Dear Dr. Archer,
I’ve been in a long-term relationship with a long-term marijuana smoker. We’ve had many ups and downs over the years, with plenty of anger and disappointment. I’ve felt let down and alone much of the time.
My boyfriend has many issues from his past that I know affect him deeply. I don’t know if he can give or show emotion the way I do, and I need to understand that.
Family and friends have watched me struggle with whether to stay with him or leave, and honestly, I believe everyone thinks I’m a fool for staying with him. But I love him. I’m seeking professional help for any codependency challenges I need to overcome.
Recently I filed divorce papers, which has led me to where I am now. I moved back in with my partner, after he told me he needed help. When he told me, it broke my heart. I want us to be OK. All obstacles aside, we love each other.
He’s obtained a referral to a psychologist, which he never did during our time together.
I’m sick in the pit of my stomach. I feel my life is a joke to everyone. I know no one’s relationship is perfect, but do people tackle this over and over, as I do?
People go back and forth in relationships all the time, so that alone is not a major deal. But, there are real problems here that must be addressed for this to work.
The best thing for you to do is to separate. You’ve already filed the papers, so just do it. You’ve been in a dysfunctional relationship for too long. Don’t give up your chance for happiness just because you feel sorry for someone else. Life is way too short to be spent in misery.
Separate, and urge your boyfriend to continue seeing his psychologist. He should want to get clean for himself — not you; otherwise he will return to his old ways. Make it crystal clear that you want time alone, and that if he needs you, he must get clean before you will even consider it.
For your part, start enjoying your family. Get together with friends. Pick up a hobby and get involved. Start having fun.
Remember this: If someone makes you miserable more often than he makes you happy, it doesn’t matter how much you love him. You need to let him go.
After a few months, if he’s clean and sober, then you can decide what’s best. The key, of course, is he must be completely sober.
During your time of separation, you should see things much clearer and his reaction to your absence will give you the answer.
Dear Dr. Archer,
My 12-year-old-son started middle school this year, and this is the first year I’ve had to go to school conferences because of his behavior. He’s been getting into fights; was suspended from the bus; and was suspended from school for three days.
When he fights, it’s because he’s defending himself. He gets so angry he can’t stop until the point where he could seriously hurt the boys who started the fights.
He tells me he feels like he’s constantly being picked on, and he can’t stop himself when the kids shove or push him. I believe he has a great deal of anger inside. But he refuses to talk about it.
His father and I believe he’s angry because he’s been through many changes in the last three years. We had to close our family business due to the economy, and we had to take him out of private school, which he has attended since pre-K. Two years ago, we lost our home to foreclosure, forcing us into another neighborhood and a public school for him.
It’s been tough for the whole family. But I believe it’s all truly changed my son. He will not talk about it. He just says “I’m OK.” But he’s started acting out and doing things he’s never done. His grades went from As to Bs, a C and even some Ds. He told me tonight he doesn’t like himself.
Is this our fault? And if so, how can I fix it?
No, this is not your fault. Things happen in life that are beyond our control. You didn’t want to lose your business; you didn’t want to lose your home; you didn’t want to move your son from his old school. Yet these things did happen, through no fault of your own, and your son is finding it difficult to cope.
Anger reactions in children are always difficult on the parents. Children often blame others for their anger. It’s an excuse that doesn’t hold them accountable for their actions. In their mind, they’re the victim. As his parent, you need to challenge his thinking and behavior and hold him accountable.
At this age, hormones may be playing a factor, as well. Talk with the principal. Pushing and shoving is going to happen in every school. But if bullies are targeting your son, authorities should be alerted. Bullying of any kind should never be tolerated.
For your part, always keep lines of communication open. Let him talk to you and use the fine art of listening. If he wants your advice, give it, but be sure to listen to what he has to say. Joseph Joubert said, “Children need models rather than critics.” Watch what you say not only to him, but also to your husband. Your son may hear any negativity, and this may only frustrate him more.
My advice: call the school counselor and make an appointment. Discuss what’s going on with your son and get her input. If therapy is needed, then see to it that he gets it. Often school counselors will do some individual therapy, so it may not cost anything. Don’t delay; your son needs professional help.
The good news is that this is a case of recent onset. Often in these cases, just adapting to the new environment will bring relief, though the process takes time.
Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs and the author of The ADHD Advantage and the New York Times’ bestselling book “Better than Normal”. Visit him at DrDaleArcher.com.