Q: I have been dating my boyfriend for almost three years now. Three months ago, we moved in together. We are getting married soon and I love him so I want him to get better. He has displayed anger problems once in a while, but they seemed minor. However, lately, he has been losing it over small things.

Last week he got angry because I went to go see a movie with my best friend even though I was suppossed to go with him the day after to watch the same movie. I apologized and acknowledged my mistake. He began to raise his voice, throw things around, broke my lamp, then proceeded to cut himself in front of me. I told him that I did not want to be around him for that moment since I knew he could be a danger to me or furthermore to himself. I pleaded with him to get some help. He went downstairs and within five minutes, I found that he had cut himself even more all over his arms. He was bleeding and continued yelling at me.

As far as his history, I know that he grew up in a very tense household, with his parents always fighting. He had an anger problem even as a child. When he was in high school, he started using drugs, and was heavily using methamphetamines. When we first started dating, he stopped cold turkey and has not used any drugs since. I am wondering if his usage of drugs in the past is affecting his moods now.

I love this man very much. I want to be there for him and help him in any way I can. How can I talk to him or help him get better?

A: There must be something very sweet about this man when he is not angry for you to put up with this behavior. However sweet he can be, though, he is not ready to be married. I think his behavior is a way to tell you so. Perhaps he can’t manage to tell you directly. Instead, he is pushing you away with his anger and his self-injurious behavior. You aren’t cooperating with his strategy. Even though you tell him you can’t be around him when he’s this way, you go back for more. Please. Put off the wedding until he gets himself into some serious treatment. He is in no shape to be an equal partner in a marriage and is certainly in no shape to be a father to your children someday. I don’t know if his drug abuse is related to his behavior. That’s something else he and his counselor might figure out.

Sadly, there is probably nothing you can do or say to help him get better. He has to want to for his own reasons. All you can do is pull back and let him know that you love him but that you also love yourself enough not to move forward in this relationship until he gets the help he needs. Then mean it. Take a break and see if he loves himself and you enough to get the treatment he needs.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Sep 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). My boyfriend cuts himself after we get in arguments. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/09/22/my-boyfriend-cuts-himself-after-we-get-in-arguments/