Dear Thelma: I'm so lonely... should I go back to my abusive ex-boyfriend?

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Dear Thelma,

I have known you since I was in my 20s and sharing my story with you is like meeting an old friend.

Anyway, here's my problem. I was in a relationship with a man for eight years, and it has been five years now since we broke off.

It was an abusive (physically and mentally) relationship but I am old-school and was deeply in love with him. So I rationalised all his wrongdoings and stayed with him until I couldn't take it anymore.

Now we are on texting terms. I am 44 this year and still single. I don't have many friends and have no one to call if I'm bored. Wherever I work, I end up working alone. There is no way I can find new friends with whom I can connect. Obviously, I can't find a boyfriend or companion.

I was so lonely after my mum passed away that I reconnected with him after he called me during prayers for my mum.

Is it wrong if I keep in touch with him for physical needs? I just want him as a companion and he has no problem with it (he never had problems sleeping with anyone anyway).

Sometimes I feel, why take life so seriously when I don't know when my last day will be, so enjoy and do whatever I feel like without hurting anyone in the process. Please advise. Thank you.


Dear Vani,

Thank you for your kind words. I'm sorry to hear your mum passed, and that you're having a bad time. Here are my thoughts.

The gold standard advice is to join a club where you can meet people, like Toastmasters or a hiking group. Even in the pandemic that works because you can debate online and hiking is allowed in many areas.

However, I think that you may need some prep before you do this. I say this because of your relationship history.

You were in an abusive relationship and you are very much conscious of how confused your thoughts were about this. Although you got away for a while, you are now back with him.

That is very common, so please don't judge yourself. Abusers can be very charming; that's how they ensnare their victims in the first place. However, my answer to your first question, should you just sleep with him, is this: abusers are like poison. Any kind of contact is going to be toxic.

If you let this man creep back into your bed, he'll be in your life, in your head, and you're back to square one. He's a cheater, a liar, and nothing good can come of that. As he's also physically abusive, he may kill you this time. Please, kick him out, block him, stay away.

Now to address the other issue: how come you didn't build a happy life for yourself after you left him? May I ask, did you work through the fallout properly?

You see, being in an abusive relationship is like being a crime victim. You come out of it battered, sore, anxious and exhausted. It takes some work to heal. This is especially true after a long relationship because victims can suffer from flashbacks, nightmares and uncontrollable thoughts.

Many crime victims, soldiers, police, emergency responders and others who suffer trauma also have this. In good, supportive environments, they are automatically referred to a mental health professional.

Sadly, victims of abuse and domestic violence often feel shame. This prevents them from getting help. Therefore, when they try and re-establish their social circle, they aren't healed yet. Sometimes, they find it hard to cope. This leads to them feeling isolated – and it pushes them right back into the arms of their original abuser.

So my advice to you is that you need a bit of support and prep before you start making friends. Look for a mental health professional who is skilled in helping people recover from abuse. This is a job for a professional, so look for someone with at least a Masters in Counselling, Psychology or Social Work.

Expect to take a few sessions to untangle some of the damage done by the relationship and a few more before you are confident about socialising. It's a process, not an instant fix. But take heart in knowing that there are millions of women who recover. You are perfectly loveable, you deserve happiness and you will get there.

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Loneliness , abusive relationships


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