Getting the Abusive Boyfriend to ‘Understand’

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Reader’s Question

I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for a year and eight months. During most of this relationship there has been constant arguing and fighting.

My boyfriend is lacking in maturity on many levels. But I don’t know how to deal with this. We got together when I was dealing with a few mental health issues of my own. The doctors told me I had Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Paranoid Schizophrenia. I was taking medications, but they weren’t doing anything and the side effects made it impossible for me to hold my job. When I discussed these things with my doctors, they merely upped the dosage. I was up to 150 mg of Zoloft before I went off it cold turkey.

My boyfriend decided to start conflicts a few months into our relationship, complaining that I wasn’t doing this or that for him. I made every effort to make him happy, but he still wasn’t satisfied. Last year, he tried to choke me twice but stopped himself. I have had a very violent and traumatizing past, so needless to say this made me fearful and made me have more flashbacks. This year I ended up pregnant by him. He made me think he would kill himself if I didn’t have an abortion, which I did, and I am regretting that dearly. It hurt me to do so, and then the fighting started again. He told me to “get over it” for the pain of losing the child or the past that I can’t stop. He says I make him pissed and depressed and I deserve to be beaten. He is mentally abusive to me daily, but I can’t dare tell him that. My health is declining, I’m confused, hurting, depressed and the flashbacks only progress. I tell him I need to be loved and comforted. But he tells me he can’t because I put him in too much pain. He says he will hurt me any way he can till he gets what he wants. I still love him, and all my friends either stabbed me in the back or moved away. I come from a violent home environment, so I feel all alone. I love him too much to let him go, but I fear if something isn’t done, either he will snap or I will.

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I know things can work; he is great at times and caring. How can I get him to understand that or to understand my feelings? He says I am more emotional then most females. Is it all my fault?

Psychologist’s Reply

No one is responsible for a person’s behavior except the person committing that behavior. If your boyfriend is verbally, emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive, he’s responsible. Your only responsibility is to your own welfare, and you must make the decision about tolerating such behavior.

You say that you love this man but you point to a history that strongly suggests that you have confused love with a desperate need to be wanted. Feeling like you have no other place to go is a definite setup for making some very poor choices about whom to connect with.

Lastly, as I have written about many times, including in my book In Sheep’s Clothing [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK], the behavioral “formula” for depression is investing yourself in something you don’t have the power to control. So, if you keep up the erroneous and ill-fated behavior of trying to get your boyfriend to see the error of his ways, you’ll most likely only end up feeling depressed and disempowered.

My best suggestion: take care of yourself and don’t allow your need to be wanted to keep you in an abusive situation. And seek the support and counsel of a therapist experienced in working with persons who have survived traumatic backgrounds.

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