Can moody ex-convict boyfriend change?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My boyfriend and I have been living together for 1.5 years.

He has 4 felonies and has spent most of his life in jail because of possession of a weapon and drug dealing. He grew up in foster care with an abusive mother who abused crack and an alcoholic father. While he was in jail, two of his brothers were murdered in drug-related incidents. He did his time in jail. He got a job and has been working consistently for 8 years. He is dependent on pot. He smokes it about 4 times a day He smokes cigarettes and lies about that.

I grew up in an abusive household with a father who neglected me and did heroine and cocaine. My family was successful though and so I pursued and education. I’ve also had a lot of therapy, been to support groups, stress/coping groups, etc. My sister attempted suicide and received ETC and suffered brain damage. My father was later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

Both my boyfriend and I have come from difficult situations and dysfunctional relationships. Unfortunately, the cycle is repeating in our relationship. He is abusive toward me emotionally by putting me down, reacting suddenly, acting possessive, being threatening and intimidating. He seems to “flip” at times. This makes me sad, hopeless, and depressed and I feel that I have to take on coping mechanisms (such as “hardness”/”coldness”).

Together we have acknowledged the difficulties that we have together and he expresses interest in improving the relationship. He becomes very passionate about it and will come up with ideas of how it can change. He says he is willing to do couples therapy and his own therapy. It seems like there is hope in the relationship.

For a period of 1 month he threatened to break up with me every week. This was during a time of intense stress for me. I felt like he couldn’t handle the stress and like he was trying to sabotage my success. I feel like I love my boyfriend and when I think of where we come from and how much we try, it makes me very sad to think that we won’t make it. I’m almost 33 and I want to have a family and be happy.

Can he change? Can this relationship work? Would I be hurting a child to bring it into it? What are my options?

A: I admire your resilience and ability for you and your boyfriend to work through an amazing amount of challenges in your life. Each of you could use an individual therapist AND a couples therapist. Both of you have significant issues to work through and the more support and guidance the better.

Along these lines I would strongly recommend any of the 12-step programs. Alanon for you and Narcotics Anonymous for your boyfriend are likely to be other means of support.

Again, I admire your strong commitment to healing and growth.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Aug 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). Can moody ex-convict boyfriend change?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/08/19/can-moody-ex-convict-boyfriend-change/

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