Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Destroying Relationship?

DEAR NATALIE: I am seriously stuck and it stinks. I am so angry at my longtime boyfriend. About 90 percent of the time I have this amazing man. He gives me everything I need -- love and attention and he supports me. Then there is this other side to him after he drinks. This is when our relationship gets killed. I recently had to take a second job and I asked him if this would be an issue with his drinking, and if he could try to come home after work instead of going to the bar, especially if I have to work later than him. The drinking -- which is down to about once or twice a month -- is only a problem because we don't have the money for nights out and he becomes irresponsible. He falls asleep on trains, gets into fights, and most of the time I have to come and get him -- or worse -- I have to pay his tab, baby-sit him and never enjoy myself.

I have tried leaving. I have tried talking. I tried negotiations. I am just fearful that this is going to start a trend of when I am at work he gets to act like a jerk. I don't have time or patience left for this. I am all about working this summer and focusing on me. I don't see why this has to be the thing that breaks us up. But this is the only thing we fight over. It is a respect thing. I am not staying because I'm afraid to be alone. I've been through worse in a relationship and survived. It is that the other 28 days of the month he is great. But how can I make him understand that the lies and waiting until my back is turned are dumb and destroying our trust? -- TICKED IN PITTSBURGH

DEAR TICKED IN PITTSBURGH: Sounds as though your partner has an alcohol problem. There definitely is a correlation between his alcohol use and his poor behavior. You stated that he is your longtime boyfriend. Are you choosing to stay boyfriend and girlfriend for other reasons, or are you unconsciously afraid of marrying him because you don't want to take on this burden in a more permanent sense?

He sounds like a great partner, but this isn't a small "quirk" that you can easily get beyond. Is he willing to go into counseling or rehab to save your relationship? You may want to consider an ultimatum. Either he gets help for his issue -- which is causing you intense emotional, physical and financial stress -- or you walk.

It can be scary to be alone and single (and I know you said you aren't afraid of being alone). But, imagine what it would be like to be alone without all of this stress of dating a man-child who cannot take care of himself, who causes you sleepless nights, who creates negative situations that you would not be in otherwise. You said something interesting in your letter: "I don't have time or patience left for this. I am all about working this summer and focusing on me."

You have answered your own question. You have nothing left to give to this. You need and deserve to focus on yourself. He has to decide what is more important, the bottle or your relationship. The fact that he gets violent when he drinks also troubles me. If you were my sister or my best friend, I would tell you to leave and never look back. You deserve a relationship that enhances your life, brings out the best in you both and doesn't drain you. Life is too short to try to fix people who would rather wallow in being broken.

If you do choose to stay, please consider Al-Anon.org for your own support.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)