Q: I have been dating my boyfriend for about a year and a half now and we have lived together for about 6 months. He does have a bad temper and sometimes throws things during fights and other things of that nature, but I just always thought he had a temper and that was just that. But, come to find out the more I talked to his brother and mostly his sister in law they have told me many things about his childhood (they are 10 years older than him). His father was never around, he does drugs and is an alcoholic and verbally/emotionally abused his mother and my boyfriend when he was very small, up until about age 7 and still to this day plays guilt trips on him about anything he can. But I have noticed my boyfriend is ALWAYS very angry and VERY short fused with his mother. When she calls he will get very agitated and annoyed just by talking to her for a minute and she stops by randomly without notice almost daily and he gets very angry at her for this but she won’t stop.

So, the other night me and my boyfriend were home by ourselves and we had been at a cookout for 4th of July so he had been drinking quite a bit and somehow we ended up in a conversation about his mother and I asked why was he so angry at her all the time and he just basically told me “You just don’t know the half of what she has put me through and done to me.” He just sat there and wouldn’t look at me and I told him he could trust me and tell me and he told me he couldn’t because he had never told anyone before. I told him to please tell me, that he would feel better if he got it off his chest. I looked over and saw tears just falling down his cheeks…for the first time ever. he never cries…that i see anyway. So I asked if she used to hit him or abuse him somehow.

He told me of one instance when he was about 12 when they argued about something and she held him on the ground and pulled her naked breast out of her shirt and on his face/mouth and told him to suck on it if he wanted to be a big baby. This is not normal. Then he told me something even more disturbing. That he didn’t have his own bed up until he was about 10 or so and one time when he was 9 years old his mother brought a man home who she had been dating and had sex right next to him (she thought he was asleep) He was awake but afraid to move. She to this day has no idea he knows this…but he told me he thinks he needs to see a psychiatrist…and I know he does….I know he does…he is so depressed and SOOOOO angry at life. I’m afraid for him. He hasn’t worked in over a year due to being depressed and has the lowest self-esteem I could ever imagine.

I love him and want to be with him, but now I hate his mother. I face her all the time and don’t want to be in the middle of it, but now she makes me sick and if he and I ever had children I would NEVER leave them alone with her…she is not in a right state of mind as far as I’m concerned. I can’t believe she did this to my boyfriend as a child. Please advise me on what to do or how to handle this…it’s hurting our relationship…his anger is just too much…it stems from her but he takes it out on me too, I assume because I’m a woman and I’m close to him.

A: I would agree with you and your boyfriend that he needs to seek psychological help. He may not necessarily need to see a psychiatrist because they mostly prescribe medication. If he can address his past and control his anger, he may not need medication.

I would suggest finding a good therapist in your area who deals with childhood abuse issues. It may be that his anger outbursts are part of unresolved issues with his parents due to their treatment toward him, but it may also be that he just never learned healthy ways of dealing with emotions. It doesn’t sound like either of his parents modeled appropriate anger expression so he may have some relearning to do now that he is an adult.

However, this being said, I also need to tell you to be careful and look out for yourself as well. Just because we understand why someone may act the way they do doesn’t mean we should ever allow ourselves to be abused or disrespected. It is unacceptable for him to mistreat you because he hasn’t dealt with his issues. I know you love him and have empathy for his situation, but if he doesn’t get help and change his behavior, you may have a difficult decision to make. Please don’t subject yourself to abuse just because you know he is hurting inside. Help him get help but protect yourself in the process. Good luck.

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Aug 2007

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2007). What can I do about my boyfriend’s childhood abuse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/08/29/what-can-i-do-about-my-boyfriends-childhood-abuse/