Ask Dr. V, Harmful Relationships

Venus Nicolino holds a Ph.D in Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships. This week: harmful relationships

Dear Dr. V,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for 2 1/2 years. When we first got together, I loved to go out and party and so did he. We had a great time together, even if it were just us. We fell in love quick, and he moved in with me right away. We were always together and he became my world. But a short while after turning 25, I decided that I was ready to grow up. I stopped partying, stopped hanging out with our “loser” friends, and started trying to build a life for myself. I guess I expected my boyfriend to move right along that road with me. Of course this is not how it happened.

We started fighting really bad when he’d want to go out every night, and when he’d come home all jacked up on cocaine. He’d get violent, especially when he was drunk, and although he never hit me, he’d put me in head locks, choke me, hold me down, lock me in rooms … there were times when I was scared he was really going to hurt me. It got so bad, I would have panic attacks. But I could never really believe any of it was happening. This wasn’t the person I fell in love with.

He’d get me back every time because he’d promise to change and things would get better. He would cry and tell me that he loved me and that he didn’t know what came over him when he’d get so mad … and for awhile, we’d be in love again … everything was ok again until the next weekend.

Here’s where it gets complicated. He eventually DID change. He hasn’t been violent towards me for about a year. He’s learned to manage his temper, and isn’t so quick to get mad. This has really amazed me … and this is what drives me to stay with him now, thinking eventually EVERYTHING else will work out.

In October of last year, he cheated on me. He says he doesn’t know why he did it, and that he “hates himself for it.” I figured he was at least honest about it, and I could see that it did hurt him. Like an idiot, I took him back about a month later, even after he said he’d been with 2 other women while we were broken up. At that point, I didn’t know how to live without him. Being with him hurt, knowing what he had done, but being without him seemed worse. As far as I know (but I think about it and accuse him all the time), he hasn’t cheated on me since.

He still does coke. He’s addicted. There are times when he’ll blow me off, lie to me, disrespect me and my house by bringing it here, steal money from his family, sell his possessions, and disappear for days because he goes on binges.

When he comes down four days later, he cries and says he hates the drug and really wants to quit, but he just can’t. Of course every time this happens I break up with him, or tell him that I won’t take him back unless he goes to rehab.

Every time he promises he will, but usually about 2 weeks later, he’s done nothing and is back to being a jerk.

Can someone please tell me why I keep letting myself go through this? Why he won’t make any attempts to make things better? Why he drills it into my head that he loves me and wants to get better? Why it’s so hard to let go of someone who is ruining my life? How to move on? I know I don’t want this anymore … No one understands, especially not me.

Thanks for your time,


Dear Nicole,

You are courageous for writing all of this down and sharing it. Taking this kind of time for yourself proves to me that you know how to get your needs met and that’s a good thing. So take your courage and see if you can get some of your needs met at an Al-Anon meeting. Cause Nicole, you are in love with a drug addict.

Why you keep letting yourself go through this? Because deep down inside you have an addiction of your own:

unworthiness — you don’t believe you are worthy of anything better. I’m here, along with every woman reading this, to tell you that you are worthy! Let me write that again: YOU ARE WORTHY!

Why he won’t make any attempts to make things better? Because he hasn’t hit bottom yet and believe it or not, you’re probably helping him avoid getting the help he so desperately needs by distracting him. Further, you say that he “DID change.” Nicole, just because he’s not being violent towards you doesn’t mean that he’s not abusive. He didn’t change.

The abuse just transformed into cheating, lying and disrespect.

Why he drills it into your head that he loves you and wants to get better? Because he does love you and he does want to get better. But unfortunately, it’s a drug kind of love. Real love cannot survive in such recklessness. He does want to get better but he’s caught in the addiction cycle.

Why it’s so hard to let go of someone who is ruining your life? Because you’re getting something out of it; Perhaps, you’re playing out a childhood trauma or you are so comfortable being uncomfortable that you have difficulty living any other way. Are you afraid of intimacy? Getting involved with someone who abuses substances is a perfect way for you to avoid true intimacy. Perhaps, he feeds your addiction of unworthiness. I can assure you that the pain you feel without him will subside but the pain of staying with him (like this) will only get worse.

How to move on? Here’s how you can begin to create a more fulfilling life for yourself:

  • Start taking stock of your dreams. What have you always wanted to do? Something creative like drawing or dancing or throwing pottery? Go back to school? Learn to cook? Start a business? Choose a few and start taking steps each day to achieve them. The closer you get, the better you’ll feel about yourself.
  • Make lists of your positive aspects, the things in your life that you really appreciate, and the things that make you happy. Doing this each day can have a huge impact on the quality of your life. Write your own story the way you want it to be. Think big!
  • Attend AL-ANON meetings to help you through this period.

Doing these things can only help you attract what you deserve; happiness, love and true intimacy.

Wishing you all the best,

Dr. V

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to call or email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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