My partner drinks too much

May 17, 2019 Off By readly




I’m an 18-year-old girl about to start my final exams at school. I feel as if my life is going remarkably well; I’m happy, I’m getting along well with my parents, I have great friends, and except for the stress of impending exams, I’m doing well at school. However, my boyfriend of just under a year causes me quite a bit of worry, related specifically to his drinking.

About four months ago he got into a row in a pub and we had to drag him away. He got very angry with me and my girlfriends when we tried to help. This was particularly scary, as I wasn’t sure whether his anger could turn physical. Thankfully it didn’t. The following morning, he couldn’t remember what had happened but when I told him he apologised profusely and was in tears for having upset me.

Less than a month later, my girlfriends and I were dancing in a club. He was utterly miserable and stood in the corner frowning. He punched the wall and got kicked out. I followed him out, despite my worries about the possibility of him becoming aggressive again. I told him to go and hang out with his friends, but he followed me and my girlfriends. It ruined my night having to babysit my sulky boyfriend.

I have tried to persuade him to speak to his school counsellor. I’ve had long, arduous chats with him about the root of his anger towards me. He is remorseful and feels guilty for what he’s done. I know his behaviour towards me was manipulative and abusive, and I would not hesitate to break up with him were these regular events. But something of this nature has happened only three times, so I am hoping it won’t happen again.

But I fear that it might happen again. Although in your much longer letter (edited to protect your identity) you talk more about him being sulky and miserable than abusive, his behaviour toward you is abusive – and controlling.

He’s been like this three times in less than a year. And it’s not only these “major” incidents, but the seemingly small, but just as important, things that have happened in between. On some level you know they matter because you told me about them in your long letter: not listening to you, not caring what you think or what you say, offering you alcohol when you have said you don’t feel well, switching feelings on and off to manipulate you, the shoulder barge as he walked past you. Don’t ignore any of these things. None of them bode well, none put you first, none are kind, loving or respectful.

This is not a healthy relationship for you. After one incident you say you went home feeling “furious and unhappy”. That’s a good response to what’s happening, the correct one to his substandard behaviour. Take heed of those feelings.

Pay attention not so much to what he says but to the patterns in his behaviour. Because there is a pattern. You wrote nearly 2,000 words to me and not one gave evidence that he is nice to you. But I tell you what I did see in those words: a bright, intelligent and perceptive young woman. You know this kind of behaviour isn’t good enough for you.

Your boyfriend obviously has problems, and sounds depressed. He is himself just a young man. But his problems are not your problems, nor your responsibility: they are his alone. His behaviour is also his responsibility.

Please don’t try to save him, or think the more you give of yourself, the harder you try, that you can make him better or change him. You can’t. You have tried to help him and he is not interested in helping himself. Of course he apologises, that’s the easy part; but it’s not meaningful unless it’s followed by a change of behaviour.

You’re about to take really important exams: concentrate on you and your future. I’m pleased you have supportive parents. Please talk to them about this. Is there a counsellor you can talk to at school? I have put some links at the bottom which you may find helpful. Put yourself first here. Because it doesn’t sound as if he will.

The Hideout; Al-Anon Family Groups; Childline.

Send your problem to annalisa.barbieri@mac.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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Source of this (above) article: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/17/my-boyfriend-drinks-too-much