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    Hi Anita thanks again for taking the time to reply. I fully hear what you’re saying. I AM indeed trying to make sense of a lot of different signals that can all be interpreted in multiple ways. My motivation? I know how incredible hidden domestic abuse can be, and how easy it is to shift the focus away from obvious red flags by putting all the responsibility with the abused. (The ‘infamous’ if she doesn’t like it she can just leave; and if she doesn’t leave she probably likes it) This is a very dangerous mindset and the cause for many women (and men) to not be heard or helped when they’re in danger. I also notice that you’re first reflex is like this. It must be her, else she would have left long time ago. I also know that people who tend to gravitate towards abusive relationships once, are likely to repeat. But even then, the general first reaction seems to be: she would have left if she didn’t like what’s going on, or she might actually enjoy it.

    As for your thoughts: I did not spend a lot of time talking with this woman over the years. We once we more connected, over ten years ago, through mutual friends when we lived in the same country. From then on we’ve been friends in the sense we would give each other little updates about what’s going on in life.

    Knowing if someone is honest or dishonest, a victim or an abuser, manipulative or mentally incompetent, is incredibly difficult to tell. I am interested in what others think given what I have seen so far. Maybe someone recognises some behaviours and could shed some insight.  My motivation? She’s a friend, and I know the horrors she’s been through in a previous, very physically abuse relationship. It would be very sad if she’s in one again. If you think that someone who is being abused will tell the first person they see ‘oh hello, I am being abused, could you help me?’ then you’re probably wrong. A lot of people who have a history of abuse are sometimes not aware of them being abused, because it feels so familiar to them.

    Thanks for seeing me as someone intelligent and rational, I would like to return the compliment as I think you are also very rational, intelligent and eloquent But like I said: I don’t have LOTS of contact with her. It’s mostly through text every now and then and the occasional phone call. Haven’t seen her IRL face to face in years, let alone together with her partner and possibly observe their dynamic or body language..

    I am and have been in intimate relationships, and I am far from clueless what happens inside them 🙂 In fact I have a very healthy interest in interpersonal contact, human behaviour, relationship dynamics, why our relationships are the way they are etc. I think our relationships, the people we attract and the people who are attracted to us, teach us a lot about ourselves.

    As I wrote to Jan in my reply to him, yes I know her character and her background. Me, my girlfriend and my friends were all there when the person in question had to leave the country to escape from her abuser and start all over. When she eventually found someone new we were all happy for her, looked like her traumatic abusive relationship was a mishap and she now found someone nice and stable. Expecting her to get married and have some kids at some point.

    But as time goes by, we are wondering if history isn’t repeating. You might say why don’t you just ask her if she’s in another bad relationship again? Well as you may know, that’s the problem. If it were that simple nobody would ever be in a bad place ever right?

    I understand the temptation to start analysing me, and question why I am so invested in all this and if I even know anything about relationships in the first place. But that’s not what I’m asking. We don’t need to contra or meta analyse why the question is asked in the first place. That feels like you want to jump on a psychologists chair and start debating what all this is saying about me. I just like to double check with others how this looks like to them from the outside. I think you made it clear where you stand. I assume you’re in camp “if she wants to leave she would just go”? Is that correct?

    I don’t think it’s that strange to second guess possible red flags happening to someone with a certain background and history? If that’s a friend?



    Hi Jan, thanks so much for taking the time to reply.

    I tend to see it this way as well. Although I never met this guy (her on/off ex), I think it looks a lot like emotional (and possibly physical) abuse.

    I also agree very much that he’d be more interesting in having her live alone on the country side surrounded by his family than having a more ‘independent’ life in the big city. Isolation is very typical for someone with unhealthy and toxic intentions indeed.

    Some other ‘red flags’ I noticed:

    Their relationship started fast and hard, he moved in with her very quickly.
    He was very quick in getting close to her family and friends and portrayed a bright future with marriage and family planning.
    Then things got confusing for her because he would constantly change how he sees things and she started doubting herself and the relationship a lot, resulting in breaking up and moving out.
    Then indeed came the phase of lowering her self esteem and making her feel insecure. She doesn’t understand why he’s even still with her and tries to break up again, but he won’t let her go. Always stalking and love-bombing his way back.

    As for more on her background: She has lost her father at a young age, and then was abandoned by her mother at age 12 to be raised by her grandmother, while her younger sister and older brother went to live with their mother. Later her older brother also dies. Then when she was finally reunited with her mother she ended up in a physically abusive relationship and had to move to a different country to get away from that guy. Then her mother also died unexpectedly.

    I have a feeling she’s in fact an easy ‘prey’ for an(other) emotional abuser?

    Still there are a lot of people who say ‘oh well if she really wanted him gone she would change the locks’. Or that she enjoys the drama and that her boyfriend is trauma bonded to her endless pull/push behaviour. That she is the one abusing him.


    You write ‘please help her get this guy out of her life’. Would you have any advice on how to do that? She really believes that he did a lot for her and he deserves another chance etc. I have heard about cases where voicing concerns about possible abuse will drive the person even more into the arms of the abuser and possibly cut off ties with the one that is trying to help.

    Would you suggest talking to people around her? Like her younger sister or a friend? Or would that have an opposite effect as well?

    Thanks in advance for any further elaboration!


    Hi Anita,

    you’re absolutely right, I’m seeing ghosts here. She’s indeed just seeking for attention and is playing a power game enjoying pushing and pulling an innocent guy for her own entertainment. And yes, you’re also right I should not be focused on her and spend my time and energy on someone nearby.

    Thanks for pointing that out, I feel much better now 🙂



    Hi Anita,

    I can really follow your reasoning. I can also see that she’s not well mentally, for sure. She ‘s had a lot of chaos in her life and can’t seem to steer herself into calmer waters.

    She complains that he doesn’t move in with her in her tiny apartment full time, she hates it that he’s only with her half of the week sometimes. If they stay together, she wants the relationship to move forward: get married, have kids. He doesn’t want that in a tiny apartment the city, she refuses to live in the countryside.

    For that reason they argue a lot (and according to her a lot of other things don’t go well either) and she doesn’t want to stay with him anymore. She tells him to leave and let her find her way.

    He doesn’t accept a break up, because he’s so much in love with her. He would do anything for her to keep her, except move his life to the big city.

    If he is so madly in love with her, why doesn’t he compromise that one thing and finds a new job in the city and buy a house together with her and merry her? He is sticking to his village just as much as she is sticking to the city. She is the one saying, “hey if you don’t want the city, then just let me go. Because I am definitely not moving to a rural place where there’s nothing for me, and we are not getting along that well anymore anyway.” She goes on dating some other guys to finally get him out of her system, he ignores that she broke up with him and starts love-bombing.

    An ex comes inside your house uninvited to check if his picture is still on the wall.
    Some people would say oh how romantic, others would say that’s stalking and you should call the police

    An ex shows up unexpectedly at your work with flowers
    Some people would say oh how romantic, others would say that’s stalking and you should call the police

    An ex refuses to give back your keys and comes and goes as he wishes and leaves notes inside you house how much he loves you
    Some people would say oh how romantic, others would say that’s stalking and you should call the police

    An ex announces he wants to stay in your house for a month because of a project in your city and you feel you can’t refuse because all that he did for you in the past
    Some people would say oh how romantic, others would say that’s stalking and you should call the police

    An ex keeps acting like you are still together, just ignoring the fact that she broke up with you
    Some people would say oh how romantic, others would say that’s stalking and you should call the police

    And all this takes place while she is trying to move on with her live and is actively seeing other men.

    I’m just wondering what is the main argument to say that she just enjoys pushing him away and seeing him crawl back to her, instead of saying that’s pretty creepy if an ex does all that.

    At what point do you say about a girl that’s being harassed in he street that she just enjoys being provocative? (maybe a wrong example but you get the point?)

    I totally see what you’re saying and there’s a very good chance you are absolutely right.

    I’m just curious where the tipping point is between “ooooh how sweet, she must enjoy so much desperate attention from him” and “oooh that’s pretty creepy?”

    Thanks again for your insights and effort to respond in such great detail




    Hi Anita, thank you again for taking the time and effort to reply in such an extensive way.

    I sincerely do hope that this guy is just crazy for her and they will in fact end up happily ever after. I also very much consider the option that if I would -hypothetically- ask him if he knows how many times his girlfriend ‘broke up’ with him, he probably has no idea what I’m talking about.

    And you are right that although I have no desire to engage in a serious relationship with her again, and definitely not interested in marrying her and have kids with her, (I am single btw), I am not completely insensible to her reminiscing our hot nights and her sending me pictures of (for instance) her wearing the lingerie I bought her back then, which she always kept all these years (carefully hidden from her boyfriend she says) I’m a man after all. But I won’t push myself back into her life.

    The part about her lying about the lack of affection and him making her feel miserable and insecure..  I can NOT imagine she made all that up. She was very upset about it and we talked for 2 days when that happened. If that is all a lie she deserves an Oscar for outstanding acting.

    But if this is the case.  Can you explain to me then why she is sabotaging her own life goals (married with kids, have a normal pleasant life) by constantly pushing him out and taking him back in, enjoying exercising power over him and against him, abusing him year after year? And complaining about it to her friends (including me).

    Why not just move on, and live a happy life? Is she enjoying abusing him so much she would rather sit at home alone in a tiny apartment 5 days a week than to live her happy and fulfilling dream-life married with kids?

    Is there a particular reason you think she likes to stay in this chaotic dynamic filled with drama year in year out?


    Tanks in advance


    I would like to add something that also makes me wonder if she’s happy at all:

    She looks bad. Empty eyes. Pale complexion. Sharp lines in her face. Like someone who’s com back from a war. If I compare pictures of her from 3 years ago and now, the difference is striking and unsettling. Especially seeing a picture with no sparks/light/joy in her soul, bags under the eyes and a big cut on her nose. Absolutely not an image that screams ‘Oh look I’m so happy to (be back) with my true love and life is great now.

    That definitely added to my feeling of ‘hm.. wait a second’.


    Hi Inky, thanks for your reply.

    I hear what you’re saying.

    It’s like they are an older married couple: no sex, separate domiciles, shared keys, calling for favors. Are they even separated at all?

    She is in her mid-thirties. Instead of being happily married with children she is bored to tears.

    I agree, this is not the lifestyle she wants at all. She wants to get married and have kids, just not the way he wants it: in his rural village with is countryside relatives far from any city-life excitement and services. And yes it is like they’re an older married couple. However, she made a power move to break up and move to the city, find a job etc, alone. You would indeed think that a sign she’s also strong enough “to get it through his head that it’s really over”. I would expect that from her too.

    Then why on earth would she continue to stay in an on again / off again relationship with him for YEARS, while the quality of the relationship is spiralling down to the point where they only argue and live like brother and sister and are together only half of the week sometimes? While her great wish is to build up something new and get married and have kids in the city?

    And STILL then, when she manages to eventually end it with him and finally goes out on some dates with guys in the city, he’s able to love-bomb her back to shitty ‘older married couple’ style relationship? Why would she stay in something like that when he also makes her feel miserable / insecure / worthless? Is that because she really really loves this guy? Then why doesn’t she move to his village and have kids if he’s her big love and having a family is her biggest wish in life? Why cling to this idea of living in a tiny apartment when her big love is waiting for her in a big house to have her kids?

    BTW I’m not sure he pays half of the rent, I think he helped her pay the deposit when she got the apartment or something.

    As for dropping the rope: so far (the past 3 years) I have always shrugged and continued minding my own business when she appeared to be back with him for the 100th time. Her life, her choice, her decision, whatever. Couldn’t really be bothered. Just was there for her as a friend. But after 100 times thinking ‘ok whatever’, the 101th time I’m just starting to ask myself if maybe something’s not right. Things just don’t add up and all of a sudden I’m worried she might be in a bad place when you put all the 1 + 1 + 1 together.

    Or I might be seeing ghosts and this is chaos is just what she enjoys, who knows.  Therefor it’s nice to hear some opinions from others, like yours, and it’s appreciated.

    Looking forward to hearing additional  thoughts you might have.


    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Jason.

    A little add as I can’t seem to edit my previous post:

    edit autocorrect typo: *damsel

    <i>Now.. what am I witnessing here? A cunning woman playing a damsel in distress? Or a traumatised girl fallen victim to another manipulative / narcissistic abuser who can’t take no for an answer and beats her up and then love-bombs his way back over and over again?</i>

    Did they ever actually really break up at all? Or did that only happen inside her head, was she just saying that to her friends, and for him they are still together all this time? Would she make up his manipulative actions so it would justify her going back (to the outside world), while in fact they were still together all the time? To not have to admit that they never actually broke up?



    And the reason I’m sometimes wondering if her boyfriend/ex even knows how many times she “broke up” with him, is her use of language: “For me it’s over” “I consider myself single” “I call him my ex” “he just won’t let me go”. She never stated something like “we broke up” or “we are not together anymore”.  Now this could also be explained in two ways I guess, either playing games, or not being able to leave an abuser.

    Thanks again and looking forward to your reply.



    Hi Anita, thank you again for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts about his. It’s really appreciated. You already provided a lot of new insight and it really helps me understand things better. It’s so helpful to hear someone else’s take on this. I notice that this situation consumes quite a bit of my attention because I can’t come to any ‘conclusion’ as to what to think, and I feel I can’t really shrug my shoulders and turn around since there’s a big element of being worried for someone’s wellbeing or safety.

    As for your suggestion she might suffer from histrionic personality disorder; although she shows some of the characteristics, she definitely isn’t the type who likes to be the centre of attention. Nor would she show exhibitionistic or provocative behaviour or act theatrical. Quite the opposite actually. I would describe her more as shy, insecure, nervous, anxious, doubtful, a bit naif, sarcastic, definitely not seeking any spotlight. She’s beautiful but doesn’t see herself that way. I am by no means qualified to make any psychological diagnose, but for me she fits more in the borderline spectrum, minus the promiscuity and substance abuse. But the fear of abandonment, unstable emotions, mood swings, splitting black and white, low self esteem, insomnia, depression, yes they are there. I do know that BPD has a lot of overlap with complex PTSD and that actually feels very typical for her, considering her traumatised past (loss of one parent, abandoned by the other, loss of brother, chaotic lifestyle in different countries, history of abuse.)

    I would like to add that she is 12 years younger than I am. She’s now in her mid 30s. I stayed friends with her, more like in a big brother kind of way. Someone she trusts and who knows her history and she can ask for advice. She doesn’t have a lot of close friends, and the few ones she has live abroad. We haven’t seen each other face to face in 8 years, all our contact is mostly text and the occasional phone call.

    Maybe it helps to give a but more detail how and why I am worried / confused about her situation.

    So 5 years ago she lives in a small town, he lives in a village close to that small town. They get into a relationship, he moves in with her. They live together for two years. Her big wish is to marry and have kids. He wants her to move to his village, where all his relatives live, so they can have a nice big house and start their own family. She however wants to live in the big city. (And knowing her, I agree with she’s more of a city girl and I always thought that little town was too small for her) They fight about how they see things so differently and “other things aren’t great between them either” (her words) so she breaks up with him and moves to a tiny apartment in the big city (which is 5 hour drive away). According to her he then convinces himself it could be ok in the big city then, after he realised she wasn’t coming back, nor was she going to live in his village. She says he kinda accepts the new reality but she can see he’s hoping one day she would change her mind.

    Then after a few months she starts complaining that he’s not really moving in with her, only stays with her half of the week sometimes (understandable I think as his job is still in his village 5 hours from the city) and that when they are together they argue a lot and he stopped showing her affection (no sex anymore), despite him saying he still loves her. That this behaviour is making her feel rejected, insecure. That she feels like the last woman in the world, absolutely unattractive, and she blames herself for it. That he sometimes stays in a hotel because they argue too much and she refuses to stay with him. That It’ll take time to feel differently and she’s now so insecure it even changed the way she keeps herself with other people. That she generally tends to criticise herself a lot and with others people help, people that mean something to her, it’s really like 1,2,3 to destroy her self esteem. That it’s really hard to rebuild anything and everything else wasn’t that great at times too, so for her it’s over no matter how hard he tries. That they live like brother and sister, but he won’t let her go. That she calls him her ex, he keeps calling her his girlfriend. That they just can’t stay together, she’s constantly mad with him and maybe it’s her who’s a problem.

    Now this is the point where I’m getting a bit of a stalky feeling with this guy. Especially in combination with her saying he’s making her feel insecure and destroying her self esteem?

    They continue for another year like this, probably on again/ off again style. This is where she starts to sometimes hint at us meeting again or she starts flirting a bit. Reminiscing our good times way back and she could use some ‘me time /fun time’ and have a fun weekend together somewhere. Twice I said ‘ok let’s do that’ but as always that conversation wouldn’t go anywhere because in the end she’d still be back with him.

    Until, like I said, recently she tells me it’s really over now and she actually started dating other guys again. That she finally told him it just really wasn’t going to happen between them, whatever they had planned in their future together. She seemed relieved. Of course she also threw in another ‘hey we should go somewhere nice for a weekend’. But before that even takes any shape, here come the stories about the ex again:

    – that he still has the keys to her house and sometimes comes inside her house when she’s at work to ‘check if there’s still pictures of them’ and he would leave her a written message how much he loves her.
    – that he sent her flowers
    – that he took her to the airport
    – that his mother is ill and she feels obliged to ask him about it.
    – that she feels she can’t be bitchy to him after all he did for her.
    – that she feels ‘afraid’ to slip back into the relationship again, because this is how it always goes: he just keeps acting like they are still together
    – that he asked her to stay with her in her house for one month because of a job in her city and that she feels like she can’t refuse it because he still pays part of her rent.

    I call her naif that she’s letting all this happen. And if she really wants it to be over she should at least ask her keys back? And maybe not let him move in again because of some BS excuse of a new job? I ask her if she really doesn’t see how he is weaselling his way back to her? But she doesn’t really respond and it even almost feels like she understands him, because that’s how it always goes. Like it’s almost cute what he does.

    Now.. what am I witnessing here? A cunning woman playing a minstrel in distress? Or a traumatised girl fallen victim to another manipulative / narcissistic abuser who can’t take no for an answer and beats her up and then love-bombs his way back over and over again?

    Did they ever actually really break up at all? Or did that only happen inside her head, was she just saying that to her friends, and for him they are still together all this time? Would she make up his manipulative actions so it would justify her going back (to the outside world), while in fact they were still together all the time? To not have to admit that they never actually broke up?

    After 3 years of watching her going through the same cycle again and again I’m starting to get worried and curious how others would read this.

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to reply.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Jason.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Jason.

    Hi Anita, thanks again for your extended reply. There’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying.

    I’m not sure if your last question was meant in a rhetorical way, but my motivation is that I used to date her 10 years ago, and I’ve seen how traumatised she was from the abusive relationship she was in before we met. She sees me as a person she can trust, I also know her background and other things from her past, and she reaches out to me whenever she’s having a hard time. Including her relationship struggles. And when she’s feeling low she sometimes hints at us meeting again, because when we were together it was “always fun”. Regardless if that would be a good idea or if I would consider it, it would never get to that point anyway because a few weeks (days) later she’s back with her boyfriend.

    It would be very sad if she’s entangled in another abusive relationship again, and I do perhaps feel a bit responsible to find out as she doesn’t have a lot of close friends. I’m not pursuing another relationship with her or to ‘get her back’, I’m just worried as the longer this goes on the more I get a bad taste in my mouth. But I’m not sure what role I could have in this, if there’s any at all.

    She’s a good person with a lot of baggage.

    Does this answer make you see things differently?



    Hi Anita, thanks for your reply.

    She is definitely into drama, she can have mood swings and sometimes I think she shows some behaviour that could fall under borderline personality disorder. You are right that perhaps maybe her claims of “it’s over!” weren’t always the truth even (she could be just saying that to herself perhaps, to justify getting some attention from others?)

    But her stories about him not treating her nicely, making her feel insecure, have low self esteem, and not understanding why he wouldn’t just let her go if he wouldn’t even sleep with her, sounded real.

    What would be her motivation to make me (or others) think her boyfriend hit her on the nose if it wasn’t the case? A cry for help? If that’s just a game about getting attention, would she also me making up the manipulative behaviour of her boyfriend to justify why she’s not leaving him? His behaviour looks creepy from the outside, yet she almost talks about it as cute that he came into her house while she was at work and left flowers.

    At what point do red flags outweigh the green flags?

    When I confront her, she just says that’s how it always goes; he keeps acting like they are still together.

    When is what they do cute and romantic and when is it toxic and abusive? I find it so hard to tell.

    Could you perhaps elaborate a but more about what you think are half truths and half lies here? And what would be her motivation to do so?


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