DEAR NATALIE: I've been in a relationship with this man for almost three years. We both have kids from previous relationships. He’s constantly in a bad mood and takes it out on everyone. It can last for a few days and it often gets to the point that he just ignores us. He never talks calmly and constantly wants to yell whenever I try to talk to him. If he doesn’t like what I say, he just walks away. It has gotten to the point where I don't say anything to him. I try to keep the kids busy, work around the house, but that doesn't satisfy him. Recently, he and my 16-year-old child got into an argument. Now, he doesn't want my child here. He says this so that all the children hear it. He even said he would end the relationship to get rid of my child. I would never choose him over my children. I live in the midwest. With the pandemic going on, I have nowhere to go and not enough money to move out of his house. What can I do to keep the peace until I can get out? — UNHAPPY HOME
DEAR UNHAPPY HOME: My one friend always talks about “runaway money.” It’s her idea that having a little bit of money stashed away could be a good thing in case you need to run away. While a smart idea in theory, it can be very difficult to accumulate runaway money when you have children and nowhere to go. However, starting with a plan can help in any situation, especially when you are in a stressful and unsafe space. Start a runaway fund. Even if you can’t throw much money towards it, every little bit may help when the time is right for you to leave. Write a list of people that you know. Who could you stay with temporarily? What services are in your area that could help you find a safe place until you can get on your feet? Contact women’s shelters and research social workers in the area to find as many resources as you can. In the meantime, it can be really scary to live with an emotionally volatile and verbally abusive person. Intimate partner violence and violence against children are on the rise the longer that people are sheltering-in-place. I would try to avoid interacting with him as much as you can. When you do interact, try to keep the conversation to a minimum. Instruct your children to keep to themselves whenever possible, especially the 16-year-old. As soon as you find a way out, take it. Leave and don’t look back. You don’t need to be with anyone who threatens you or your children. He clearly has issues that run deep and have nothing to do with you. You just happen to be there to focus his anger towards. It isn’t OK and I hope you know that you don’t deserve to be verbally abused. No one does. Please be safe and reach out to someone you trust so that you can safely find a way forward without him.
DEAR NATALIE: I just had begun to date someone when COVID-19 hit and now it has caused some issues. He is really stressed out and may be laid off. He wanted to know that if that happened, could he move in with me. I think that this is all too sudden, but I know these are strange times. I am lucky that I am financially stable. I told him I did not think it was a good idea, and now he is really angry with me. He ghosted me all last week, but this week he is acting sweet and apologetic. My gut is telling me one thing but he is tugging on my heart strings. What should I do? — EVERYONE IS PANICKING
DEAR EVERYONE IS PANICKING: Did you know that your gut is your very first brain? So when people say, “Listen to your gut,” what they really mean is, “Listen to your most intuitive, primordial self. It knows what’s up.” In this instance, you definitely should take note of what your gut is telling you. If you have a bad feeling, notice it. Examine it. Understand it. I would walk away from this person and situation immediately. I understand that everyone is worried about their futures. We are all concerned about our families, ourselves and the communities we live, work and play in. This is impacting everyone on some level. However, to voluntarily take on more stress at this time is not the safe or sane thing to do. I’m sorry that this person you are dating is struggling. But, if he is laid off, he can apply for unemployment. It is not your responsibility to support him financially. Stand your ground. It isn’t safe to have him move in. You could end up sick or potentially make him sick, too. If he is struggling, you can always drop off meals to him or find other ways to emotionally support him. While we have to give each other some extra slack during these difficult times, we don’t have to invite misery into our lives, either. Don’t be a doormat for his dysfunction.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: This is a great time to reassess what your priorities are in your personal life. We have all been changed by this experience, whether we recognize it or not. Don’t be surprised if the things that mattered to you a few months ago aren’t as important now. Reconnect with the people that matter to you. Find joy and comfort in those interactions and let go of the rest.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci