, and foster those relationships. You clearly work for a great, understanding employer.

      1. Michaela*

        Also one’s coworkers may be abuse survivors. Forcing them to share space with someone they have reason to believe behaves abusively is unkind in the extreme. Your coworkers don’t have the option of not attending a work event.

        1. Anon just for this*

          This – I had an abusive partner when I was in my 20s (who stalked me after; I told the tale somewhere upthread). With that in mind, I absolutely could not be in a space with someone who I knew to have been abusive; I don’t like to overuse the word ‘triggered’ because I think it gets tossed around which hurts people who legitimately do have triggering events, but this would be akin to a triggering situation for me and I would probably have a panic attack if I encountered this fiance at a work event.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Also, be very, very watchful for any arguments that go like, “Your coworkers don’t like me/won’t forgive me/don’t want me around, so they’re horrible unforgiving awful people and why do you want to work with them anyway?” This is a very common isolating tactic: someone else draws the line at hanging around the volatile/abusive person, and the volatile/abusive person insists that you break off with them for being so mean and unforgiving.

  11. Loopy*

    Also going to stick to the work related side of this and say that as a coworker in this situation I would feel very very uncomfortable with this person coming to events.

    It’s your choice to let him into your life but your coworkers didn’t make that choice and given the circumstances should not be forced to be polite/make small talk/act like nothing happened.

    1. Lovemyjob...Truly!!!*

      Agreed. I would not be able to make small talk and act like nothing happened. It would be hard enough to control myself seeing my co-worker at work and knowing that she’s made the decision to keep this person in her life (I would do it, but it would be hard!).

    2. Emlen*

      Agreed. I wouldn’t even attend events if I knew this person would be there, because I don’t need panic attacks and other fun artefacts from my own history with domestic abuse to put me on my ass at a work function.

    3. So Very Anonymous*

      Yes, I agree with this. I also suspect that the fiance is hoping to come to these events for just that reason — because coworkers who know the situation being polite/making small talk/acting like nothing happened helps him make a case that whatever happened was no big deal.

      1. LKW*

        Or it makes the case that they are judging him and he needs to isolate the OP. Things like making a stink so that she doesn’t attend further work events, socialize with co-workers and starts to think it would just be easier to get a different job where the new employers/coworkers don’t know his history.

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          Also true. It’s really just bad all around since an abuser has to be in charge of the narrative — the coworkers don’t need to play whatever role he’s deciding they’re going to play.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes—this is very much a power play.

          Either the coworkers accept him, and clearly his past conduct was no big deal. Or, they shun him, and they’re horrible and how dare OP work with such horrible people who are so mean to him. Both outcomes are wrong and terrible and are more about manipulating and isolating OP.

          OP, what would be his reason to attend, otherwise? You’ve indicated his presence would not be supportive for you. It seems reasonable that your coworkers may react badly to his presence, even if they are outwardly polite. Why does he want to go to this event so badly? What’s his purpose/endgame?

    4. Miles*

      Not to mention, I wouldn’t assume coworkers would necessarily act like nothing happened. They probably should to be professional, but I’m thinking of a friend of mine who grew up in an abusive household and feels very strongly about it and there’s no way he’d make nice with a coworker’s abusive partner. OP, what do you think would happen if one of your coworkers called your fiance out on being abusive to you, or refused to speak to him or shake his hand, or seemed hostile? If it’s anything other than “my fiance would be calm, respectful, and minimize potential drama even at the expense of his ego” then there’s another reason having him anywhere near your workplace is a bad idea.

      1. Crazy Canuck*

        I was in a similar situation once, and I’m not good at playing nice. I called the guy out and then egged the guy on until he punched me in the face, then turned around and got the cops involved. On the other hand, and this is important, if that guy had been a better shot with a rifle, I wouldn’t be here now to tell you this.

    5. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      Likewise. There’s “drama” – “Brad has been snubbing Amy because Christine doesn’t like her, but now it turns out he’s had a crush on her the whole time”
      and there’s not appropriate – “LW’s volatile partner that we helped her leave is here and now we need to make nice or else he might do something that requires police presence again.”

      This ain’t drama.

      Please leave him at home, LW, and be safe.

    6. MarCom Professional*

      I promise you, if you bring what other perceive to be a volatile and dangerous person to these events, you will find yourself isolated professionally VERY quickly. They’ll have compassion the first time, but after that, your judgment will be questioned and your coworkers will work to separate themselves from you two at work events. Don’t do it.

  12. It happens everywhere*

    Having been a co-worker in this situation, I second AAM’s advice. If co-worker’s “volatile” husband showed up at a work event it just would have been ugly. We followed the break ups and reconciliations and kept hoping for a permanent break up. It came, after several years, but none of us could stand to be around him because we knew some (highly unpleasant) backstory…and because we truly adored co-worker.

    1. starsaphire*

      I was a co-worker in a similar situation as well.

      It was unpleasant for us when things were in the “on again” stage and the Unpleasant Spouse was around, because no one was really relaxed. We were all basically waiting for the other shoe to drop.

      It wasn’t pleasant when things were in the “off again” stage either, because there were periods where we were asked to screen calls, watch who was entering the building, etc., etc.

      *Please listen to your instincts and your gut.* Keep your partner and your work separate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help again, if you need it again.

      And ask yourself why he’s so interested in socializing with your co-workers. That’s really unusual. Really, really unusual.

    2. SebbyGrrl*

      Building on this and tying to the other commenters;

      His insistence on being brought back into your work arena is worrisome because what if he undermined that too?

      As Captain Awkward-ers say – your work people have been %100 Team You.

      If/when this goes badly again you are going to need the sanctity of a space he hasn’t undermined or trashed (with HIS DRAMA and yes, that is what it is and he is using it to manipulate you).

      Everyone regardless of their situation needs work/life balance. The work part is especially important now because it is an arena you can keep untainted by his influence.

      That is priceless. These people are rooting for you and have proven they will be there for you if you are acting in your own best interest.

      What he is asking is the opposite of that and there isn’t any reason he NEEDS’ that. It’s not his, it’s not about him. A ‘working on becoming healthy’ partner might not like that but if this is really getting better he will respect that and not try to diminish it for you.

      Honor what your work friends/group has done by honoring yourself and politely keeping him in the area he should be in.

    3. New Bee*

      And someone like that is unlikely to “behave” at your work functions because they enjoy putting you on edge. An old friend was in a similar situation (the guy was an emotionally abusive jerk), and he liked embarrassing her–showing up and socializing inappropriately with other women, pointedly ignoring her in front of colleagues, making a big deal of attending and then ghosting. She ended up having a kid by him, and it’s been really damaging to her as a young WOC in a conservative industry. She tells lots of white lies to cover up his bad behavior, which is getting even more complicated as she seeks higher security clearance (and therefore needs his basic cooperation).

      I hope the OP doesn’t end up similarly–sometimes abusers want to punish you for deigning to be capable in their absence.

    4. Lefty*

      I came to leave a similar comment… as a coworker of someone who went through an eerily similar situation to OP’s and DID bring the partner to events, it was hard to watch. Some staff tried to be cordial while others avoided the pair entirely. I’m not saying it was right to isolate her, but some of the things we’d heard were so terrible that others on staff were worried what they would say to the partner if given the time.

      OP, please remember the support they gave you when you truly needed it. They showed care and love for you; letting them not have to choose what to do in the presence of your partner is a nice small token of your appreciation.

  13. ZSD*

    Oh, OP, please get help leaving this relationship. We’re all rooting for you. And please come back and give us an update!

  14. LSP*

    OP, I am so sorry you are in such a tough place, and I hope your fiance respects your request that he not accompany you to work events.

    Just from a work point of view, you might want to take a look through some of the archives on AAM. There have been quite a few people asking Alison questions from the other side of things, seeing a coworker or employee in a bad relationship and wondering what they can do to help.

    Also, this doesn’t mean a ban on your fiance from all work events in the future. For instance, if you get married and have been incident-free for several years, enough time may have passed that you can consider bringing him back on the scene. I do mean YEARS. A few weeks or months of good behavior is not enough for people to forget the way he treated you. And yes, most healthy relationships go years or decades at a time without any of this sort of “drama.”

    1. EddieSherbert*


      I think this is really good to note too – whether or not he has changed, it’s probably going to be a long time (again, a few YEARS) until your coworkers feel comfortable with him or believe the “past is in the past.”

      I hope you are safe and wish you the best.

  15. FDCA In Canada*

    Your fiance is wrong. Your therapist and Alison are right. This is not a professional move to make. Most people do make mistakes, yes, but most people do not have “drama” like this and the vast majority of people keep their personal issues out of the workplace entirely. Do not believe your fiance when he says this is a normal and understandable thing to do–it is not. Most people will not understand and they will not look kindly on this. Believe your therapist.

  16. Jerry Vandesic*

    “Well, two weeks ago, he came back … [w]e have been doing well …”

    OP, if for some reason you decide to ignore Alison’s advice and bring him to company events, you should wait a lot longer than two weeks. It is still fresh in your colleagues minds, and two weeks is certainly not enough time for your fiance’s reputation to rebound. My guess is that it would take years of perfect behavior for them change their opinion (if ever). Also, the short time period for your flip-flop is going to cause people to question your judgement, and bringing him to work so soon would escalate their concerns..

    1. Grits McGee*

      Agreed. Plus, from the letter it sounds like from the letter that OP’s coworkers were already uncomfortable with the fiance before the incident four months ago.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Especially that they aren’t just aware of fiancé’s past behavior; they actually helped OP to deal with its consequences and get away from it. A lot of people seeing them back together are going to feel that OP used them or that they were taken advantage of. They will especially not be happy that by bringing him, OP is in essence asking them to give social approval to his behavior.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This, yes. If I invested time and effort and possibly my own money into helping someone get back on their feet, having them bring the abuser back around when they got back together would feel like a slap in the face.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah; whether it’s fair or not, it’s tough enough on onlookers when people go back to bad relationships. When you’ve been actively involved in cushioning somebody from the effects of domestic abuse, you really don’t want to see somebody socially.

          Setting aside the other problems here, OP, your boyfriend is a really bad judge of what will happen for *him* at this thing. Nobody, *nobody* is going to say “Oh, he seemed really nice after all; I guess he’s turned over a new leaf.” They are going to gather into corners and say “OMG I can’t believe that slimeball tried to shake my hand.” He will go from being an imagined asshole to being an actual present target.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes; this is very true. I wouldn’t be mad at OP, but I have been to events where someone I’d helped leave an abusive relationship attended with their abuser. According to our mutual friends, my behavior towards him was somewhere just north of 1 kelvin.

    3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Anybody can do well for two weeks. That’s biding one’s time, not turning a new leaf.

      1. neverjaunty*

        So let’s pretend he HAS 100% turned over a new leaf and will behave forevermore. It doesn’t change a thing about the answer: No, he should not go to this work event.

        Right now, the OP’s co-workers have their own experience with this guy, and that experience is “he was an abusive nightmare to my colleague OP, who I like.” They, unlike OP, do not have happy feelings or good times to fall back on, unlike the OP. Asking them to socialize with him is, in effect, telling them they need to reject their reality and substitute OP’s, without any evidence for doing so, and that’s unfair.

        1. fposte*

          Right. If he’s SuperConvert, there will be other work functions in future years, and he’ll understand that work stuff with his girlfriend is not a big thing worth making anybody unhappy about.

      2. Anon for this*

        That’s learning that the frog jumps out of the boiling pot when you heat it too quickly, and trying again more slowly.

    4. MashaKasha*

      OP, if he already told you, in response to your completely reasonable argument, that you “are being dramatic”, then you two are already not doing well. All the red flags went up in my head when I read this. He is ALREADY not on his perfect behavior.

    5. Marisol*

      Honestly I don’t think I could or would ever change my opinion of someone once I knew he was an abuser. He would be forever branded in my mind as a terrible human being.

      1. Marisol*

        Which is not to say that Jerry’s suggestion that at a minimum, the OP wait a really long time to take this person to any work events, is a bad one. I think he makes a good point.

  17. PK*

    Not going to get into the relationship side of things but you should definitely avoid bringing him to work events for now at least. It puts your coworkers in a very awkward position. In these situations, it would be difficult to have him around friends…let alone coworkers. Good luck.

  18. Snarkus Aurelius*

    This is really good advice, and I hope you heed it not only because AAM is right, but asserting yourself in your relationship is a fantastic litmus test to see if your fiance truly has changed and if you two can handle a disagreement in a healthy way.

    It’s not clear from your letter whether your fiance knows about all the assistance and support your workplace gave you four months ago. If he doesn’t, then you should tell him to help him better understand the situation. His ignorance of this fact might be why he doesn’t see a problem. If he does know, then you should explain to him that it’s precisely because they bent over backwards for you that you don’t want them to feel like their efforts were negated. Your coworkers helped you out because of specific bad things your fiance did. That’s a tough thing to hear, but it’s the truth.

    Lastly, I really don’t like the term “drama.” Drama can imply that behavior is a performance or is artificially exaggerated. Yes, the dictionary definition allows for an “intense conflict of forces,” but you need to make sure that neither one of you thinks anything here is contrived or exaggerated. It’s reality. When someone calls my view “drama,” I feel belittled and dismissed. You’d be wise to ask your fiance what exactly he means by “drama” in this situation and any other.

    1. Dang*

      “It’s not clear from your letter whether your fiance knows about all the assistance and support your workplace gave you four months ago. If he doesn’t, then you should tell him to help him better understand the situation. ”

      Not so sure I would agree with this. Abusers thrive on isolating their victims from support networks. If he knew how involved they were he’d very likely push even harder to be invited to the work events and attempt to isolate her from any potential help she can get.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        This is exactly my thought, Dang. If she tells him how supportive and concerned and helpful her coworkers were, he may well go to extremes to sabotage her job and/or speed up the drain of the goodwill she has with her boss and coworkers (and make no mistake, OP, no matter how supportive your coworkers are, when they find out you’re back together with this man, that alone will start draining the goodwill).

      2. Ren*

        Plus if they break up again he might hold the coworkers/manager/business responsible. We’ve had situations like that with the jilted spouse sending harassing emails or blocking the car park and that’s just going to worsen her professional standing even more. Try to keep work separate

        1. Crazy Canuck*

          And sometimes they send harassing bullets. It’s not common, but it can happen. For the safety of your co-workers, I’d keep the workplace support quiet.

      3. Gandalf the Nude*

        Exactly what I was thinking. An abuser’s reaction to that would be to attempt to alienate that support system.

        OP, I’d be prepared for him to argue that your relationship is more important than your professional reputation. Abusers frequently ask their victims to make sacrifices to prove their loyalty and devotion… usually without making any kind of sacrifice in return. It would go something like, “If you really love me and want this to work, you won’t let your coworkers’ weirdness keep me from being part of your professional life. And if they’ll really hold it against you, they’re not professional or worth working for anyway.”

        But that is the line of someone who wants you to not have a caring, supportive workplace next time they kick you out and take your money, meaning you’d have to go back and be dependent on him rather than kicking ass professionally and thriving without him. It is the line of someone who doesn’t want you to be able to function without him, let alone do so well that he has to beg you to take him back rather than vice versa. It is the line of someone who saw you with power over your own life and and wants that power for himself.

        And the empowered response to that is, “If you really love me and want to make this work, you won’t ask me to put your feelings above my livelihood.” Because it is not a personal or moral failing to put your needs above someone else’s wants.

        1. Sadsack*

          He may want her support network to see that he is back in her life, despite their efforts. He is throwing it in their faces that he “won” her back, and that he is in his rightful place. Or perhaps he doesn’t really know the extent of support they provided to OP and he just doesn’t want her having any social network that doesn’t include him. Both of those are bad.

      4. Bend & Snap*

        Noooo don’t tell him about the workplace support. The last thing you want him to do is retaliate.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Strongly agree with Dang and the others—do not tell him that your workplace supported you. Not only is it likely that he’ll try to isolate OP, but it also increases the likelihood of him confronting her coworkers or showing up unannounced at her workplace.

      6. aebhel*

        This. OP should not be exposing her support system to her abuser if he doesn’t already know about it. He WILL do his best to shred it.

    2. Temperance*

      A very gentle discouragement – this is a man who has a history of violence. I don’t think that filling him in on the help provided by coworkers is a great thing, because it sets up the coworkers as enemies, and could serve to either put them in danger or isolate LW.

    3. Butch Cassidy*

      Third-ing the comments on talking about the OP’s support network. This particular “Team OP” should stay secret. OP needs something that is hers and hers alone.

      1. Siberian*

        Also chiming in here. I absolutely would not let the fiancé know that OP’s coworkers have been supportive, are aware of what has been going on, etc. I don’t think that’s safe at all.

        And frankly, even in a healthy relationship many of us complain a bit about our significant others with close coworkers, and we don’t usually mention that to our significant others! It just makes for awkwardness. Who is going to say “Hey honey, I told my coworkers that you were in a snit the other morning about the dishwasher thing. They all thought that was amusing!” I assume that my spouse does this and I don’t want to know about it.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      asserting yourself in your relationship is a fantastic litmus test to see if your fiance truly has changed and if you two can handle a disagreement in a healthy way

      This is a really great point.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          If he would fail that litmus test, OP is in danger of harm regardless of whether she puts up this boundary. I’d guess it’s better to know it now while she still has a support system than wait it out until she has no resources.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But if it puts her in danger of harm, that means she’s already in danger of harm regardless of what choice she makes.

          1. LBK*

            Right – if he hasn’t actually changed, better to purposely set him off at a time when you’re prepared for it rather than to think he’s changed and find out later that you were wrong when you set him off unintentionally and you aren’t ready to handle it.

        3. Word Turner*

          Even just imagining asserting herself in the relationship can be a good litmus test. And it’s safer to test it out in your head than by actually poking him.

          Can she imagine going through with saying no to him about something? Or does she imagine losing her nerve and deciding not to jinx it when things are good? What about talking to him the way she would talk to a coworker, asking for something any which way instead of trying to find The Perfect Path to have a successful conversation and any step off that path leading to danger?

          If you can’t visualise working up the nerve to assert yourself with him, something’s wrong. If you can’t visualise asserting yourself with anybody at all, something else might be wrong.

      1. Just Me and My $0.02*

        Agreed, and I would add that she should have the safety net in place ahead of time in case the response is problematic. It doesn’t mean she has to use it, but I’d have concerns about her judgment if she needed assistance again from an employer. (And yes, I know that abuse distorts evaluation of problematic behavior, but that doesn’t mean Boss has to help again. Boss gets to have boundaries of their own.)

    5. automaticdoor*

      nth-ing everyone else. OP, DO NOT TELL about your co-workers. Keep your Team You on the secret side. I came from an abusive relationship. It is best not to divulge who is helping. He will try to separate you from them. He may be trying to do that now by insisting on interacting with them!

  19. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    Hmm, OP, yes, just don’t bring this person to the office.

    Sidenote: don’t be surprised that people you know may not want him back into their lives, either. I wish you the best but really, I have lots of doubts.

    1. Myrin*

      I was thinking the same. Despite the horrid topic, Alison’s words made me feel warm inside because of her compassion and kindness.

  20. Trout 'Waver*

    Some things are easier to see from far away and some things are easier to see close up. I think this situation falls under the first category.

  21. J.B.*

    OP: I’m really sorry. You might want to search this site for “Marie” – she had a very specific post. It may have some practical suggestions for you.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Thanks for gathering these, Natalie. Everytime we see these stories, I wish we had Marie on hand.

  22. VA Anon*

    How often do you even have work events? Is your workplace particularly social? You can go to those events by yourself.

  23. Your Weird Uncle*

    OP, I am so sorry to hear what you’re going through.

    Many many years ago I got out of an abusive relationship. Work was my haven, where I could go to get my mind off of everything else going on in my life, which was otherwise in shambles. My advice is to keep your work place as your sanctuary, free from any home troubles. Don’t let him invade it.

  24. Grey*

    He said he made some very big changes in his life and he can’t live without me.

    You made some very big changes in your life. Can you live without him?

    1. Cleopatra Jones*

      You made some very big changes in your life. You can live without him!

      I fixed that for you. ;-)

    2. blackcat*


      OP, this type of language is another flag–maybe not red but yellow–that something isn’t right.

      I love my husband deeply. I have spent my *entire* adult life with him–I moved straight from a dorm room into an apartment with him at age 21. He loves me deeply, too. We depend on each other for many things. We have learned how to “adult” side by side. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but it is supportive and healthy.

      But I would never say to him that I couldn’t live without him. And he wouldn’t say that about me. The truth is, we both could live without the other. It would hurt, it would be hard. I would have to learn how to do taxes. He would have to learn how to clean windows. It would be hard financially. But each of us could go on living without the other. We are together not because we need to be, but because we choose to be.

      Telling someone that you can’t live without them is manipulative. This man can live without you. He has chosen to live without you in the past by locking you out of the house. He does not need you like he needs air to breathe or food to eat. Are you genuinely choosing to be with this man? Or do you feel like you *need* to be with this man?

      As much as it doesn’t seem like it now, you can live without him and he without you. And until you both know and feel that in your hearts, it will be very, very hard to build a solid relationship.

    3. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

      Yes, yes, yes. Even if he has made every change needed, you do not have to live with him, marry him or even have a relationship. He can prove all those changes by moving on and not being ‘volatile’ in the next relationship.

      And do not mix work and your personal life is always my advice. It helps me keep my stresses at bay by not mixing the two on a good day. It really helps when one side is really stressful.

  25. Pam*

    As a co-worker, I would be afraid of this person. Your co-workers and employer rescued you from his last attempt to harm you. What if he seeks revenge on us?

    1. sunny-dee*

      I had a friend who called me at 2am because her husband was threatening to kill her and burn down their trailer (yup) because he wasn’t happy in their marriage. I drove out (after calling the sheriff’s department, because I’m not crazy) and took her to a hotel. When I saw her the next morning, she kept trying to explain to me that he just had low self-esteem and if she could convince him how much she loved him, everything would be okay.

      I told her if she ever wanted to leave him, call, and I’d help her in a heartbeat, but that he was a bad person and I did not want to be around that. I was truly afraid he would hurt me, and I was not going to put myself in between crazy just so I could provide a prop and audience for her internal drama.

      I need to emphasize here — I was afraid because if her husband turned on me, she would not care. I not only wasn’t safe from his being crazy; I wasn’t safe from her making excuses for it. I was willing to put myself out there to help her, but not to feed into her cycle.

      1. fposte*

        This is really well articulated, sunny-dee, and it’s helping shed light on my friendship with somebody in a problematic relationship.

      2. On Fire*

        sunny-dee said:
        “I need to emphasize here — I was afraid because if her husband turned on me, she would not care. I not only wasn’t safe from his being crazy; I wasn’t safe from her making excuses for it. I was willing to put myself out there to help her, but not to feed into her cycle.”

        (This is precisely (part of) why domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous for law enforcement.)

        OP, I’m joining the chorus of “Don’t take him” and “Please think about what YOU want in the relationship.” I had a former coworker who talked to everyone about her husband’s abuse, but she still brought him to functions, where they played the loving couple. Two days later, she would be tearfully recounting his latest abuse. Everyone gave him the side-eye but also questioned her professionalism.

        Your workplace and boss have been incredibly supportive of you. You’re thriving in your career. Please do NOT let this abuser take that away from you.

  26. Morning Glory*

    Just to add to what the other commenters are saying, this is also a bad idea because it could make your coworkers (perhaps unfairly) transfer negative emotions from personal experiences onto to you.

    I think many of us know at least one person in a bad relationship in our personal lives, and feel a lot of negative, sometimes illogical emotions like frustration and anger when they go back to their (emotional or physical) abuser. These emotions are so strong because they stem from the pain of watching a personal loved one going through something so painful and never getting out – but they are easily transferable, and could lead your colleagues to feel the same emotions about you, even though your relationship is professional and not personal.

    You want to stay the person seen as good at your job and doing X and Y especially well. You don’t want to be associated with your colleagues’ sister/father/cousin/friend who kept going back to a bad relationship.

  27. Ungennant hier*

    Regular commenter anon here, but you really need to get away from this guy. Good luck, get help for yourself, and don’t bring him to work with you.

    I have a hard time knowing where the “line” between normal and abuse is, in relationships, but locking you out and taking your money definitely is.

    Personally, I don’t have a separate bank account of my own or much uncontrolled access to money, but I don’t know if it’s control or just due to a math learning disability and overall tight funds (I can buy small items without pushback, but over $10 at a time has to be discussed). Outside of the gym, work, and medical care, I have to discuss anywhere I want to go and how much it costs to; we can’t use too much gas. But I am usually allowed unless it’s at night. I can see friends, but most of them are both of our friends and so my spouse usually comes with.

    My spouse is blunt and sarcastic and can have anger issues, but we usually work it out, and if I say “that isn’t okay,” they will listen as to why and change some things.

    My point, I guess, is it’s hard to know what’s poverty, stress, and personality clashes, and what is abuse sometimes. But some things, like what he did with you, are clearer cut. Don’t make work deal with him after they are aware that that happened.

    1. Fiennes*

      The word “allowed” troubles me a lot here, as does your need to get permission/be accompanied to see friends. A math disability is not a reason to not have access to your own money. Please, take care of yourself. I’m wishing you the absolute best.

      1. Ungennant hier*

        I do have access to a joint account and still have an account of my own; but, direct deposit for both of us goes into the joint- bills are timed to paychecks and we’ve had problems paying everything before, so the money needs to be immediately available. I have debit/credit cards rather than a cash allowance; but I know a big purchase would bankrupt us, so I don’t.

        Seeing partners sabotage someone’s work or contacts make me sad, though. I have a terminal degree and good contacts; my spouse encourages me to get a better job and network, and understands under no circumstances do they come to work or networking events.

        1. Gaia*

          Does your spouse need to get your approval before spending more than $10? If not, do you see why that is an issue that you cannot make decisions but they can?

      2. anonderella*

        @ Fiennes – yes, that word sets off scare bells for me, too – as in, that would be a scary situation for me to imagine myself in.
        @ Ungennant hier – Before I say anything else, I want to point out that we are two completely different people, and I recognize that, so my fear of being in that situation is extended to my perspective of myself, and not so much my perspective of you (obviously; I don’t know you : ) )
        Anyway, I guess my point is that if these “allowances” and “permissions” are something that makes you feel comfortable in life, and you have thought through the potential for advantage to be taken of you by letting someone else have so much control over your life, then I guess I have to say more power to you; really and truly, I mean that, as I am not one to say someone doesn’t know what makes themselves happy.
        But it makes me wonder:
        1) If you have ever lived alone before? You mentioned a possible math disability (which I do have, so I too recognize where that holds me back at times) but I have been in control of my own bank account since I was 18 (I had always harbored dreams of “running away” – ironic that the first time I would have control over my finances, I would be old enough to move out anyway, but I still opened it, by myself, the first day I could – I think on my 18th birthday).
        *side note – (and caviat – my bank is awesome. I have kept it through three different states, and it is only a local bank in my hometown) There may be services at the bank to help you control your finances. If they offer loans, there should be someone willing to sit down with you and talk over your basic goals and budget. Again, it may or may not be a service they offer, but you could look around for a bank that’s willing to do a consultation like that. And if you do, I’d leave out anything to do with your relationship – this is about making you independent. Again, if you want that.
        2) You make a lot of mention in your post that “you” have to check before you go places, and that “you” have to be “allowed” to make purchases over $10 at a time – how do you shop for food??? – etc, but does your spouse also check in with you before making those purchases? Again, (if they don’t) if this arrangement makes sense for the two of you, that’s your family and your rules. In the last half-hour, I made an appointment for a $60 haircut, and asked my SO if he’d want to come with to grab a drink later. If he didn’t want to go, that’s not going to stop me from getting a haircut, and surely not going to stop me from getting a drink afterward to show off my awesome beautiful haircut.
        (background: my SO and I have been together for over 9 years, talked at length about kids and marriage and know it’s not right for us, at least now, have lived together three times during that time but mostly have been either 400 – 900 miles apart, only seeing each other once or twice a year, have completed different Bachelor’s degrees in very different subjects (psych vs IT), and have always had our own bank accounts. I am not.. well, I don’t math, so my instincts in the money/saving realm can be off, which is why I sympathize with your post, about not being in control of your finances. But at the end of the day, even though we’re talking about spending the rest of our lives with each other (or at least as much as possible), when I ask him for financial advice (or wtf is a 401k and why is it more important than me saving for a replacement car in the next year), it’s my decisions that impact my own life, and his decisions that impact him. It’s only as much as we want to share, which works for us. I have to assume that your arrangement works for you, since that seems to be your take on it; but I am alarmed by the idea of not being able to support myself if my relationship ended – my SO and I have talked about this a lot, since he makes 3x as much as I do (tho he has student loans still, and I don’t) – and I can’t read your post without putting myself in that position. *But what if it ended?*
        It’s not about scaring you, or making you think negatively.
        It’s about having a plan, protecting yourself, and surviving.
        Maybe your plan requires dependency; I’d just take a second look at that and see if and where that dependency could be trimmed down; for your sake, no one else’s. Also, concerned that your status in the relationship is not equal, but that is totally my prerogative, and I respect yours. Alternative points of view are only brought up for consideration, not to be taken as an attack on another way of living.

    2. Emi.*

      Your spouse sounds overly controlling to me, possibly to the point of being abusive. Agreeing on spending caps isn’t too weird, but the fact that you talk about being “allowed” sets off a huge alarm bell for me, especially this: I have to discuss anywhere I want to go and how much it costs to; we can’t use too much gas. But I am usually allowed unless it’s at night. I can see friends… If it were just about gas money, why would it matter whether it was at night? Does your spouse have to get permission from you to go places? Do they see friends without you? This really doesn’t sound normal, Ungennant hier.

      1. Ungennant hier*

        It wasn’t a problem before the election/inauguration; I am one of the minority groups targeted for hate crimes and some things happened to me in November. I don’t agree that curtailing where I go is the right thing, but we’re both experiencing a lot of anxiety after these things happened.

        1. neverjaunty*

          “It’s just that I’m worried about you” is classic gaslighting.

          Are your finances transparent? That is, even if you have agreed to discuss spending more than a fixed amount, do you see where the money goes and what your spouse does with it? Would you have access to half in an emergency?

          1. Ungennant hier*

            They are transparent- the problem is, I have trouble understanding them. I know what is due when and how much, but can’t read the spreadsheet even though I can see it any time (my problem with math is a lot like dyslexia), or figure out how much is left over.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Then they’re not transparent, speaking as somebody who has similar math issues. If the spreadsheet works for your SO but not you, your SO needs to find a way to make them explainable.

              Look at it this way: if I write out our finances using a language my spouse doesn’t know, they aren’t “transparent” even if the numbers are right there in the page. Nobody would say “well it’s his fault for not understanding the way you use Hebrew letters to write numbers”.

              1. Ungennant hier*

                I think I should probably get an official diagnosis, so I can figure out a way that works to read these things. I have avoided math through life rather than look into accommodations, so I don’t know what could help.

                1. Just Me and My $0.02*

                  At minimum and for the time being, you need a system that you can use if he’s incapacitated for some length of time. A car accident that has him unable to take care of bills for a couple weeks could be really problematic financially.

                  I’d also suggest that financial literacy is necessary for your long term independence, with OR without him.

                2. TL -*

                  Elizabeth West – who comments here frequently – I believe has dyscalculia which sounds a lot like what you’re dealing with. She’s pretty open about it and I’m sure she’d be responsive on an open thread question.

                3. Solidus Pilcrow*

                  + to Just Me and My $0.02. A stop-gap is definitely in order.

                  Would your spouse be willing to sit with you and mess around with the spreadsheet (on a copy), see what works better for you?

                  I don’t know your particular situation, but sometimes simple adjustments can make a difference. For example, my mom has a hard time paring dates written only as numbers. A simple flip of the date format, so 02/08/2017 becomes Feb 8 2017, was really helpful for her. Increasing the size of the text made it easier for her to read (in her case it’s for aging eyes, but I’ve heard larger text can be helpful for some learning disabilities).

                4. Solidus Pilcrow*

                  Also, if Spouse is unwilling to even try to play with the spreadsheet, especially if you present My $0.2’s argument, then that’s another flag.

                  I realize that not everyone is patient, a good teacher, or is a whiz at altering spreadsheets or figuring out alternative presentations. But a supportive spouse would be willing to *try* for your sake.

                5. Candi*

                  Colored filters. 100% serious. They help some people with disorders that interfere with visual processing of text.

                  I have a friend who was diagnosed with dyslexia, and a side order of dyscalculia, in about… the equivalent of seventh grade. (Brit/Aussie stuff.) She works payroll at a grocery store. (She could be promoted higher, but she would have to go salary, and she doesn’t want the overtime that would go with it.) There are a few techniques she’s developed over the years to help her cope, since therapy was sparse on the ground when she was a kid.

                  Take it from someone who wasn’t diagnosed with AS until adulthood: The day you step up, with or without that official diagnosis, and decide you will take control of your life, will be one you look back on with pride. And yes, my past includes a (thankfully short) abusive relationship as well.

                6. Anon just for this*

                  I have dyscalculia, and it sounds like that’s what you have (it’s dyslexia but with numbers).

            2. Zahra*

              May I suggest something like You Need a Budget? There’s even a community-developed extension for Chrome that will show you how you’re faring if you continue to spend at that speed for the rest of the month, if you take into account the amount you have reserved for this spending category and how much you spent already.

        2. Siberian*

          I understand what you’re saying but… I would keep an eye on things like this. My emotionally abusive ex had a lot of “good” reasons for limiting my movements or being angry at me. When I was out for an evening at his cousin’s bachelorette party, before cell phones, he was livid when I got home because I hadn’t found a payphone and called to check in during the evening. When I said no one else checked in with their partners, he got really cold and said “well that’s fine if you want to have a relationship like theirs.” He frequently made it seem like he was worried about me when I didn’t come home soon enough or call, when a reasonable person wouldn’t have been worried or expect a phone call. Like I said, just keep an eye on it.

        3. TL -*

          It’s not normal to placate someone’s anxiety by curtailing your own activities, nor is it healthy. You are an adult and you have the final say over yourself, regardless of how someone else feels.

          Take care of yourself.

        4. Emi.*

          If you don’t agree that curtailing where you go is the right thing, then it needs to stop–your spouse doesn’t get to decide your movements unilaterally, and a normal, loving, respectful spouse wouldn’t want to in the first place. I understand that you have safety concerns and I’m really sorry, but this is not the way to deal with them. If my husband were concerned about me being in danger if I went out at night, he’d do something like: ask me to text him when I arrived safely; ask if he can drop me off where I’m going; ask me to get a friend to pick me up; etc. Ultimately, he’d accept that I get to make my own decisions about my own safety. Your spouse feeling scared is no reason for them to control where you go.

          1. Gaia*

            This. So much this. If your spouse is worried, perhaps they can suggest ways for you to be safer? Maybe you can take a self defense class together (community centers often offer these free). Or you could read some articles online about safety in public and discuss ways you’ll ensure you feel comfortable in scenarios that may pose a risk. Those are things that would be very normal and supportive. Telling you that you cannot go out at night is neither normal nor supportive. It is controlling and could, possibly, be abusive.

        5. Just Me and My $0.02*

          How does he respond if you do the things that are “not allowed”? Do you have a discussion that’s based on communicating concerns, or are you punished? A punishment doesn’t just mean physical response; it could be withholding affection, blocking access to friends or funds, or demanding you perform some kind of task to prove that you’re sorry.

          Be gentle with yourself. It’s not easy to take a look at this kind of behavior.

        6. Willow*

          Curtailing your freedom for your “own good” is still abuse. In fact the appeal to safety is a classic technique of abuse. Since you are married, I assume you are an adult. That means you should determine what is and isn’t necessary for your safety. It’s fine for your spouse to be worried and even to discuss what safety measures you will take, but you should always have the final decision.

        7. Becky*

          I’m sorry for the experience you had in being targeted.

          If you do not agree with the current strategy to minimize the risks of another incident, then a different strategy to ensure your safety needs to be created. Whether it is using the buddy system, or one of those apps that will notify someone of an issue if you don’t verify you are safe, or something.

          If he is dictating a strategy for your safety that you do not agree with, then there is a need for a new strategy, period.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        ^These are great questions to ask.
        If *all* of these rules do not also apply to him, then he is being controlling at best.

      3. Jesmlet*

        I’m so sorry something happened to you to make you feel less safe going out. With that said, veiling control in a concern for safety is classic abusive behavior. The line is pretty easy to see from the outside and this is over the line. This is not right and this is not a true partnership. It doesn’t need to be violent to be abuse. Take care.

    3. Juli G.*

      If you’re questioning if a behavior toward you is abuse, than something’s not right. I echo the comment above to take care of yourself.

    4. Persephone Mulberry*

      Hugs. I don’t want to get too off topic of the question, but if you are open to reposting your comment on this weekend’s open thread, I think you would get some valuable feedback.

    5. caryatis*

      …And why do you want to live like this? It’s normal to discuss spending with a spouse. It’s not normal for one person to have to ask permission, or to not be “allowed” to do things.

    6. Nodumbunny*

      I am not at all any kind of expert on this, but your comment sounds like a cry for help. Do you need help? The controlling relationship you’re describing does not sound normal to me.

    7. Mela*

      I think it’ll help to distinguish if you can say your spouse is required to do the same things as you (purchase approval over $10, go where they want without discussion, see friends without approval)? Does spouse have a separate bank account or uncontrolled access to money? When they change things as requested, how long does that change last?

      No need to answer here, just food for thought. Wishing you all the best.

    8. Artemesia*

      Anytime the issue is ‘being allowed’ to spend money you earn or share in a marriage, there is the subtext of abuse. Partners are partners and have equal say. They may choose for one person to be in charge of bills or whatever and they may decide that NEITHER can spend more than X without consultation but one person doesn’t get to judge the other person’s choices unilaterally. If money is tight, the way to deal with this is with an ‘allowance’ for each of money that isn’t accounted for and also not using credit cards. Yes, it is control and abuse if one person dictates what the other is allowed to do or demands to know where the other is at all times. Grownups don’t do this to each other unless they are trying to exert inappropriate control.

      to quote my daughter then 12 when a woman at church (in response to learning I was going to be working in Kuwait for a few weeks shortly after the Gulf War) said ‘I can’t believe Wakeen is letting you do that.’ My daughter said ”let’, ‘let’, what is she a cocker spaniel’ I thought that summed it up and was a pretty good spontaneous response to the idea that men own women.

        1. Artemesia*

          Yeah. Now she is a grownup with a child and a husband who is a true partner. We are proud of her and also relieved at how our kids turned out because we know a lot of apparently perfectly good parents who were not so lucky. There is a lot of luck when you have good outcomes.

    9. Gaia*

      I’m sorry but “I have to discuss anywhere I want to go and how much it costs to; we can’t use too much gas. But I am usually allowed unless it’s at night” is worrisome. Your a a grown adult and your spouse has no business telling you that you have to discuss everywhere you want to go and that you cannot go places at night. You need to shut that right down. That is not a grey area in my book.

    10. Jules*

      As a person with a joint account with my spouse. Back when we were broke. When it came to money, it was allowed or not allowed for both of us. Because we were broke. Because we were a step from, not having money for gas to go to work. Now that we are in much better financial situation, small expenses are free pass but anything big is still discussed. I don’t know if the word allowed is such a big deal when you are poor and need to make money last between the 2 of you plus kids before the next paycheck. I hope it does applies to both of you and not just you.

  28. Mustache Cat*

    This letter makes me :(

    Otherwise…OP, in the future please consider taking your therapist’s words more seriously. You discounted her opinion because she only hears your side of things–but I can tell you that you’ve represented your fiance’s side of things more than adequately in this letter. In making this particularly judgement call, your therapist made the right one and your fiancé made the wrong one. Store that information away for future reference.

    1. Lindsay (Not a Temp Anymore)*

      I came to note this as well. You are worried about people discounting him because they only know YOUR side of the story, but that’s all they need to know to be supportive of YOU. If his side of any story were important, it would have been factored in long before now when he wants back in. YOUR side of the story is all that matters in the sphere of YOUR life and choice to have a relationship (or bring him to work parties, or whatever).

      1. Child of Abuse*

        Absolutely, this. It is the job of your therapist to know and tell the difference between you just playing “poor me” and what is real abuse or warning signs of abuse. Please take her words to heart. It’s why you pay her.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is so important, OP. Not only that, but when it comes to decisions about your life and your career, your instincts, thoughts, and opinions are the only things that matter. It doesn’t matter if he’s affected by them, things you do every day affect everyone around you and many people you never see, but you don’t ask them all for input, much less permission. If he has a good point about an issue, let him make it and convince you such that you actually like his way better than yours, and not just to please or placate him or keep the peace, but for you.

      1. Artemesia*

        THIS It doesn’t even matter if you are wrong (and you aren’t here — bringing him to work would be disastrous for your career and probably dangerous for your continued employment), it is YOUR decision. If I just didn’t want to mix family and work and thus never brought my husband to work events, that would be MY choice. Period. End of discussion. And since most spouses don’t much enjoy work events, his pushiness here is all about an agenda of asserting control over you and possibly damaging your job.

  29. Karen D*

    We had a very similar situation at work several years ago. What I observed was that the boyfriend in that situation correctly identified a support system that helped his girlfriend get away from him. Once he was “back in” he did his best to ingratiate himself with his girlfriend’s co-workers and then went to work trying to undermine her professionally, break off friendships and convince people the girlfriend had been playing them for chumps. He was at least partially successful with this — many did not trust him and a few saw through what he was trying to do, but others were willing to let him re-write history.

    In other words, he saw a bridge she’d used to get out — and got to work trying to burn it down and close that potential escape hatch.

    OP, does this motive fit with your fiance’s current behavior?

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      This is such an important point. Examine WHY he wants to go. Because there is a good chance it is to remove the safety net you had last time.

    2. Anon for this*

      Yes, this. I have seen friends’ SOs do it (I hang in there by acting like a very dull acquaintance whose name isn’t worth remembering; they don’t bother trying to push me away). OP, please think about why he wants to go and what he wants to do.

  30. AthenaC*

    Hi, OP!

    Fellow abuse-survivor here. I could write for days on this topic, but here are the things you need to know right now:

    1) Your relationship skews your perception of “normal.” This can be kind of tricky, because to some extent you need to have tunnel vision even in a healthy relationship, and also because even good people do abusive things from time to time without creating an abusive pattern that you need to walk away from. However, if a person does things that reveal a capacity for a total lack of empathy such as deprive you of necessities such as shelter or YOUR money – even in the heat of the moment! – that is a dangerous person. It’s wonderful that he is working on himself, but do not be the sacrificial lamb to his progress. You are worth more than that.

    1a) Retool your ideas about “normal” in relationships. Do this through therapy, talking with friends and family who have good relationships, reading relationship self-help books, or whatever combination of the above is affordable or realistic for you. This will accomplish two things: a) allow you to get a good look at your relationship; and b) give you an idea of what to look for in your next relationship.

    2) Do not wear out your coworkers’ welcome. It’s wonderful that your coworkers were helpful. Sadly, I did not have that experience. When I was at my most desperate, I was victim-blamed and treated like I had a contagious disease. Be grateful for their kindness and do not impose on it further by bringing your SO around them.

    Good luck, OP!

    1. Artemesia*

      What a wise comment. In many cases people are afraid of this kind of situation and have contempt for the victim. That her workers stepped up and helped her is both unusual and so very kind. To abuse that by bringing this toxic person back into the workplace is very shortsighted. If he insists then ask yourself why he MUST override your own judgment and autonomy?

      We heard a lot about how he can’t live without you; why do you need him? The only reason you need to break up with someone is ‘I want to.’ You don’t need reasons or arguments or to discuss it.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      Adding comment to show OP all the online support for you: we all wish you the best!! Good luck!
      I’m also commenting to further reinforce (not just 1 person saying this but hundreds of people) what many have said already: Do NOT bring your fiance to any work events.

      I luckily have never been in such a situation but share my thoughts on what a relationship should be: mutual respect and love for each other. Locking you out of your home and depriving you of your money shows none of that and in my mind would be unforgivable. A number of others who have had experienced similar situations say it is hard to understand why they put up with it, but I hope you think about the all the comments on this thread, the massive number of opinions, suggesting you to think more about your relationship.

      And again: please don’t bring your fiancé to any work events.

      1. tigerStripes*

        I agree with Engineer Woman.

        When people show you who they are, believe them. He showed you that he doesn’t care if you’re out on the streets with almost nothing, because he deliberately put you in that position. He can live without you, but he spent a lot of time grooming you to be his victim, and going back to you is easier for him. Please, please take care of yourself!

  31. caryatis*

    This is a good opportunity to make a larger point: if you’re not getting along with a significant other, don’t bring them to work events. Even if it never rises to the level of abuse. Constant fighting and disagreement and bad feelings is just too hard to keep under control. _Maybe_ you can keep it together and not let the drama seep out and affect your professional reputation. Better not to take that chance.

  32. Temperance*

    LW, your therapist’s job is to hear YOU out, and help YOU. Instead of framing her advice as only hearing your side, you can think of it as someone on Team You (stolen from Captain Awkward) offering you the best counsel to improve *your* station. Your fiance’s side of the story is irrelevant to whether his actions will make him persona non grata to your coworkers, and will actually make him look worse – I know it’s much easier for me to say so as I’m not involved in your relationship, but “I thought my fiance called the cops on me during a fight, so I destroyed her reputation and locked her out of our home, away from her possessions” is not a very good defense to his actions.

    It will not help your career at all to bring this man to work events. It might even harm your career, which you’ve clearly worked very hard to maintain during a difficult personal situation. Your coworkers clearly care about you and your well-being.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Amen. If he needs a defender, he, too, can get a therapist and rehash all of this from his perspective with his therapist.

  33. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    OP, please take the advise above, not only about not reintroducing your abuser into your professional world, but also about reading other sites with relationship specific advise. This is not normal. This is not ok. Everyone here is rooting for you and there is support all around when you need it.

    But since this is a work related site lets stick to that here. I can say with 100% confidence that most, if not all, of your coworkers who know the history will judge you allowing this man back in your life and bringing him to work events. They will question your decision making abilities and it will color their opinion of you. It would be great if we could all create a Chinese wall in our minds that allow us to separate a person’s work from their personal lives but when you are aware of both, it is difficult to do that. It will be difficult to separate what they know of your personal life when considering things about you at work.

    Not only that, but there was a previous letter here where a LW was harassed by the abusive spouse of a coworker because she’d empowered the coworker to stand up to her abuser. Knowing I had assisted you in leaving this man, and finding out you let him back in, I (rightly or wrongly) might be afraid he’d be looking to retaliate against me and others that assisted you and that is the reason he is so desperate to come to work events. I would me immensely uncomfortable in his presence, not just for knowing what he did to you, but our of fear that he might have anger towards me and other coworkers for helping you. Even if you believe he has truly changed, even if he has truly changed, your coworkers are not likely to believe that this early on and any fear they might have related to him are warranted, IMO.

    I hope you succeed whatever you decide to do. But please do some research on this type of behavior before deciding to move forward.

    The entire AAM community is cheering for you.

    1. Pup Seal*

      Yes, agreed. Since OP’s coworkers know about his history, they might fear for their own safety if she were to bring him along to work events.

  34. Barney Barnaby*

    Not sure if this has been brought up, but have you considered that your fiance has a motive to sabotage your professional reputation?

    Your work is what enabled you to get away from him and get on your feet. Your work advanced you money, helped you out through this, and is the reason that you, unlike tens of thousands of women, are not financially dependent on an abuser and therefore unable to leave.

    From the perspective of a controlling SOB, your professional reputation and good work contacts are a liability, not an asset.

    Act accordingly.

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is a really good point. One of the defining features of an abuser is isolation and control of their target. OP, I would be completely unsupervised if this “man” started to guilt you into not going to work events.

    2. automaticdoor*

      This is such a good point. My abuser sabotaged my first semester of law school. The others… did not go so well either from the fallout. They do not want you to have something separate from them.

  35. MuseumChick*

    OP, let’s step back and look at this this situation as a whole for a second.

    By your own admission this guy has: been charged with domestic violence against you, locked you out of your house, left you with no money, made every excuse for his behavior (he locked you out because he was afraid the police were called, that makes less than zero sense), is normalizing his behavior by saying “everyone has drama” which as Alison point out is flat-out not true, and is now annoyed with you that you won’t jeopardize your career for him. Now, imagine that your best friend/little sister/co-worker/mother come to you and said they were in a relationship and this is what they described. What would you tell them?

    I would tell them that this “man” clearly does not care about them, not their physical, financial, emotional, or career security matters to them. It’s your life, your an adult and make any choice you wish, just know that this man is gas lighting you to some extent and the people who care about you want you to be safe above all else.

  36. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    OP I recommend you look into something called the freedom programme. It’s for people in just this sort of position.

    I’m concerned that he’s downplaying this and calling it drama. I wonder if you’ve ever heard of something called the cycle of abuse?

    I’d also like to suggest a book called Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I’d like to second, third, fourth, etc. the book rec for Why Does He Do That? Lundy Bancroft literally wrote the abuser rehabilitation programs most courts in this country use, and that book is an extremely accessible manual for getting to understand what’s really going on in an abusive situation. I honestly think everyone should read it at some point, simply because it helps you get super clear on what red flags are that you might not otherwise see.

    2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      The Cycle of Abuse

      Most abusive relationships display a distinct pattern, known as the Cycle of Abuse or Violence. Abuse is rarely constant but alternates between: tension building, acting out, the honeymoon period and calm.

      Not all relationships follow the same cycle, and individual experiences vary, some stages – especially the honeymoon or calm periods, may shorten or be left out completely, especially as the abuse intensifies over a period of time.

      Each stage of the cycle can last from a few minutes to a number of months, but within an abusive relationship, the following stages can often be pin-pointed:


      Tension starts and steadily builds
      Abuser starts to get angry
      Communication breaks down
      Victim feels the need to concede to the abuser
      Tension becomes too much
      Victim feels uneasy and a need to watch every move
      INCIDENT or “Acting Out” phase

      Any type of abuse occurs
      Or other forms of abuse.
      HONEYMOON or Reconciliation phase

      Abuser apologizes for abuse, some beg forgiveness or show sorrows
      Abuser may promise it will never happen again
      Blames victim for provoking the abuse or denies abuse occurred
      Minimizing, denying or claiming the abuse wasn’t as bad as victim claims
      CALM before the tension starts again.

      Abuses slow or stop
      Abuser acts like the abuse never happened
      Promises made during honeymoon stage may be met
      Abuser may give gifts to victim
      Victim believes or wants to believe the abuse is over or the abuser will change

  37. JMegan*

    I’m agreeing with your therapist, and Alison, and all the commenters here who are saying it’s a bad idea. I’m sorry, OP – I know it’s not what you wanted to hear.

    Your fiance has put you in a really bad position with this request. If you start bringing him back to your work events, he will have successfully re-integrated himself into your social (and professional!) life, which will make it harder for you to break up with him the next time you need to. And on the other hand, if you don’t bring him back, he is perfectly positioned to tell you how much your coworkers don’t trust you, don’t support you, and so on – which is part of isolating you from them, which again makes it harder for you to break up with him. Either way, he’s trying to get you to re-attach to him, in a really problematic way.

    Please keep seeing your therapist, and take care of yourself. All these internet strangers have your back over here.

    1. WellRed*

      “make it harder for you to break up with him the next time you need to”
      And there WILL be a next time.

  38. hiptobesquare*

    Hello OP. I am not going to stick to work here.

    I have been there. I know ALL TO WELL the desire to get back to normal. But what he has convinced you is normal is not at all okay (Case in point: My current, loving, boyfriend asked me today why I am always worried he is mad at me, and I explained how my ex once didn’t speak to me for a two hour trip because I was wearing two tank tops instead of one and it was hot out.)
    Your co-workers know what’s up. I had to eventually tell my boyfriend he wasn’t welcomed at my work (a bar/restaurant) because everyone knew. People care about you, and they know that this is just going to keep going in a circle. I remember taking him back after he locked me out of the house in the winter with no shoes on and I felt sick to my stomach – I’m sure you know this feeling.
    Get help. I’m so glad you’re seeing a therapist. Make small steps. STAY SAFE – If you ever feel in danger in any way – LEAVE. Build a support structure, lean on your family and close friends. I took me months and months to leave, and it will be with you for a while, but you will be okay.

    Also, I am recommending a book that I found oddly helpful ( I like facts) in the reply post.

  39. TychaBrahe*


    If you had met someone new two weeks ago, would you be prepared to call him your fiance and include him in your life events after just two weeks? Would you take him cross country to your grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, drag him to your niece’s ballet recital, or ask him to take you to the vet because you have to put down your dog? No. And you wouldn’t take him to a work event. “Everyone, this is Charlie. We’ve been dating since last Wednesday. I don’t really know too much about him, but we matched well on Plenty of Fish.”

    You are acting like this is an old, established relationship because you have a history with this person. But there are only two options. Let us imagine that your boyfriend has had an epiphany and is really and truly changed. If so, then quite simply, he is not the person you were dating before. He is someone new, and you should treat him like a new relationship. You should not move back in with him, but date him as if he were just introduced into your life. You should not return immediately to physical intimacy, but take it slow. Get to know the new person he has become, because his motivations will be entirely different.

    But if he has not changed, then he is still an abuser. In that case, he is trying to get you to take him to work events because he wants to re-establish himself as your partner. And quite possibly, he doesn’t want you out of his sight, where he can control what you do and say, and whether or not people give you “bad” advice, like that you shouldn’t be dating him.

    Do some reading about the Cycle of Abuse. Lenore Walker described a cycle of increasing stress between a person and their abuser, acts of violence, reconciliation, and calm. No abuser is violent all the time. If they were, no one would be with them. And an abuser isn’t a helpless thrall to their rages. Abusers in general like the feeling of control they have over people. An abuser will have you so tied up in knots that you will let them hit you and hurt you. You will listen to their insults and verbal assaults. It is a power thing. But since eventually you will get fed up and leave, they will reconcile, apologize, claim to be a better person now, so that they can lure you back in.

    You have worth and value, OP. You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who supports you, who holds you up when you are weak or tired, who gives and receives encouragement and love. You do NOT deserve to be hit, to be hurt or threatened, to be denied access to shelter or your property, to be made to feel ashamed or vulnerable.

    1. Emi.*

      Yes to all of this, especially the second paragraph. OP, please make sure you understand this dichotomy!

      1. fposte*

        Yes. And quite often, the goods are *really* good with an abuser, so it’s understandable that people think if they could just have only the goods, this would be a great relationship. But they only put efforts into the goods *because of the bad*. They are inextricable.

    2. Parenthetically*

      “And an abuser isn’t a helpless thrall to their rages.”

      I remember reading a story of someone who finally got the courage to leave her abuser when her therapist drew to her attention that when he had massive rage attacks and broke things, he never broke HIS things, only hers. He always claimed to be out of control, but he wasn’t. He knew exactly what he was doing.

  40. Parenthetically*

    OP, when I was in college, one of my roommates was in what she called a “volatile” relationship and what was absolutely an abusive relationship. Her boyfriend/fiance would show up to our apartment at 3 in the morning, pounding on the door to be let in; he called her every foul name in the book daily; they’d have screaming fights on the phone at all hours. I could go on and on. This dude was easily the most toxic person I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across.

    All that is to say this: I don’t care how much he’d supposedly “changed,” if she’d come to me two weeks after a reconciliation with this clown expecting me to think everything was swell, I would have a) seriously questioned her judgment, b) wanted to distance myself from a relationship with her, and c) never, ever been able to treat him like I didn’t know the topic of every fight they’d ever had thanks to thin apartment walls. It is ludicrous for your boyfriend to expect that everyone, having seen his abusive behavior, having helped REMOVE you from an abusive situation, is just going to roll over and treat him like nothing has happened. And you know what? They shouldn’t roll over. They are right to be vigilant, right to be suspicious of “he’s made a lot of changes in his life” and “he can’t live without me,” because those are quotes straight from the Abuser’s Handbook.

    These folks are not just normal coworkers who know little to nothing about your life. They shouldn’t be expected to act like strangers.

    1. Lovemyjob...Truly!!!*

      I had a friend who was in an abusive relationship. It was as you described above. He did all that he could to isolate her from the people in her life. He was a black man, she is white so he accused anyone who told her that he wasn’t good for her of being a racist. She ate it up too…she accused all of her friends, her family, her co-workers of racism and pushed away a lot of people. She made excuses for him. She’d call me crying. I ended up having to draw a line in the sand with her. I told her that I loved her, would always be there for her, but could not be around her while he was there and would not listen to her talk about him anymore. We could talk about anything else, just not him. I wouldn’t let her not call me either. I called her every day just to “chat”. Eventually she moved out after he hit her with a frying pan and moved in with her father. The guy showed up at the door one night and started hitting her right there in the doorway. I thank goodness her Dad was home! Her story has a happy ending and her abuser now has a prison record.

  41. Viola Dace*

    OP, PLEASE read a book called “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men”, by Lundy Bancroft.
    I know your inquiry was work related, but your question is really about your entire life with this man. One’s work life is inextricably linked to your personal life…that’s why he wants to be included in your work events!
    Hopefully, reading the book will give you some perspective on who you are in relation to him, rather than you always focusing on what he’s doing to get better. Sadly, the takeaway from the book is that very few men who are abusers change their ways. Why? Because they don’t have to. It’s easier to make promises and manipulate their partners than it is to make an effort to truly change behavior.
    There is absolutely no doubt that leaving this type of relationship is very, very difficult. It can be done though. Please avail yourself of every opportunity for help in this. No one will ever tell you this is what you deserve. Except him.

      1. hiptobesquare*

        HA! Right? Apparently it’s more popular than I realized. It was refereed to me going through a situation with a stalker ex-husband.

        1. MsCHX*

          Reading it gave me the motivation I needed to get out of my emotionally abusive marriage. I’d been thoroughly gaslighted and was bent in to a pretzel trying to do/say the “right” things. It’s so hard to see when you’re in the thick of it.

  42. MsCHX*

    Go, right now, and pick up Lundy Bancroft’s ‘Why Does He Do That?’.

    And don’t take him to any work events. What he’s saying right now isn’t meaningful because of his past actions.

    Good luck.

  43. Child of Abuse*

    There are so many things I could say to try to convince you to leave this guy but I honestly feel that is the job of your therapist so I won’t go there. What I will say, is that it is good to have things outside of your relationship that are just yours. Let your work events be that. Something fun you can do on your own without having to worry about anything else that might be going on.

  44. Malibu Stacey*

    Why was it okay for him to tell his family that you are a nightmare and should be cut off, but his coworkers have to chalk the horrible way he treated you as “drama” and welcome him back with open arms?

  45. Been There Done That*

    OP, I have had a very similar rollercoaster of a relationship. I am now divorcing him after 12 years of marriage and it has only made his behavior worse – the divorce is a year in with at least 6 more months in sight. So many things you say remind me of my relationship. I was also going to counseling for years and years (since before we married even) and the counselor never once told me to leave him. I think I figured the counselor would tell me if they really thought I should, but many times they dont. Maybe I should have directly asked him if I should leave and I may have gotten different advice.

    It’s not going to get better. He may be better for short periods of time, but the “drama” will repeat. It’s a terrible cycle and I do think gaslighting has a lot to do with it as others have pointed out. One thing I realized after I left is that he in many ways treated me like my own mother had. She does very much love me, but her controlling behavior, lack of self reflection as to how her own actions create drama, blaming everything on me, etc. are all tools my ex used on me, and made me to make me feel that “love” is shown in these behaviors.

    I wish you the best, please take care of yourself and do some really good self reflection as to if this is the life you really want to live and potentially raise your children in. I finally left when I decided it was more damaging to my daughter to stay rather than leave. Please don’t make my same mistakes. Life is too short to be so “dramatic” all the time.

    hugs to you.

    1. bohtie*

      as someone who went through a drawn-out, nasty divorce from an incredibly abusive man, I just wanted to say that I’m rooting for you. It’s been several years and I still remember running in circles around my backyard after my lawyer called to say it was finally done.

  46. Anon Guy*

    When you ask an employer to help out with a personal problem, and then proceed to reintroduce said personal problem into your life (an especially your professional life) then it makes you look very bad. Don’t do it.

    FWIW, I think you should probably find somebody you’re more stable with. I had an abusive ex, and I didn’t leave her until it got to the point where I hit her back. Having been told my whole life not to hit women, and getting to the point where I actually did was a wake up call that the relationship was toxic and I needed to get out of that relationship asap.

    1. Emmie*

      Thank you for sharing your story. Men are abuse victims too. I am proud of you for letting us know, and for getting out of the situation. You are brave and strong!

    2. Emmie*

      Thank you for sharing your story. Men are abuse victims too. I am very proud of you for leaving, and being open to telling us about your journey. You have a lot of strength.

  47. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    OP – As so many others have said, it would be professional suicide to bring him to a work event. Please, please believe that it takes months or years of hard intensive therapy for an abuser to make the kind of changes that need to be made to have a healthy relationship. As of now, all you’ve seen is him following the pattern that all abusers fall into: Incident, followed by an apology, followed by a “honeymoon” period where everything is calm and relatively happy. Two weeks is no where near enough time to see if this is just the honeymoon period and there is going to be another incident or if he has made changes.

  48. Tuckerman*

    I agree with the advice that you should continue to attend these events alone, without your fiancé. I’d like to add that you should talk to your therapist about how to safely communicate to your fiancé that you will be attending these events without him.
    There is a chance that he will “punish” you when you return from these events by being cold, distant, or by withholding affection. Still maintain the boundary, and try to notice these patterns when they occur. When you recognize patterns you’re in a better position to make decisions. Best of luck.

  49. BioBot*

    You have set a very reasonable boundary: no work events. Someone trying to push past it just two weeks into a rekindled relationship suggests that this person has not changed.

    Also, most significant others would really rather not attend work events unless they’re particularly close to their SO’s coworkers. He is not. It kind of sounds like he’s trying to exert control over every aspect of your life.

    And finally, you’ve only been back together two weeks. Maybe not jump back to being engaged? If you are really going to give it another go, maybe just be significant others without promising each other a lifetime commitment just yet?

  50. Have to be anon right now*


    To an extent, yes, everyone has drama, and sometimes needs to lean on others for support. Sometimes your car breaks down, sometimes you have medical issues, sometimes a family member dies. People have drama, but it’s not normal and not okay for that drama to come in the form of another human actively sabotaging your life. Good people don’t do that kind of thing. It’s not normal for relationships to be this volatile. I just need to keep saying this. It’s not normal. It’s not acceptable. People are worried about you. Strangers on the internet here are hurting for you. People who know you in real life are going to react poorly to this.

    There’s a lot of great advice here. Alison’s advice was amazingly kind and caring. I’m glad you have a therapist. Please listen to her. She’s on your side.

    Please don’t let him normalize his behavior to you.

    1. Artemesia*

      I have been married twice, once briefly and unwisely, and once for 45 years. Never in all those years has there been this kind of drama even when divorcing the first husband. Yes we were ill suited but we didn’t need to destroy each other to figure that out. Yes people disagree, they get mad at each other, they experience rough times — but what is described as ‘drama’ here like verbal abuse, bullying, locking people out of their home and stealing their money — none of that is common or normal. And being pouty and mad because you can’t go to your girlfriend’s work events — so not normal. This is a continuation of the abusive pattern. Hope you can get the insights you need in therapy and the help you need without trashing your job.

    2. tigerStripes*

      “but it’s not normal and not okay for that drama to come in the form of another human actively sabotaging your life.” This!

  51. Undercover & anon for this post*

    I don’t wish to make OP feel bad, so I apologize if I do, but if I was one of OP’s co-worker’s I would be afraid for my safety around her fiancé and would refuse to be around him. I am biased because I have a family member who was injured at work when the abusive spouse of a co-worker came to the workplace looking for revenge. Thankfully no one was killed but people did get hurt and traumatized. If I had knowledge that a co-worker had an abusive relationship and brought their partner to work or a work function I would get far away from them and probably even leave the function.

  52. Tammy*

    Another abuse survivor here, and this letter sounds sooooooo familiar. Abusers are masters at sucking us back in, convincing us they’ve changed, making us believe we’re the ones being unreasonable. They’re generally phenomenal at it. And your letter strikes so many familiar chords for me. Controlling access to money? Check. Undermining anything that gave me some semblance of autonomy? I lost multiple clients because of “drama” my ex created. “Volatile” relationship? Verbal and emotional abuse were constants for our whole marriage. But I persevered and toughed it out because my ex kept convincing me things would be different. And because of that, I excused and rationalized and justified verbal, psychological, emotional, financial and sexual abuse – toward me and, ultimately toward our adopted daughter

    I’m taking a risk here and NOT being anon for this post, because I’m not to blame for what happened in my marriage. But, OP, please please get some competent counseling from someone who’s worked with intimate partner violence survivors before. What’s going on is raising all kinds of red flags for me (and others here and, apparently, in your workplace). And the nature of abuse is that it undermines your ability to successfully judge whether the relationship is healthy or not. I truly did not understand how toxic my marriage was until after I was free of it. Please don’t make the mistake I made.

  53. Anon for this one*

    Please, please listen to Alison’s advice here.

    Have been the abused spouse in this situation. My colleagues knew I was divorcing him and had rallied around me and offered wonderful support. I was having them over to my house for a card game and pizza, and the Soon To Be Ex showed up (after having been told by the court that he could not be there), observed my colleagues, some of whom were large, angry men, and attempted to ingratiate himself to them. It did not go well, and thankfully he had enough social skills to realize that he would be in big trouble if he stayed and left on his own.

    Do not bring your fiance to work functions. At all. For any reason. No good can come of it. Your fiance is incorrect in every possible way about this.

    One of the reasons Domestic Violence shelter volunteers and hotline volunteers burn out is from exactly this: people who return to their abusers repeatedly, *after* having done all the extremely hard work, and asking others to help them with the extremely hard work, it’s all for nothing and they know from experience that it will need to be done all over and over and over. It’s intensely frustrating, and it’s very hard *not* to blame the victim even knowing how hard it is to leave for various reasons, even when you’ve personally been in that situation.

    Most people do not have this sort of drama. At all. Ever. Most people go their whole lives without it, and a great many people (last data I saw was from 2005 so things may have changed, but then it was about 25% in surveys), believe that it is the victim’s fault. So, best case, your colleagues simply pity you and are frustrated but keep it to themselves…worst case they think it’s your own darn fault. There’s no real upside for you here, professionally, and there is a LOT of risk that if your fiance finds out which colleagues he needs to isolate you from, you won’t have any help next time around.

    1. Artemesia*

      And even if they didn’t think it was your fault last time, if you bring him back they will. And they will also be afraid for themselves.

  54. Alton*

    You don’t have to justify your feelings with something like this. If you feel uncomfortable bringing him, that’s a valid concern. It’s your job, not his. And under the circumstances, he should be respectful of that.

    Personally, I wouldn’t think less of a coworker as a person in this scenario, but I would be very uncomfortable having to socialize with someone I knew as an abuser and pretend everything was normal. Not only is that awkward, but people might not feel safe.

  55. Anon a Bonbon*

    At OldJob, we had a receptionist that was abused and we all pitched in to cover her shifts when she needed time for court issues and when she just needed time for herself. We were there for her when she needed to vent and cry. This went on for months while she got her life on track.
    But then she dropped the charges and got back together with him. We did not feel the same way after that. I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but we were not willing to help out in the future and our opinion of the receptionist was affected. I know it’s not this simple, but it felt like we were all tricked.
    OP, don’t do this to your co-workers. It will affect how they see you. If you are going down this road, then keep your personal life far away from your work life. If things do work out, you can tell everyone after a year of bliss.

  56. Sloop*

    To be blunt:
    If I were your coworker and had lent you money, help, and rallied around you in support, only to see you back together with your abusive ex again and acting chummy at office parties, I would think at least one of the following uncharitable things:
    1) Maybe you lied to the entire office to get money and/ or attention,–he can’t be bad like you said if you’re back with him,
    2) You owe me some money, since you’ve ended up with both your abusive ex, and the free furniture/deposit money I helped pay for,
    3) You’re doing it to yourself by this point, and I shouldn’t offer help again the next time you need it (and you will need it next time) because it’s useless if you won’t help yourself first, and/ or
    4) Something is really wrong with your judgement and it can’t be trusted in other matters, even work decisions.

    I acknowledge all of the above are horrible, victim-blaming things, but I and others would think them at least in passing. And that could mean damage to your reputation, your career, and a burning of bridges you can’t afford to burn.
    Do not show up to office parties with this guy.

  57. Gaia*

    OP, it isn’t my place to determine if you are in an abusive relationship. And, given my history in this area I fully admit I am more than a little biased towards seeing signs of abuse.

    But here is what I will tell you – there are a lot of unhealthy signs here. He seems to be blaming you a lot (it is your fault he kicked you out and took your money. It is you being dramatic about taking him to work events. You are the crazy one) and putting the onus of his happiness on you (he can’t live without you). These are not things that happen in an otherwise healthy relationship. I am glad you are seeing a therapist (although I worry about your couching of that in the phrase that she only hears your side – you don’t have to hear both sides to recognize trouble). Please continue to do so. I hope he is also seeking help for himself.

    Do not bring him to work events. If I helped a coworker leave an abusive (or even just deeply unhealthy) relationship and they later began bringing that person to work events I would feel spat on. And, fair or not, I would question their professional judgement and it would impact how I could work with them.

    Be safe. Take care of you. You are strong.

  58. Cucumberzucchini*

    I’m also going to ignore the work side as that’s been covered so well and thoroughly above. Since you’re engaged to this guy and I assume plan on marrying him I just wanted to share my point of view as the child as a narcissist abusive father whom my mother stayed married to “for the kids”. My mother should never have married my father. They should never have had kids. I mean, yay for me, I exist – but my father is seriously flawed. If you marry this man, if you have children, he will be the father of your children. Don’t do that to them! Don’t that to yourself! If he treats you this way, he’ll treat your future children poorly as well or worse. You’ve already called the police on him. Do you know how it feels to call the police on your father for hitting you? It’s surreal and horrible. Not as horrible as being hit your entire life, but still horrible. It completely skews your view of normalcy to be raised that way. It’s taken so much work on my part to overcome that and it’s still a work in progress.

    Just something else to factor into your decision making process. Please leave this guy, continue seeing your therapist and once you’ve worked on YOU, maybe fine a nice guy. You’ll be shocked by the difference in a good relationship versus what you’ve been dealing with in this current one. Best of luck!

    1. Application Development Manager*


      I am glad you posted your POV, the OP definitely needs to read this. Just to see what a horrible, abusive relationship can do. It impacts not just the abused, but the entire clan associated with him/her.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Thanks for posting this. My mother is former CPS. She worked on a DV advocacy partnership at the county level, and later trained CPS workers in how to deal with DV (and how it’s all intertwined). She now is on a Statewide Child Fatality investigation team, and you can guess what she sees a lot of …

      Here’s another important point: CPS will generally work with abused partners to help them and their kids get away from the abusers. However, if Mom (or Dad, of course) goes back to her (his) abuser, or refuses to press charges, or pushes back on CPS investigations, they will charge her (him) as well, and they will remove children from these situations. They have to. And, yeah, a lot of time, it makes it SO much worse for the victim.

  59. Uzumaki Naruto*

    OP, I don’t even know you, and I really hope you are able to end this relationship on a permanent basis. Why this is important, I think, is that your coworkers do know you, so they very likely feel this way much more strongly than I do.

    Your personal life is your business, not mine, and not your coworkers’! But that being said, bringing him around is going to elicit this “why why why would you do that?” reaction, and that call into question your judgment, and brings your home-life drama and injects it into work.

    If they didn’t know the backstory that would be different. And maybe, if you guys are together for long enough and there are no more incidents (or no more incidents that your colleagues know about), it might be okay to start bringing this guy to work events. But for now, for sure, this will damage your professional reputation. Don’t bring him to work stuff!

  60. neverjaunty*

    As a footnote, OP – there is no such thing as “I can’t live without you.” People can’t live without oxygen, water, food, adequate shelter from the elements, etc. They can, and do, live just fine without exes. This is simply another example of your fiancé’s poor judgment; rather than say how much he misses you, he falls back on drama.

    1. Grrr*

      Exactly. Whenever anyone says this, the response ought to always be “I think you’ll manage just fine.”

  61. Ashley*

    Girrrrrl. Run from this relationship. I agree that people make mistakes, sometimes big ones, but it doesn’t seem your fiance has changed.

    How do I know? This comment:
    ‘My fiance says that I am being dramatic and that people make mistakes and have drama and he wouldn’t see the problem with being introduced back into the picture.’

    Someone who showing significant change and was working on themselves wouldn’t use those words. They wouldn’t tell you that your thoughts and feelings were wrong or minimize your feelings by calling them ‘dramatic’. They would have more insight why you coworkers do not want to see someone who physcially and financially abused you. They would not be pushing you to re-enter all aspects of your life. There is drama and there is criminal behavior, you two were beyond drama long ago.

    I recomend calling a local Women’s Shelter or Domistic Violence organization to talk to someone about additional resources and identifying the parts of your relationship that are still abusive.

    I want you to know that you do not have to be treated like this, this is not normal relationship behavior and you deserve better. All the best!

    1. JMegan*

      Agreed. And if he really, truly, can’t see the problem with being reintroduced back into the picture, I would think that’s problematic in itself. Taking that one sentence at face value, it means he genuinely doesn’t know why his previous behaviour was wrong, and why other people would perceive it as wrong.

      So basically, if he’s telling the truth, he’s a complete idiot. And if he’s lying, then he *does* see all the problems with his previous behaviour, but he doesn’t think they’re important. Either way, OP, does this sound like the kind of guy you would want to marry?

  62. Doug Judy*

    OP please listen to all this advice. Do not but him around your coworkers.

    Many years ago I was a receptionist at a place and was told not to let the spouse of one of our accounting employees in the door. They had separated and he had been abusive. A few months later she said they were back together, he had changed. My boss still told me to alert her if he showed up. Not too long after that maybe a month or two she didn’t show up at work. We found out the next day he had killed her and her parents. It was horrible. OP, please safely end this relationship for good. You have people who care about you, your fiancé isn’t one of them.

  63. Alexandra*

    Alison is right on the mark with how this man is trying to normalize his behavior.

    By convincing you to bring him around to your workplace, he not only is trying to make inroads into your support system, as others have said, jeopardize your reputation in your workplace in order to undermine it and take away your power, as others have said, he is specifically not addressing his own past behaviors in order to make change. Someone who is trying to change their behavior does not minimize that behavior–that is what a person who plans to continue to abuse does. I think your instincts telling you not to bring him around are right on target here. Listen to them.

    P.S. His statement that he “can’t live without you,” is also a manipulation tactic of abusers. Even if it weren’t, you are under no obligation to be with him because he “can’t live without you.” It is telling to me that nowhere in your letter did you give your reason for getting back together with him as “I wanted to get back together with him.”

  64. MsChanandlerBong*

    Please don’t allow him to be involved in your professional life. Even if you ignore how your colleagues feel, it’s not good for you, either. When I was in an abusive relationship, my boyfriend took great pleasure in interfering with my work. He would call me constantly and try to get me in trouble, accuse me of cheating on him if I had to stay for a meeting with my boss, steal most of my money from me (to the point I had to start cashing my checks and leaving the cash in the safe at work, with my boss’s blessing), and even told a client that I had “moved back to Pennsylvania to be a whore” to make me look bad. I am an optimistic person, and I try to see all people as capable of good, but I’d venture a guess that 99.9% of abusers don’t change. Do not give him any access to your professional life.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Convincing a partner to quit her job or even working to get her fired is a classic abuser behavior, albeit one that’s a bit harder to identify while it’s happening. It’s a way to remove any avenues of independence.

      This guy knows the coworkers don’t like him. He enjoys exploiting social mores that require people to be polite to him in public. I wouldn’t be surprised if he intended to mess up OP’s job standing AND alienate her from her office support system.

  65. animaniactoo*

    I am not going to stick to work issues. Or rather, I will in a sense, but I’m going to relate them to your relationship.

    OP, if you had a disastrous situation at work, that meant that things that were previously run of the mill acceptable or just fine became absolutely not fine – let’s say entrusting someone to setup a meeting without you double checking all the arrangements – and that same person had goofed in a way that had serious consequences more than once – how long would you think you needed to feel that you had enough evidence of a real change, before you were ready to accept that there WAS a real change and this could be relied on now? Pardon the longest run-on sentence ever there, but read it to yourself a few times. Think about it. How long would you need to feel comfortable taking that risk? Screwups are normal, everybody has screwups. Do you handle all the screwups the same way? Why or why not?

    Those exact same evaluation factors? Apply to your personal life too. I am *seriously* concerned that it’s been two weeks and he’s pushing for normality again and you don’t have a stable enough footing, enough surety in yourself, to just say “That’s your opinion, I’m not ready to take that risk yet”. If you can’t say that and have him accept it and that be the end of it? Then I think I would disagree with your characterization of “things are going well”. I would say that it is more likely that things are headed back the way that they were before. Please understand that he’s not actually asking you to choose between him and your co-workers’ opinions of yourself and him. He’s asking you to choose between him and your ability to choose what you think is right for yourself. If it comes down to it – which of those are you willing to lose?

  66. JAnon*

    I know that this was a work related question, and that you are seeing a therapist, but I encourage you to look at the whole situation. I, myself, have been in a similar situation before and know how hard it is to make a clean break for good from it. If you are concerned about bringing him around your coworkers because of what they may think, think about applying that to yourself. Again, this is coming from a place of understanding and concern, and when I see something I recognize, I want to help out.

  67. namelesscommentater*

    OP, you not only survived without him, but began to thrive. You rebuilt without him.

    Your letter outlines a lot of potentially dangerous things, like getting angry at your for seeking help and undermining your decisions. He undermines a DV charge among other problematic behavior as “drama” and tried to turn his family against you.

    Your life is not about what he wants. Your life is about what makes you thrive.

  68. HRChick*

    I want to share that I have actually been in your coworker’s position at an old job. A coworker was in an abusive relationship. It came to a head. The abused coworker moved in (temporarily) with one of our coworkers until she was able to get her own place. The company put her fiancé on a banned list (he was not allowed in the building). Police were called, her coworkers rallied around her.

    And then she got back with him. She attempted to have ban lifted to allow him back to work events and in the building (company refused). She attempted to justify her rekindled relationship to those who had sacrificed to help her get out. They were not receptive and even flat out told that they could not pretend that they weren’t deeply disturbed and upset.

    I’m sad to say that her working relationship was never the same after that. Anytime she would mention her fiancé, conversation shut down.

    Whether or not bringing him to company events will affect your career, it will absolutely affect those who went out of their way to try and help you. This is not drama. This is abuse. It frightens and disturbs people that someone would go back to that after everything.

    Don’t bring him to events. Talk to your therapist. Make sure that you can take care of yourself if you need to.

    All the best to you.

  69. ArtK*

    Please, please, please OP, for your safety and sanity, take a step back. On the work front it is absolutely too soon to be bringing him to events. Given the history that your co-workers know, it may never be possible to do that.

    There are a lot of people commenting who have either experienced or seen up-close, situations like yours. While he *may* have made an actual change in his life, there are tons of red flags showing that he hasn’t. “I can’t live without you” is nasty and manipulative. The push for normalization quickly is another. Minimizing the opinions of other people (“they’re just being dramatic”) is yet another one. Abusers don’t change overnight, if ever. They just change their tactics. They’ll be nice long enough to get you back under their control and then they’re off again. The cycle of abuse-separate-reconcile-abuse is repeated *very* frequently. The advice to check DV resources is very, very good. Especially if you make more moves to distance yourself from him, as all of us are advising.

    Part of the problem is that you’re really not in a good state to make rational decisions about this. Just as abusers don’t change overnight, the abused rarely do, too. Talk to your therapist about thoughts and actions that leave you open to this. Watch for them. Fight them.

  70. emma2*

    I am not an expert on anything, but I know for a fact that locking your partner out of their house without money during a fight is NOT NORMAL, even in the realm of relationship drama. Just because he is being nice to you now doesn’t mean he is suddenly different from 6 months ago when he decided to kick you onto the street and tell everyone what a bad person you are. Just my $0.02.

    And don’t bring him to work events.

  71. Mena*

    1. That he wants to be part of these events, with people aware of what happened previously, strongly signals that he doesn’t GET that what happened was a BIG DEAL.
    2. If I was your co-worker and you started bringing him to events, I’d question your judgment and steer coldly clear of this person. You can’t expect people to just forget what happened.
    3. TMI for the workplace, overall. Please re-think how much of your personal life you share with co-workers. You are a victim, yes, but it brings too much emotion to the workplace. (And you were a victim – I’m unsure how to take your comment “He got off.” Are you glad of this?)

  72. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Please please please heed all of this advice – work related and not. Keep leaning on your therapist. Ask her for resources if you haven’t already. I mentioned upthread that this is, essentially, my mother’s career. From an HR perspective, I would never want to penalize an employee stuck in a terrible situation, but would have to weigh overall workplace safety into my decisions as well. This is not normal, this is not OK, and please proceed with caution.

  73. Blue Pony*

    Do not bring this individual to work events. Do not bring this individual into any part of your life.

  74. Stellaaaaa*

    This is a somewhat unique situation: you’ve brought your personal life into the workplace and asked for huge favors (the advanced paychecks and the overall patience of your coworkers), so it’s my feeling that your coworkers wouldn’t be out of line to have opinions on your current choices. Don’t parrot your partner’s phrasing. You are more than someone else’s mistake. If not for you, think about how all of this would affect someone else who has experienced similar things in the past. You’d be making them not want to go to their own work party. Your coworkers know that this guy is violent and abusive. They don’t want to drink wine with him and laugh at his jokes.

  75. Slytherin HR*

    OP – You’re getting lots of good advice from everyone here and I hope it makes you pause to consider the situation more. One additional piece of advice I have for you that is work related is to minimize the amount of work info you tell your boyfriend at this point. Don’t take him to work events as everyone is agreeing on but also be very cautious about venting about work and describing issues or fears you have with work. It’s completely normal to want to talk about your day with your partner but you haven’t really seen if he’s truly changed yet (two weeks is nothing on what he did – remember what he did to you, he has a LONG way to go to show actions to repair that). He hasn’t proven to be a real partner to you yet – proceed with caution.
    If anything does south with this tentative relationship you’re re-establishing with him, he may lash out to hurt you financially again (he did it once and his justification for centers only around him besides being a pretty weak reason to leave someone in the cold). Next time it may be to try to poison your work against you (as other commenters have pointed out). I have seen it happen more than once – anonymous calls or emails that have just enough detail and info to alarm someone into believing the lies are true.
    You need to think about you first and protect yourself. Your partner has already shown that you don’t come first in his world. Make you first in yours.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      That’s an excellent point- don’t vent to him about work!

      I also want to add that I think OP should rely more on what her therapist says and not the fiancee. If the therapist says it’s a huge professional mistake, take that to heart!

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      Oh, that’s a very good point. If he’s trying to undermine your support network, venting about work gives him ammunition to argue that they’re no good for you.

  76. Cecilia In A Green Dress*

    I saw this post elsewhere online and saw also that someone had recommended writing to Alison about it. I’m so glad they did, OP, and glad to see everyone here is giving the same advice about 1) not bringing this person to your workplace and 2) possibly not having this person in your life at all.

    Please look after yourself, protect yourself, your interests, and your career.

  77. Mimmy*

    Years ago I had a friend who was in a volatile relationship, and following their fights, break-ups and reconciliations was emotionally taxing. I didn’t have to help her financially or anything like that, but it was still very frustrating. (She had her own issues too though).

    I recognize that personal friendships and coworker relationships have different dynamics in general so maybe this isn’t a fair comparison. Still, I strongly advise against bringing your fiancé to work events. It will be very uncomfortable for them since all they know is how he’s treated you.

  78. Anonymous Mentos*

    I agree with the advice- don’t bring him around. If I’m counting correctly, this is your third reconciliation with your fiance. Abusers are very good at making people think they have changed. Things go along just fine and then something causes that switch to be flipped and you are right back where you started. I’m sorry if this seems harsh, but I don’t believe you two will stay together and bringing him around will damage your reputation and your work relationships. Anyone who locks you out of your home and leaves you with no money to support yourself is an abuser. I hope you stay safe and take care of yourself.

  79. Probably the only fashion designer here...*

    Someone said something like this above, but look to others for advice if you can as well, for the non-work situation.

    I’m pretty darn sure that if you were to call up Dan Savage, he’d tell you to DTMFA.

  80. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP this isn’t “drama.” This is abuse. Don’t let him downplay it … if he truly is sorry, he shouldn’t be doing that.

    As for work events, I’m with your therapist and Alison. Absolutely don’t bring him. There is no good reason why he needs to be there, and it will make everyone else (including you, I would imagine) very uncomfortable. Just don’t.

  81. Snarky*

    “He made some very big changes…”

    Then have him show you by respecting your comfort level around this because, honestly, even without all the “what will this do to my career?” concerns, I think your apprehension is sufficient enough a reason for him to stay away.

    He thinks you are being “dramatic” and that he doesn’t see anything wrong with it and, by doing so, has managed to both belittle your concern and to dismiss it. This is why I go back to the “show me you’ve changed” part because either he hasn’t and you’re going to commit career suicide because of it, or he has changed and he can show you by being supportive of your needs even if it’s not what he wants. That’s how healthy relationships work.

  82. Syler*

    Please don’t subject your co-workers to your jerky boyfriend. You may not mind spending time in the company of someone who is, at best, a colossal asshat and, at worst, dangerous to be around – but your co-workers likely will.

    You have every right to choose to perpetually forgive him and take him back, but keep all that to your private life. Don’t put people in the position of having to skip something work related in order to avoid him. It’s just not fair.

    I wish you both the best.

  83. H*

    I keep fast-forwarding to you down the road (I am old enough that not only have I seen this situation happen, but I’ve seen it play out over the long haul) and it’s not good. Whatever he did before, he is capable of doing again. People backslide –life gets hard, etc. — no one thinks they will but it happens.

    Okay that is really pessimistic but only 1% of people really do change. You know how you can tell if he really has changed? Because it takes like 5 years. If he was approaching you 5 years later after much work then maybe you could trust it. But I don’t think you should trust it now. Please don’t rationalize his abuse away.

    If it’s hard to believe, then just give it time. Listen to your gut. If you start feeling things like fear, anger, any intense emotion, etc. then that’s a signal that something in your life is off. Feelings are our internal GPS. They get really intense when we ignore them because they have to ratchet up the volume in order to be heard. And feelings are the only things we have no control over. So that’s how you’ll be able to tell if you’re not sure.

    Sometimes people grow up used to feeling shitty or stepped on or abused and they have a high tolerance for those feelings and don’t see them as warnings. That’s where the danger is, but if you are in a situation or being treated in a way that you would not want to see your best friend or mom or sister in, remember that you ultimately have to be your own best friend. If it would not be okay for you to see anyone you loved in that situation, then it’s not okay for you. (Sometimes it’s easier to see objectively when imagining another person in your role.) Best of luck and much love to you.

  84. wealhtheow*

    I don’t want to be alarmist, OP, but as a person who grew up with an emotionally abusive parent, I see a whole forest of red flags here :(

    To stick to the work-related question, though, I 100% agree with AAM that you don’t need to, and indeed shouldn’t, bring your SO to work events. The more volatile one aspect of your life is, the more important it becomes to have stability and support elsewhere in your life — for a lot of us, support and stability at home is what helps us survive shitty work situations when we really need to, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work the other way around as well.

    You already don’t think this a good idea, which is why you’re writing to an advice columnist about it, and you’re right, it’s not. I also think it’s a super inappropriate request on your SO’s part (especially after 2 weeks?? I agree with everyone else who’s said your best course here is to treat this like a new relationship rather than the continuation of a previous one, in terms of allowing access to your personal stuff) and, tbqh, would be seen as weird by many of your colleagues even if they didn’t know the history behind it. Unless you work in an industry where bringing SO’s to work events is the norm (like, IDK, pro hockey?).

  85. Been there, done that*

    OP – He’s setting you up for a bigger fall next time.

    It sounds as if you have no close family or friends to rely on and work is your ONLY support network. What happens the next time he locks you out and your work support network thinks “meh, here we go again. not getting involved this time.”

    He’s destroyed your credibility with his family (who does that to someone they are going to marry?) and he’s trying to destroy your credibility at work.

    He’s back precisely because you are flourishing and doing well. He wants something (someone to take care of him? control over your money?).

    Next time he gets angry with you, I hope you have an escape plan in mind before you get to that point. A super secret bank account, a place you can stay. And, while you are in a calm frame of mind, I hope that you can unemotionally put down red lines of what is unacceptable behavior so that when he crosses them you can find the strength to sever ties while he tries to surround you with a fog of emotion and blame.

    Above all, go with your gut.

  86. LC*

    I admire Alison’s focused and professional response, but I worry that it might have the effect of normalizing the fiancé’s behavior. Abusive behavior doesn’t rank in the same universe as other workplace no-no’s, like using emojis in emails or rambling in meetings; it’s in a whole other universe.

    OP, your relationship with your fiancé is problematic NOT because it threatens to undermine your professional life (though it does, for all the reasons Alison and commenters have astutely pointed out), but because it threatens to undermine your entire life: your psyche, your spirit, your physical safety. You can mitigate the harm to your career, at least temporarily, by keeping him away from workplace events. But you can’t mitigate his impact on your life, and that will ultimately creep back into your friendships, your happiness, and, yes, your work.

    1. Natalie*

      Well, on a philosophical level there’s no reason to assume the LW doesn’t know this. People who are being abused are usually a lot more astute about their relationship than they are given credit for. Maybe we assume they don’t know because that’s the only reason we think they would stay?

      But more importantly, on a practical level, IME people in these kinds of relationships generally have a lot of defensive walls up. (If you haven’t read it before, read the comments on the letter from someone who’s husband quit on their behalf.) Jumping immediately past the requested work advice to “hey, you need to leave” seems likely to cause the letter writer to just shut down and not hear the professional advice. That professional advice may well keep LW in good standing at their work, which they may well need in the future if/when they do decide to leave.

  87. Paul Z*

    Not sure if this makes a difference: You mentioned “Except this time I was left locked out of the house and he left me without much money”. People here are interpreting it as “locked you out of your own house and took your money”. If that’s the case, I’m sorry it happened to you.

    But I just wanted to verify that you weren’t referring to his house, and he withdrew his money while you had very little money of your own. If that’s the case, he simply withdrew his resources from you when you need it, and left you in a bad spot. If he truly was worried about you bringing the court system into your relationship, then withdrawing resources from you and cutting all connections may be the right move.

    Again, not sure if it makes a difference, just wanted to verify the scenario out of curiosity’s sake.

    1. Marisol*

      You’re way off base, and unfortunately, this comment takes the side of the abuser, which may be what the OP is unconsciously hoping to get–some justification of her fiance’s actions, when there is no justification whatsoever.

      If someone needs to end a relationship, the appropriate way to do it is respectfully, like an adult. The INappropriate way to do it is to lock someone out of their house with no warning. Whether or not the domicile in question is in the OP’s name is irrelevant. If a couple has an agreement to share resources, then one partner withdrawing resources from another abruptly, with no warning whatsoever, is totally inappropriate. It doesn’t matter if “the court system” will be involved or not. What the fiance did is morally reprehensible. It is absolutely not ok and should not be excused, and the fiance does not deserve the benefit of the doubt when his behavior is so clearly out of bounds.

      If you reread the OP’s letter, perhaps you will ascertain, as other commenters have, that the fiance’s behavior is abusive and that his supposed “fear” of the OP is just a technique used to obscure the truth so that he can get away with his bad behavior. It’s called gaslighting, and it’s used not only to trick the partner who is being abused, but friends and family as well. I would say that in buying into the nonsense, you have been gaslighted yourself.

      1. Paul Z*

        Please refrain from name calling – calling someone the abuser when he was only charged but not proven in court seems to be jumping to conclusions much.

        Yes, locking someone out of their house with no warning = bad. Locking someone out of my house = more acceptable. I think it’s just understood, that the agreement to share resources only uphold if they continue to cooperate, without that, all bets are off. If he was worried that she’d call the cops, that means he believed that she might, or will un-cooperate. A little warning would’ve been the right thing to do, but I still see it as optional.

        Gaslighting – Sure, that’s one theory, that his supposed “fear” is just a technique. Or he could actually be afraid of false domestic abuse accusations. I’m assume both you and I believe that “some” accusations are false or exaggerated, (nothing to do with OP). I also assume we will never agree on the percentage of those.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      Calling the police when you’re in danger from a partner is not bringing the court system into a relationship. It’s protecting yourself from violence or bringing an offender to justice. It does not matter one whit whether the victim and offender are in a relationship.

      And, as Marisol says, if they were living together–and it seems clear, from her need to find new housing immediately after, that they were– it was her home too. And whether he was the sole leaseholder or owner or what, it was beyond cruel to throw her out with no warning and no resources. Save concerns for his own life and limb, there is no excuse for it. Decent people don’t suddenly render their partners homeless. They don’t.

      1. Paul Z*

        For that specific incidence, I dont’ think the OP mentioned her life was in danger. And yes, it definitely is bringing the court system into the relationship. In some cases it’s justified, but you do have to agree that in other cases, it’s not. The thing we probably won’t ever agree on is the frequency of justified vs not.

        For your second paragraph – yes, it’s probably cruel, but it’s perfectly within his rights and he chose to exercise it. Similar to the OP calling the cops was within her rights. He was worried that she’d exercise her rights that would damage him (I assume in a fight), so he exercised his rights first that damages her instead. While your word to describe it was “cruel” and “no excuse”, I kinda see it as a fairly strategic play.

    3. a different Vicki*

      It’s clear that he locked her out of the house she lived in–hence the need for new furniture.

      That would be justifiable only if he had been trying to break up with her, and she was refusing to accept it, or if he was afraid to break up with her and not change the locks. That’s more or less the opposite of what happened here.

      Even if he owns the house, or his is the only name on the lease, and she doesn’t have tenancy rights, locking her out of the house she lives in is a scorched-earth approach to a breakup. It’s not something that lends itself to “let’s get back together, and stop acting like it’s a big deal that you were suddenly homeless.”

      In this case, what we know includes that the boyfriend had previously been charged with domestic violence against the OP, and that he locked her out after a fight, allegedly because he expected her to call the police. If your mirror-image “but what about the poor boyfriend?” version of this was true, it would still be a good idea for them to stay apart and not go to each other’s work social events. (If OP’s boyfriend wrote to an advice columnist, I can’t imagine an even partly accurate version of the events–say, “my girlfriend and I have a volatile relationship, and just reconciled after I’d told her to move out for a while. We’re engaged, but I’m terrified of her and don’t want her around my family”–that wouldn’t lead to advice that they should break up again, and he should see a therapist.)

      1. Paul Z*

        Vicki: If he was only “charged”, then I’m gonna assume the innocent until proven guilty stance. I also assume OP was the one that called the police on that instance (apologize if this was the wrong assumption, OP). If he understands that all it takes for a “charge” is a phone call accusing him of doing something from the OP, then withdrawing all resources would be the way to go, even if it means the person that could potentially get you “charged” with domestic abuse would be temporarily homeless.

        This goes back to personal decisions – Assuming it was his house and his money, it’s perfectly within his rights and he chose to exercise it. Similar to the OP calling the cops was within her rights. He was worried that she’d exercise her rights that would damage him (I assume after an argument), so he exercised his rights first that damages her instead for self-preservation. While this isn’t the route I’d go, but I do see his strategy at play.

        1. Casper Lives*

          If you read the OP’s comment, the abuser – yes, abuser – broke her finger while trying to physically prevent her from leaving the house. The charges didn’t go forward because she wasn’t cooperating. This is, sadly, a normal occurrence for victims in domestic violence situations. It’s even more common for men, as they face more public ridicule. I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish by your comments here. You’re coming across to me as making a “what about the man?” argument when the OP is already demonstrating she considers his feelings and desires above her own.

          1. Casper Lives*

            She expanded on what happened in a comment thread below. I’m new here and not sure if I can link directly to comments?

  88. Hmmm*

    “…he said he was terrified of me and couldn’t be around me. He told his whole family that I am a nightmare and cut me out.”
    -This makes it sound like she’s the abuser, and he’s the one who can’t leave yet.

    1. Natalie*

      I’m not sure what the relevance is here, the scenario you posit doesn’t change Alison’s advice.

      (It’s also not uncommon for abusers to paint themselves as the “real victim”, but that’s off topic)

    2. bohtie*

      yes because it’s definitely never been the case that an abuser gaslights the victim into believing that she’s the real evil here, and he only abuses her because he has to keep her in line somehow.

    3. MuseumChick*

      Let’s look at the whole sentence: “He said he did that because he thought that I called the police on him again during a fight. I had not, but he said he was terrified of me and couldn’t be around me. He told his whole family that I am a nightmare and cut me out.”

      His fear seems to have been that she may have called the police. And, he’s the one who was charged with domestic violence is a previous altercation between them. It’s pretty typical of abusers to make the victim appear to be the bad guy to friends and family. This is also typical gas lighting “YOU’RE so difficult.” “You are just as bad as me.” etc etc.

      1. Candi*

        My ex filed a report on me after pushing me for days, harassing me when I tried to eat, and not allowing me to sleep. You don’t act rationally when you are in that state, especially with undiagnosed depression and AS interfering with your brain on a good day. Then he screwed with my head some more until the trial.

        It’s a control technique. It’s saying, “Hey, the cops are on my side, the courts on my side, you don’t have any recourse.”

        Fortunately the program in this state for a low-level first offense of one strike, no injury, was a year’s probation and weekly counseling. Succeed, and it’s off your record like it never happened.

        The counselor knew darn well about people gaslighted, manipulated, and provoked by their abusive partners into doing something stupid, and had ways to help. To help us look at ourselves and realize where we were, and what we could do if we wanted. It put stones in the water -if we wanted to cross.

  89. Volunteer Coordinator in NoVA*

    I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to figure out how to write a compassionate answer as I was this person in the past and know how challenging this can all be while you’re in it. The thing that I think you need to remember is to keep as many outside connections stable when you are in a unhealthy relationship. Having a workplace that is supportive is critical as you need to remain as independent as possible in case you need to leave again. Having a paycheck is more important than your boyfriend coming to a work event. You will mostly likely burn bridges if you start bringing him around and people will judge you both because of the past. If he cannot respect this and keeps pushing to come to workplace events, than you need to look at this as a sign of how he doesn’t care about your opinions and his disrespect of your boundaries. Please stay safe and keep being honest with your therapist as it seems like she is able to provide some good feedback. I know it can be so hard to leave a relationship behind that seems like it’s just the “one” but this type of “drama” isn’t a part of healthy relationships and you deserve better.

  90. TootsNYC*

    OP, if you are determined to re-enter this relationship, maybe it will be safer for you if you insist that these events are employees only.

    Even if it’s drinks at the bar after work, insist that it’s employees only.

  91. animaniactoo*

    OP, if you’ve made it down this far, one more thing that I would like to emphasize is that if he actually has done a lot of work, it’s entirely fine to credit him that with that work – and at the same time saying that the changes aren’t enough for what you need to be able to be in a relationship with him. If they’re the wrong changes, or the right ones but just not far enough along the path, or that he’s put in all this work but won’t be able to – and maybe shouldn’t be trying to change other things about himself because those things are core to him and are just things that make the two of you a bad match and bad for each other even when you’re otherwise good people and do genuinely care about each other.

    It’s okay for it to still not be enough no matter how many changes he has made or what he’s done in an effort to try to please you. You can give him credit for it, acknowledge it, even praise it – at the same time that you decline to use it as a basis for resuming or remaining in a relationship with him. You don’t “owe” it to him to try. You owe it to him and to yourself to be clear about what works for you and what you’re willing to try or do. If he’s unhappy with that, it’s not yours to solve – not in any way that simply transfers the unhappiness from him to you, even if the transfer to you is only a steady mild discomfort. You don’t need a reason stronger than that to decline whatever it is that you are being pushed for no matter how important it is to the other person. All you need is the willingness to accept the results – that he may break up with you. Okay. Let him. Let him do what he needs to take care of himself, while you take care of yourself by doing what you need to do.

  92. Katniss*

    OP, please know that you have lived without this guy before and you can again. Please know that he most likely has not and will not truly change. My abuser said he would. He would behave himself. Things would be SO much better. I thought things really had turned around.

    Until he almost killed me.

    Abusers do not change and they do not get better, on the most part. They just don’t. It is not worth your safety and your life to give him a second chance. You will love again and it will be with someone who would NEVER scare you or hurt you. Please make use of the resources given to you in these comments and your local resources and leave this guy behind, forever.

  93. Kate, short for Bob*

    I just had to copy this over from another site, because it’s all so true:

    Every person deserves to have a relationship where they are treated with respect, love and equality.

    There is never an excuse for verbal, physical or financial abuse.

    If you partner treats you like shit, it is their fault. It is not because of something you have done.

    You can’t change an abusive man by being ‘better’ or sticking by him where others haven’t, or by changing yourself.

    Most people have happy relationships, where disagreements happen and are resolved without resorting to shouting, name calling or violence or screwing someone else.

    Most people’s partners are happy for them to pursue their own friendships and interests, work and education, have access to money, make decisions.

    Most people in a relationship stay faithful. They don’t have affairs or cyber-sex or obsessively wank over porn day and night.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that dysfunctional relationships are the norm. There are many of them on here, but then people don’t tend to ask for advice on healthy relationships, so we hear less about them.

    Relationships are not supposed to be hard work, that is a big fat myth. Yes, you should work at your relationship but that is not the same thing at all.

    Nobody should live their life in fear of angering their partner, or skirting round issues that might upset him. Or put up with cheating and lying for fear of rocking the boat.

    Nobody should ‘stay together for the children’, or because of your marriage vows. If your husband treats you badly, he has broken the vows. Children are much much happier being brought up by parents who live apart than in an atmosphere of fear and loathing.

    Just because you’ve escaped a level 10 bastard, doesn’t mean you should settle for the level 8 one that comes along. The only acceptable level of abuse is none.

    Just because all your friends are in bad relationships, doesn’t mean that you have to be.

    I really want to debunk the myth that all men are bastards. They simply aren’t. If you feel that all the men you meet are, it’s because you are unconsciously sending out vibes to these men. They can spot a target a mile off.

    Be on your own. It is much easier than sticking by a tosser. If you have been in more than one abusive relationship, seek some counselling, you may be co-dependant, or you may be modelling relationships on a warped template, perhaps from childhood.

    If he abuses you, he is not a good father. Good fathers don’t treat the mother of their children with disrespect.

    It doesn’t matter how much he says sorry and makes it up to you, if he continues to abuse you those apologies are worthless.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking the abuse isn’t ‘bad enough to leave’. If you are treated in any way less than cherished, loved and respected, it is bad enough to leave.

    There is never a reason to stay with an abusive man. He won’t kill himself if you leave him, he won’t take your children, and yes, everybody will believe you.

    Anyone reading this, please know that you don’t deserve an abusive relationship, nobody dies.

    1. JMegan*

      I agree with everything except that last point. There are actually lots of reasons to stay with abusive partners, which is why so many people stay. Financial security and access to the children are big ones, along with (lack of) social support and feelings of inadequacy – both of which have been actively encouraged by the abuser. Also, the most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is right after they try to leave. The abuser’s threat to commit suicide if the victim leaves may not be real, but the threat to kill the victim if they try to leave is VERY real.

      People stay for lots of reasons. They may not seem logical to someone who has never been in an abusive relationship, but there are lots of reasons why an abuse victim may decide that it’s better or safer not to leave. I know you meant well, it’s just that saying “there is never a reason to stay” can make it very difficult for people who do decide to stay for whatever reason.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        I know what you mean – I volunteered with a women’s refuge for a number of years – but they’re not *good* reasons to stay, they’re excellent reasons for making better exit plans. Contact local refuge services, see if the local police force has a programme to help you stay safe while you get ready to leave and after, start building a running away fund and planning how finances will be separated etc etc.

        And yes, some people will never decide to leave, or will take a number of goes at it before they can stay free. But we should never stop telling people that better outcomes are available, and that there are informational and practical resources available to help.

  94. Fern*

    OP, please don’t let this guy convince you that his past behavior falls within any sort of typical range of ‘drama’ or common relationship ups and downs. He left you homeless and without immediate funds to support yourself – as I’m sure you’re seeing from the community response, that’s not ‘drama’, it’s abuse.

  95. Casper Lives*

    OP, I want to add my own experience. I’m sticking to work consequences as other comments covered your relationship eloquently. This is a topic close to my heart. I want to encourage you not to think his behavior is normal, and not to think you cannot leave him now even if you “agreed to take him back.” I don’t know how long you’ve been at this job, but your reputation will be hurt more if you’re a newer employee. The newer you are, the less your coworkers and bosses will have to think about you that isn’t your relationship with your fiance.

    My mother’s career was almost ruined by my abusive father. She was a rising star at work. The abuse was obvious at home, but didn’t come out at work until she left him. She told him she was going to leave him. He sent her to the doctor. She initiated divorce proceedings, took the children, etc. He was NOT happy. Queue the extinction burst. My father called her work number, which she was obligated to answer, up to 10 times per day to scream at her. He complained about her work to higher ups in the company, who didn’t have the context to know he wasn’t a real customer. He showed up at the front desk and pestered the security guard. He called CPS with an unsubstantiated complaint, demanded court hearings that took place during her work day, and so on. She acted irrationally in return to the extreme stress, her work product suffered, and her boss got fed up with the “drama” that wasn’t her fault. Mom eventually got a restraining order that prevented him from speaking to her at work. Her boss was forced to change her work number and not give it out to my father. My father was banned from the work building.

    Her boss wanted to fire my mother. I’m not in a state with protection for victims of domestic abuse – her boss almost succeeded. I think the problems were resolved after ~2 years, all said and done. From a utilitarian perspective, her boss had valid concerns about her suffering output, her lowered productivity, her struggle to maintain emotional stability, and other work-related problems. However, Mom was saved by her good reputation and long track record of good work. Former bosses, coworkers who had been promoted, and clients pushed back against her boss.

    (If anyone was curious, there was a happy ending! She was transferred to another department with a boss who thought highly of her, and is still working at the company.)

  96. Elizabeth West*

    My take: regardless of whether this relationship works out and/or your fiance manages to deal with his own issues, I’m inclined to agree with Alison. Your coworkers likely do not want to be around someone they know mistreated you.

    If he’s pressuring you and not taking no for an answer, then please talk to your therapist because that can also be a form of abuse. You don’t want him to think if he pushes enough he’ll get what he wants, because then you’ve only taught him how far to push.

    Good luck, OP. *hugs*

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      Oh! In case you missed it, someone was asking after you upthread. Search your name and you’ll find it. It’s for another commentor who’s in an unhealthy situation.

  97. stk*

    OP, if you get the chance, I think a lot of us would like an update on this one. Good luck.

    (And if you ask him not to come to work stuff for a while and he reacts in a way that upsets and frightens you? Please trust that instinct and get out.)

  98. ilikeaskamanager*

    I think you would be jeopardizing your professional advancement with this company as well as your relationships with your colleagues. if I were a manager in this company, I would not want someone with this kind of history anywhere near my workplace or my employees.

    This isn’t a “life advice” kind of forum, but I echo others who have strongly encouraged you to use all the support resources you have around you and listen to those who have demonstrated by their actions that they care about and respect you.


    Thank you SO much for all of this feedback! I am very grateful!

    I have read through most of the comments here…and I want to add a little extra information.

    The first incident that ended with a domestic violence charge was based on the fact that we had a fight in the house and I was trying to leave. I was throwing things in my bag and he was begging me not to leave. He yanked the bag out of my hand but he says he didn’t realize during the struggle that he had my hand. It broke my finger and I had to have 3 pins put in surgically…to get it fixed. The doctor called the police and I initally stood by his side…but when he began threatening to make me pay my own medical bills… I started to get resentful.

    Behind his back — I told police I would cooperate. Then I tried to back out and it was too late. So, when he was charged he found out i was involved and told his entire family that I was the problem and that I backstabbed him and ruined him.

    He lost his contract (successful doctor) over the charges and he had been depending on MY Income to support us until he could get his new practice off the ground. I was doing my best but he wouldn’t let me control any of the money. I had to have it instantly deposited and he told me to stop asking questions.

    The night he locked me out — we had an argument. I had just deposited 12k the day before and he took all but 3k out and then when he thought that I had called police…he cut my credit cards etc and I couldn’t get to the 3k because it was a holiday weekend.

    I was completely stranded and I happened to be working a work conference that weekend and I was struggling! I had no debit card/credit card and I had to ask my employer to allow me to use company card until the following Monday when I could get to the bank.

    He is the type of person who just says F U when things go south. And he certainly did…. when he finally sent my things — it came COD and he KNEW I did’t have 950 dollars cash to give movers. I was in DEEP trouble.

    Now that we are back together, he almost seems happy and MAD that I was doing so well. Within 4 short months, I bought furniture (used by nice) …got a nice apartment and I had even bought more than paper plates etc.

    When I told him I didn’t have furniture or anything to get an apartment — he told me to use a sleeping bag because he said he had zero money left either. Of course he blamed me for his professional demise and acted as if it was a requirement that I support him.

    I do love this man. I don’t know why. I just do….. but the other portion that is not really work related — (sorry to go off topic) …is that right now I am basically paying for meals etc — because he is broke. He tells me he only has 50k left in his retiremenet and he’s 49 years old. When I came back to the house — I saw that he had bought TONS of new clothes and he had been in clubs partying like a rockstar almost every weekend.

    He is broke— his accountant says he needs to find employment through a hospital and close his attempt at private practice..

    1. AcidMeFlux*

      Forgive me, OP, and Alison and everyone else on this site if I’m going to far but…… OP, I don’t see this ending any way but with your death. Is he worth being killed for? Or getting your friends or co-workers or first responders hurt or killed? Because that does happen in cases like this.

      If the house were burning around you, would you stay because you like some of the furniture?

      I know somehow you know this, but your life is in danger. Flee. Please.


        Well, it’s very easy for me to feel bad about this situation. He said that EVERYONE he told about the way my finger broke — understood that it was just an argument that ended with an accident. He said couples told him non stop that they had fights like that, too… and they could have easily been us….

        I don’t think he would ever hit me. He never has. His form of control comes with his possessiveness and need to control the money etc. And now — he has nothing…. so it makes it even that much worse. He’s frustrated and in DEEP denial. He literally wants to charge the credit card more (his) and go skiing this weekend… He says he’s just “tired” and doesn’t want to deal with building a new practice at 49 years old.

        1. JMegan*

          Everyone HE told about the way “your finger broke” understood that it was just an argument. Sure, because he’s controlling the story. But I’m here to tell you that at least one person who is hearing the story of how he broke your finger does not believe that this is a normal thing that could happen to anyone. I have had tons of arguments with my partner, and not one of them has ended with broken bones.

          Please take care of yourself, and keep seeking out other ways to tell this story. Don’t let his version of events be the only version that gets told.

        2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

          They understood because that’s the story he told them. They weren’t there. They don’t know better. What he’s doing is called gaslighting which means convincing you that your own thoughts and perceptions must be wrong. Those other people weren’t there.

          And regardless of how he broke it, I’m so sorry but this isn’t how loving partners react. If my husband accidentally broke my finger he would be horrified, not making excuses and playing it down.

          1. Marisol*

            and how do we really know that they believe him anyway? How do we know what he told them, or that he told them anything at all? I don’t think breaking a bone, even a bone in one’s finger, is easily accomplished–there had to be some real force involved and a doctor of all people would know this. So it seems highly unlikely that he told the real story.

            1. fposte*

              Exactly. This is like people who believe their divorcing spouses about their legal rights.

              OP, I’m willing to bet you that plenty of people said “Oookay” and kept a wide berth from him. When you get a guy keenly interested in telling you how it’s totally not his fault that he got arrested for domestic violence and broke his girlfriend’s fingers, your likely reaction is deep, deep suspicion.

          2. Michael*

            Just chiming in here from the other side of the gender aisle – I accidentally hurt my girlfriend before in a complete non-argument-related way (in an attempt to make a grand romantic gesture on Valentine’s Day, I swept her up in my arms newlywed-style, clonked her head against a bookshelf, and left her with a nasty cut on her scalp) and I still feel a bit horrified/sweaty/anxious just thinking about it, a solid two years later. I can’t imagine reacting with dismissal/evasion/anger.

            I don’t mean to suggest that my relationship is the standard to which all others should be held, but that reaction is not consistent with loving/caring partnerships.

        3. MuseumChick*

          This is called gas lighting. It’s a very common tool of abusers. Even if he doesn’t intend to, if he loses his temper again, pushes you, you hit your head on the corner of a table and die. And he spends 20 years in jail for manslaughter.

        4. Gandalf the Nude*

          OP, you are not responsible for him and his actions and his choices.

          He tried physically forcefully to stop you from leaving him. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t aiming for your hand. A burglar who attempts to steal but accidentally kills the owner in the process doesn’t get a pass because he only intended a lesser crime. His act of violence resulted in a death making him guilty of murder. Your fiance’s act of violence resulted in injury to you making him guilty of domestic violence.

          Him losing his job is not your fault. If he wanted to keep his contract, he shouldn’t have assaulted you. Full stop.

        5. AMG*

          I said this further down, but I want to reiterate: Feelings are NOT facts. Just because you feel bad doesn’t mean you did something wrong. How you feel about all of this is not h it actually is in reality. Focus on what’s real, not how you feel about any of it. Your feelings cannot be trusted to get you out of this. Take it from the voice of experience. <3

        6. Observer*

          Firstly, he’s lying his head off. This kind of argument is NOT “normal” or common. Secondly, you are in very deep denial if you think he would never hit you. He has already tried to physically force you to do something his way. It happened once, it WILL happen again, and it’s not going to get better – it can only get worse.

          Lastly, do NOT allow him NEAR your credit cards. And, do NOT allow him to make you feel or believe that his depression and problems are in any way, shape, or form your fault or responsibility. If he wants to waste money that’s his problem – but you do NOT let him waste YOUR money. I would also say that you should not be paying for his meals or anything else, for that matter.

        7. aebhel*

          I’m going to guess that he told a heavily edited version of how your finger broke, or he has some seriously dysfunctional friends. Or both. Because trust me: that is not normal, and his reaction to it is really abnormal. None of his behavior indicates any kind of care or concern about you–just about how your busted finger makes him look bad.

    2. phedre*

      Oh, OP, your story breaks my heart. You are not responsible for his behavior. The court stuff? You didn’t backstab him. The court case/police/losing job/financial challenges are consequences to HIS behavior. Things that he actually did. Not something you did.

      You deserve so much better than this. I hope some day you can see that.

    3. Rebecca*

      I agree – this is NOT NORMAL. You need to run away, now. Not walk, run. He is not going to change, it is not going to get better, and you are being taken advantage of. If he had money to buy clothes and go partying, he could have fed himself.

      Please, please, please! Listen to the advice given above.

    4. Casper Lives*

      Hi OP! First, thanks for reading the comments. I’d find it very difficult not to be defensive if I submitted a question here and people didn’t reach the same conclusion I did. Second, we are concerned for you. I hope you’re in a place to take in the advice here, and reevaluate your relationship. I’m rooting for you to do what’s best for you. I hope you stop letting him mooch off of you as he’s a grown adult with a specialty. Please think further about what you were able to achieve in four months. What would you do with your money and time if your boyfriend hadn’t begged to return to your life? Good luck.

    5. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      OP, I loved my abusive ex. Feeling love towards someone doesn’t change who they are, or how they treat you. I loved him when he pushed me against the wall. I loved him when he told me I was nobody and everything was my fault. I loved him when he stole all my money. I loved him.

      He didn’t love me. The fact that I loved him didn’t change who he was.

      Thank you for telling us more about your story. It sounds very worrying that he told you off for asking questions and that he cut your cards up. It’s also very worrying that he’s mad you have been doing well.

      You are not responsible for him or his choices. You do not have to support a man who broke your bones. Please consider checking out the Lundy Bancroft book. I wish you peace and strength.


        Thank you —

        The OTHER thing that has been enormously difficult is that he told me that he had not even kissed another woman while we were broken up. He said that he was just living life and trying to work. I had blocked him and didn’t check his social media but when I did — I saw that he was all over a 25 year old woman’s social media calling her hot and even saying that she might need to be ‘spanked’. (sexual connotation) She lived out of state and he said they never met in person.

        Then, I come back to the house and I see a box of tampons in his (our) bathroom. They were NOT mine. I am shaking just typing this. I was so upset. He said they were mine. NOT my brand. He said maybe the housekeeper moved them there.

        AND last but not least…I found a package of condoms in his drawer… He said he never used them — they were old.

        He said the fact that I went snooping around is proof I am just looking for problems and need to justify my own bad behavior…

        1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

          I don’t think you are just looking for problems. It sounds like he is turning blame onto you to stop it being focused on him. It’s a very common tactic – but very hard to cope with and see your way out of when someone is doing it to you.

        2. seejay*

          So he claims he wasn’t cheating while you were separated, but when you find clear evidence of it (flirtatious sexual comments all over another woman’s social media account, menstrual products that aren’t yours in the house, and condoms), he has convenient handy excuses that you know deep down are lies and when you doubt it, turns it around on you and gets mad at you for not trust him.

          I dated a guy like that for a year and a half. He was cheating the entire time and I knew *really deep down* that he was cheating. No matter how much blatant proof was in my face, whenever I confronted him about it, he blew up at me about it and made it my fault. I was so emotionally and mentally abused by him that I took everything he said at face value and tried desperately to hang onto it and believed all the lies. Even when I was *forced* to confront his real girlfriend and she admitted straight to my face that they were still together the entire time (for six years), I still tried to deny it to myself. That’s how emotionally beaten down I was by him and how badly I wanted to believe his lies.

          You know he’s lying to you. Stop lying to yourself because you don’t deserve it. It doesn’t matter how much you love him, he doesn’t love you because if he did, he wouldn’t be doing this. Someone who *truly cares about you* doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself when things are wrong. They don’t make it all about how it’s your fault.

          It took me a long time to realize it. I hope you can too. :(

        3. AMG*

          OP, I am literally sick to my stomach out of concern for you as I am reading this.

          I hear that you love him. You do not have to fall out of love with him to walk away from this. You can do it regardless of how you feel about him. Feelings are not facts. A fact is that love is an action, and normal people do not treat someone they love this way.

          I am really disturbed that he is angry to see that you were doing well without him and that he blames you (!!!) for this. I want you to be safe and I don’t think you will remain unharmed (physically, emotionally, financially) while you are around him. He has not changed. I repeat: He Has Not Changed. He has gotten worse.

          Pick out the comments on AAM that resonate with you the most and repeat them in your head or out loud when you are by yourself. Get yourself used to the idea that you can leave–because you can. You hold the key to the lock, not him. Even if you don’t leave him now, just know that you are strong enough to do it whenever you want.

          I will keep you in my prayers (I hope it’s ok with you that I say that) and I hope you will come back to let us know how you are.

        4. AnonEMoose*

          So…just to tally things up:

          He has physically injured you. And then minimized this behavior.

          He has taken money from you.

          He has locked you out of your home.

          He has quite possibly cheated on you (by the way, please, PLEASE get a full screening for STDs, and please make sure he does NOT have access to your chosen method of birth control).

          He has blamed and is blaming you for his behavior.

          I know you love him. But loving him does not mean that being with him is healthy for you. You have already proven that you can flourish without him. Please keep that information firmly in mind. And Captain Awkward also has some great advice on steps to take to protect yourself while getting out…mostly in the context of controlling parents, but I think a lot of the steps would still be applicable and helpful to you.

          Also, please change your banking passwords and make sure you do not access your accounts online on any computer to which he has access. You may love him, but he has amply demonstrated that you cannot trust him to have your interests in mind.

        5. Aphrodite*

          I just see you continuing in this relationship because you spend all your posts here defending and justifying his actions. Not once do you mention you except through his words. I find this very, very sad, and I must admit I have no hope that you will save yourself.

          *goes off to weep for OP*

        6. Observer*

          Some more classic gaslighting. He’s given you ample reason not to trust a word he says, his motives or behavior. Buy YOU ar the trouble maker for trying to figure out the lay of the land? Seriously?

          You know why he doesn’t want you to realize that he’s been all over town while you were broken up? Because he told you a lie in order to play games with your head. And if you were to realize the magnitude of his lie, it would be harder for him to manipulate him.

          You don’t have to justify your behavior. And you do NOT have to justify cutting him out of your life. You owe him NOTHING.

        7. The Rat-Catcher*

          “He said the fact that I went snooping around is proof I am just looking for problems and need to justify my own bad behavior…”

          I’m sorry to say that there is basically no explanation for this statement but to gaslight you.

    6. MuseumChick*

      Hi OP, I am SO happy you came back.

      I don’t know if you saw my comment up thread so I wanted to post it here as well because I really think it could help you. There is a website called Captain Awkward. She has this concept of the “Darth Vader Boyfriend”. You, as hard as it is to accept, are dating Darth Vader. I’ll use her words from this post:

      “Luke, your dad is totally evil.”

      “There’s good in him. I’ve felt it.”

      “Luke, he blew up a planet just to make a point.”

      “There’s good in him! I’ve felt it!”

      “Luke, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he severed your hand. From your arm. He cut it off.”

      “Dueling to the death is just how we relate. You wouldn’t understand it. Now that we both have prosthetic robot limbs, it’s only brought us closer together.”

      “Luke, he lured your friends into a trap so that he could murder them in front of you. We had to be rescued by Ewoks. It was embarrassing.”

      “Yeah, that was pretty bad, I admit! But there’s good in him! I’ve felt it!”

      And then Luke is risking his own life to carry Darth Vader out of the Death Star before it explodes so he can look up on that swollen purple face and experience one shining moment of real connection that would justify everything he’s invested in this completely dysfunctional relationship and he’s like “See? IT WAS ALL TOTALLY WORTH IT!” and even R2D2 is like “Whatever, the Ewoks are having a dance party, and I just can’t talk about this with you even one more time. Have fun with your collection of Ghostly Jedi Father Figures.”

      The entire post is really good and I highly suggest reading it.

      Here is the thing nobody wants to say: Love is NOT enough and it does NOT conquer all. Certainly not abuse. I believe you do love him, but does he love you? Does someone who love you steal your money? Break your fingers? Emotionally abuse you?

      I think you should ask your therapist point blank if this relationship is healthy and if you should stay in it. I think you know what the answer will be.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, OP, I’m so sorry you’re in the middle of this.

      But please think about this: This is a person whose instinct is to hurt you when he’ s upset. I’m not even talking about the broken finger here — I’m talking about all the rest (the taking your money, the sending things COD when you knew you wouldn’t be able to pay for it, etc.). Think about that — his instincts tell him to hurt you. That is not someone you want as your partner in life.

      Life is long, and at times it is hard. Please, please don’t pick a partner who looks for ways to make things harder on you.

    8. LBK*

      So what are you getting out of this relationship? Because it seems like your fiance gets a live-in servant who bankrolls his lifestyle, and you get…what, a 49-year-old adopted child? Not even looking at the physical and emotional abuse, it seems like he’s just straight up taking advantage of you. What is he doing to pull his weight and pay you back for the insane amount of money you’ve fronted him?

      Think about how quickly your lifestyle changed when he wasn’t around. Just in one sentence, I can feel how much happier you were and how proud you were of having your own apartment, your own furniture, your own damn plates. I mean for god’s sake, you’re a grown woman, you should be able to own plates! Does anything your fiance does make you that happy? Are you proud of him or who you are when you’re with him?

      Hopefully this doesn’t come off too much like chastising you, but I’m praying that writing this all out and seeing it in plain English in front of you makes you see just how bad it is. You sound like a smart, kind person who has the ability to live a very happy, stable life when you’re not around him, and I think you deserve that.

    9. Alexandra*

      Hi OP,

      A lot of your story, as it is coming out here, is about HIS perspective. What HE thought, what HE meant, what HE needs.

      I have to ask–do you think you are better off with or without him? Because it kind of sounds like you were doing pretty awesome without him. Even if it was hard, even if you were sad sometimes…it still sounds like you are able to find awesomeness on your own. I think you know that, too….from what you write here, it feels like you feel like you would be happier and more free without him. Would it be a relief if he were to just go away and leave you alone? My impression is that it would be.

      You’re allowed to leave him. His problems are not your fault, at all (although even if they were, you STILL are allowed to leave him). You are allowed to never see him again and let him figure out all this on his own. He doesn’t have to agree to it. I think all us internet strangers are cheering for your safety and well-being. I hope you can take some strength from that. Best wishes.

    10. Not A Morning Person*

      He brought all this on himself. And love is how you treat people now what you say. You are treating him like you love him and he is treating you like he is punishing you. This man does not love you. He may say it. He may say it over and over. But he is treating you like he hates you. You are not responsible for him. You are not responsible for feeding him. You are not responsible for sheltering him. He needs to get out of your home and out of your life. It will be hard. So what if you love him. He is deliberately working to drag you down and he will succeed unless you choose to survive. Please choose survival. There can be love in your future. This is not love.

    11. AthenaC*

      Oh wow – OKAY!

      In addition to my post upthread about completely retooling your perspective on what’s normal, here are my next survival steps for you:

      1) Wait for your partner to get deployed to Iraq. Deployments to Iraq tend to last a year or so and should give you some good mental and physical space. Right now you feel like you can’t actually get away from him because keeping him away seems like the more troublesome / less safe option. As many times as I left my ex-husband, it only stuck after his deployment simply because that was the first time I felt safe from him not being able to physically get to me. And for the first time I really REALLY saw what was happening to me.

      What’s that you say? He’s not in the Army and he’s not going to deploy halfway across the world anytime soon? Hmmm. Well that makes it harder, admittedly, but not impossible. Either way, move on to the next step –

      2) Obtain a best friend or another boyfriend who is bigger and stronger than your soon-to-be-ex and not afraid to be threatening in order to make sure he keeps his distance. If you happen to be in / near Iowa, I have someone you can borrow. 100% serious on that. After my ex-husband came back from Iraq, it was still tough to make the separation stick, you know? He was still all in my head and my heart, and he just kept. being. there. The only reason we didn’t get back together again was the fact that by the time he got off that plane from Kuwait, I was living with a big, strong, scary-looking guy who was quite literally violently protective of me. (*)

      3) Move your address, change your number, block his number, block his email, block ANY way for him to get in contact with you. You NEED this space to get your head clear. Bonus: If you have obtained a big, strong BFF, he’ll help you move.

      4) Flood your time with work, hobbies, other friends. What’s your weakness? Mine was being lonely. I self-medicated with lots and lots of codependency and time with friends, as well as many crochet and cross stitch projects.

      5) Get a restraining order. Also called an “Order of Protection” some places. Usually you can go down to the courthouse and get an emergency order in an afternoon. You just write out that you’re afraid of him and why (you don’t have to have evidence for the emergency order), and you have a restraining order for 20 days (or 30 days or 35 days, depending on where you are). Make sure you go to the hearing to make it permanent. (Permanent = 6 months, 2 years, something like that).

      I should caution you here that in many cases, the order is worth the paper it’s written on and not much more than that, but should things escalate and he be criminally charged again (**), this is evidence.

      (*) There were other completely predictable issues from that later on, but in the moment it was what I needed to keep my ex-husband away.
      (**) Which, btw, is HIS FAULT for doing things that led to him getting charged. You providing information about his criminal behavior does not make his criminal behavior (or the consequences thereof) your fault.

      Once again, good luck!! Twelve years from now, you’ll be free, you’ll have learned a lot, and you’ll be in my shoes, sitting in front of your computer doing your best to share what you’ve learned from your life in hopes that no one else has to go through what you did.

      1. AthenaC*

        Oh – one more thing. Controversial, but it worked for me: casual sex. It was INSTRUMENTAL in getting my ex out of my head and the beginning of a vision of my life that didn’t include him. Not necessarily a good choice for everyone, but it was for me.

        In my opinion – whatever it takes to separate yourself mentally from the idea of you and him together. Don’t hold out for the best case scenario – go into survival mode and survive.

          1. AthenaC*

            I figured I couldn’t be the only one. But I also figured I had to throw some qualifiers in there because I usually get breathless responses about just how destructive it is from people who have never been within sniffing distance of a truly toxic situation.

            But no matter! My situation is long since resolved. What matters now is the OP and any potential spectators who can use the advice.

    12. animaniactoo*

      OP, I want to give you a little about my background so that you know where I am coming from when I say this to you.

      My birth mom was physically and sexually abused by her father (my grandfather). He had also been physically and verbally abusing my grandmother and when she found out able the sexual abuse, she left him. Very very carefully, because, you see, he’d held a knife to her throat and told her he’d kill all 3 of them if she left him.

      My birth mom never dealt with that well (despite attempts by my grandmother, life was really different back then, counseling was a whole different kind of world, and so much more) and went on to physically and emotionally and verbally abuse me.

      I was screwed up little mess and she was the master of the guilt trip. I spent a LOT of time in therapy figuring out how to interact with the world and what was normal and what wasn’t.

      I’ve said all of this because I’m about to kick the underpinning of his entire series of arguments out from under him.

      The first incident that ended with a domestic violence charge was based on the fact that we had a fight in the house and I was trying to leave. I was throwing things in my bag and he was begging me not to leave. He yanked the bag out of my hand but he says he didn’t realize during the struggle that he had my hand. It broke my finger and I had to have 3 pins put in surgically…to get it fixed.

      He could not have broken your finger in this manner if he had not been trying to prevent you from leaving with enough force on the bag to make it capable of doing this.

      He had no right to prevent you from leaving. NO RIGHT. It doesn’t matter that he was pulling on the bag – it was a physical action and HE DID IT. It was a foreseeable consequence of what he was doing. He had a choice. He could have let you walk out and tried to talk to you the next day. He didn’t choose that. Instead, he tried to control you.

      Since then, he has tried to guilt you into thinking that your *choice* to press those charges is the basis for him losing everything. He’s gotten you to give up so many pieces of control over your life over your guilt. But – he’s the one who yanked on your bag with that much force. Him. He did that.

      And that you did not consider pressing charges until you were resentful over paying your own medical bills? So what? They were legitimate charges to press, so he is still the one responsible for putting himself in that position. HIM. He is. Let me say that again. HE IS. It doesn’t matter how many times he assigns that blame to you. You don’t have to accept it. You can reject it.

      You did not buy a ticket for this guilt trip. Get off the train. And get your finances completely untangled from his. If it’s your money, you’re making it? You keep it. He gets to come to you and ASK for anything he says he needs.

      I’m not sure why you love him either – but you sure as hell can’t be in a relationship with him until you can draw these boundaries and understand that his actions are his responsibility – no matter what you do about them after. And the consequences of his actions are his responsibility as well – even if you “had a hand” in him getting those consequences.

      And btw – if he has 50k left in his retirement, he is not broke. He has 50k. Do not let him use you as his *literal* meal ticket.


        Well… i carry a lot of the guilt. And he has an interesting way of controlling me. It has become more apparent as of late. He is insanely jealous of anyone who even looks at me or likes my FB posts — but I am not allowed to be the same way.

        I asked him the other day who a slutty looking woman on his FB was..he said “you need to get used to that… cause that’s the type of woman who is going to be my esthetician in my office. In fact, I may hire her…”

        If I told him he better get used to something — he would tell me he is done and gone. It’s such a double standard.

        He has insisted that I don’t hide him w my friends and I took him out despite my friends looking at me like I am insane — and HE won’t even tell his best friend he is doing more than “talking to me”. He says he has to do it slowly because they know that I “put him in jail and ruined him…”

        To answer some of the other posts. Yeah, I was doing well professionally without him but I was terribly lonely and I went on a few dates and NO ONE could compare to him.

        He’s hot and charasmatic… a doctor.. and he keeps telling me that women were beating down his door —- but he never touched any of them. I don’t know…

        The thing is when I learned about his social media flirting etc — I thought wow, what a piece of trash. he was talking about spanking a woman on a public site and he’s a STARVING DOCTOR!

        1. AMG*

          You are smart, I can tell. You can see him for who he really is.
          Have you ever heard that analogy about 2 dogs fighting–a black one and a white one? Do you know which one wins? The one you feed.

          Don’t feed the thoughts and feelings that rationalize being with him. Because you DO know. You do. It may be hard to admit, but the truth is there. Focus on that.

        2. animaniactoo*

          No one could compare to him how? How you felt about them, or how they felt about you, or treated you? Chemistry? “Cred” (for being a doctor)? Looks?

          How long did you give yourself to find someone else? Why do you need not to be alone so badly?

          I’m not asking these questions from a standpoint of blame – I mean, really dig into these questions. Because when you can answer them and frame them reasonably, you can choose what you do about your answers in a way that genuinely benefits you and does not leave you with a partner who asks over and over again from you what he is not willing to give.

          I promise you deserve better than this. And I can promise you that because every single human being on this planet deserves better than this, no matter what they’ve done or how screwed up they are for whatever reason.

        3. Aurion*

          OP, I think you know that this man does not treat you well. Yes, it is lonely without him, and it hurts, but those men that couldn’t compare to him? That’s because you haven’t built trust and intimacy and history with them yet. One of those men could very well be as charming and handsome as your current fiance…except he wouldn’t break your bones for getting into an argument, or cheat on you, or use you as a meal ticket.

          Your current fiance doesn’t respect you. For someone who says he can’t live without you he isn’t doing much of a job of showing how he values you. He’s the one who literally broke your bones but somehow you are the one who ruined him?

          It is so much better to be single and safe than partnered up with a bad partner.

        4. Office Mercenary*

          “Yeah, I was doing well professionally without him but I was terribly lonely and I went on a few dates and NO ONE could compare to him.”

          When my ex finally moved out, I lost my friends at the same time. I didn’t even have a consistent workplace to go to during the day, and could go days and days without talking to anyone but my cats. And honestly, I missed his hugs. Loneliness leaves a hole in your heart, I get that. But it gets better. Eventually you find other people to talk to and connect with, and eventually when you compare people to your ex, you remember that his morning breath was terrible, he couldn’t keep his lies straight, and he never used enough soap when washing the dishes. Over time he’ll seem less glamorous and more like a broke middle-aged man who hits on much younger women online and in clubs.

        5. AthenaC*

          “I was terribly lonely and I went on a few dates and NO ONE could compare to him.”

          Yes, because you only went on a few dates. Dating is a numbers game, and you have to sift through a LOT of people to find The One. Go on more dates, if that’s your thing. Treat it like a hobby. Nowadays there are so. many. ways. to find dates. Fill up your calendar!

          And while you’re doing this – relearn what “normal” means in a relationship. Talk to your therapist about resources for this.

          One day at a time. The sun will always rise the next morning. Remember – you CAN do this!

        6. Natalie*

          Are these feelings something you’re talking to your therapist about? Shitty feelings (like loneliness, and inadequacy, and guilt) are unfortunately a normal part of life. But you CAN develop skills to handle those feelings that don’t depend on staying with someone who doesn’t seem to be very good to you.

          You might not be ready to leave yet. That’s okay. But, could you at least begin the process of building yourself and your life outside of him up so that you have other tools to handle the bad feelings?

        7. Marisol*

          It sounds to me like he actively wants to hurt you. Telling you that “you need to get used to that…” and letting you find tampons–this doesn’t sound to me like someone who is just really bad at lying. This sounds to me like someone who is planting things so that you will discover them, be hurt, and then allow yourself to be soothed by what some part of you knows is b.s.

          I don’t know much about domestic abuse, so maybe someone more knowledgeable can correct me if I’m wrong. But I could swear I read somewhere that this is part of an abuser’s strategy. Getting caught up in whether or not something is true, or fair, is beside the point. The problem is that it’s deliberate. Even what seems like it might be an oversight, or thoughtlessness, is most likely calculated.

        8. Bonky*

          I have been somewhere close to where you are. The guilt was absolutely key to his being able to control me. I felt that his behaviour was all my fault, that my injuries and sadness and fear were my fault for upsetting him (he told me how reasonable he was – and so often he was!). I felt disloyal and guilty when my friends told me how terrible it sounded. And when I left, the guilt was near-crippling. I dealt with it, but it required a lot of therapy, time and distance; and some very good friends.

          I think I’m on another continent from you. I wish I was close enough to give you a hug and try to help you practically.


            Thank you…you are very kind. Your story is an inspiration to me, as well

            It’s so easy to blame myself …as you said. I don’t want to see him in this professional demise. But, at the end of the day the reason he was REALLY fired was also a combo of him blowing off work and patients to follow me to work trips. He would freak out if I traveled and accuse me of cheating.

            He would consistently feel threatened and if I suggested that he stay at home instead of paying insane travel fees to follow me aorund and blow off his work… he would say that I was obviously plotting something abd wanting to meet a man…

            1. seejay*

              There’s an actual definition for the behaviour he was exhibiting. It’s so well-defined they even made a law for it. It’s defined as “stalking”.

              Reasonable adults, when they suspect their significant other of cheating, either have a mature adult conversation with them about it, or they have a blow up and break up with them. They don’t sabotage their career and lifestyle and chase their SO around to work trips to keep an eye on them “just in case” they might be up to hanky panky.

              And unless you’re married, living together, bound up with kids or some other serious financial/legal obligation, as an adult you’re allowed to make decisions that are all about you that could be “hey, I’d like to break up with this dude and meet up with another guy”. You don’t have to get his permission or anything, you can just make decisions to do what you want. You’re an adult and you’re allowed to do adult things, which also include “going on work trips without having to worry about him scampering off after you just to keep his crazyeyes on you in case you wander off”. ><

            2. Observer*

              Leaving him, and not supporting him financially will NOT do anything to harm his professional career. Only his behavior will do that.

              The irony is that if you were out of his life, it would probably be better for what’s left of his professional career. Because, until he finds another victim, he’ll probably do his work…

    13. Dang*

      The fact that he is broke is NOT your problem.

      I stayed in an abusive relationship for years because of my ex’s life circumstances. None were in my control. But my ex knew exactly how to make me feel guilty for even THINKING about leaving. It is not your job to fix his life for him. And you are not his therapist. If he had cancer, would you be treating him? this is no different.

      And this BS he’s giving you about “looking for problems” is classic gaslighting.

      The fact that he had all sorts of excuses for breaking your finger (!!!) and never even showed remorse is so alarming. I can imagine that happening, sure, but if it happened to a reasonable, healthy person, they would be mortified and would never call you a “nightmare” or trash talk you. HE is in the wrong here, not you!

      1. Casper Lives*

        +1 I’m glad you got out of that relationship, Dang.

        I’ve seen this happen to friends and family. It was hard to support my sister when she was in a relationship like this where her ex wouldn’t treated her badly, wouldn’t work but took her money, and gaslighted her into thinking their relationship was normal. It’s so hard to see it when you’re in the middle of it, but OP, he’s wrong!

    14. Office Mercenary*

      Oh, sweetheart. I’m not sure if you saw my comments in the middle of the thread, but if not, please take a look at them.

      This line jumped out at me: “Now that we are back together, he almost seems happy and MAD that I was doing so well.” Even though he was depending on your income, he still doesn’t want you to succeed because it means you don’t need him. You deserve a partner who’s cheering for you.

      It’s okay if you still love him–that doesn’t make you stupid or foolish. But you don’t have to be with someone just because you love them. There are plenty of other fish in the sea who you will love and they’ll love you right back, and these other fish won’t break your bones.

      It’s okay if he has never hit you. You don’t have to be with someone just because they didn’t hit you. He doesn’t get a cookie for not committing a felony. Even if the broken finger was an accident (I’m not convinced), even if he goes the rest of his life without ever physically hurting you again, that’s just an absence of a negative. You deserve to be with someone who adds something positive to your life.

      It’s okay if he’s worried about money. He’s making his own poor financial choices, and you have no responsibility to make sure his retirement is comfortable.

      It’s okay if you breaking up with him makes him upset. Let him be upset.

      One of the hardest things about breakup/recovery for me was starting over without a job and without friends. You have both! You have a therapist! You have a nice apartment with nice furniture and real plates! Don’t move out of this nice apartment. You have a solid foundation and you’re already on your feet if/when you want to walk away. Stick with therapy and be gentle with yourself.

      I’m rooting for you.

      1. Candi*

        I’m going to spell something out, since it’s something a lot of people in abusive relationships miss. I did.

        Lack of physical harm is not lack of abuse.

        Lack of injury is not lack of abuse.

        Lack of hitting is not lack of abuse.

        Mental, emotional, and psychological abuse are FAR more common. And this guy ticks the boxes.

        The type of crook that fascinates me the most? The con man. They can destroy someone’s life, and never physically harm them.

        There is an intense lack of empathy in there, and most never grow or develop out of it.

    15. Zahra*

      You know, I broke up with my first boyfriend because I considered his attitude towards grades to be unhealthy: anything else than an A+ was not good enough. I still loved him. But, having had a father with similar standards, it was clear to me that I didn’t want to impose that on my future kids.

      Once I had reached that conclusion, it didn’t matter that we were barely 20. We wouldn’t have kids together (and I wanted to have kids) so it was a matter of when, not if. I preferred the when to be then and there.

      It was not abuse, but it was still a man that I loved at that point. I cried. A lot. But my conviction remained that I did not want my future kids to live up to such impossible standards, so I held firm. I went back to him, more because he asked me than anything else. A few months later I broke up for good. It helped that I had moved back home to help my parents (my dad was in the terminal stages of cancer).

      So, long term, what is the deal breaker than you can see, with 95% certainty, will happen? Can you use that to anchor yourself to your decision? Even if you miss him like crazy? Even if you’re lonely like you’ve never been before? Even if you fear that you’ll end up single for the rest of your life?

      Can you see yourself being is meal ticket for the rest of your life? Can you tolerate his flirting with other women for the rest of your life? Can you tolerate being unsure of his fidelity for years to come (because I can guarantee you that this fear takes years to get rid of)? Can you tolerate not to have any view of your shared finances? Can you tolerate not being able to save for retirement as much as you’d like because of his spending habits?

    16. neverjaunty*

      OP, may I propose a thought experiment?

      You are using ‘but I love him’ as a reburttal to all the problems that might lead you to consider ending the relationship. He broke my finger out of anger, but I love him. He stole my money and locked me out of my house, but I love him. I am paying for everything even though he is blowing through fancy clothes and a ski trip with his credit card, but I love him. He is chasing women half his age and cheating on me, but I love him.

      What if you flipped that around, so that the facts of his behavior and his hateful treatment were the rebuttal?

      I love him, but he broke my finger out of anger. I love him, but he stole my money and locked me out of my house. I love him, but I am paying for everything….

      The truth of the matter is, as other people have said, “but I love that person” is not really a rebuttal. It’s a description of how you are feeling. People who are in love break up, get divorced, move apart, and otherwise decide not to stay in a relationship all the time, because love is not a final, mic-drop, close-thread argument; it’s merely a statement about how your emotions are right now. And emotions fade and change.

      1. Aurion*

        Yes, this.

        Love is a good start. Love is a strong foundation. But relationships require more than love to keep going.

      2. Anon for now*

        “All you need is love”

        A song by four men who all had failed marriages. One of which was an abusive marriage.

    17. Been there, done that*

      OP – Please look up “narcissistic abuse” or “dating narcissists” online. Your experience fits a pattern and I think once you see so many stories like yours, you will see that the pattern NEVER ends well.

      My ex was also extremely charming, a great talker, successful, very well educated, etc. Such a perfect guy for me on paper that I was willing to overlook a lot of little idiosyncrancies that slowly snowballed into larger problems. I got out well before my physical self or bank account was in danger. I got out when I realized that he would remorselessly manipulate every situation to the outcome he wanted; my needs were not a factor at all, despite all the sacrifices coming from my side – and that’s not the life I envisioned. Nothing you do is ever going to be enough for this guy. You can be attached to people, the wrong people – but is it truly love if you get nothing in return? Just crumbs when he needs something?

      As for him being a doctor, attracting women, etc., don’t be enticed by that. There was some d-list author who put it best: “the devil doesn’t come at you with horns and a red cape, he comes at you in the form of everything you’ve ever wanted.”

    18. This Daydreamer*

      I’m a volunteer at a shelter for women escaping from domestic violence, so definitely not coming from a manager’s perspective.

      You love him because he swept you off your feet, and because he still has moments of being Prince Charming. Your feelings for him are also a coping mechanism to deal with the abuse.

      He’s trying to take more control over your life. Your coworkers supported you so he wants them out of your life. He wants them to not trust you, and he would be happy as can be if you get fired.

      Please get out. I know it’s incredibly hard, but it could save your life. The cycle of abuse gets worse over time, and right now you have your job, your supportive coworkers, and your therapist. He’s going to take them all away from you if he gets the chance. Develop a safety plan – make sure he’s banned from your workplace and your coworkers know it, secure some money and all of your important papers, pack a bag with some necessities, find a safe place to go – and get out. Be ready to call 911 if he tries to physically stop you. If there’s a domestic violence shelter near you, get in touch with them even if you have another place to go – they may have more resources to help you.

    19. Trillian*

      Looking from outside, I would be deeply skeptical about any claim he makes. He may have been fired over professional issues, little to do with you. He may have been encouraged to resign before something came to light. Or quit in a rage when he was challenged. Or quit so as to better control you. He would tell you the story that worked best for him.

      About the money, he may be lying outright. He may also have a quite separate problem contributing to the financial crisis and violent behaviour. Gambling. Or substance abuse. Doctors are at high risk, stressful work, access to substances, money to support a lifestyle, and social and professional denial. If this is the case, it increases the risk to you, physically, emotionally and financially. And it is no way your responsibility to fix him or save him from himself. You have all you can do to save yourself from him.

  100. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    I didn’t feel up to telling my story earlier. I do now. And then I’m not coming back to this thread as all the posts commenting on OP’s “poor judgement” have made me feel so very sad and shamed and frustrated.

    Women who don’t leave, who go back, who take abusers back, we aren’t stupid or weak or lacking in judgement or otherwise different to you. This isn’t a just world in which everyone gets to make their choices freely.

    I wasted eight years with a man who left me friendless, isolated, financially ruined and homeless. When my friends were having kids, I was getting ptsd (and I’m now happily married to a lovely man and still recovering and have had two breakdowns). When people talked about those women who didn’t leave, I either felt ashamed or like I was wrong because if it was that bad I would be able to leave, right?

    He said he would kill himself and it would be my fault, and I thought he was right because by then I thought everything was my fault. I grew up in an abusive home and nobody taught me I was allowed to leave (I was told you don’t leave someone you love), that I was worthy of love, that I was entitled to be safe. A bunch of strangers telling me I had poor judgement would just have confirmed that I was weak and pathetic.

    Sadly they are probably right about what your coworkers will think. But OP I want you to know that none of this is your fault. That you don’t have your own judgement right now, only the judgement he has allowed you to have. Those of you who do not understand are very lucky.

    1. JMegan*

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m glad you got out of that relationship, and that you’re in a better place now.

      1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        Thank you. I said I was leaving the thread but then I spotted the OP posting and wanted to stick around.

        I am much better off now. Still recovering financially (lots of debt he ran up in my name, before financial abuse became a crime here in the U.K.) and still recovering from the psychological damage. But I am happily married now to a gentle and kind man.

        Nobody saw my ex for what he was until after I left. He told everyone I mistreated him.

        OP, there is life beyond this man. I’m rooting for you.

    2. Temperance*

      Hugs to you. You are brave for telling your story.

      I have a former coworker who was told not to go to the police because it would be her fault for throwing another black man in prison. She eventually got away from him, but that incident showed me how abuse is so often blamed on the victim. I’m sorry that you went through this, and am glad you are in a better situation.

    3. seejay*

      I can identify in some ways. I know that when I was with the one ex for 1.5 years, I’d never been so emotionally/mentally abused like that, but I knew all the signs of physical abuse. I always thought that if someone *hit* me, I’d leave. But because the mental and emotional abuse was so insidious, and because he never laid a hand on me physically, I wound up so badly broken mentally, I didn’t *know* how to get out of it. And even when I did get away, the mental toll was so bad, it took me years to still figure things out. I almost went back several times.

      And even after that, I still had a bunch of missteps. It’s not always easy to just up and leave when you know things are bad. When I moved in with a partner several years ago, I wound up making some mistakes that made it extremely difficult to leave when the relationship got bad. Someone asked me one day “why do women stay in bad relationships for so long instead of just getting out???” Aside from wanting to punch him for the obvious sexist comment, I told him that it wasn’t that cut and dry: the mistakes I’d made when I’d moved in wound up with me having no local social network and friend support, I’d made some bad financial decisions and had no money to actually rescue myself from the situation, it wasn’t bad enough to call domestic abuse resources, I wasn’t in my home country, etc etc. So yeah, I knew I had to leave, but… it wasn’t *easy* and people telling me to just get out and bail and start over wasn’t helpful. And I also had the shame of “I screwed up again and made a bad decision” so I was really having a hard time reaching out to ask for help from family.

      I do think there’s some judgement on the commentors but good advice as well. It’s very easy to tell someone that they need to get out when we’re sitting on the outside, but I think there’s a lot of people speaking up who are also saying “we’ve been there, we know it’s hard, but you need to do this”.

    4. neverjaunty*

      It’s easy to say “jump out of that pot!” when you’re not the one in it. Thank you for sharing this.

    5. Office Mercenary*

      Thank you for sharing. As soon as they threaten suicide, it ceases to be a relationship and becomes a hostage situation. Towards the end, my ex used to threaten suicide any time we argued, whether it was about cheating, or drinking, or refusing to do the dishes. It’s awful when someone turns your own basic decency against you; I wasn’t sure if he was bluffing but wasn’t sure I wanted to take that chance, either. Yet another reason it took so long to end it.

      1. Candi*

        Snort. I reached the point where I didn’t care if he went through with his suicide threats. I’d be free of him.

        He didn’t, of course. But it’s another example of how these creeps screw up basic compassion in their targets.

  101. Rena*

    You have some amazing coworkers, who seem to care about you enough to say something. I was in a very abusive relationship years ago, and I never told anyone. In retrospect, I wish I had. It would have explained why I was so jumpy at work, panicky, and it would have made it easier to leave him if I knew that his behavior was not normal. You sound like such an intelligent woman, and ultimately it is your decision to bring him to these events or not. But it seems like he is not allowing you to make your own decision, but influencing it. People have family issues, but they keep them separate from work. As for taking him back twice-you know what is best for you. I remember a line from Perks of Being a Wallflower “we take the love we think we deserve.” I was terrified of being alone, but I had to learn to love myself. It made me a better professional and a more human person. I wish you the best. Please take my advice from the heart. You’ve been through enough and you deserve to be happy!

  102. RB*

    It is so hard to see people make the wrong choice when the right choice is staring them in the face. Surely you can see that you’re not prioritizing your own happiness and well-being?? And that it keeps coming back to bite you in the end?

  103. Been there*

    This is not a normal situation.
    This is not a sane situation.
    This is abusive behavior.
    Your partner’s behavior and demands are unacceptable in a loving, supportive relationship.
    If it has been only two weeks that you have gotten back together, take a break.
    Take a vacation.
    Go somewhere else.
    Take at least 10 days without contact and decompress.
    See your therapist and ask her to read these comments.
    The issue is not- can he go to work functions?
    The issue is- is this the life you want to live?

  104. bunniferous*

    I have not read the other remarks, and I really have no time to comment but I am taking the time.

    The happiness of the rest of your life is at stake.

    Do yourself a favor and ask your therapist about the cycle of abuse. Then call a local abuse hotline and get advice on the safest way to break up with your fiance and then DO IT.

    Your work life, your sanity, your happiness….and possibly your life itself is at stake. People who act like what you have described have a problem and it is a problem that is really really REALLY hard to fix. Rarely do they improve, and much of the time things get worse and worse and worse.

    PLEASE love yourself enough to get out of this relationship because it will bring you pain and that is about all. And if you do not agree with me, in the name of all that is holy do NOT BRING HELPLESS CHILDREN into this.

    I wish I was catastrophizing. I am not.

  105. bunniferous*

    One more thing.

    You deserve better than this. You deserve better than this.



      Thank you :(

      He puts on such a good show .. he’s dynamic – good looking… and is extremely affectionate (when not angry of course). We are such a great pair in SO many ways….

      But, he is currently living in denial. And I am too. I feel ashamed to take him around my friends because they know what i have gone through. He is hiding me from EVERYONE.

      And now that this tampon thing happened — and social media posts — i realize that he blatantly lies to me.

      I went on dates etc.. but I just didn’t get specific. I didn’t go out of my way to say that i hadn’t been around other men .. he SWORE he never kissed anyone — and he is talking about spanking a woman?

      He went to her city — he said for work. He said he never met her! Then on facebook…she is saying … your pictures are close to me and he says in the comments “on my way…” He says it was all sarcasm.

      Also, his kids were friends with her on FB. He said she’s crazy insane and that he didn’t know why…

      He also said she proclaimed to love him… UGH

      It’s all just so hard.

      1. AMG*

        I would go back and re-read everything here. Then read it again. Then get that book mentioned up thread and read it twice. You can stop allowing him to treat you badly whenever you are ready. <3

      2. H.C.*

        Between the tampons, never “kissing” & going to her city for work (??? – thought he was still unemployed & trying to build a practice) that’s a mountain of gaslighting!

        I concur with others’ suggestion on checking out Captain Awkward and coincidentally, her most recent column may is fairly relevant to your scenario (leaving a partner who is financially dependent on you and one you are still greatly attracted to, despite past behavior and all red flags now.) I especially agree with her “stop bleeding money” and financially protect yourself ASAP.

        1. Arjay*

          Yes. “You don’t have to solve someone’s whole life in order to leave them.” So simple and clear and obvious when it’s written like that.

      3. seejay*

        My ex would tell me that his “ex-gf” (who was really his girlfriend at the time but he told me she was just his friend) was actually crazy and still believed that they were still together, and also told me that his mom believed they were still together and that he didn’t have the heart to tell her that they’d broken up because she loved the ex-gf so much, so he just lied to his mom about it. And that’s why his mom would scream at me on the phone that I wasn’t his gf, that this other girl was and I was just some crazy bitch and to stop calling. And I believed his ex was around was because she was just too hung up on him to let go and wasn’t she just silly and annoying because *I* had him and he was dating me and she should just get over it and let him go?

        And there was always this little niggling thing in the back of my head about why wouldn’t he bring me out to meet his friends, or his family, why was I always this little secret… why didn’t we go out on dates in public, why did I feel like I was this shameful thing he was always hiding and he had excuses whenever I wanted to go out. We did meet up at his convenience, when no one else was around, when he had time “between his really super busy work schedule”. Yet I had friends telling me they saw him at the coffee shop with his friends… oh and his “ex-girlfriend” was there too. But he could explain that to me (and screamed at me if I pushed it).

        But he was *such* a charmer and so hot too. And he made me feel good when I was with him. He wasn’t *always* horrible, because who ever wants to be with someone who’s 100% an ogre? Those are easy to get away from.

        And yeah, it was hard to not compare him to others when I got around to dating again. I thought I was broken. Nothing in my head made sense anymore. Even when I found someone good that loved me, I still carried so much baggage over. Little things that would break me down and make me turn into a ball of mess.

        It’s taken a long time. This was 20 years ago that I dated this guy. He wasn’t even *that* special… just a guy I dated when I was in university, no one I was going to marry or be with forever (although I might’ve thought it at the time in my early 20’s inexperience). But it was 1.5 years that I put into it that scarred me for many years after. There were other things he did that I won’t even discuss here that has continued to scar me to this day, which I *can’t* discuss, even with those closest to me, because I probably haven’t gotten over the damage. I still have nightmares about it.

        But the bulk of it? That’s gone. And you can do it too. It’s hard, it’s agonizingly hard. It hurts. But you deserve better. There *are* better partners out there. I’ve been with one for six years who is literally the most perfect match, and 6 years ago, I didn’t believe there was such a thing. It’s a far step from someone that didn’t believe I was ever going to find someone because I’d felt so broken 20 years ago.

        Hang in there, there are resources and do what you can. You have a lot of people who don’t know you from Adam who are cheering for you.

      4. RB*

        None of that will matter once you are out. Just get out. Start a new life that has nothing to do with him. Forget about him. You can do it. You’ll be pleased with the results.

      5. ArtK*

        A million hugs to you. We understand just how difficult this can be. There’s a lot of emotion involved and that’s hard to break away from. (Some of the things in your reply above are really big red flags, as others point out.) Please continue working with your therapist.

        Finally, sometimes it’s worthwhile going back to the old standards. The original Dear Abby had a question she asked of letter writers who were having domestic problems: Are you better off with him or without him?

      6. Temperance*

        I dated a dude for way too long who did something similar. He made me feel like I was the one who was crazy for not trusting him when he kept going on and on about how his ex was really after him, or when I didn’t trust him when some other woman that he met at work was at his apartment for drinks. He could look right at me and lie without a second thought, and it was just so confident that I felt like a fool for not believing. Well, I was right in the end, and last I heard, he was married to the ex (not the coworker).

        If you haven’t already picked it up, “The Gift of Fear” is an excellent book. You have been taught that you can’t trust yourself because he has been gaslighting you for your entire relationship. Men don’t buy tampons for their own personal use, you know?

      7. fposte*

        Honey. He’s cheating on you now, mooching off of your money, physically hurting you, and trying to ruin your professional life.

        *This is who he is and who he always will be*. You will not love him into not doing this; you will not trim your behavior into never offending him so that he will be better; you will not save him from being this person. What you felt when he broke your fingers, how you felt when you found tampons in your bathroom–that’s the feeling you’re signing up for for life with him. Is that how you want to keep feeling?

        1. Dang*


          I know from experience that it’s exhausting trying to contort your brain into believing the lies, or that there is some logical explanation for why he’s acting the way he is.

          There isn’t.

          And I have spent more time than I’d like to admit ruminating over my last relationship with my therapist. The biggest takeaway I have is that even IF the person does change, you’ve learned to relate to this person in a way that will never be healthy. It takes hard work to change that dynamic and from what you’ve written, he will not meet you even part of the way. Don’t give this guy any more of you.

        2. TL -*

          OP, I have three brothers. Before puberty, we fought and grabbed things from each angrily as a matter of course. But after puberty, my brothers got much bigger and much stronger than I was. And suddenly, they could accidentally hurt me by trying to wrestle things out of my hand. So they stopped, completely. Because even if they didn’t mean to hurt me, even if they weren’t trying to touch me, they decided the risk of hurting me was much too high to justify ever using their strength against me in anger.

          He knows how much bigger and stronger he is than you, OP. He knew that by grabbing your bag in anger, he risked hurting you. He just decided he was okay taking that risk. He decided he was okay with the very high probability of you getting injured to satisfy his anger.

          Nobody in my life is okay taking that risk. I hope, eventually, you’ll have a life where nobody is okay taking that kind of risk with you either.

        3. Been there, done that*

          “If someone shows you who they really are, believe them.” – Maya Angelou

          He’s not hiding some prince charming under that lizard toad exterior.

      8. MuseumChick*

        It will take a long time to get over him. You will feel sad, and lonely, and all that not-fun things that happen after a break up. But that will pass, it’s temporary, maybe it will take 3 months, six months, a year but it will pass.

        But if he pushes you in anger own day and you fell down the stairs and break your neck. That’s permeant. You need to reframe your thinking on this guy. He is not a good man. He is a lying, manipulative, sponge. You can make a better deal, you deserve a better deal, but it will take time.

        Walk alway from this guy and be single for a year, throw yourself into therapy, work, hobbies, have a bunch of starbucks dates, live life.

      9. aebhel*

        Oh, OP. You can’t love him into being a better person. This is the person he is. You can make yourself as small and accommodating and timid as possible, and he still will not change. Trust me, I’ve been there. You can spend years folding yourself into a little box and holding your breath, and he will still rampage through your life and break your heart, because that’s the kind of person he is.

  106. AthenaC*

    Just want to point out here how it’s simultaneously disturbing and encouraging how many people seem to have had these experiences.

    Disturbing because of course no one should have to go through this. My heart hurts for the OP and each and every one of you that is reading these comments and knows EXACTLY what this feels like.

    Encouraging because we know we’re not alone, we collectively have learned a lot, and we have a lot of wisdom to share with the OP and each other.

  107. SideshowStarlet*

    Previous comments have suggested reading Captain Awkward. As CA would say, someone saying they “Can’t live without you” is not a compliment but a warning that the person is dysfunctional. Someone needs to be able to live with themselves in order to make half of a healthy relationship. Weighing in on whether or not you should leve him is beyond my scope of practice, but take it slow.

    Check in with yourself often… Ask yourself frequently whether you feel safe. I’m glad you’re in therapy. If you ever need more support or someone to talk to, my email is Please be careful. Take care of yourself. I would not recommend bringing your partner to work social events, not only for professional reasons, but because you need a social group separate from your partner’s. Try to continue maintaining a social relationship with coworkers and other people separate from your partner, both for support and because everyone needs a separate group of friends from their partner. Good luck!

  108. Allie*

    I’m sorry – you’ve been back together for two weeks and he’s talking about work events? It’s not appropriate to bring your boyfriend of two weeks to work events anyway.

    LW – you bring your personal drama into the workplace. And then you expect those exposed to your personal drama to ignore the past at work events. Why would your coworkers stick out their necks for you again if it looks like you’re just going to repeat a pattern?

    Talk to someone about your personal issues, but let me tell you, your workplace has gone out of its way to help you, but frankly, they are under no obligation to keep helping you out in unusual ways. Keep your drama away from work if you want to keep your job.

  109. Observer*

    I haven’t read the comments yet, so I’m probably repeating what others have said. Nevertheless…

    1. Please make sure that he does not have access to ANYTHING of yours – no keys to your new place, no social media or email passwords etc. If he says that it’s a sign you don’t trust him – that’s true and totally legitimate. YOu should NOT trust him until you have seen significant and sustained (ie AT LEAST A YEAR +) change at a fundamental level. From what you describe, nothing has changed at all, two weeks in he’s already playing mind games.

    Which leads to #2:

    2. He’s gaslighting you like crazy. This kind of drama is NOT “normal”. You are NOT being “too dramatic”. And the idea that your therapist needs HIS side of the story to advise you on what is best FOR YOU?! That’s insanity. Your therapist’s job is to help you make the decisions that are the best FOR YOU. You BF’s opinion is utterly irrelevant to her.

    3. Please ask yourself why you would want to have this man in your life. Just because he says he “can’t live without you” doesn’t mean it’s true. You know he’s lied about important stuff before. Beyond that, even if it were true that he feels that way, that IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. You should NOT put yourself in harms way again because he “needs” you. It’s just too bad for him, if he can’t get the girl he wants – actions have consequences. You have no responsibility to help him avoid the consequences of his own actions.

  110. dawbs*

    I’m trying not to say what’s already been said well many times…
    But I’ve found abusive people LOVE the ‘fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you”–because it gives them the power of shame.

    So, I knew a Catherine who was married to Heathcliff. Heathcliff was every inch the (charming, manipulative, beloved by many) abuser we’d expect him to be. Catherine screwed up the courage to kick him out–it was hard. And not that long after, through promises to change and some religious pressure, Catherine took him back. And eventually, Catherine screwed up the courage to kick him out again–and it was just as hard, if not harder. And through some pressures from their kids and some religious pressure and some pressure from poverty, she took him back.
    ANd when he showed his true Heathcliff colors again, and she started gearing up to head out on her own and leave him, Catherine hears a cacophony of “we’ve heard that before” and “well, you won’t get help from *me* this time” and the like from her support system. She was basically told to her face she should be ashamed for taking him back, she should be ashamed for asking for help again, she should be ashamed for being fooled again.
    And maybe she should have…but that didn’t make leaving easier.
    And it meant that as much as she ‘covered for him’ when he was abusive on try #1, she covered for him out of a much deeper sense of shame by try #4.

    Catherine eventually got out, and Heathcliff eventually got help, but if Catherine had gotten some of the same support on try #4 that she had gotten on try #1, it might have happened on try #5 instead of #11 or so.

    It’s awfully hard to do as the outsider, but I’d urge the outsiders to stick with ‘good for you, how can I help”

    And OP, when you do make those hard choices, people might hold off, but know that they’re probably rooting for you, and they may still be very willing to help.

  111. someone who has been there*

    I know there is nothing I could say that would make you leave him, but… You deserve better. I know you are in love with him, but you will love again. It’s easy to say, but hard to do — I am sending you my love and strength.

  112. Anon for This*

    Thank you, OP, for reaching out for help. You are so strong and brace for speaking out. I am so sorry you’re going through this. Your instincts are right about him, and I read your comment above about the social media posts.
    I understand that he has a really good side to him, but also some dark sides. We’re often taught that people are either good or bad. But, most are a mix of both. Some have more of one than the other.
    I don’t see how you can invite him into your work space and have accepting coworkers. Others here have pointed out the reasons why, so I don’t think it’s necessary to add to the choir.
    It may be helpful to you to Google these things: The Cycle of Violence (it shows the pattern of abusive relationships even when there’s no physical element of abuse); the Power and Contol Wheel (throughout the years I slowly began writing things down on that wheel that fit in those categories. It helped immensely when I was trying to figure out what to do and what was healthy to me); the Healthy relationship Wheel (still exploring this); and things about gaslighting, blame shifting, and abusers who have affairs.
    As you may surmise, I am a victim / survivor of a nearly 15 year abusive relationship. It’s been a few years now since I left. It surprised me that the initial break up period felt as rough as I felt after his abusive incidents. I felt like that for more than a year. But, I am better now. With a lot of help. I no longer have to deal with him, and am free to work through the long term issues. I was surprised to find that abusers are more likely to have other impulse control issues like alcoholism and cheating. You aren’t responsible for any of that.
    Don’t beat yourself up for coming back. It takes people quite a few times to leave. It took my abuser cheating to leave and me seeing the evidence in text messages – not the abuse… not the loudly yelling at me, cornering me in a room, and vigorously pointing his finger inches from my face hurling insults at me. Not him lunging at me, reminding me of the first seven years of our relationship and the physical violence. I say this not for sympathy for me, but so you know you aren’t alone. When you’re ready, you will get through this. Big big hugs.

  113. Notorious MCG*

    Alison, most websites that provide resources for DV victims provide a ‘panic button’ that is consistently in the window that redirects to an innocuous site if the abuser happens to unexpectedly come near while one is looking for help. If it’s feasible to do it for this post, I think that would be beneficial to OP.

    1. JMegan*

      That’s probably not feasible for this site, but I was coming back to say something similar. OP, if you’re still reading, please delete your browser history for all your devices. You have said a lot of identifiable things here – of course you’re anonymous to most of us, but your boyfriend would recognize you instantly if he happened to see this page. Even the title of the post is likely enough to identify you to him, so please be extra careful that he doesn’t find this page.

  114. AnonEMoose*

    I’m just going to add one thing. Do not trust his words. Look at his actions. He’ll say whatever he thinks he needs to say to keep you off balance and under his thumb. So…as difficult as it is, don’t listen to the words. Pay attention to what he does, to how he treats you. And not just the big things, the little ones. Like the tampons, and the condoms, and the social media stuff you saw. And while he’s never actually hit you (yet), he has physically injured you, and has minimized that.

    Maybe try thinking of it this way…it’s not a perfect analogy, but maybe helpful? What if he were a drug? It’s not good for you, and you know that, and it’s damaging you, and you know that, too. But the highs are just so, so good, and you can’t imagine anything ever feeling that good without it. And giving it up is so, so hard, because there’s withdrawal, and that hurts and makes you feel sick. And when you’re alone and lonely, it’s so easy to remember how good it felt when it was good, and minimize how bad it was when it was bad.

    And when you’re used to things being as they are now, what’s often considered “normal,” feels weird and uncomfortable and wrong. But you CAN get through this, OP. You have a support network, and a therapist, and there may be community resources to help you, too. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.

    I wish you the very best of luck!

  115. LQ*

    I’m not sure if you’re coming back to read later. I have and I want to share what convinced me to leave, because if none of the above worked for you, maybe this will.

    My ex would tell me about all the horrible things I’d done (like accusing him of cheating, like when I found things that were not mine that shouldn’t be left at the home of a friend, accusing me of snooping when he’d asked me to clean for him etc). He would guilt me like it was going out of style. I felt horrible about everything I did. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t good enough for him. That he would be better off without me. Our relationship made me do things I didn’t like (like flinching when he yelled), and I apparently made him do things he didn’t want to feel he had to do (like screaming at me, like throwing out dinner and making me remake it because I hadn’t know that when he said chicken he meant steak).

    You will be better off out of this relationship and if he is really acting so out of character so will he. So do the best thing for everyone and pack up and leave. Be strong enough to leave and stay gone for both of you.

    (And don’t stop going to therapy, please.)

  116. Anonymous Today*

    I’ve been lurking reading the comments and hoping the OP would take the advice, but some of the language she uses feels very familiar. OP, I hope you are still reading the comments because I’m going to tell you what happened to me.

    I was in a relationship like yours. We fought, we broke up, we made up. Over and over again. He was charismatic, good looking, passionate. When it was good, it was very good. But when it was bad… This went on for a little more than 2 years. He was jealous and controlling. He never hit me, but he would back me up against the wall and be right in my face. Once when I left, he cut up all my clothes. After that, I decided to end it for good and went no-contact. I got an order of protection, changed my number, got an apartment in a gated community, I even switched cars. We did not see each other for almost a year.

    One night he showed up at my door with roses, remorse and a ring. I was in shock. Not only had he found me, he was on bended knee! He claimed he had been in therapy, knew he had been awful to me, swore he had learned his lesson and couldn’t live without me. He cried and begged me to take him back. Even though my brain was screaming “Run, Call 911” I didn’t. We got back together, got engaged. Almost all family and friends wouldn’t speak to me, so it ended up just him and me. He started pestering me to have children. I always had wanted children. Finally I said yes and got pregnant quickly. My family really wanted to be a part of my child’s life so they started talking to me again and grudgingly accepted that he was a part of my life. He would make comments after visits but I was hoping once he felt accepted by them, he would stop.

    When I was about 3 months pregnant, I had to attend a conference for my job. It was held in the capital of our state about 50 miles from where we lived. Instead of driving back and forth each day, I opted to get a room and stay each night. He was opposed and thought because I was pregnant I should not go to the conference at all and especially not spend the night. I told him that I needed to be at the conference and I wasn’t up to commuting each day. He was pissed, but I went.

    Third night of conference I was in my room sleeping. Someone started pounding on my door. I got up to see what was going on and it was him. I let him in because he had awakened the entire floor and people were standing in the hallway. As soon as the door shut, he started. I was cheating on him and that’s why I wanted to stay at the hotel. He probably wasn’t even the father of the “bastard” I was carrying. Then he hit me. I crumpled to the floor. He started beating and kicking me- head, stomach, back, legs.

    I woke up 4 days later in the ICU. I miscarried the baby. He was in jail. The other occupants of the hotel heard him beating me and called hotel security and the police. Apparently when they entered the room, he was sitting on the bed covered in my blood saying “I killed her”. Not quite, but pretty damn close.

    OP, you might think it can’t happen to you, but it can. He has blamed you for all the issues in the relationship. He has taken your money and locked you out of your home. He was mad that you did well without him. I think you are in real danger and I hope that take care of yourself. I lost my baby and I almost lost my life. YOU and your safety are more important than him.

    1. Emmie*

      Oh my. I am so very sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing your experiences. My heart really goes out to you, and breaks for you too. This was absolutely not your fault. None whatsoever. I commend you for your strength, and for being brave.

      1. Anonymous Today*

        Thank you, Emmie.

        I’m worried about the OP’s language in some of the updates, especially the parts about being lonely and that her fiance is so good looking, charismatic and charming. They have to be charming and charismatic because if they were their true selves all the time people would avoid them. I’m afraid that her loneliness and his charisma may cause her to go back to an unsafe situation. I know that loneliness. I let it override my senses and the price to ease that loneliness was my child and almost my life.

        1. AthenaC*

          It could be that we need to be worried about OP; it could be that she Knows what she needs to do and as a last-ditch survival strategy is in this thread throwing anything and everything she can at the wall to see if something sticks.

          We’ll never know from the outside, unfortunately.


      OMG! I am SO SORRY for what you’ve been through! Your story gives me chills!

      How very sad…

      Yes, I am still here and I have been reading the replies through my email. He spent the night at my apartment last night and he sensed right away when he saw me that “something was different”.

      He has been pestering me .. non stop. His issue is that I don’t seem as happy as I did the day before. He said “someone said something to you….OR you are a talking to a guy…”

      Little does he know that I am reading all of these replies from strangers who all come to the same conclusion.

      It is interesting that of ALL the responses, there were only a few that cast doubt on the damage he’s done to me.. and those are the ones that I gravitate to.

      I LIKE blaming myself.. it helps keep me in denial..

      The other thing I didn’t mention before is the fact that I moved 2.5 hours to live with him. I moved from my work place (I was able to work remotely a few days a week and I commuted the others).. He suggested that I sell all my furniture in my old city and just move in with him. That’s why I had NOTHING but clothes…

      So, he took me away from work, my friends, and I literally lived on his schedule and in his hometown. We would go back to my town a lot because of my job responsibilities but he would not allow me to have an apartment (said we couldn’t afford it) because he said he didn’t want to hear I was SO tired of traveling and not come home every night …if I was commuting on a given day. BTW Driving 5 hours total each day is EXHAUSTING!

      i have done some deep thinking about what was said here. Here are some of the questions that were asked of me…

      *Why would I want to go back to this?
      It’s familiar and I have missed his companionship SO much… It feels SO good to think about the connection we have..

      I used to think when he said lustful things about me… he meant them only for me. But, I am damaged by what I saw on FB and how he was all over that young woman’s photos…..

      He swears he never met her. She lives in another state.. maybe he didn’t? But, what about the condoms? There were plenty missing …maybe he just sleptt with someone else.

      The thing I come back to … he was single.. he could sleep with whomever he wanted… but he obviously has NO PROBLEM lying to me about what he did or did not do.

      *How were you when you were on your own?
      Well, once I went no contact — I got better.. I thought about him non-stop. However, I was starting to get stronger. I would still cry .. walking downtown alone — missing him and wishing he was there to hold my hand.

      I went out on a few dates and everyone seemed to have problems or were not a good connection. There’s just something about my fiance’ ….

      The analogy about him being like a drug addiction is SPOT on. He has the power to destroy me again. Actually, my inability to set boundaries will cause ME to destroy MYSELF.

      I keep thinking… I could find another job… I don’t want to make him uncomfortable etc.
      I make excuses!

      He is all freaked out about me going on a quick work trip …

      and while we broke up…. he got himself on some cheap internet talk show for hispanics with a woman host who interviews him and his friends about what they want to see in women…

      I said WOW —so your business is failing and THAT is how you are spending your time?

      And how about I find some hot man to interview me and my friends about what I like in men… and circulate THAT all over my social media.. How would YOU feel?

      He said that I have a double standard…. that since I work with powerful CEO types.. that I probably “flirt my arse off all day long”.

      HE is now talking about going into cosmetics and wants to offer all his female friends on FB FREE botox and filler for a valentine’s day special so he can use them as test subjects while being trained. And he is NOT willing to go public w me on social media yet because he says people will say he’s crazy since they ALL know how BADLY I treated him….

      So.. here’s the truth.

      *He’s broke. He is in denial about how bad his business is.

      *He takes me for granted: I literally drove 2.5 hours to have dinner with him last week after work and left the next morning at 6 am so i could get back to work. (where we used to live)

      When I got there.. we went to eat. We had been splitting fees – but he let me pay fully. Then he left for 2 hours to go talk to his teenage daughter and her mother about why she’s drinking and smoking pot and being obstinate.

      He came home at 10 and said he had more work to do.. and I went to bed…

      *He was clearly partying his ass off — in clubs non stop while I was gone.

      *He had tampons in the bathroom. They were NOT from a housekeeper. He LIED

      *He had condoms — He says they were old. They were NOT. He says if they were there — I should be happy because it means he didn’t use them up.

      *I don’t think he will ever cheat on me while we are TOGETHER — but clearly he moved past me very quickly.

      *If he left me with nothing that easily — he could do it AGAIN. When I started questioning his lies about the tampons and condoms — he said “you know I had peace in my life while you were gone.. I don’t need this kind of drama…”

      “Here we are back in this NIGHTMARE…You just LOVE to cause problems, don’t you?”

      The truth is the pain of leaving again is SO great — I still cry out of relief when I sit down and order food with him at our regular spots .. I feel so grateful— or wake up and realize he is laying right next to me…

      I don’t want the pain of being away from him …..

      BUT — I will end with this. When he was gone and talking about spanking this woman on FB — I would come home to my apartment (which is gorgeous —downtown etc) I cried. I was so SO grateful that I had this beautiful place and furniture (used but still).. . When I bought towels and cups .. I cried. I was SO grateful I could buy things again on my own..

      I felt SO SO lucky to have my feet under me… and know that I had a few girlfriends who were there for me again.

      BUT the HOLE was SO DEEP — missing him….. I just kept thinking — God I wish he was here with me.. to experience this.

      I love my apartment – I like where I work — and I wish he could just join ME instead of trying to get me away from my town.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Oh, OP – I wish I could hug you right now.

        It’s ok to still love him.

        It’s ok to miss him – he must have some good qualities, or you wouldn’t have fallen for him in the first place.

        But, please believe this – this man could eventually kill you. If you want kids, is this the kind of relationship in which you want to raise them?

        Whatever you’re feeling – it’s ok to feel. And could you see if you can schedule some extra appointments with your therapist? It sounds like you need extra support right now, and it’s completely ok to seek that.

        I’ll leave you with one other thought: a partner – someone who really loves you – will consider your best interests and weigh them at least as heavily as his own. Be brutally honest with yourself – has he ever done this? Is he doing this now, or is it all about what he wants, what he says he needs?

        I’ll give you one example from my own life. I’ve mentioned that I help run a science fiction convention. Fannish politics can be involved and nasty, and my husband sometimes gets very frustrated on my behalf because of things people do and/or say. But he holds back so that I can deal with things because that’s my job, and he doesn’t want to make things worse for me by stepping in when he knows he should not. And he is always, always there for me to vent to, with a back rub, chocolate, and a hug. Because it’s not about him, and he knows that, and feels that the most important thing is to be a safe place for me to vent or cry or whatever. If I ask for input, he’s happy to give it, but he doesn’t try to tell me what to do.


          I think THAT is where I get hung up.. he literally ruined his practice ebcause he said he wanted to always be with me. So YES — He would make every type of sacrifice to be with me and come places with me…

          He would avoid spending time with his kids to come with me.. and he would cancel appointments and plans with friends — so he could be with me. The appearance is that he blew up his life TO BE WITH ME.

          But he would be so angry along the way. My travel for work would seem great (when he came) but he would be resentful “I can’t keep this up.. I am going broke traveling the world FOR YOU.” Or “I am not even spending time on my bsuiness or with my kids because YOU need to go do XYZ”.

          He would make last minute plans to take me out of town for a weekend away… etc. So yes, he did much of this… but through therapy I think SOME of that was due to the fact that he felt the need to monitor me… I don’t think it was JUST the fact that he wanted to be with me.

          He is pretty attentive to me when he’s in a good mood but when something has gone wrong — all bets are off. And often little things will set him off .. even if we are driving to find a restaurant.. “where do you want to eat?” I’ll say, I’m good with anything and HE will respond .. “You can’t make up your mind on ANYTHING can you.. I really worry about you…”

          1. AnonEMoose*

            The thing is, though – it’s about balance. My husband would not sacrifice his employment because of me in the ordinary course of things. Maybe if it was a serious health issue, or if I got a really awesome job and had to move for it…something like that. But not just for day to day business travel. And I wouldn’t stand for it if he tried.

            I’m not your therapist. But I would say this: Did he do this for you? Or for himself? To sacrifice other relationships – especially with his kids – is NOT healthy. If you need to hear it from someone else: YES. YES, he did this so he could monitor you, all the while making himself out to be just so much in love with you. I’m not doubting that, in his way, he may actually believe that he loves you. But love does NOT make this a healthy, good, or safe situation for you.

            No matter how good it feels right now, you are not safe with him. That you are even able to think and articulate some of the things you’re saying above is huge progress. None of what you’re going through is easy, and he has a lot of practice at manipulating you. It’s not easy to resist that, especially when part of you wants to believe.

          2. Marisol*

            “he literally ruined his practice because he said he wanted to always be with me. So YES — He would make every type of sacrifice to be with me and come places with me… ”

            But were his actions really in your best interests? Setting aside the question of whether or not it is healthy to sabotage your livelihood in order to have romantic getaways (I mean, that’s NOT healthy, and you didn’t ask that of him, nor would you ever ask him to do such a thing) but was that beneficial to you in any way? It seems to me that his actions hurt you–now that he has no job and no money, you are footing the bill for everything. He didn’t actually do it *for* you. He did it for himself. And in doing so, he hurt himself, and he hurt you. The whole thing is completely irrational.

            Someone can *claim* to do all kinds of things for someone else–there is no limit to the kind of claim someone could make to that end–but that doesn’t actually mean their actions are loving, wise, or appropriate.

            1. Marisol*

              Years ago, there was a movie with Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman called “Mr. Wrong.” In it, Bill Pullman is a creepy weirdo who went on a date with Ellen and then wouldn’t leave her alone and pulled all sort of stunts that he thought were fun and romantic but which were in reality, Very, Very Bad Ideas, things that any sane, normal person would find dreadful, and this was the source of amusement for the audience because it was so obvious this guy was delusional.

              Your description of your fiancés losing his job in order to spend time with you reminds me of a scene from that movie where Bill Pullman says something like, “I am completely devoted to you, and I will prove my devotion…by breaking my own finger” and he starts to bend one of his fingers back and Ellen is cringing and saying, “no, really, please don’t…” and he keeps going with it, resolutely bending his finger out of shape, and the gag is that this is horrible and gross, but also funny (sort of), because it’s totally absurd–no normal person would actually do this.

              Someone who is willing to lose his job and all but bankrupt himself in order to spend time with you (ostensibly—I think there’s more going on there but for the sake of the argument I will take the assertion at face value) is just like that creepy Bill Pullman character. The actions of you fiancé were unnecessary and came from a deeply, DEEPLY disturbed place. Please re-frame your understanding of his actions. They are not any sign of his devotion to you. They are only a sign of his SICKNESS. This is not a mentally well person.

          3. seejay*

            But don’t you see? A healthy, good *sane* person doesn’t destroy their life like that to be with someone. He’s destroyed his practice, his business, his kids, all to make you the centre of his life. And then when you can’t live up to his expectations (because seriously, NO ONE CAN DO THAT… pedestals are really damn small and hard to balance on, anyone can fall off of them), he then blames you for the fact that his life is in shambles.

            He made the choice to destroy his life, then he blames you for it. That’s not healthy, that’s not love. That’s obsession and it’s insane.

            My partner loves me and would do anything reasonable for me, but he also knows boundaries and to let me take care of myself. When I was in the hospital, he would happily come and see me and go over to my apartment and take care of my cats for me (despite being allergic), but he’s not going to ruin his career, disrupt his life and move across the country just to make sure he’d always be by my side. If he did that, I’d probably run away screaming, no matter how much I love and care about him in return, because *damn*, I don’t want someone that thinks I’m all that and a bag of chips… as soon as I’d disappoint him, he’d be super upset because I’m certainly not the greatest catch in the world. But we pair up quite nicely and we’re good together and that’s what makes things *good*. We don’t *NEED* each other but we’re happy to be together because we treat each other great and we lift each other up.

            You need someone that cares about you as a person but doesn’t idolize you and expects you to live up to expectations you can’t realistically live up to, destroys their own life in that expectation, then loses their marbles because you can’t meet their goals… then destroys you in the process. :(

          4. aebhel*

            That’s not consideration, that’s obsession. He’s not loving and supporting you; he’s treating you like you’re literally a part of him. He’s not sacrificing for the relationship; he’s sacrificing for his own insecurity and his belief that you’ll immediately cheat on him if he lets you out of his sight.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              This, too. And if he is so convinced that you’ll cheat on him given the slightest opportunity – think about what that says about him and his behavior while you were broken up.

              1. seejay*

                People tend to project their own faults and insecurities. Scammers think others are trying to scam them. Thieves think someone is always out to steal from them.

                Cheaters think their partners are going to cheat on them.

          5. animaniactoo*

            No. He ruined his practice for himself. To satisfy his own need to always have you in sight so that he could feel comfortable that you weren’t cheating on him. He ruined it because he didn’t trust you. And instead of breaking up with you, he chose to cope in a way that damaged his life.

            Through all my back and forth with my birth mom, the biggest thing I struggled with in the end is that she was not a monster. She wasn’t. She was a very damaged woman, and there were many great things about her. But those great things didn’t make her incapable of doing some pretty awful and horrible things too.

            I don’t believe know she wasn’t always in control of her choices. Her demons ruled her many times. But she chose to let them every time she didn’t get help. When she wouldn’t admit that she even needed it.

            Your guy? Is the same. Blame, deflect, guilt trip. He lets his demons rule him. However great everything else is, this is a dealbreaker.

            And fwiw… as a stepchild and a stepparent… someone who avoids their kids to spend time with a partner is not such a great person. They may be great at making you feel good. But as a core human? No, not so good. On the other hand… my birth mom avoided us sometimes. Usually right after she’d lost control in a big way. It scared her. And she’d never admit that. She’d excuse it as building up something else in her life or something. But she wouldn’t admit that she was avoiding us because she’d just done something like smacking a 3 year old across the face so hard they fell out of the chair. Because, then, you see, she’d have to actually admit to herself in a very conscious way that she’d hit the 3 year old. But then she’d actually have to face her demons. And that wasn’t in the cards for her.

            The 3 year old couldn’t walk away. Even when her dad tried to protect her better. You. You’re an adult. You can walk away. Even though it will hurt… for now. But not always. You didn’t make him do any of those things. Every one of them was his free choice. Even when the choice was not to get himself help for his his trust issues.

          6. Rusty Shackelford*

            He ruined his practice? Or he threw away a practice that was already floundering, because he could blame you for it?

          7. Snarky Librarian*

            OP I’ve read all your comments and your story made me cry at my desk for you. I’m so sorry you are feeling all of this and dealing with all of this! My last relationship wasn’t abusive, but it did involve me desperately chasing a guy who didn’t care about me at all. While I was dating him I kept putting with his crap because I just didn’t want to be alone. Every weekend I’d be on the phone with my best friend for hours dissecting the relationship, trying to figure out why he treated me so badly.

            I’m three years free of him and look back now and cringe at how obvious it was this relationship was Not A Good Thing for me. It seems so obvious now that things were bad and once I got over the hurt and missing him I can barely remember why I stayed with him for so long. I promise if you cut him out of your life the pain WILL fade and you will move on to a better place!

            You say you feel guilty because he sacrificed his career, his kids, and his savings just to…travel around with you? Is that really what you are looking for in an equal life partner? Someone with no boundaries or common sense who will blow up their whole present and future just to spend time with you (and make sure you aren’t cheating on him)? I actually sat down and made a list of what I was looking for in a man after I left my ex and impulse control issues, no job, no savings, no future, slavering over hot young girls on the internet definitely wasn’t on the list.

            Just to repeat what others have said: you are worthy! You deserve a partner you can love without feeling guilty and who will love you in return without trying to control you! I wish you all the best OP.

      2. Just Me and My $0.02*

        There’s no world in which he can be with you without trying to control you. When you end it, don’t bargain your way back to being involved. He is incapable of loving you and giving you space to be yourself because he needs to control how you respond to him.

  117. Marie*

    OP, in addition to many of the reasons listed above to not bring your SO to work events, here is another. I, too, was in an abusive relationship. I now have less than zero tolerance for being near known abusive people. I do not want to be in social situations with them where everybody makes nice, because that is normalizing their behavior and invasiveness, and giving implicit approval for the way they treat their victim. I also know that abusers tend to test the boundaries of not just victims, but the support networks of victims — the more willing a group of people may be to sit at an event with an abuser and pretend this is all normal, the more willing they would be to sit with a victim with a black eye and pretend this is all normal. I also don’t want to endanger a victim by calling out their abuser in public. If I worked with somebody in an actively abusive relationship who wanted to bring their abuser into the workspace, I would exit that workspace every time that abuser was present. Please do not chance triggering your coworkers, please do not give him the opportunity to desensitize your coworkers to what he does to you, and please do not give him the chance to take a stray comment from a coworker and turn it into a reason for abuse, both for your sake and that coworker (who would be horrified). This is a lose-lose prospect for everybody but him, and you don’t have to agree to those terms.

    For those advocating pushing DV victims out of workplaces, a few thoughts. Leaving an abuser is statistically the most dangerous time for a victim. Returning to an abuser may be an attempt by the victim to save their life, or the lives of their family or pets. Second, making it known that a company will fire DV victims is an excellent way to never learn about the DV victims in your workplace, and thus never be informed or prepared when risk is heightened (and DV victims are your best barometer — they have spent YEARS learning what signs indicate violence is coming, and will know better than anybody else when safety precautions are necessary). If we all came with a scarlet DV on our chests, you could just never hire us, but I assure you we are already among your coworkers and employees, and you are risking more potential violence by making us afraid to speak.

    Additionally, unless you make very clear to all staff that the reason a DV victim was fired is because they are a DV victim (which may open you to lawsuits and lower the respect your workers have for you), other employees will believe that experiencing difficult life circumstances may get them fired. You do not want a workplace where people are afraid that having cancer, or a troubled child, or an eviction, or a car accident, or a drug addicted partner, or debt, or a mental illness, or being sexually assaulted will result in their termination if it ever becomes known.

    Maintaining workplace safety and safety for a DV victim are not mutually exclusive. They are both based in creating effective boundaries based in respect and dignity for all your employees. This may lead to uncomfortable conversations, but it never has to lead to treating victims as problems to be eliminated rather than people on your team.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Really good points, Marie, was hoping you’d chime in. You’ve also articulated so well what I was thinking about hiring/not hiring/firing domestic violence victims.

    2. Natalie*

      Marie! I’m always so happy to see your comments about DV in the workplace, because you have a knack for cutting to the heart of the problem (IMO).

    3. Omnishambles*

      Thank you for this comment Marie, it’s clear sighted as always. Domestic violence is such a widespread issue across society that there is a mighty need for workplaces to be aware and educated on how to help.


    OMG! I am SO SORRY for what you’ve been through! Your story gives me chills!

    How very sad…

    Yes, I am still here and I have been reading the replies through my email. He spent the night at my apartment last night and he sensed right away when he saw me that “something was different”.

    He has been pestering me .. non stop. His issue is that I don’t seem as happy as I did the day before. He said “someone said something to you….OR you are a talking to a guy…”

    Little does he know that I am reading all of these replies from strangers who all come to the same conclusion.

    It is interesting that of ALL the responses, there were only a few that cast doubt on the damage he’s done to me.. and those are the ones that I gravitate to.

    I LIKE blaming myself.. it helps keep me in denial..

    The other thing I didn’t mention before is the fact that I moved 2.5 hours to live with him. I moved from my work place (I was able to work remotely a few days a week and I commuted the others).. He suggested that I sell all my furniture in my old city and just move in with him. That’s why I had NOTHING but clothes…

    So, he took me away from work, my friends, and I literally lived on his schedule and in his hometown. We would go back to my town a lot because of my job responsibilities but he would not allow me to have an apartment (said we couldn’t afford it) because he said he didn’t want to hear I was SO tired of traveling and not come home every night …if I was commuting on a given day. BTW Driving 5 hours total each day is EXHAUSTING!

    i have done some deep thinking about what was said here. Here are some of the questions that were asked of me…

    *Why would I want to go back to this?
    It’s familiar and I have missed his companionship SO much… It feels SO good to think about the connection we have..

    I used to think when he said lustful things about me… he meant them only for me. But, I am damaged by what I saw on FB and how he was all over that young woman’s photos…..

    He swears he never met her. She lives in another state.. maybe he didn’t? But, what about the condoms? There were plenty missing …maybe he just sleptt with someone else.

    The thing I come back to … he was single.. he could sleep with whomever he wanted… but he obviously has NO PROBLEM lying to me about what he did or did not do.

    *How were you when you were on your own?
    Well, once I went no contact — I got better.. I thought about him non-stop. However, I was starting to get stronger. I would still cry .. walking downtown alone — missing him and wishing he was there to hold my hand.

    I went out on a few dates and everyone seemed to have problems or were not a good connection. There’s just something about my fiance’ ….

    The analogy about him being like a drug addiction is SPOT on. He has the power to destroy me again. Actually, my inability to set boundaries will cause ME to destroy MYSELF.

    I keep thinking… I could find another job… I don’t want to make him uncomfortable etc.
    I make excuses!

    He is all freaked out about me going on a quick work trip …

    and while we broke up…. he got himself on some cheap internet talk show for hispanics with a woman host who interviews him and his friends about what they want to see in women…

    I said WOW —so your business is failing and THAT is how you are spending your time?

    And how about I find some hot man to interview me and my friends about what I like in men… and circulate THAT all over my social media.. How would YOU feel?

    He said that I have a double standard…. that since I work with powerful CEO types.. that I probably “flirt my arse off all day long”.

    HE is now talking about going into cosmetics and wants to offer all his female friends on FB FREE botox and filler for a valentine’s day special so he can use them as test subjects while being trained. And he is NOT willing to go public w me on social media yet because he says people will say he’s crazy since they ALL know how BADLY I treated him….

    So.. here’s the truth.

    *He’s broke. He is in denial about how bad his business is.

    *He takes me for granted: I literally drove 2.5 hours to have dinner with him last week after work and left the next morning at 6 am so i could get back to work. (where we used to live)

    When I got there.. we went to eat. We had been splitting fees – but he let me pay fully. Then he left for 2 hours to go talk to his teenage daughter and her mother about why she’s drinking and smoking pot and being obstinate.

    He came home at 10 and said he had more work to do.. and I went to bed…

    *He was clearly partying his ass off — in clubs non stop while I was gone.

    *He had tampons in the bathroom. They were NOT from a housekeeper. He LIED

    *He had condoms — He says they were old. They were NOT. He says if they were there — I should be happy because it means he didn’t use them up.

    *I don’t think he will ever cheat on me while we are TOGETHER — but clearly he moved past me very quickly.

    *If he left me with nothing that easily — he could do it AGAIN. When I started questioning his lies about the tampons and condoms — he said “you know I had peace in my life while you were gone.. I don’t need this kind of drama…”

    “Here we are back in this NIGHTMARE…You just LOVE to cause problems, don’t you?”

    The truth is the pain of leaving again is SO great — I still cry out of relief when I sit down and order food with him at our regular spots .. I feel so grateful— or wake up and realize he is laying right next to me…

    I don’t want the pain of being away from him …..

    BUT — I will end with this. When he was gone and talking about spanking this woman on FB — I would come home to my apartment (which is gorgeous —downtown etc) I cried. I was so SO grateful that I had this beautiful place and furniture (used but still).. . When I bought towels and cups .. I cried. I was SO grateful I could buy things again on my own..

    I felt SO SO lucky to have my feet under me… and know that I had a few girlfriends who were there for me again.

    BUT the HOLE was SO DEEP — missing him….. I just kept thinking — God I wish he was here with me.. to experience this.

    I love my apartment – I like where I work — and I wish he could just join ME instead of trying to get me away from my town.

    1. Child of Abuse*

      In case you are still reading this, a couple things to think about.

      When you picture yourself with him ten years from now, how does that make you feel? Excited? Happy? Nostalgic? Or something closer to tired? Sad? Scared? Do you want to sustain those feelings for that long? Longer? If you stay with him you will have to.

      And while the hole you speak of sucks – it hurts more than most people can imagine, you will fill it again. Even if it isn’t with another man, it can be with friends, or just things you can DO. Life keeps going. But you should just keep in mind that regardless of what society says about relationships being work, you shouldn’t have to be anything but completely comfortable with your mate. To be exactly who you are. A good partner should be a shelter from what every day life throws at you. And it is a PARTNERSHIP. He should be giving to you just as much as you give him.

      1. Child of Abuse*

        Please don’t be too afraid of the loneliness to take care of yourself. Whatever that takes

        1. Marie*

          Abuse doesn’t just disappear when the person does. Because most abusers can’t monitor victims 24/7, they create methods for abuse to continue even when they aren’t present. Suddenly all your friends are *his* friends, and they think you’re whiny. You are kept so busy with so many survival tasks (supporting the home financially) as well as erroneous assigned tasks (cleaning up social messes, policing your clothing, etc.) that you have no time to stop and think.

          And when you finally have a moment alone, you continue the abuse yourself. The anxiety didn’t disappear immediately — it must be a part of you, not because of him! You feel like crying all the time — didn’t he say you were hysterical? You stumble and stutter in public — maybe he’s right that you’re just not that likable. You find tasks that once were easy no longer are — you really did need him. You find being alone feels like death — didn’t he say you were needy?

          Alone is not the same as lonely. And living with abuse means living with somebody who structures your life in such a way that you never have the chance to be fully alone, either because they are always there, or you have learned that when you are alone he finds some way to blow up, or moments alone are still spent carefully planning and considering and thinking through how to satisfy your abuser.

          Consider the possibility that you are not naturally this lonely, but that the hole in your life when he is absent is part of the abuse as well. You didn’t have that hole before you met him. It’s one he punched in the fabric of your life. With time and self-forgiveness, you may find it was less of a hole and less of loneliness than his voice still ringing in your head, criticizing everything you think, feel, and do.

          1. Marie*

            This one you’ll have to take on faith, as somebody who has had the experience and can make the comparisons, but I’ll also say that I have never been so lonely as when I was with my abuser. I have experienced loneliness before and since, of course, but never as painful and intense and self-damning and panicked and *complete* as when I shared my life with him.

            If you can survive dating this man, you can survive leaving him. Relationships can be work, but love is supposed to feel good, not like a life sentence, or a heavy backpack, or resignation, or a challenge that takes all your strength. I guarantee you that being alone and even lonely will be far less painful than it has been to steel yourself to loving this man.

    2. phedre*

      One thing you said stood out to me: ” When I started questioning his lies about the tampons and condoms — he said “you know I had peace in my life while you were gone.. I don’t need this kind of drama…”
      “Here we are back in this NIGHTMARE…You just LOVE to cause problems, don’t you?”

      He is putting all the blame on you. This is NOT ok. This is NOT normal. He is gaslighting you and making you feel like you’re crazy. You’re not crazy. Please think about all the ways he’s undermining your confidence and your trust in yourself. He’s made it clear he’s not going to change and that the second you have a question, no matter how valid, he will turn everything around on you and act like you’re dramatic and crazy. This is not how people in healthy relationships act.

      I would urge you to spend more time with your therapist and explore this dynamic. You deserve to be happy and to have someone treat you well. Think about how great you felt during the breakup!

      And of course you miss him when he’s gone. It doesn’t mean he’s good for you. It gets much easier with time! When my ex and I split up, I was heartbroken and at a loss for what to do. Time and distance let me see the unhealthy dynamic and the ways in which he was bad for me.

      The other thing that was great (in hindsight) about my breakup is it gave me a chance to reconnect with myself. I let myself get drowned by him (metaphorically speaking). All of my hobbies, friends, etc. fell by the wayside. It was all about him and what he wanted. I even turned down a job I was excited about for him! Us separating gave me the chance to remember myself. To remember who I am and what I want and what I like. And yes, it was occasionally a hard period because I was lonely. But it was also incredibly freeing. I hope you give yourself that chance to rediscover yourself apart from him.

      1. phedre*

        And just because things don’t work out with this individual does not mean that’s your one chance at love. When my ex and I split, I had the irrational thought that I would be alone forever. That no one would love me, that I would never find anyone. I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep a man. But these are irrational thoughts! They aren’t real, and they aren’t true. They weren’t true for me, and they aren’t true for you.

    3. GOING Anon For This*

      There’s something I’ll share. Didn’t want to but I wanted to make a point. This might be TMI so content warning for sex, kinky sex, and sex abuse.

      My ex and I were into some really weird kinky sex things. I was ok with it because I was before I met him and it’s one of the things that drew him to me, but what I didn’t realize was that this was one of the abuse things he was using on me. I can’t explain it, but between the emotional abuse it was one of the weapons he used against me. I had my limits though and I laid those down. I thought we were clear and that I had my safe words and boundaries.

      One of the things that was his kinks was if I slept with other men then go see him afterwards. We’d discussed it and I felt comfortable with the rules which were that I was in control and I got to choose. He agreed to it, to my face.

      One day though, he decided to surprise me. I visited him at a location he had chosen and he blindfolded/gagged me and tied me up (this was acceptable). Then he let in different guys, one at a time. Three. I’ll refrain from the details. But I was so terrified that I froze up and I didn’t respond. This was at least a month or two after the conversation about boundaries and rules and I genuinely didn’t know how to respond because it was against everything we had discussed and agreed to and I did not know what was going on.

      After it was over, he told me that was what he wanted and that in short, it didn’t matter what the scenario was originally agreed to because he made the rules. And I agreed. Because he made the rules.

      That’s how messed up my thinking was by that time. I let someone that I thought I was in love with arrange for me to get assaulted. For his own sadistic desires.

      And I still stayed with him because I thought I needed him. Because he had broken my head so badly, I couldn’t see anything in the future without him. When I grew the hypothetical balls to leave, I still almost went back, multiple times. Friends managed to intervene to keep me away, friends that I had actually ostracized originally because of him (he was good at getting me away from them). They came back and they saved me.

      So yes, it is hard. It is painful. It sucks. Nothing makes sense. You can’t trust yourself. You feel like you can’t trust the world or your friends. You think that the person who treats you so well sometimes is the one that you want to be with even if he’s horrible the other times. But it’s not worth it. It’s never worth it. Break your heart into a million pieces and escape it. It’ll hurt now but it’ll be so much easier now than a year, five years, ten years down the road. Don’t be sitting there wondering where your life went and why you gave it to someone who didn’t deserve the wonderful person that is YOU, who didn’t value everything about you and only cared about HIMSELF.

        1. Dang*

          Same here. Happy for you that you got out of that situation. It really is awful to get to a point where you don’t trust yourself, and your mind tells you that you NEED this person and you can’t be without them.

          But you always, always can. And just because you can’t imagine your life without them permanently doesn’t mean that you won’t be better off without them.

    4. SarahKay*

      OP, I know you love him, and that’s okay, but he is damaging you. He is blaming you for his choices and his actions, and that’s not okay. He has stolen from you and locked you out of your shared home, and that’s not okay. He has badly hurt you, and however much it may not have been a deliberate attempt to do so, it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been physically trying to force you to stop leaving, which is not okay. And then he’s lied about it to his friends and family, and painted you as the monster, and that’s not okay.
      I’m sorry, I get how hard this is. I know what it feels like to be single and desperately missing the person you are in love with, what it feels like to be deep in a black pit because you just want them so badly. To talk to, to go out with, to stay in with. But I promise it gets better; it’s not easy and it’s not always fast, but it does happen.
      In the meantime, if you can’t face breaking up with him, can you take some precautions? Keep a pay-as-you-go mobile at work, with all your family and friends’ numbers on it, in case he decides he needs to take your phone. If he has access to your bank accounts then ideally remove that access, but if you don’t feel you can do that then please open a new account, with a totally different bank, and squirrel some money away there. Arrange to get the bank statements sent to work or to a friend you can trust, or if they’re e-statements get them sent to a new email address that he can’t access and doesn’t know about. Keep the bank card safe at work instead of with you. If he has keys to your new apartment, ideally change the locks and don’t give him a key, but if you’re not comfortable with that then keep a spare set of keys at work. Speak to your landlord / letting agency and make it clear to them that you are the only person who can make requests related to your apartment. Put a password on your computer. If there are files and photos on it that you value then make a copy on a memory stick and keep that at work. Take a photograph of all your official documents (drivers license, birth cert, etc) and keep those pictures on the memory stick, in case he decides he needs to take them from you. Make sure that you are the one in charge of birth control and that he has no way to sabotage it. Get checked for STI’s and think about using condoms with him rather than other methods of birth control.
      Finally, to answer your original question, please don’t let him attend work events, or travel with you for work. Tell him it’s a new work policy that partners aren’t allowed if you have to – but a reasonable person would never insist.

    5. Observer*

      Please think about this – you cried from missing him. But you ALSO cried from the things he did to you. *And* you cried from joy at being able to have your space, and your things and to be able to do things on your won schedule.

      When you shudder at the thought of missing him, when you cry from missing him, PLEASE think about the ways he has made you cry and will continue to make you cry. Also think about all the things – apparently little things, but really truly significant things – that are so important that you cried when you finally got them (back.) Perhaps that will help you to withstand the pain of loneliness till you find the friendship, companionship, and comfort with yourself, that gives you peace.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        There was a meme going around for awhile that seems applicable. The text said: “Find a man who ruins your lipstick, darlin’ – not your mascara.”

  119. 2horseygirls*

    OP, you will lose the majority of any professional credibility you have rebuilt if the fact that you are engaged to this person even comes up in office conversation, much less appears in person at an event.

    I am not saying this to shame you, or make you feel bad about your personal decisions. I am saying that — as someone who watched her friend change her name 6 times in 16 years (through 4 marriages and divorces) in a single position and then wonder why she finally had zero credibility at work, ultimately losing the position that represented 16 of her 19 years of professional career — regardless of how they are supporting you to your face, at some point, anyone who is not related to you is going to say “Enough is enough”., and they are going to mitigate their own exposure.

    Gavin deBecker’s book “The Gift of Fear” contains, among other invaluable information, a list of 30 Pre-Incident Indicators (PINs); the more you can recognize in your relationship, the more likely that the relationship will become violent (or more violent). The list is also extremely applicable to workplace violence (which covers 1+ chapters in the book), so hopefully Alison will indulge the long post here.

    This is the exact list from his book, retyped. I have starred the ones that appear in your letter:

    1. The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.
    2. At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on the agenda such things as commitment, living together and marriage.
    ** 3. He resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying and violence.
    4. He is verbally abusive.
    ** 5. He uses threats and intimidation as instruments of control and abuse. This involves threats to harm physically, to defame, to embarrass, to restrict freedom, to disclose secrets, to cut off support, to abandon and to commit suicide.
    6. He breaks or strikes things in anger. He uses symbolic violence (tearing a wedding photo, marring a face in a photo, etc.)
    7. He has battered in prior relationships.
    8. He uses alcohol or drugs with adverse effects (memory loss, hostility, cruelty).
    9. He cites alcohol or drugs as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent conduct (“That was the booze talking, not me; I got so drunk I was crazy”)
    ** 10. His history includes police encounters for behavioral offenses (threats, stalking, assault, battery)
    ** 11. There has been more than one incident of violent behavior (including vandalism, breaking things, throwing things).
    ** 12. He uses money to control the activities, purchase and behavior of his wife/partner.
    ** 13. He becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes her time away from the relationship; he keeps her on a “tight leash” and requires her to account for her time.
    ** 14. He refuses to accept rejection.
    ** 15. He expects the relationship to go on forever, perhaps using phrases like “together for life”, “always”, “no matter what”.
    ** 16. He projects extreme emotions onto others (hate, love, jealousy, commitment) even when there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to perceive them.
    ** 17. He minimizes incidents of abuse
    18. He spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about his wife/partner, and derives much of his identity from being her husband, lover, etc.
    19. He tries to enlist his wife’s friends or relatives in a campaign to keep or recover the relationship.
    20. He has inappropriately surveilled or followed his wife/partner.
    ** 21. He believes others are out to get him. He believes that those around his wife/partner dislike him and encourage her to leave.
    22. He resists change and is described as inflexible, unwilling to compromise.
    23. He identifies with or compares himself to violent people in films, news stories, fiction or history. He characterizes the violence of others as justified.
    24. He suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry or depressed.
    ** 25. He consistently blames others for problems of his own making; he refuses to take responsibility for the results of his actions.
    26. He refers to weapons as instruments of power, control or revenge.
    27. Weapons are a substantial part of his persona; he has a gun or he talks about, jokes about, reads about or collects weapons.
    28. He uses male privilege as a justification for his conduct (treats her like a servant, makes all the big decisions, acts like the “master of the house”).
    29. He experienced or witnessed violence as a child.
    30. His wife/partner fears he will injure or kill her. She has discussed this with others or has made plans to be carried out in the event of her death (e.g., designating someone to care for her children).

    PLEASE get this book and read it. I wish you continued success in your position.

  120. Marisol*

    OP as I continued to mull your situation over, I started to wonder: do you know for CERTAIN that this man is a doctor? I mean, are you certain he is a licensed physician with an MD? Anything is possible of course, but someone who goes through med school, and residency, and all the trials therein, only to one day just “blow off” his hospital shifts, like a teenager with a fast food job he doesn’t like, until he finally gets fired, is wildly implausible to me. Is it possible that he is lying to you about his background? This guy is clearly a mooch, a girlfriend beater, and an overall liar. It seems quite possible to me that he’s a professional grifter on top of everything else.

    1. Dang*

      I actually wondered the same. You can very easily look up whether he has an active medical license.