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Long term effects of abuse and violence — 23 Comments

  1. I am walking-talking proof that abuse has long-term effects. The PTSD had infiltrated every aspect of my life, awake, and asleep.

    I cannot imagine being criticized for dramatizing actual events, when our news broadcasters create the most anxiety-laden reports about winter storms that turn out to be simple WINTER EVENTS.

    I’ll have to look into this book. Whenever I felt as if I were “dying” from my experiences, I would contemplate living in a concentration camp or N. Korean “work camp,” and sort of find my place as not as bad as all of that………it was a help to me to know that others had experienced worse scenarios and survived to live meaningful lives.

    GOOD article, Joyce……..thanks for posting this

  2. Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” after he survived the Nazi camps, in which he talked about the EMOTIONAL conditions that the abuse percipitated. Essentially three of them. !) giving up and turning your face to the wall and dying 2) becoming an abuser yourself 3) staying BITTER for the rest of your life or the only other option, HEALING and accepting what had happened, but going on and finding MEANING in your life

    Of course, healing and finding meaning are NOT easy accomplishments, and there will always be some kind of difference in the YOU then and the YOU NOW, but that difference doesn’t have to make you unhealthy.

    My short term memory, of which I had been quite proud, after the plane crash and the subsequent attacks by Patrick did away with the STM to the point I wasn’t functional, but the brain is plastic and CAN recover some of the damage, and find new ways to cope.

    Dr. Frankl’s book made me realize that MY PAIN was NOT LESS than his or anyone else’s pain, PAIN IS TOTAL.

    Just HOW IN THE WORLD this young man over came the Stockholm Syndrome from being raised in that environment, actually BORN in that place, I will never know. I think it is kind of going along with my theory that some of us have more power genetically to recover from that. And again, I think that “power” is more in some than others, but still I do not think DNA is destiny.

    Personally, I think my son Patrick had a LOT of DNA that tended him to becoming a psychopath, but he still had some choices. I think I had some tendency toward being a victim, but yet, some how I managed to “escape” my personal prison and break out, and LEARN to behave and think in different ways.

    That young man has my total admiration for his escape and for his using the experience to do good, to make the world aware of just what NK is really like. There are a few people escaping from ISIS and spreading the word on that, although the ISIS seems PROUD of its atrocities where NK tries to spread a lie that it is a “heaven on earth”

    Just as Nazi Germany fell and Japan’s war lords eventually fell, NK will eventually fall, maybe not until the death of the “beloved leader” but it WILL fall evenutally. Unfortunately, too many times, it takes a WAR to accomplish that, and many millions of people are traumatized bringing it to a halt.

    While the west is not a “heaven on earth” by any means we are blessed that we don’t live in Syria, Iraq or any of the places being attacked by ISIS and other fanatics.

    All we can do when we have suffered abuse for all or parts of our lives is to make one of the CHOICES and then go with it. We can choose to heal or choose to be bitter, or choose to abuse others because of our own abuse. I choose to heal, to accept what happened, accept my own part in it, and move forward with my life in a more healthy manner.

  3. Good article Joyce.

    I imagine the prisoners didn’t have calendars available to mark the dates or remember the year that “this” (insert tragic event here) happened, so for those mocking, questioning or ridiculing this man, his memory or the actual timeline, I ask this- Could YOU do any better???

    Truthy- when you said, ‘it was a help to me to know that others had experienced worse scenarios and survived to live meaningful lives” Oh. M. G! How I can relate… I know my situation was far from great, but it was also far from the worst either. I had and have resources others do not and none where others had some. While I may be weak where they are strong, I may be strong where they are weak.

    When I felt overwhelmed or consumed by things, I had to remind myself of this- There are others who have walked away from far more, with far less and yet they’ve made it. They’re fine and one day I will be too.

    I’m still working on it. Some day I’ll get there, but until then, I’m grateful for what I have. In the grand scheme of things, this is just a dip in the road or a change of direction. It’s not the end of the world.

  4. Phoenix, that’s the thing, the healing is going to be ON GOING….I used to think we just “reached healing” but I now realize it is a JOURNEY not a destination. That alone has helped me to really heal as I don’t expect to reach some NIRVANA of “BEING healed” and realize it is a PROCESS. And yes, it changes us, in some ways that will always be different than we were before, but it doesn’t mean we cant be as good or BETTER. Self awareness I think is very important As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” and I do believe that. I think self examination is what we must cultivate.

    People high in psychopathic traits don’t learn from their mistakes because they don’t truly SELF EXAMINE, they are too narcissistic to realize that THEY are “off” and by the time they reach full adulthood I don’t think there is any turning back for them. Science has proven their brains are different, and there is a big part of it DNA, yet at the same time, they are not PSYCHOTIC (not knowing right from wrong) so they should be held accountable for their behaviors. Unfortunately too many people seem to think that they can be “rehabilitated” and that is just not true. You can’t reach their “feelings” because they have no empathy, shame, or compassion and apparently are not capable of them.

    Yes, others have things worse than we have, but at the same time, anyone who is in pain is in total pain. I broke some small bones in my foot a month or so ago, and a toe as well, and believe me I WAS ENTIRELY IN PAIN…my whole body hurt though the injury wasn’t life threatening. But, it did remind me I must walk more carefully ini the future! LOL

    • Joyce and Phoenix, my belief is that the old adage is true: “Whatever does kill me makes me stronger.” I don’t particularly *like* the words used in that old saw, I’ve taken the words to mean that every challenging experience is an opportunity for personal growth. I am not obligated to “LIKE” that opportunity, by any stretch of the imagination. But, I do have the option of taking something positive away from it.

      Phoenix, you mentioned the absence of a calendar and whether or not others could do any better, and I identify with that. I honestly do not know how I have managed to live – simply, LIVE – for the past 3 /12 years! But, I did manage to do it, and I also managed to do some serious recovery and healing work. Even my language has evolved and been altered to reflect healing and self-worth.

      I believe that individuals who cast off the role of “Victim” will, in due time, recover and heal from whatever their experiences have been, regardless of the severity OF those experiences.

      Excellent article……..

  5. Truthy, I think that above should read “does NOT kill me…” LOL Welcome to my world of typos and “missed spellings” LOL

    In some ways, you are right that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but it (the stress caused by abuse or trauma) can also effect our physical as well as our mental and emotional health.

    Plus, depending on the age at which we were abused there are milestones of development, both physical and mental that must be accomplished before the next one can be accomplished, so just like going up stairs you wouldn’t jump from the first rung to the 10th and skip the 2-9th, our development is also step wise.

    The young man from NK was BORN in the prison camp, and I am going to presume that his mother was starved to one degree or another during his gestation, and he was most likely not nourished well after that. Research has shown that nutritional deprivation during gestation causes intellectual retardation, as well as other problems, so somehow he managed to come out without being literally retarded. Of course he had no nurturing like he would have had in a normal family. Whoever raised him obviously was under constant and unremitting physical, emotional and intellectual stress themselves. I can’t imagine a worse way to grow up, and yet, somehow he over came all those problems and managed to escape the awful Stockholm syndrome he felt and to decide to escape and finally manage to do so. Which amazes me, considering he was born into that situation.

    But there are also physical difficulties caused by abuse, if it is intense physical abuse it can leave the individual with chronic pain from the injuries as well as the effects of the stress hormones. We all know that long term stress actually kills brain cells and has a long list of physical ills as well.

    I think it is so important to our well being that we take time to be KIND TO OURSELVES and to forgive ourselves for the things we have done as a result of our abuse. I know Truthy went physically “off” on her ex husband who had stolen her money, and hit him. I know for a long time that she said she felt so guilty, but you know I think that kind of “guilt” for “reactionary” behaviors needs to be LET GO. It wasn’t our “nature” but was situational.

    This young man apparently carries a load of guilt for turning his mother and brother in for execution, but it wasn’t his “fault” considering the circumstances, but I also imagine it is or will be difficult for him to let go of that guilt and shame.

    In accepting responsibility and accountability for things we have done while being abused or even afterwards, I think it is very important to forgive ourselves for those things. To me that was I think one of the hardest parts, to forgive myself for being such a “fool” and for my enabling behaviors. I “should have known” what I was doing, and I did intellectually, but while I had great OUT SIGHT, I had little INSIGHT. I could “see” and name enabling behavior in OTHERS, but not in myself. I was continually trying to take the speck out of my brother’s eye, while having a LOG in my own. Forgiving myself for that has been difficult and a continuing task.

  6. Joyce & Truthy- I truly believe that the amount of healing and the length of the journey to reach it, depends on a few different things. How we were hurt, how we reacted to it, how we moved on and what we learned from it. Each of our childhoods were different, our reactions are different, our “traumatic events” were different and each of us have been on our journey towards healing for different lengths of time.

    In the end though, when we talk about casting off the role or label of ‘victim’, and reaching the destination of “Healed”, it comes down to what we have each decided to allow to define us. Do we encourage or allow others to see us as a _______ or do we move on and write our own story from there on out?

  7. Phoenix, I think that rather than a DESTINATION that “healing” is a JOURNEY and that there is not a point that we totally reach “healed” but that we approach closer and closer, but there is always room for improvement in our lives. I am sure MUCH MORE close to “healing” than I was 8 years ago when I was living in an RV in hiding from the man my son sent to kill me, but yet, every day I find something new about myself, and I enjoy life much much more than I ever did before…I am making positive changes in my own behavior and thinking, rather than being a “victim” I am PRO-ACTIVE in life, distance myself frrom people who are toxic in any form.

    Yea, “writing my own story” is now what I do, NOT reacting to someone else’s story, if that makes any sense. If we don’t associate with those who are toxic, then we don’t have the drama that we had before, and it makes it much harder to become a “victim” because we are now somewhat wiser.

    There will always be toxic people who try to enter our lives, but we are much better at spotting the red flags BEFORE they get too deeply enmeshed into our hearts and lives. Sure, we will get fooled from time to time, but you know…we now have a tool belt to use to keep building our positive lives and living them.

  8. Absolutely, we are just really beginning to “understand” the mind-body-spirit damages that occur from any type of abuse, and the physical consequences of long-term exposure. Indeed, both scenarios take their tolls. For me, I probably carried the genetic marker for auto-immune disorders, but I’ve been diagnosed with Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis, along with a host of other things. I “get it” about this, and I’m a completely different person than I was in 2011.

    Yep, I attacked the exspath, and I have absolutely forgiven myself for my actions. I know that my reaction to the “final straw” was the result of decades of swallowing back abuse, anger, resentment, helplessness, powerlessness, and PRETENDING that everything was “fine.” I discussed this in our support group, the other day – I spent so much time pretending that I literally did not know who I was, ultimately. And, there was a “fear” that I would simply be empty once all of that ugly past was excised.

    It takes work, it takes time, and it takes patience, and I had none of these attributes under my belt except the NEED to do the work so that I could function, again.

    I believe…….after all that I have experienced, personally, and all that I have witnessed as a peripheral observer……….I believe that abuse is abuse and that it has ramifications, on every level, regardless of how, when, where, or how long the abuse actually was. Being born INTO that type of abuse is pretty much a death sentence, and I have the highest regard for Shin because he has undertaken the task of working to beat every odd that there is. What a testament to the human spirit!!!

    And, I agree that recovery and healing is an ongoing process – a “journey” of lifelong practice and centering. The further along I’m getting, the less anxiety I’m experiencing, and when I DO have those events in Life that used to cause crippling anxiety, I am able to manage it down to even a few moments, rather than a few months. Literally.

    So, when I mis-typed the old saw about whatever doesn’t kill use makes us stronger, I meant that on a non-physical level. The stress most certainly takes its toll, and much of the physical damage is progressive: once the damage occurs, there’s no remedy to REVERSE it. But, there are, indeed, things that I can practice, today, to help prevent MORE damage from occurring. And, that’s more or less what I meant. LOL!!!!!

    It DOES make sense to tell one’s story, Joyce, and the “telling” is literally in “story form” rather than a state of melt-down. That, alone, is evidence of how far we have all come on our own healing paths! At one time, my personal story was SO aggressive that it was over-the-top for most people to even read! Now, it’s just whatever it was………and, TODAY is what counts for me!


    • “……..whatever doesn’t kill use makes us stronger….” should read:

      Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

      Criminy crissmass………

  9. Joyce- I feel that healing can be a destination as well as a journey.

    Some days the hurt, pain and grief over what is lost is just as raw as it was the day we found out (or figured out) what happened and what we were dealing with. Some days I shake my head in disbelief at the things people do to each other ‘in the name of _____’. In the name of love, money, their deity of choice or the bazillion other excuses they claim as ‘reasons’ for their actions…

    Some days the healing is a destination. When the past is now the past, it happened XX years ago and there’s no reason to dig it up anymore. There are days I have to step away from things and distance myself from them. There are days I do not “check in” on the spath issues, because to me- I’m done with that chit! I step away in order to find some peace, clarity and regain my focus on what is important to me. Here. Now.

    At some point, we all get to stand up and tell the spath where to go.
    We get to say, “I AM CLAIMING MY LIFE BACK!!!”
    I get to make the choice NOT to dwell on it.
    I get to choose NOT to let it consume me or define me as the ‘victim’ anymore.
    That’s a choice the spath does NOT get to make FOR ME.

    This doesn’t mean we have to or that we will forget it ever happened, drop our guard or shut off the Spidey Senses altogether. It just means that we no longer allow the spath to be a part of our thoughts, consuming us every day with self doubt or looking for validation in the eyes of others. Did I do things right? What did I do wrong? Am I good enough? Thin enough? Pretty enough? Have enough? Make enough money? Or whatever the ‘weakness’ of choice they exploited to control us with…. This is what I mean about it being a destination.

  10. I see your point Phoenix…I don’t dwell on what happened to me or the sadness, fear and anxiety it caused. Of course it is normal to want to go over EVERY llittle detail when you first start to recognize what happened, but not to continually dwell on it forever.

    Healing is a grief process just like the loss of someone we love to cancer, the five stages of grief according to Dr. Kubler-Ross, 1) denial 2) bargaining 3) sadness 4) anger and 5) acceptance….but they don’t go 1,2, 3 etc but jump back and forth over and over and over, but eventually we reach acceptance of the facts as they are…and the same with the loss of what the psychopaths took from us, even if it was “only” the illusion of being loved by them.

    Professionally I studied the “grief process” and observed it in others, but it was very difficult to observe it in myself…LOL “physician heal thy self” LOL And while I have reached “acceptance” with my son Patrick and the death of my husband and my beloved step dad, I still miss them…I miss the Patrick that was a wonderful child, and my husband, and my step dad were great supports to me and while I ACCEPT that they are gone, and I can remember the good times with them, I still MISS them. So I have experienced the grief process with them in a healthy way, but from time to time I’ll tear-up thinking about them and missing them.

    I also realize, like Truthy said that STRESS (from what ever source) damages our minds, brains and bodies. It has been proven by studies to shorten life and destroy health, but we must work to reach peace. We can’t change the past and we can’t change the future, but we CAN change the PRESENT. Today…this minute…this second. We have control over what we think and feel and how we act or react. Actually that makes us pretty powerful.

  11. You’re coming in loud and clear on the five stages of grief and how they follow no particular order when they show up. I have lost loved ones, and cut loose a few of those I thought meant a lot to me. Some of them it was a very painful process and others, I learned to just shrug it off as a learning experience.

    Which is why there are days, like you said Joyce, that I tear up at the thought of them, the times we had, the things we did and all we went thru. To have it all back for even a day or even the chance to see that one person again? Would mean the world to me.

    The people that I thought meant a lot to me or that I might have somehow meant a lot to them? I might grieve the loss of what I thought we had, what once was or might have been. Hind sight is always 20/20 and there are days I despise it as others probably do as well. But it’s not like we can turn the clocks back and change things, take back what has been said or right some of the wrongs. That can be a bitter pill to swallow.

    • Phoenix, the statement you made about “grieving the loss of what I THOUGHT we had” is an IMPORTANT POINT. Our “fantasy” (if you will allow) of the relationship we thought we had with a person, a person we grew to love and then were betrayed by, abused etc. I think, for me anyway, is one of the worst losses. I kept trying to FIX the person, and get them to love me. “Help” them “see the light” like with Patrick, but “it ain’t happening, Jake!” Even accepting THAT it “ain’t happening” and that I had NO control over another’s thoughts or beliefs was traumatic to me. LOL But now I realize that the only person I can truly “control” is myself and I would rather say INFLUENCE instead of “control”

      Grief, I think, is something we must LEARN to deal with. If you have never lost something or someone IMPORTANT to you, or if you “replaced” them quickly….like run out and get a new puppy the day after Fido dies….you haven’t really learned how to cope with deep grierf. Which is why it is a common thing to see a woman or man after a significant, painful break up, run out and ALMOST INSTANTLY jump into another relationship to cover up the pain from the loss of the first one. I did that 8 months after my husband died, jumped head first into a relationship with a psychopath looking for a new “respectable” wife to cheat on after his last respectable wife caught him cheating and dumped him. FORTUNATELY He couldn’t even wait for the wedding before he started cheating again, this time on me…well, you know if they will cheat on one partner you can almost bet they will with you, so I opted out, but by then I was so deep in grief over him AND still resolving my grief over my husband’s death which I had covered up, not dealt with, that it was a melt down moment. But you know, grief must be DEALT WITH or it “lies in wait” to jump up and grab us. You can’t push it down and expect it to stay there unresolved. We must get to and stay in the acceptance part of the process.

  12. In recovery and healing, we talk a great deal about “time.” How long we’ve been out …. how much time it took to heal …. how many days/months/years we spent in counseling …. and so forth.

    I believe that the “turning point” for me in this whole journey of recovery and healing was when I was driving along and listening to NPR. It was Friday, so the program, “Science Friday” came on to discuss the newest atomic clock being constructed – it was accurate to within a bazillionth of a zillionth of a second (or, WHATEVER), and the discussion moved from this clock to what “time” is, according to scientists. Well……….a noted physicist was being interviewed about this clock and the measurement of time – time that has passed, time that is passing, and time that is expected to pass. He said, in no uncertain terms, that science cannot explain what “time” really is. Devices can be constructed to measure it, but it cannot be explained. What it boiled down to was that we have NOW………..that’s all we have.

    It finally gelled that I had spent my lifetime attempting to ALTER THE PAST and PREDICT THE FUTURE to guarantee better outcomes. It was at that moment that I realized that I could CHOOSE to live in the present……..that it was a simple choice to let go of the past and live, right now, today, and FOR this moment, rather than anticipating future events, how others will react/respond, etc.

    As for my healing journey, there are many days when I move through each moment without even thinking about either ex, or what happened. Other days, I will dwell on what I “should” have been able to see, prevent, etc. – that is 100% NORMAL in human beings. It is “normal” for us to revisit the past on occasions. LIVING in the past is when it becomes a toxic obsession – that need, drive, desire, or hunger to control everything, including what has already happened.

    The discussion about time was SO helpful to me to address that control issue. I gave myself the green light to live, today. Do I plan for a future? Sure, I do. I plan on paying my bills on time, etc., etc., etc., but I have finally come to realize that I cannot, will not, and never have been able to predict the future OR alter the past. It has been a monumental assist in managing the catastrophic thinking that was so pervasive in my “previous life.”

    Here’s a link to the discussion of what “time” is: http://www.timephysics.com/

    • To clarify………my thoughts on this are not meant to suggest, by ANY means, that I have forgotten the past or, “put it behind me,” as so many well-meaning people are apt to insist upon my doing. What it means is that the past has happened. Nothing I can say, do, pray for, insist upon, wish for, or demand is going to UNDO what has already happened. It just isn’t going to. So, the “feelings” that are associated with past events are very real, but they don’t need to define whom I am, if I disallow it.

      “Things happen,” and they happen to everyone – everyone on the planet. Why do some people seem to float through catastrophes without becoming the way that I was? Well……..that’s a whole different discussion, but they were likely raised in environments of nurturing, encouragement, and NOT dysfunction, secret-keeping, denial, etc. And, that knowledge has also been helpful in my recovery processes – I didn’t choose to be like this. I can now choose to move into a more healthy and balanced space using the things that I should have received as a child: nurturing, care, concern, love, acceptance, validation, etc. And, I give all of these things TO myself, BY myself.

    • That is an interesting discussion on time. It’s true though.

      We cannot change the past. We can only remember it, apologize when needed and hope to make amends for some of the things we have done.
      There is no guarantee of the future. We can plan for it, hope for things to come and wait eagerly for it to get here.
      But at the end of the day, we will find ourselves living in the NOW.

  13. Truthy, that “ah ha” moment is something we remember”forever” I think. As I’ve said my “ah ha” moment was reading Dr. Frankl’s book in the part about pain.

    You are right though, Truthy, ALL we have or ever have is THE MOMENT…The Bible teaches us over and over and OVER “not to worry” and not to fret about “tomorrow” That doesn’t mean we should not make an effort to work for our daily needs, but quit WORRYING about it. It also in many places, instructs us to AVOID “evil” people or people with bad habits.

    Even good “common” sense would teach us that we can die in the next second, or THIS second. If we don’t take advantage of NOW we lose everything.

  14. Joyce- “Phoenix, the statement you made about “grieving the loss of what I THOUGHT we had” is an IMPORTANT POINT. Our “fantasy” (if you will allow) of the relationship we thought we had with a person, a person we grew to love and then were betrayed by, abused etc. I think, for me anyway, is one of the worst losses.”

    While I’m not opposed to your choice of wording, calling what we thought we had with someone a fantasy, doesn’t quite, in some cases cover it. When we daydream or fantasize about things, it is usually with some known amount of illusion that this isn’t so much REAL. We do it anyways, believing or maybe hoping that THIS could happen.

    When I said “grieving the loss of what I THOUGHT we had”, I meant that because there are two sides to every relationship and in these cases one of them is full of cr-ap, the other party may truly feel like there is something REAL between them.

    I THOUGHT my marriage was formed out of a relationship based on trust, respect, genuine affection, care and concern. Things a person could and would reasonably expect. Instead I found out the whole thing was a sham from the get-go.

    • Phoenix, I get what you’re saying, and the inference also applies to both of my marriages, but the second marriage was 100% fantasy on my part – I SO wanted to believe that what the exspath was putting out was genuine that I literally ignored certain things that, in hindsight, **should** have (at the very least) given me pause for thought, if not a clear indication that he was disordered. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and youth is also wasted on the young! LOL

      So, I agree that it’s semantics rather than interpretation. What truly was did not factor into what was believed to exist – happened to all of us, any way you dice it.

      And…………it’s okay, now. I’m out, I’m done, I’m free of that burden, and I’m recovering and healing each and every day. Stronger, wiser, and my compassion has become more defined and REfined, as a result of the whole experience. 😉

      • Truthy, I look back at my own “fantasy” family…the family I VISUALIZED and so wanted to be REAL that I actually thought I could make it come true. LOL The vision I had for Patrick, that he obviously didn’t share, the vision I had for getting approval from my mother, which I never could seem to get no matter what I did. LOL I lived in DISNEYLAND’s “fantasy land” LOL I saw what I wanted to see, and ignored (for the most part) the rest of what was actually there. Red Flags screaming for attention were shot down repeatedly because they didn’t jive with my fantasy. But reality will definitely bite you in the bu-tt if you continually ignore it.

        After my husband died, I was so desperate for a “relationship” again that I also overlooked a lot of red flags in the man who offered to fulfill that fantasy, but fortunately I got out before I married him. It still hurt like heck though when I realized what he was.

        Getting older doesn’t make us wiser, but examining REALITY as much as possible, and admitting to ourselves what is REAL versus what we would LIKE TO HAPPEN is the basis of wisdom so that we can avoid those pit falls of fantasy. “Too soon old, too late smart” applies to me for sure. LOL

  15. Phoenix, we are just having a difference over semantics I think our MEANINGS are the same, just different words. Of course you THOUGHT you had a good marriage/relationship, but then you found out that was NOT TRUE.. (i.e. what I am calling a fantasy) and finding out that what you THOUGHT was REAL and turned out to be NOT REAL hurts just as much or more than losing something that was real.

    By example: If you had a valuable gold and jewel encrusted item, and you lost it, you might be very devastated because you intended to sell it to pay off the mortgage to your house, but then the item was found, and you took it to sell and found out it was not real gold and not real jewels and was a FAKE. You had thought it was real, valued it like it was real, and depended on the its value in your estate, but ultimately you found out that it wasn’t real. I think it is kind of like that with relationships that WE THINK are real and that we are loved in RETURN but then find out that we were simply dealing with a psychopath, incapable of REAL love. That hurts doubly I think.

    Our feelings are REAL, but the other person in the relationship may NOT BE REAL. May not be what we think they are.

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