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Intermittent Targeting & Emotional Abuse

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My boyfriend of 10 years was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. He doesn’t believe that he has anything more than bipolar disorder, but it is not the case. He is constantly going back and forth with me on whether or not he wants to stay in our relationship. One moment he can be the most loving, wonderful person in the world and loves me to the moon, and the next he targets me as the cause of all his problems and wants me to leave. This is often accompanied by rants, name-calling and other general abuse. I have the hardest time knowing what to believe and whether I should stay. I love him to pieces and am more than willing to help him through, but I don’t know when to believe him. He is also a recovering alcoholic in month 3 of recovery, so it’s a very volatile time, but these behaviors have persisted throughout our relationship. We’ve been broken up and back together a number of times.

I feel constantly torn between whether or not I should ignore what he says about me leaving and continue to love him unconditionally, or if he really deep down wants me to go and I should just leave him alone. I feel like he is torn about this himself as often he exclaims in one moment that he loves me and the next day I am his worst enemy and worthy of his vile-lence (vileness & emotional violence) and hatred.

I feel like he’s constantly trying to push me out of his life and gets mad if I don’t go. Alternately, he also exclaims he wants to spend the rest of his life with me and that he loves me and is crest-fallen when I spend more than a day away from him. Is this part of the disorder? I’m at a loss as to what to do and feel like I’m constantly a victim of his moods. I try to remain as calm and neutral as possible to support him, but it’s hard to constantly live with this kind of uncertainty.

Also, every time we have broken up in the past, he’s gotten heavier into his addictions & trouble with the law. Now that he’s getting sober again, his anger is increasing and he’s pushing me more and more to leave while simultaneously wanting me to move in. What should I do?

Intermittent Targeting & Emotional Abuse

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Abuse is not a symptom of schizoaffective disorder. The disorder can cause someone to act irrationally however, abuse is not common. No one should ever rationalize abuse. Not under any circumstances. It seems as though you are giving him an excuse, based on his mental health problems. That’s worrisome because it means that you are allowing someone to hurt you. Even though he has not been physically abusive, it’s possible that it is simply a matter of time. Emotional abuse may be a precursor to physical abuse. An individual who has anger problems can sometimes lose control. Add in the fact that he doesn’t think he has schizoaffective disorder, and the possibility exists that he may react with physical, instead of emotional violence. That is not outside the range of possibilities.

When someone is willing to tolerate abuse, it needs to be analyzed. You need to understand why. In your relationship, your happiness and whether or not the two of you stay together, seems wholly dependent upon his mood. That puts you in a precarious situation. You don’t seem to be equal. Perhaps it’s because he is the abuser, and you are the abuse. The imbalance is not healthy or safe.

I cannot make a relationship decision for you. Whether or not you decide to stay in this relationship is something only you can decide. My recommendation is for you to consider counseling (in-person) to explore why you tolerate his abuse.

You mentioned in your letter that you are now considering moving in with him. The problems that exist in this relationship will likely only be amplified once the two of you are living together. He may become even more aggressive and potentially physically violent. It’s a volatile situation that warrants, at minimum, your serious consideration of how you wish to proceed. You also mentioned that he is newly sober which makes this an increasingly volatile situation.

Should you move in with him or not? That is a decision only you can make. If he’s not stable with his sobriety, and he can be vile and emotionally violent, it would be best to keep your distance.

My overall advice is to be careful. It’s rare that people with schizoaffective disorders can be violent but when they are, they usually target the people closest to them (like family or those taking care of them). He has a proclivity towards emotional violence. His unstable sobriety increases the chances of physical violence. He also rejects the fact that he has schizoaffective disorder which means that he might also reject treatments for it. If he’s not receiving treatment, that increases the probability of his mental health instability which only increases the possibility of violence. It is not a safe situation.

I would recommend that you consult a therapist, in-person. They will assist you in examining whether or not this relationship is right for you. In general, no one should tolerate abuse. It shouldn’t be rationalized away by illness. There is no excuse for abuse under any circumstances. Abusive relationships are unbalanced and typically don’t fare well. One needs balance, safety, and trust in a relationship. If you can’t trust your partner not to harm you, emotionally or otherwise, then you have no trust. At this point in time, your relationship lacks both balance and the healthy dynamics that lead to success. Counseling will help you to understand relationship dynamics and assist you in making good decisions. Give it a try. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Intermittent Targeting & Emotional Abuse

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2020). Intermittent Targeting & Emotional Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Feb 2020 (Originally: 12 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Feb 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.