I'd like to proudly announce that I am a long time lurker, since 2011, and have considered writing in many times.
My boyfriend and I have been together for more than three years now, and recently took the leap and moved 1,000-plus miles away from friends and family to have a change of pace. We started dating as roommates a few years after college and quickly fell in love. For the most part, we work so well together, supporting each other through job changes, life changes, and many moves. It hasn't always been magical though ... we got in some very nasty drunk fights over the years. Usually many months apart, but they were very damaging to our relationship. Our day-to-day life is happy, caring, supportive, and fun.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday we got in two back-to-back fights, just four days apart. He tends to state the meanest, most destructive comments during our fights (drunk or sober), trying to make me feel worse than I've made him feel. I've told him many times that threats of breaking up with me are truly damaging to our relationship. We had been discussing getting engaged last spring and went to look at rings. In the fights over Thanksgiving break, in the heat of the argument, he said that he was going to buy me my engagement ring that day, but I no longer deserved it, in addition to announcing that he didn't want me to move into the house he recently bought for us to live in together. I was beside myself but hung in there knowing we had an upcoming vacation a few days later, and I didn't want to be fighting. During the first night of our vacation, he got blindingly drunk and went off on me again, stating he wanted to dump me and didn't want to get engaged or move to the new house together.
I was up all night and had a revelation. It was like all the comments he's said over the years set in, and I just couldn't go on in a relationship like this. He took the excitement out of getting engaged and moving into our first house together. Fast forward one week (I wanted some space) and we sat down and finally discussed all of this. He promised he would work on biting his tongue during arguments and was devastated to hear how badly his most recent comments had hurt me, and has been trying to make it up to me since then. Deep down I still love him so much; it's been three weeks since we talked and I'm still just so unsure of what I want to do. I feel like there should be more action on his part to get therapy. Would couples therapy even help at this point? I don't know if I will ever be able to move on from his final comments on our future. Will he ever change?
– Heartbroken over our future
Couples therapy can work, but it might not fix your relationship by keeping you together. Sometimes couples therapy does its job by helping people figure out how to say goodbye.
It is a place where you can learn how to fight without saying terrible things. There's a way to deal with disagreements and conflict without becoming abusive and cruel. A professional might be able to help your boyfriend learn how to communicate when he's upset.
But in your case, the damage might be done. You're no longer excited about all of these wonderful next steps because he’s turned them into punishments and rewards. Like, you misbehaved so ... no engagement or house for you. He's behaved as if this is all up to him – whether he lets you in.
The fights might not represent how he truly feels about your future, but he's said the same horrible things more than once, and I don't blame you for starting to believe him. Also, I don't know what you can promise him at this point. That's why I have to wonder whether you'd also benefit from therapy by yourself. It might help you figure out what kind of partnership you desire and what you'd have to gain by sticking around.
Readers? Would you be able to move on from the things the letter writer's boyfriend has said? Is it possible that moving away has affected the relationship?