Dear Dr. Hedda
Jeff and I have been together since our senior year in college. Luckily we both found jobs in the same city. We’ve been living together for a little over three years.
He tells me he loves and I believe him. But, he’s never mentioned marriage. I’ve met his family and he has met mine.
Last weekend we had a wonderful loving evening. It was perfect. It seemed almost like magic. After, when we were lying in bed together I told him I loved him and why don’t we make this legal and get married. He was quiet for a few minutes. It felt like hours. Then he turned to me and slapped me in the face. Hard, my teeth felt loose. I started to cry and pull away from him. But he held onto to me. Then, this is the part that scared me, he said “never, never mention marriage again”.
The next morning my face was red and a little swollen. He didn’t say a thing. Not a word about it. He suggested that we should stay in and just relax.
I’m scared. Am I an abused woman?. Now whenever we’re together I am a little frightened. I saw a side of him I never knew existed.
This is so confusing.. Should I let just one act ruin the wonderful 3 years we’ve had together.
I still love him.
What I have found in my practice is that acts of violence, like the one you recently experienced , do sadly, repeat. I’m not saying every single time, but frequently.
The reasons for this behavior range from genetic defect to a troubled childhood and at times the result of undiagnosed or untreated medical/mental illnesses.
Part of me wants to tell you to cut and run. But there are successful treatments available. Cognitive and behavioral therapy can provide insight and the ability to recognize the true source of the anger.
This does require that the both of you agree to go for therapy. Be honest and make a commitment that you are in this together and you both never want an act of violence to ever happen again.
But if it does happen again, get out of there. This is now becoming a pattern and you will become an abused woman.
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