Boyfriend’s Past Trauma Hurting Current Relationship

Dear Liz,

I am at a crossroads because I am about to graduate, I have job interviews lined up, I have one more month living so close to all my best friends, and my boyfriend and I are super committed. Everything on that list is so exciting- except my boyfriend. I would say a vast majority of the time we’re together he is AMAZING. Friends and family adore him, he respects me and he’s sensitive toward my emotions. But, he has had awful trauma in his life that he has not sorted through. So this results in attachment issues and violence. He is hesitant to support anything that I plan for post-grad because he is scared I will move too far away from him, he’ll lose me, etc. It’s frustrating- but we have had very open communication about it and I do not see it as a deal breaker…on its own. As for violence, he is not violent toward me. However, when he gets near alcohol he becomes very aggressive toward other men- especially when he sees them as a threat to our relationship. This came to an “all time high” when I had to bail him out of jail for fighting recently. Violence is a HUGE deal breaker for me- we’ve talked about it, it continues. However, he was in a very dark place when he met me, and he has come out of it, but I feel if I leave him he will slip back to drinking, drug abuse, and failing school a month before grad. I am so conflicted. Help me? Continue reading

Sexual Abuse

Dear Readers:  The person who submitted this question is a young woman—as such, I’ve decided to engage the topic of sexual abuse as it pertains to girls/women.  I am very aware that boys/young men are also victims, and I in no way intend to marginalize their experience by speaking solely about girls/women—I am simply tailoring my response to the circumstances presented to me by this questioner.  

Dear Liz,

I had a horrible relationship with my mother in high school because she was dealing with her newly diagnosed bi-polar disorder.  We would always clash because I didn’t know what she was going through, but now I fear I am turning into her. I see myself lashing out sometimes and getting upset over things that seem to have no substance, and when I do calm down I realize that I shouldn’t have gotten angry. Most of the time I take it out on my boyfriend, and that’s what I fear the most.  I don’t want to upset him over tiny fights and push him away. It’s like I have in my head this “self-fulfilling prophecy” that of course I’m going to turn into my mother—I feel like I’m making that fear come true.  My boyfriend is very supportive of me trying to deal with this situation. He never gets mad at me in return—when I am angry he tries to solve where it is coming from and why.  My worst fear is pushing him away while trying to figure this out. 

I don’t know if this aggression I have is stemming from me thinking I am turning into my mother, or from the sexual abuse I suffered in high school from my first boyfriend at the age of 14. My boyfriend would hit me, cheat on me, and sexually assault me—this was all very frequent for 9 months.  I was so young and sensitive and he was 17 and I didn’t know what to do, so I put up with it.  When I’d tell him I wanted to end it, he would threaten to kill himself.  He finally hit me in public once, and my best friend and her boyfriend saw, which gave me a way out because he got scared that I wasn’t the only one to know anymore. 

While all this was going on with my boyfriend, my mother was dealing with her anger over being raped by her cousin.  When she returned home for a wedding, she saw him and he hugged her as if nothing happened.  It brought up so many emotions for her and she ended up taking it out on me—she would lash out and hit me—it got so bad that my dad and I had to move out for a few months.  I went to a therapist for a while and I thought I had dealt with my pain, but with all these emotions now I’m not sure what to think. I get so angry at little things, like my personal short comings and when things don’t go as planned—it’s starting to affect my life.  I just want to get my anger or whatever seems to be happening to me under control before I turn into my ex or my mom.  I’m lashing out like I did before I went to my counselor in high school.  I’m not sure where to go from here. I don’t know if you have any insight for me, but I’ll wait to hear back.         Continue reading

Student From Violent Neighborhood Asks About Gun Control

A while back, a student in my ethics course, knowing I was beginning a Questions My Students Ask Me project, sent an e-mail and asked if I supported gun control.  I wrote back and asked him if he had an opinion on the issue, given his particular childhood environment (D. had previously shared with me that he grew up in an inner city housing project complex, and spoke to me about the gun violence he encountered regularly).  He responded:  Criminals will get guns no matter what-they break the law because they don’t care.  My childhood experiences made me supportive of weapons because I was part of that lifestyle and   Continue reading