Psych Central

Boyfriend caught me flirting and attacked me

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My boyfriend of three years and I have had a rocky relationship. We enjoyed the usual bliss when we first got together, however after talk of serious commitment came up and we moved out together last year, I saw an ugly side of him rear up! He mentally and physically abused me, and I felt trap with him because of our lease and my continued feelings of conflicted affection and love for him. Finally, after he told me that he wanted to break up last October, despite still living together, I began to mentally distance myself from him to avoid being hurt furthermore.

However, he has since made amends and has requested to be invited into my life again. I see the man I initially fell in love with, and I know he’s trying very hard to make up for all the cruel things he did to me. But I’m still unable to completely connect with him, which feels very out of character for me because I was always the one in the past 100 percent committed to our relationship. Now I feel very indecisive about my relationship with him and it’s eating away at me.

I’ve been going out with friends more often and excluding him from my social outings. In fact, I feel very awkward and cannot relax if he’s involved. Others also notice that I get tense and that he himself is socially awkward in general. So, last weekend I went to a house party hosted by close friends- and ‘he’ was unexpectedly there. There is another guy/ friend I’ve been spending time with a lot lately, and he and I get along very well. We share a lot of common interests and each evening I’m out with him my cheeks burn from genuinely smiling and laughing all night! I knew better not to lead him on because I really care for this man, and I don’t want to harm him with my complicated life- but against my better judgment I’ve betrayed that I am very okay with him flirting with me. In fact, I know he’s in love with me…

Sunday afternoon my boyfriend happened across a flirty text message on my phone from this guy that was incriminating (however not unforgivable as nothing physical has happened). But my boyfriend flipped out and I saw his ugly side appear again. He took my phone forcefully and took the internet modem and tried to trap me/ keep me from communicating with the outside world. He even tried to prevent me from dressing so I could not leave. My car was at my parents place so I was without a vehicle to escape. I felt very vulnerable. I tried to explain what happened but my boyfriend was in such a rage that I was afraid he would hurt me again, so I ran out in the rain to a nearby restaurant that my friend’s husband works at. Luckily he was working an afternoon shift and he gave me his car keys so I could seek refuge.

I’d never wanted to involve my friends or family in my relationship problems, mainly because I am embarrassed about how I’ve let my boyfriend intimidate me in the past. And I had always felt like I was able to handle it on my own, however I’m realizing now that I need help. But also, I don’t want them to worry. And of course they do worry about me, they care about me and it now seems that I’m suddenly hearing unanimous negative opinions about him from them. My brother in particular does not want me to forgive my boyfriend at all. I know they will support me no matter what I decide, but this adds a lot of pressure to repairing the relationship.

My boyfriend has apologized for being out of line on Sunday. He even took the time to send an apology to my friend who had sent me the flirtatious text message (because my boyfriend had sent him a handful of name-calling texts while in the possession of my phone… invading my privacy). Since returning home last night, my boyfriend seems even more so eager now to please me and treat me right. I don’t know how long this will last though, until the next episode- however I do feel responsible for provoking the fight by being disloyal. But in any case, he has never handled stress well and I am not so confident that he will ever be able to… am I a bad person for losing faith in him?
A part of me really cares for my boyfriend, I truly love him, but I think I recognize that this is the same part of me that gets taken advantage of or hurt if I let him back into my heart. The other part of me wants to just wash my hands clean of him and move on. But I am so afraid I may regret leaving him, if perhaps one day we had the potential of being happy together again.? He was my best friend at one time, and I really miss that.

This May our lease will be up and I’ve made it clear to my boyfriend that if I don’t see a future for us by then, we should go separate ways.

A: I hesitate to offer direct advice in this column because there is often so much I don’t know (and can’t know) when my only source of information is a letter. But in this case, I’ll venture the opinion that you should get out. What you are talking about is domestic violence. Your instincts to not reconnect are correct. Yes, I know there are sweet sides to him. I kow there are times when he is a loving and supportive partner. But you can’t relax into this relationship. You are always walking on eggshells, braced for the next temper tantrum. No, you are not a bad person for not having faith in him. You are sensible.

You may find it harder than you think it will be to separate from this relationship. Here’s the website for a domestic violence program in your city. The hotline is 800-640-0333. Please give them a call to see what they can offer in the way of support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Apr 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Boyfriend caught me flirting and attacked me. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/04/09/boyfriend-caught-me-flirting-and-attacked-me/