I have a close friend, who became my lover about a year ago. Recently he cheated on me (had an affair with a colleague), and I was/am terribly hurt, as I was his absolute best friend. In addition, in the past few months he has been drinking a lot, smoking, absent and performing poorly at work, spending money without control and getting into trouble, had mood swings… He now expresses strong feelings of guilt, says he does not deserve to live, etc. I am torn as I care for him and want to help him, but have also been very hurt by him. I suspect he has a personality disorder which makes me feel compassion, at times, but other times I feel angry and hurt. I would appreciate advice on how to handle the situation, what should be my approach to him, what should I tell myself, should I help? stay away? be angry? be compassionate? Thank you.

A. The purpose of dating is to evaluate whether or not you and your partner are a good match. Your current dating partner cheated on you and is having a number of other problems. He may have a personality disorder, but that in no way excuses his behavior. He simply might not be a good match for you.

Thus far, he has demonstrated several relationship “red flags.” One red flag could be his saying that he does not deserve to live because of the cheating. It could be an attempt to manipulate you into not ending the relationship.

Other red flags include his willingness to lie and deceive you. He has betrayed your trust.

You stated that you are “torn” because you care for him and “want to help him.” It’s important to recognize that you cannot cure his psychological problems. If he needs psychological help, then he should consult a mental health professional. You can support his efforts to seek help, but that is the most you can do. You are not qualified to treat his psychological problems. Leave that to the professionals.

You might try asking him to seek professional help. If he’s truly sorry and serious about changing, then he should be open to seeking help. Actively participating in treatment would signify his genuine attempt to change. Couples therapy might also be a good option.

If he refuses to seek help, despite his psychological problems, then you’ll know it’s time to end this relationship. A person who knows that they have problems but won’t try to fix them is psychologically unhealthy and irresponsible.

If you continue having difficulty knowing how to proceed, then consider counseling. A therapist could help you to navigate this complicated relationship. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle