Q. My boyfriend was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder a few years ago. He has become progressively worse in the last year. He abuses anxiety medication, drinks, uses drugs, has been in jail, and has been in and out of treatment programs and private psychological care. It has been very difficult for me watching him get worse, and never seeming to get better. I was diagnosed with depression about 4 years ago. I have been on medication ever since, and have been feeling better than I ever have. I have a job that I enjoy, I am working towards a master’s degree, and I am much happier than I have ever been. I’ve never used drugs or drank. I have not been involved in sexual relationships with many people. I’ve always kind of been a person who never causes trouble for themself. As a child, I was sexually abused by my mother’s husband. My mom was always emotionally, verbablly, and physically abusive. I was always afraid of what my mom’s mood was going to be on any given day. I hated asking her to do things for me because of her reaction. Here is my problem. I pick at my boyfriend a lot. It’s like nothing he does is good enough for me. I get frustrated with him really easily. I thought that I only did this with him because of all of the headaches I go through with him… just anger that I haven’t let go of yet. But, looking back, I’ve done this with every one of my boyfriends. My mom treated me the same way all of my life. I don’t know if maybe there is something else that is wrong with me. I feel like a lot of his problems are because of me (I could be the trigger for a lot of behavior). I feel terribly guilty and ashamed about my behavior. I don’t want to cause more problems for someone else. For some reason, we continue to stay together, maybe it’s love, maybe it’s comfortable, who knows? If he and I continue to stay together, I don’t want to continue to treat him as I do. I start to pick at him sometimes and either don’t realize that I am doing it, or can’t hold back from doing it. It’s really terrible. If he and I don’t stay together, I don’t want to treat someone else like this too. I know how badly this behavior has hurt me all of my life, and I don’t understand why I am doing it with someone else. Any idea’s or suggestions would be really helpful. Thank-you.

A. Why are you blaming yourself for your boyfriend’s problems? He is the one using drugs and alcohol and is in and out of jail. Are you really the cause of his problems or did he have problems to begin with? It is likely the latter; he had these problems to begin with. You probably knew about his problems but decided to date him anyhow, thinking that you could change him and make him a better person hence all of your picking. I am not sure what your past boyfriends were like but it sounds like it is not necessarily your picking at these men that is the problem per say. The problem may be that you are choosing the wrong men, men with problems to begin with and then picking at them and expecting them to make impossible changes to become the man you would like them to be. Fundamentally, the problem may be your choice in men, not necessarily your behavior towards these men. If you choose healthier men, then you would not need “to pick so much” thus this behavior would stop. Perhaps elevating your standards to begin with and choosing healthier men could remedy this problem.