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A Fighting Couple

Question:

My boyfriend of 3 years and I have been fighting quite a lot lately. I feel maybe it’s because I’ve been holding things in and perhaps he has been, too, as they begin with something very stupid and then escalate. He is going through a divorce (international), got into some legal trouble which involved alcohol and lost his job, and is on probation for the next 4 years. In my opinion, ever since he got into trouble, he has changed (he disagrees with me on this). He has become extremely lazy, has no motivation, and intimacy has been shut down almost completely. He gets moody, but claims he does not. He gets mean, but claims he does not. Now when we argue, he puts the blame on me for things. He says I am the moody one (I do suffer from depression, anxiety, pre-menopause and numerous physical health problems—who wouldn’t be moody…). He never wants to get married again because he has had two failed marriages. I used to want to get married, but now I don’t even care. I just know I don’t want to be alone. At the beginning of our relationship, I thought I finally found my soul mate at age 40. Now I wonder if I have been blinded by something other than love and I have no idea what to do. I live with him 90 percent of the time, yet I still hold down a residence 25 miles away. We talked about moving in together, but I’m unsure if it’s the right thing to do. I left again the other night after another fight, but this time HE told me to go home (he never did that before), where cruel words were said. He claims he is able to let things slide off his shoulders, but I have a tendency to hold on to harsh words that were said. I love him for the good person he can be. He had a rough childhood and spent 22 years in the Air Force in which he was in 3 wars. I realize he is going through tough times now and cannot even see his children who live in Germany. Both of his wives were unfaithful to him, but he claims he will always have feelings for them. Now me….that’s a different story…We used to be able to talk for hours…he was my rock…my best friend. Do I stay away? Do I cave and call him…..again….? I hate conflict as much as he does, but we are both stubborn. He probably is not fretting about all of this, but it’s driving me crazy!! Any assistance you could offer would be greatly appreciated and you may just save what little bit of sanity I have left! Thank you!

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Answer:

A key statement that you make in your E. Mail question is that "you do not want to be alone." You are not the only person who feels that way. The troubling problem with not wanting to be alone is how much turmoil, conflict and uncertainty are you willing to tolerate in the service of being with someone. People who experience physical or emotional abuse at the hands of their partner stay with them because they, too, do not want to be alone. They also believe that the problems in the relationship really are their fault.

While I am not implying that you are being physically abused, what you describe does have the tone of emotional abuse. Let us say that, at the very least, neither of you is feeling happy with one another at the present time.

I believe that your ability to make a decision about this man is affected by what you know of his rough childhood and his being a veteran of three wars. He is also a veteran of two failed marriages. In other words, it appears as though you "feel sorry for him" because of all he has been through.

There is an old proverb about the past being a guide to the future. To repeat a stated fact: your boy friend has two failed marriages, children he does not see because they are in Germany and is having serious problems in his ability to relate to you. In addition, he blames you for the problems you are having and, while you admit that your depression and anxiety may contribute, he admits to nothing about himself adding to the issues and conflicts.

What I am leading up to in my response to you is that all the information you have provided strongly suggests that you are not likely to have a successful relationship with this man. His "track record" in marriage is not very good and that bodes ill for your future with him. In fact it is possible to conjecture that his lack of sexual drive may account for why his wives cheated on him.

Your boy friend appears to be suffering from some serious problems among which are 1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the three wars he was in, 2. Post traumatic stress from whatever happened to him during his childhood, 3. Depression, 4. Anxiety and, if I can venture a wild guess, 5. He either smokes marijuana, drinks a lot or does both. He is not a bad person but he needs a lot of help. However, to get help a person has to admit they have some problems and it does not seem that he can do that.

When you ask if you have been blind to things about him the answer is most definitely yes because he has a long history of being unstable. Perhaps you believe you can rescue him from him self but no one can ever do that.

I understand that you do not want to be alone, but is that at any cost to your self? It is my prediction that if you return to him things will, sooner or later, become a disaster for this relationship and for you as an individual.

My advice is to take care of your depression and anxiety by going on medication for them and entering psychotherapy. In addition, you need medical help with your menopause symptoms and with your other physical difficulties. In addition, if you do not want to be alone, look for a partner who can be there, solidly and reliably without causing you so much unhappiness. Of course, you add to the problems as well as him but that is why you need therapy for your self.

The one factor that might cause me to modify my advice is if he was willing to enter psychiatric treatment for himself and for both of you in couples therapy.

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