(Lincoln, Nebraska )
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years. In some ways, we are the best of friends. I love him and I can't imagine my life without him. However, he's had anger problems since the start of our relationship. At first, he just had a short fuse and would yell/cuss whenever upset. Then, it escalated in punching walls or cars while I was sitting inside. Last night, he punched me in the thigh. It didn't hurt, but I still felt that it wrong to lift a hand in anger. In addition, he wasn't angry at me. He had just gotten into a fistfight with a friend and I'd followed him and was trying to calm him down. After he hit me, I started to cry and he started apologizing. I kept telling him to leave, so he grabbed a piece of wire and started choking himself. As always, he apologizes sincerely as soon as he calms down (and sobers up). 99.9% of these outbursts happen while he's drunk, but he denies that it is an important factor. Though he always apologizes, it is very short and if I try to discuss the issue further, he reverts and denies he did anything wrong. It is a very confusing and exhausting cycle.
I love him, but I also realize that what he's done isn't right. At this point, I still feel safe with him, but that doesn't excuse his actions. Should he get therapy? What can I do to help him? I don't think this is something he can fix on his own.
Alcoholism is a progressive illness. It doesn't get better. It always gets worse. You're watching this happen. This time it was your leg. Next time it might be your face. He'll apologize then too. Maybe even cry about it. But if he doesn't get help, he'll just do it again. Yes, therapy would be a great idea. AA would be an even better idea. Or both. Nobody would consider trying to help him resolve his anger issues unless he was committed to quitting or at lease seriously decreasing his drinking. Therapy doesn't work when a person is completely out of control with their addiction.
He might be a great guy when sober. But he's not staying sober, so don't be in denial. Don't enable his addiction, or you both could end up really hurt. It's his responsibility to get help. And it's your responsibility to stop accepting his abusive and reckless behavior.
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist
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