My first lesbian relationship has become abusive

Tell Me About It: a woman gave up everything for her alcoholic lover

Tell Me About It: “She has started to drink heavily and when drunk becomes verbally abusive.”

Tell Me About It: “She has started to drink heavily and when drunk becomes verbally abusive.”

 

I struggled with my sexuality the whole way through my teen years until my mid-30s, and during this long-time period I never had a relationship with anyone. I come from a very religious family, who believe that homosexuality is a sin. I have constantly struggled and felt shame about my strong desires. Two years ago while visiting Ireland for the first time, I met a woman working in the hotel that I was staying in. When she finished work we stayed up all night chatting. Nothing sexual happened at this point but we kept in contact and visited each other on and off for several months. Eighteen months ago, the relationship became physical.

Shortly after, I came out to my family who told me that they were disgusted by my behaviour and expressed that they no longer wished to be in contact with me. I left the job that I worked in for almost 20 years and relocated to Ireland. Within a short period of time, I bought an apartment with my new partner.

The first six months of living with my girlfriend were like a beautiful dream. But in the past few months things have changed, she has started to drink heavily and when drunk becomes verbally abusive. I do not drink alcohol myself but was aware she had an alcohol problem when we met but did not know the extent of it.

She refuses to admit the problem and will not seek any help. I have made a huge life-changing commitment to be with her, giving up almost everything that I knew. My life no longer feels happy and I feel trapped in a very difficult situation. Despite my family’s homophobia, I really miss them, particularly my sister. I know that if I return home they will probably accept me but not for who I am.

You have two problems: the relationship with your girlfriend and the other being exiled from both your country and your family. What you are being presented with is an opportunity to tackle the big issues in your life and this requires a sense of self-worth and determination. 

It seems that you believed this relationship would be lifelong and so I wonder if it is worth investigating whether it can be salvaged. In the early part of a relationship (and for you this lasted a long time due to the physical distance between you), we often present the best part of ourselves. 

Being in love stretches our capacity and we are often more generous, funny, open and loving. It is like getting a gift of what we can stretch ourselves to be, but if we are to maintain this we have to do the work of self-development and this is often challenging.

  It seems that your partner has reverted to a prior version of herself or has stopped trying to impress you. For anyone with an alcohol problem, the first and most difficult step is to admit that there is a problem and clearly she is not at this stage. 

Extricate yourself

It is not acceptable that she is verbally abusive to you and of course you have to take action. This will probably involve taking a hard stance on the relationship ie if she will not accompany you to therapy or go for treatment, then it is likely you will have to extricate yourself from the relationship. Is it possible to recruit some of her family, close friends or GP to help you with an intervention? 

Clearly you have loved her very much and leaving her with support would offer both of you a less traumatic break-up if that is what is to happen. However, you also need support and you feel isolated and lacking in family back-up. 

Many people of non-straight sexual orientation have had to cope with family disapproval and rejection but the world is changing and there is a growing global cultural and legal acceptance of all forms of different sexual expression.  There is a possibility that your family may have softened their hard-line approach and it might be time to offer them another opportunity to connect with you. 

You could start with your sister and tell her that you miss her and would like her support in reconnecting with your family and culture. Inviting her to Ireland might offer her a way to see what your life is like, and she could observe at first-hand how your sexual status is accepted. She might also see the difficulties in your relationship and offer you emotional support. 

You deserve to be completely accepted for who you are and so you must be quietly confident that any close relationship from now on (with partners or family) will only happen if you feel respected and valued. If you hold this as a principle, other people will respond in kind and even if it takes time to establish, your life will grow and benefit as a result.

See safeireland.ie for lists of support service for domestic violence

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