DEAR NATALIE: I love my girlfriend and we’ve been living together for about a year. The only big issue in our relationship is that when she drinks, she becomes incredibly belligerent and verbally abusive towards me. Since the onset of COVID-19, her drinking has gotten worse. If I don’t text her back fast enough, for example, I’ll get pages of angry texts. I know that means she’s drinking. The next day she is totally remorseful and so I haven’t said much about it. But recently, she’s started acting nasty to me in front of our families. This is problematic because everyone is now telling me that she has a serious issue with alcohol. I don’t know if I should confront her or if everyone is just overreacting. I love her and I don’t want to upset her. Lately, I’ve turned down invitations to see friends because I don’t want to put her in a position where she might make a fool of herself. I worry, though, that this strategy isn’t sustainable. I want to spend my life with her and raise a family, but sometimes I’m afraid of her. Any advice? —CONCERNED GIRLFRIEND
DEAR CONCERNED GIRLFRIEND: I would be concerned, too. Not only is your girlfriend causing you emotional distress, but now you are starting to withdraw from friends and family. Her behavior is not acceptable and unless you set up expectations and boundaries, I don’t see anything changing. There is clearly a cycle here. She drinks, verbally assaults you, apologizes, cycle repeats. I would ask yourself what would she do if you confronted her about her drinking and the nasty behaviors that follow? What if you said that you were concerned about her wellbeing? What if you told her you were worried that drinking is impacting her life and your relationship? Would she be able to give up drinking and see how that changes your dynamic? If she is unable to do so, what are some supports that you can recommend to her—and to yourself—so that she can break this vicious cycle? You may want to reach out to a therapist in your area that specializes in substance abuse and relationship dynamics. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can ask your primary care doctor if you have one. You can also find resources online that can help. Do not accept this behavior. You do not have to live like this and you shouldn’t. She may have to be confronted with the reality of losing you if she doesn’t work on helping herself. No one is expecting perfection, but she needs to make an effort. Otherwise, you have to decide what you are willing to put up with, and what is a deal-breaker.
DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend broke up with me out of the blue about three months ago. I later found out that he was cheating on me with another woman. Recently, he has been trying to reconnect with me and admitted that he made a big mistake. He claims that he is no longer with her, but I don’t know what to believe. My friends said that they know for a fact that they are still sleeping together. He seems sincere in wanting me back and I really do love him. Do you think that I should give him another chance? Everyone is telling me not to, but there were a lot of great parts to our relationship that they didn’t see. I’m not sure what to do. —BROKEN HEART
DEAR BROKEN HEART: It can be confusing when a partner cheats and then claims to want you back. It can also feel vindicating—you waited out the storm and now they are pining for you once more. But do you want a relationship where one person has all the power and you have none. Who is to say that he won’t cheat again? How can you trust him moving forward? Tread carefully here and guard your heart. Trust has to be earned and he didn’t just break it—he shattered it. You are entitled to take your time and question his motives. How can you be sure that he really did leave the other woman? If your friends are hearing rumors, you may want to take their warnings seriously. Why do you want to take him back? He caught you in a vulnerable emotional moment. If you had more time to process this, do you think you would still want to date him? Do you really miss him or do you miss being in a relationship? I know these are a lot of questions to consider, but it is worth considering them because you are worth consideration. Just because he wants you back doesn’t mean it has to happen at all—or on his timeline.
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