I have been dating my boyfriend for 4 years now. Things got really bad when he first started drinking. It started out as barely any, but then he was drunk at all times, including not going to work, eating disgusting food, not showering, stealing stuff, and stealing money from his boss.
There were a lot of his late night conversations where I’d overhear him downing wine and discussing prostitutes, women who look bad and pay when they don’t like you and what to say if she has sex with you. I figured out that he’d been using me to get money for booze. I just didn’t want to bring it up, as it just made everything feel so awkward, but I knew that it was there and made me want to leave.
I chose to leave instead of seeing the hangover it would cause for me, as it could ruin my business and our relationship.
It was a difficult conversation for us, as we love each other very much. I think my boyfriend saw me as his mom, and he didn’t really respect me. He blamed me for the way he was and we were barely speaking before I left.
We get along much better now, but I can’t help but wonder if leaving him made me a bad girlfriend.
I sympathize with you and your boyfriend, as you’ve just seen your boyfriend hurt, so I understand your wanting to keep your distance. I just don’t think you’ve presented this side of things.
You’ve ended a four-year relationship and are trying to figure out what went wrong so you can move on. You could have explored this deeper – from the start. Acknowledge your part in the relationship ending. It’s not as crazy as you’re letting it seem.
Rather than compartmentalizing your emotions, you could have seen your own individual questions: Was he out of control as a drinker? Did you play a part in letting him drink more than he did before? What does he need to do to rebuild trust and take back ownership of his behavior?
Instead of blame, you could have seen that you’re both dealing with an illness that gave you the same problems, which requires a slow and empathetic learning curve. You don’t need to rush or act differently than you’re used to.
No matter what your values and rules are, you need to figure out how to navigate having a relationship with someone who has a substance abuse disorder. You need to learn how to stay safe and sober, while focusing on getting your life back on track and moving past this.
No one is a bad girlfriend if they can’t treat the person they love in a healthy and productive way. This may mean having to raise questions and be less polite, being less passive or being less expressive than usual. Sometimes the best way to make a compromise or make a promise is to be more rigid and get your foot down. You should do that when you are in harm’s way. It could just save your life.
Ellie Beiswanger is the author of 30 Secrets to Filling Empty Knobs, A Relationship-Fixing Guide for Stopping Porn, Focusing on Balance, and Learning to Let Go (She Said, She Said, Alfred A. Knopf). To order a copy, visit www.LoveAndNoPorn.com.