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Why Did My Boyfriend Drastically Change?

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From an adult woman in the U.S.: Dating 2yrs, living together 6m. He made a friend (20yrs his jr with a live in bf of her own) 8m ago. Since then, he’s been laid off from work. Then they started sleeping together. Then she convinced him to dump me. Then he got verbally abusive.  Stuck in lease another 6 months.  Finally, two weeks ago, after coming home from a date with her, he physically assaulted me.

This is a man who NEVER even raised his voice to me.  I’ve had people liken his sudden drastic behavior changes to joining a cult.  Like any good cult leader, she swooped in, took advantage of his vulnerabilities, convinced him to abandon his entire family (he hasn’t even seen his kids since he dumped me at her behest) and made him completely dependent on her for money and all decision making.

Please advise.  I don’t want him back as a boyfriend.  I want him back to being him, if only for his kids.  This ISN’T him…  I’ve had many people tell me that I must have missed violent warning signs.  But no… He never even raised his voice in two years.  He needs help.  Not hate.

Thank you.

Why Did My Boyfriend Drastically Change?

Answered by on -

A.

I agree. He needs help. But the first thing to do is to make sure you and  your children are safe while you figure out what’s going on.

When someone’s personality and behavior changes so suddenly, it is at least possible that there is an underlying medical problem. That needs to be checked — though it’s doubtful he will do it.

In his late 40’s, this man is right on time for a “midlife crisis” of sorts. “Mid life crisis” isn’t a diagnosis but it is a popular label for a common occurrence among men in their 40s or 50s who get fearful that somehow life is passing them by. They worry that they aren’t successful enough, that they are no longer attractive to women, that they haven’t done the things they thought they would have accomplished by midlife.

Most middle aged men (and women too) are able to navigate those concerns successfully. They take stock of their lives and refocus their energies to what they want to do in the second half for their lives. They might make a career shift, get more schooling, or put new energy into their career. They recommit to their relationships and families. They see the midlife questions as an opportunity to consider their life course and to perhaps make some positive changes.

Those for whom midlife is a crisis aren’t so sensible. They try to reclaim their attractiveness of 20 years ago. They go on a diet, or get their teeth capped, or dye their hair. They desperately hunt for validation of their attractiveness from young, attractive women. They may buy some expensive toy, like a sports car. They may throw away a reasonable job or a successful marriage as they cast about for relief from their awareness of impending old age and  their fear of irrelevance.

I suspect you are right that your boyfriend’s current behavior “isn’t him”. I suspect he is depressed and terrified. Irritability is a symptom of depression that is often misunderstood. He needs a mental health counselor, not a new girlfriend. But he probably won’t take any effort on your part to get him assessed.  As frustrating as it is, there is nothing you can do or say that will get him into treatment. Without treatment, his “crisis” may go on for years.

I’m glad you don’t seem to be taking his apparent change in personality personally, even though it is profoundly affecting your personal life. I think your best course of action for now is to focus on protecting yourself and your children. Since you are stuck in a lease, avoid dealing with him as much as you can. Don’t allow him to provoke you. Don’t challenge him. Easier said than done. This is not a healthy way for you to live.

For that reason, I’m recommending that you do contact your local women’s organization or domestic violence counseling service to get some support and guidance about how to manage living there until you can get out. There may be alternatives for getting out of the lease that you (and I) are not aware of. Or they may be aware of other places where you and the kids can live while you wait for the lease to expire.

Please do yourself the service of getting some counseling for yourself. You deserve the support and guidance of a mental health professional who can help you manage this difficult time.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Why Did My Boyfriend Drastically Change?

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). Why Did My Boyfriend Drastically Change?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/04/18/why-did-my-boyfriend-drastically-change/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Apr 2020 (Originally: 18 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.