A Straightjacket Built for Two

Dear Dategirl:My boyfriend and I have a colorful history. We're both in our late 20s, and since we first got together 10 months ago, we've broken up and gotten back together several times. I initiated each breakup, since I felt he was being clingy, selfish, and controlling. But I would invariably miss him and go back to him within a few painful weeks. After two of these breakups, I had to get restraining orders. Around the time of the first order, he threatened to kill himself if I didn't get back together with him, and was transported to the hospital overnight for suicide watch. I know this sounds like an easy diagnosis, but honestly, he's not a psycho and I'm no victim. I care about him a lot, and I know my flip-flopping has really hurt him.Recently things have been better between us, but the memories of our recent history weigh heavily. We talk about it openly, which gives me hope this might work. But my friends tell me his crazy past behavior is a death knell for our relationship, even if it's dormant now. By contrast, his friends think I'm not to be trusted, since I might break up with him again. I think they're all right to a degree, but we are really trying to make this work. Do you think we stand a chance of succeeding with such a crazy history?—Hopeful Harpy

Referring to two restraining orders, a suicide attempt, and a subsequent loony-bin lockup as a "colorful history" is like calling the BP spill "a little oopsie." I get that breakups bring out the worst in people—tears, tantrums, late-night drunken phone calls. But stalking and suicide attempts? That's more than colorful—that's koo-koo.You say this seems like an easy diagnosis—and you're right. But the sad fact is, you know the right thing to do (run!!!), but you're not going to, are you?Your boyfriend is frightening. He's threatening to kill himself if you leave. He's nearly 30, not some Smiths-obsessed tween. This is unacceptable—one of the biggest red flags a potentially violent partner sends up is controlling behavior. I'll bet he's extremely jealous too.You're probably thinking I've gone off the deep end—your man would never hurt you. After all, he's not acting like a psycho...at the moment, anyway. But batterers don't get handsy on the first date—or they'd never get a second. Nope, they wear you down over time. They start by being hyper-clingy. Then they tell you what to wear and whom you can be friends with. They'll do anything to keep you in their clutches, including showing up unannounced and threatening suicide. Sound familiar? The sad thing about this kind of co-dependent relationship is that it's so easy to get addicted to the drama. You start to believe that the fact that he loves you so much that he'd rather be dead than without you is, in a sick way, kind of flattering.That your friends are pushing you to leave him is probably making you feel a bit distant from them—after all, who wants to be around people who think you're an idiot? At the very least, I hope you demand he continue psychiatric counseling as a condition for continuing the relationship. I also think you should speak to a therapist to get a professional's take on the situation. We already have medical confirmation that he's nuts. But if you stay with him, you're going to need a straitjacket built for two.dategirl@seattleweekly.com

 
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