After years of knowing each other and a very close friendship for the past nine months, she admitted that she has the same feelings for me. Normally this would be a great thing, but a few days later she tells me that she feels nothing inside. She is emotionally shut down. She describes it as being "lost somewhere" and that her "body just does its routine to get her through the day and night."
The thought of a relationship with me seems to scare her and is tearing her apart for the following reasons:
-- She is Indian and I am non-Indian. Her parents have raised her to believe that only Indians make appropriate partners. She has been told if she ever likes a non-Indian, that she will bring disgrace to her family and will be disowned.
--She has never been in a true romantic relationship. At an early age, her parents arranged a marriage and she was sent off to live with the family. During that time she was both emotionally and physically abused by her husband to-be and his parents.
--Her close friends believe that Indians should not date non-Indians, and they would alert her parents, so she has no one to confide in.
--She will not see a professional to talk through the issues that trouble her
I have always been aware of the cultural barriers that could separate us, and I am willing to face them head-on because I believe so strongly in the relationship we have and can have. When we are together, things are effortless. Now, there is effort just to communicate, and while I understand the stress she is experiencing, I can't help but feel frustrated. We used to talk about intimate things, and now she has shut me out.
My guess is that her emotional numbness is a defense mechanism to help her cope with the overwhelming sense of hopelessness she must feel: follow her heart and risk her family; be loyal to her family and betray her heart, while hurting the only man she has loved.
In a situation like this, what is the best way she can be helped, and what role can I play in it? Are there any good resources she can read?
Should I back off and wait for her to come around to me, or should I continue to try to make things as close to normal as possible?
PS: I should add that she does have trust issues and a fear of both being and getting hurt.
Your assessment of the situation is probably accurate - that she's doing what she can do to "cope with the overwhelming sense of hopelessness." This is a journey she'll need to take on her own - and figure out what to do with all of the real confictual issues she has.
The reality is, if she were to choose to be with you she would likely suffer a number of severe consequences that she might not be willing to take. The unfortunate piece is that it sounds as though she's been harmed by the first arranged marriage her parents set up for her. Because she doesn't even know about what a healthy, loving relationship looks like, she might not trust that it would be enough to carry her through the fallout.
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