This is a long one, so strap in.
I've been dating my girlfriend for just coming up to 10 months now. She's the best thing that ever happened to me for reasons too numerous and tangentially relevant for me to get into here, with one hyper-relevant exception:
Near the start of our relationship, she had to go back home to Thailand for two months. I was looking for work, so I decided it'd be a good idea to move to Birmingham, where she was also going to be moving for her PhD. Since it was the holiday season, I very begrudgingly planned to spend just under a week in my dad's household before taking the drive down to my new accommodation.
I have a history with my father, one I've struggled to come to terms with on these very forums. I have been caught in a cycle where he draws me back in to live with him by whatever means, I go along with whatever his plans are for a while, feel worse and worse, and get out again. The reason why is one that took me a long time to reach, but an incident and following confrontation on this particular visit finally led me to connect the dots: my father was an emotionally abusive manipulator.
I'll skip the specific circumstances, but after this confrontation I called my girlfriend and she was an incredible support. She listened, she believed, she encouraged. I decided the best course of action would be to get out of there immediately, and she agreed.
Fast forward to this week. I've settled in Birmingham with a good job that has a lot of opportunity for progression. Job hunting was scary and there was a lot of time pressure with my limited savings and lack of a safety net, but I made it, and I've never been happier. I haven't spoken to my father since the confrontation.
My girlfriend got back from a trip to the Lake District yesterday, so she's expecting a catch-up call with her father. They do these semi-regularly, and if I'm around I make sure to stay out of sight and sound, because he doesn't know that I exist. Everyone else does, but not him. We've made plans for a specific time and place to tell him; he hates foreigners, and he has a blood pressure problem, so we're handling the issue with care.
He calls, and I slip away to kill time. It goes on for a while, and I eventually decide to nap on the sofa. The next thing I know, she's waking me up, making a sound that I find a little confusing until I come to my senses and realise that she's crying uncontrollably.
Through sobs she tells me all about their conversation. He wants her to return home immediately after completing her PhD, so they can get started on the plans he has for her. Said plans have changed from conversation to conversation, with no acknowledgement of said changes, and certainly not with "no" as an option. She didn't even get to finish her sentences; any protest was net with accusations of unreliability or attacks on her work ethic.
Now, I know this kind of behaviour when I hear about it. I'd already noted the similarities between our respective fathers on previous occasions, and the fact that she didn't feel like she could tell him about me was certainly a red flag. But this was uncanny in the worst possible way. I asked her if she thought her father was emotionally abusive. She paused, then nodded silently.
In the days since then, I've been doing my best to help her come to terms with this and deal with it in the best possible way. She talked to her brother not long after our initial conversation and seemed totally defeated, resigning herself to the inevitability of returning to her father. I had had the exact same kind of conversation with my sister after the confrontation, where she justified my Dad's actions even through her sympathy. I reminded her of that, and it was easier for her to process things when viewing it through my experience. For that alone, I'm glad I went through what I did.
We've been looking up articles about parental emotional abuse and the effect it has on the child. Both of us have found a lot to relate to, sharing experiences with each other along the way.
We identified two things which her father is using as a weapon: her family, and her financial reliance on him. So we've started working to correct that balance.
We've identified people that she considers close enough to to confide in. I do the talking until she's comfortable enough to participate in the conversation. So far, we've talked to a senior couple that we both really trust, and that was a huge comfort. They were adamant that she should not return to him; one said, "it will kill you". We're planning to talk to the rest over the next few days. Last night she said out loud, "I have people on my side". It was a breakthrough for her.
We're also updating her LinkedIn profile and CV, finding suitable positions and preparing to go on an active job hunt. The marketing agency I work for even has a recruitment agency as a client, so we've made contact with them too. She's ridiculously qualified. We're going to put her two Bachelor's and two Master's degrees to work.
That all said... is there something else that I could be doing to help her? Or am I perhaps approaching something the wrong way?
Has anyone gone through something similar, or do we even perhaps have experts in the field here? I want to do everything I can for her. She deserves it.