My boyfriend is cold and uncaring about his own feelings and mine. He was age eight when his mother died, nine when his father remarried, and ten when his father and new wife placed him in foster care.
I understand his having suffered trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from physical and emotional abuse as a child.
I sought much counselling over the years, so I’ve made great strides. However, this man’s in denial that his childhood traumatized him and about the lingering effects still there at 40.
It hurts me when he calls me names/yells at me, but most especially when I explain plain facts or truths.
He won’t believe or accept them, fights me and assumes that I’m stupid. I see his inner wounds, so I try not to take it personally.
I’m intelligent, a survivor, a mom and a coach with great ability to help people.
I’ve had the privilege of leading teens away from suicide. I’ve built esteem in many of them.
People returned to me years later to say I had a significant positive effect on them to be better people and live a better life, by looking within and learning how to be happy and love oneself. I cry hearing that I did that!
But this man I love is the hardest nut to crack of all! How do I help him? My usual mentoring isn’t working.
He’s a successful businessman, but people around him don’t like him because he treats them so badly.
I get glimpses of the child he was, and I see on his face that he’s sorry, then confused, as to why he acts this way.
Boyfriend’s A Hard Case
You can’t counsel your own partner.
He needs to find his own understanding of what hurts him.
Your insights - even if accurate and have helped others - are heard by him as judgements.
Through your coaching skills, you’ve seen some people experience those “lightbulb” moments when past truths become clear.
But in a couple relationship - especially with a partner who suffered painful losses so young - the dynamic is supposed to be between equals.
Your boyfriend hasn’t come to you as a supplicant for counselling help.
Yet he may seek it elsewhere, if you back off.
If he can decide to explore the effects of the past with an objective professional - where he doesn’t lose face or appears unmanly if he cries - then, I agree that counselling can open his present and future to greater personal happiness.
Change your approach. Listen only. If he becomes troubled, unreasonable, and/or treats you badly, insist that he get help... elsewhere.
FEEDBACK Regarding the 37-year-old woman lamenting the lack of unconditional love:
Reader – “She feels that all the men she's been with have stopped short of "unconditional love”, but she hasn't given that to them, particularly with the man who moved overseas.
“Why didn't she move with him then? As for expecting an affair to offer her lasting love, that’s truly naïve.
“My wife and I would love to be together daily, but modern careers haven't allowed it. Mine has kept us apart 75% of our marriage.
“She’s supported me/followed me sometimes from city to city. She’s given me love to allow me my career. Our love survived and thrived through a great deal of effort to maintain communication.
“Essentially, unconditional love is a two-way street. You can't expect it if you don't give it yourself.”
I have several friends who are currently extra needy. I care about them, but whenever I get into a phone or online conversation with them, it brings me down, too.
I want to be empathetic and listen. But I find that when people are stuck in gloom it’s very difficult to find any topic that’ll lift their spirits.
They’re two women and a man, from ages late-40s to 65. All three have compromised health, and signs of depression.
I’ve recommended to each to call a mental-health hotline for help but there’s always an excuse why they didn’t.
Are my frustrating conversations with them of any benefit to their mood? Is it useless for me to persist?
Friends with Depression
Caring, empathy, checking in, are all important outreaches to friends with depression.
It also provides an alarm, if ever you hear anything especially worrisome, for you to access help for someone through the hotline.
Stay connected, especially during the holidays.
Tip of the day:
Don’t “counsel” your relationship partner. Instead, support his/her getting professional help.