Q: A little over a year ago, I met a man online and we started a relationship. He was funny, sexy, successful, and smart. We had an amazing amount in common and we wanted the same things. The relationship moved quickly. I met his family within a few months, and he asked me to move in soon after.
I knew that eventually we would see each other's flaws, and I was prepared for that. However, the more I saw of the real him, the more it became clear that he had serious problems. He was jealous, so I started to see my friends less and less. He had no real friends and was estranged from most of his family. He stayed up all night reading my entire Facebook history. He would get upset if I didn't answer the phone and called repeatedly until I picked up. He created elaborate, violent fantasies about harming people who might cross him in some petty way. His anger was completely disproportionate to everyday irritations. Eventually, he admitted to me that he had rage blackouts and showed symptoms of schizophrenia.
At first I was determined to deal with this. After all, I loved him, and I didn't want to run just because he had problems. Our relationship got more and more rocky. I suggested we go to therapy, separately and/or together, but he refused. In fact, he saw our problems as my fault, since I couldn't accept him as he was. At that point I knew it was over. He was never violent toward me, but I knew he was capable. I knew I couldn't raise my children around this. It killed me, but I moved out and cut off contact.
So here comes my question: This guy is deeply troubled and in complete denial about his need for professional help. I feel heartbroken when I think about him sitting alone on his couch night after night. I'm the closest person to him in the world, and abandoning him feels like a horrible thing to do. Despite his behavior, I still care about him very much. Do I have any role to play in trying to help him at this point? Or do I need to walk away and not look back?
– Worried, Massachusetts
A: I know that you're worried about him, but I'm worried about you. This guy was angry and had fantasies about hurting people. You say that he never got violent with you but that you knew he was capable. You need to make sure that you're protecting yourself.
Please reach out to an organization that advises people about what to do in domestic violence situations. Ask them how to keep safe and whether there's anything you can/should do to protect others in his life. Also, please change your passwords for social networking sites, and make sure that you keep your accounts private.
I understand that it feels weird to ditch someone in need, but you're not in charge of helping him. You were honest and empathetic. You did your part.
Once you've answered the big, immediate safety questions, let go. You got to know and love a guy who only exists some of the time. You're allowed to walk away and mourn the loss. So do that. It's a breakup. See your friends and ask them for comfort.
Readers? What is her obligation here? Has anyone stuck around after a relationship was over because they were worried about an ex? How dangerous is intimidation in a relationship? Discuss.
Recent blog posts
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.