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He's a bad drunk

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  May 17, 2010 09:30 AM

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Morning.

I had a great time at that play the other night. I have to say -- assuming the script is accurate -- Ann Landers and I would have been good friends. She had great pajamas, loved candy, danced around her apartment while she read letters, and thought of her readers as close friends. I can relate.

Q: I have been in a serious relationship with my boyfriend for about 5 months. He is 33, I am 35. Ninety-five percent of the time, I could not ask for a better boyfriend. He cooks dinner for me every night, tells me he loves me all the time, is very affectionate, helps around the house, has a good job, and is great with my son (from a previous relationship). During these times, I am the happiest, luckiest woman in the world. I know it's "only" been 5 months, but we are together everyday for the most part.

HOWEVER ... when he drinks, he becomes a total different person. He gets mood swings -- one minute he loves me and can't live without me, the next minute he is mad at me (just out of the blue). The first time I saw him like that, a family member just died, so I took it as, oh, he is just under a lot of stress, and didn't say anything that night. I did let him know the next day, and he just said "Next time I get like that, just punch me in the face." I laughed it off.

A month later he was out with his buddies from work. I knew he was going out for a little bit and that he would be home around 9. He started texting me around 7 p.m., same scenario -- loving at first, then mean and cruel. I asked him when he was coming home (as he takes the train), and by then (it was 10 p.m.) he was overly drunk, incoherent, and walking around Boston aimlessly by himself. Of course I was worried, drove to Boston, and drove around two hours looking for him, because he was so drunk, he had no idea where he was. Then the whole car ride back he was calling me names, being mean to me, just hurting my feelings.

The next day, I told him about all the things he said (he didn't remember), and he was very apologetic. Now fast forward another six weeks to last night. He called me to tell me he was going to be an hour late. I waited at the train station, and waited, and waited. After two hours I went home. Then, of course, the same texts came in, he was drunk, wandering around Boston, no clue where he was, first being sweet, then being a jerk. I stood my ground and told him he can find his own place to sleep, as I was not going to drive around Boston looking for him again. Of course he was texting me all night.

As I was writing this, being worried about him as I didn't hear from him since around 3:30am ... (I was tossing and turning the whole night), he just called. He again apologized, saying he handles stress wrong, and that it has nothing to do with me, and that he won't do this again, and he will cut down on his drinking.

I am wondering how many times I should give him a chance. Please note that he does NOT drink everyday, or every weekend, as I think he knows how bad he gets. But when he does drink, I always dread it, as he does not know how to moderate, he goes to full blown drunk.

When he is sober, which is 95 percent of the time, he is amazing! As I said before, he takes care of me, bonds really close with my son and my family, and helps around the house, cooks everyday. I get nightly massages, he’s always loving and affectionate, has a great job, and wants to marry me and have children with me. I just don't know how to deal with his drinking when he drinks, as he becomes a horrible person that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

– At a Crossroad, Dracut


A: AAC, I'm about to state the obvious here, but your boyfriend has a drinking problem. It doesn't matter that he only shows it some of the time. It's still a drinking problem. It's a drinking problem that puts you at risk, hurts your feelings, and has you searching for your partner in the middle of the night like he's a lost dog.

You have two options: drop him -- or make a list of demands that include no more booze and major counseling. I'm not sure the second option is really on the table, of course. You can't force him to admit his problem and seek help. But unless he wants to admit that he has a problem and has the desire to fix it, there's not much you can do besides walk away.

Even if this man is open to confronting his problem, you need to think about whether this mostly good (and slightly scary) relationship is worth sticking around for. It's not that people with drinking problems can't manage their issues and aren't worth dating, it's just that you're new to this partnership. You haven't invested too much just yet. This process won't be easy for him. Do you want to be a part of it?

I'd also note that 95 percent of the first five months of a relationship isn't an accurate snapshot of reality. My guess is that 95 percent of your relationship with him in three years would look pretty different. Aren't we usually on our best behavior during the first five months?

The bad 5 percent is an important 5 percent. You said you wouldn't wish this on anyone. Do you wish it on yourself?

Readers? Should she stick around? What is this about? Can he fix the 5 percent? Is the 95 percent real? Thoughts.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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