Dear Therapist Within:
My boyfriend Brad, who is in his late 20′s, has two kids that he rarely gets to see. I know this upsets him but he refuses to talk about it and tries to act like everything is okay. He drinks a lot whenever his ex calls, I think to avoid the hurt feeling he has, but I would really like to help him. What can I do? Worried
ANSWER: First, and most importantly, your boyfriend’s behavior is telling you something about his character – that when he is hurt or depressed, instead of courageously confronting the problem, spending time figuring out what he can do and following through, or talking with you, his partner, he refuses to share his pain and escapes into alcohol. Before you consider how to help him, I would ask you to consider what your life is going to be like if you marry and have children with this man. Believe me, it isn’t pretty – it is a disaster waiting to happen. Substitute rage, affairs, and other addictions, and you can pretty much count on an appointment with your divorce attorney and some very distraught children in the future.
Just in case that doesn’t scare you away (and it should), you might, as a last resort, sit down with him – NOT when he has just gotten a call from his ex, but when he is in a good mood – and share with him your concerns about how he handles stress, and what that means for your future. You might want to suggest that the two of you brainstorm through what you can do to ensure that he has more time with his kids (but make sure he does the bulk of the heavy lifting!!!). Is he paying child support? Has he looked into legal remedies? If he doesn’t respond positively and doesn’t make significant changes, run, run, run in the opposite direction!!!
And, if you decide to stick it out, remember, that if and when you two split, you can’t blame him but instead need to take responsibility for the consequences, since you chose him and you stayed with him despite the warning signs.