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I really love this man. We've been dating for a year now and at first he seemed to have it all. I still to an extent think he does. He was charming, confident, funny and honest. It soon became apparent however that he had a serious drinking problem and occasionally dabbled in gambling and substance abuse. Soon enough, he would take out his frustration on me and bring up relationship issues only while he was drunk, calling me horrible names, putting me down in ways he knew would affect my self esteem. I may have failed to mention, I am only 19 and he is 27, so this kind of behavior was relatively unexpected. Anyway, he goes from joking around with me, showering me with gifts and being all cute, to commenting on my appearance and calling me things such as selfish, stupid, useless ... always when hes been drinking.
I stay because I have this hope that if he quits the drinking and gets help for his anxiety and depression (amongst other health issues) we can be happy again like we used to be. I dont want to give up yet because I feel like there's still love there for both of us. The pain of waiting and being disappointed though is hurting a lot. What should I do?
I think you’re very brave to open up a little here. I’m so glad you’re reaching out...
You sound very conflicted and heartbroken...I feel your sense of confusion and pain.
I understand that you have very strong feelings for him, but I sense there’s also a part of you that feels (rightfully) cautious and uncertain about your relationship...
I hope what I’m about to say next doesn’t upset or offend you; I only say this out of concern. I am concerned about his drinking, and the way he treats you when he is drunk.
I’m worried about how he puts you down, calls you horrible names, etc when drunk. While I understand that alcohol definitely affects our behaviour, I don’t think all people who get drunk become verbally abusive...perhaps something I would gently suggest that you might like to think about.
I know this is different, but I was once with someone who had a drug problem. While he was never verbally abusive or aggressive towards me when he was using, he was very unreliable and flakey.
I often felt there was a third person in our relationship, except that person wasn’t even a person...the “third person” was the drugs he used, and in his case, he was unwilling to seek help...I suppose what I’m trying to say is it can be very difficult to sustain a relationship when there’s any kind of addiction involved...
Is it okay if I please ask if he’s currently seeking help or is looking into seeking help for his alcohol use? Though I would also like to say, alcohol or no alcohol, I don’t think it’s okay to name-call, use put-downs, etc...perhaps something to think about...
Sorry, I’m not sure if I’ve been very helpful...I would gently suggest calling a helpline (e.g. BeyondBlue) to speak anonymously to a counsellor as I feel they might have some helpful suggestions for you.
Plus of course you’re most welcome to write any time here to vent, ask questions, chat, etc. As I said, I think you’re very brave to open up here, and we will try our best to support you as best we can...
Kind and caring thoughts,
Hi Catta and welcome!
First I want to just say what a great stage/age you're at. Being 48 now, I can vaguely remember 19. It's a time of 'stepping out into life', becoming your own person, experimenting with identity (who you want to be) and doing it all with a level of energy which is typically sensational. By the way, developing our identity at such a crucial stage of life is largely related to association, how we associate with our environment and the people in it. It does remain vital to maintain a positive sense of self whilst meeting the challenges that come with places and people we associate with.
It sounds like your bf wants the best of both worlds in a way. If he's drinking in order to cope with the challenges of mental illness (which is sometimes the case with folk), then he's obtaining a sense of relief whilst expecting you to stay in a somewhat mentally and emotionally abusive relationship. He expects to keep both you and the alcohol in his life. I'm sure you agree, for your own sake, it's not possible for him to have both.
Personally, my alcohol dependency didn't stop until my depression ended. This leads me to wonder whether your bf is best tackling the mental health issue first. I know this may sound a little harsh but I think you need to start putting conditions on the relationship. A couple of examples:
- 'If you don't address either the drinking or the mental health issues (or both), I need to leave this relationship'
- 'I refuse to be around you after _ number of drinks'. I imagine this will lead to either the end of the relationship or him modifying his drinking
Every relationship needs conditions, in order to evolve in positive ways. The evolution aspect doesn't just involve the relationship, it also involves the positive evolution of the individuals within it. I'll suggest your discomfort involves a deeper part of you recognising a sense of destruction as opposed to evolution. That deeper part of you is forcing you to address this so you can move forward, either inside or outside of the relationship.
Catta, at the end of the day, your bf needs to share responsibility for relationship. If he doesn't take responsibility for his part, it is you who is faced with the responsibility (which can be mentally and energetically taxing). Whilst he's happy to be responsible for the loving aspects of his nature, he's also responsible for the abusive aspects which need addressing.
Take care Catta and ensure you maintain your most authentic self