Firstly, just wanted to compliment you all on a great website, it's an invaluable source of information and support. I've just joined because I desperately need some advice (and may even have something to contribute from time to time).
My partner of ten years was abused/raped by his female schoolteacher 30 years ago. The abuse continued for a period of about 2 years - from when he was 14, til just before his 16th birthday. When it was discovered, he was the one punished for it...his struggling single mother (also a teacher) was 'coincidentally' offered a job by the education department in another state ( a job that was well beyond her abilities/training) and my poor man had to move cities/schools at a crucial age, leaving all his friends behind and more than likely feeling as if it was all his fault.
As an adult, he's had all the usual problems - drugs/alcohol, mood swings, unstable relationships ( amazing how, although every situation differs, the symptoms of trauma are remarkably standard). I'd always known about the abuse but feel a bit thick because I only really put it all together a couple of years ago and realised that this was what was behind his behaviour. When I finally woke up, I spoke to him about what I thought was going on - and issued an ultimatum: see a counsellor or we have no future together - there have been a number of incidents between us that would be justification enough for leaving a relationship, but I love him and realise that none of it is his fault and wanted with all my heart to give it every possible chance between us.
So, he's 3 months into seeing the counsellor (amazing guy, even my partner really likes him, which is quite something, because he automatically thinks all counsellors/psychologists/psychiatrists are stupid or have ulterior motives). But he still can't quite 'own' it - he still claims that I'm making him go and he's doing this for me. I've tried to explain that the schoolteacher is the reason he's there. In the meantime, he takes out so much of his anger on me - presumably, I'm a safe person and he's terrified of actually feeling the feelings he needs to feel. It all makes perfect sense - his first experience of a relationship was an abusive/dysfunctional one where there was a massive power differential - as a consequence, it's as if whoever he has a relationship with is ' the enemy'. Things are great between us when there are no stresses in our life but when he's worried or upset or feels threatened and insecure, he completely turns on me. I'm then the worst person in the world and to blame for everything that's wrong in his life.
I have tried to set boundaries but feel like I am being completely dragged down (drowning man analogy?) I want to love and support him but feel like, as long as I'm around, it's too easy for him to channel all his anger and frustrations onto me. And therefore, maybe I'm being a hindrance rather than a help? I am so unhappy with how things are between us but I know that nothing will change unless I make it happen - he thinks things are mostly fine, with a few blips. I see it the other way around - only fine, as long as we keep everything calm and happy and don't try to address any fundamental problems.
Does anyone else have any experience of making these hard decisions, taking a break from the relationship and still having things turn out positively? I know if I took some time out, he'd see it as a massive betrayal but i don't know what else to do. I can't be strong for him unless I'm ok in myself and to do that, I have to take some time for me. Is that selfish? I'm just so completely lost right now and don't know what to do.