Hooked on a User
Q: I have an infant with a man who I've been in love with for years. When I was 13, he used to walk me home from school and pick flowers to give to me, but I ended up dating his older brother. Then at 16 we got serious and dated for a year and a half (pissing off his brother) and were together 24 hours a day. But I had to move away and we didn't see each other for five years. We both moved on and, ironically, we each have a three year old daughter from other people. Last year we ran into each other, both of us single, and immediately we were one again. I got pregnant, but he got into trouble (drugs) and went to jail for six months. Before he went to jail he was starting to be sexually active with other women, and I knew, so I decided I didn't want anything to do with him. He got out of jail five days before the baby was born, and within a few weeks I was head over heels again. Him too. But then he started the drugs again. I have never touched drugs, and I am going to school to be a teacher. All I want to do is have a good safe home for my two children. Lately he's not as into me as usual. He lives with his sister because I know about the drugs, and refuse to have them at my home. But when I go to see him, all I want to do is be with him, like I don't even care that he isn't following his probation. How can I either get him to want me again or move on? How do I move on without the pain? -- Teresa, 22
Dr. Susan: Putting aside the confusing and brain-messing elements, let's see what you actually have. A man who dated his brother's girlfriend. A man who does drugs and has gone to jail for it, and even now doesn't observe his probation, meaning sooner or later he'll be back in jail. A guy who hooked up with other women while you were carrying his baby, and who says he's not that into you anymore anyway. The other side is that you can't get him out of your mind even though you supposedly want to get an education and provide a good, safe life for your two children. Doesn't look promising when you spell it out like that, does it, Teresa?
You love him because you're used to him, you love him because he was the first big love of your life, and you love him because he's the father of your brand-new baby. You also love him because you're used to being dangled on a string by him. One minute he loves you, the next minute he's screwing around and doing drugs and generally acting stupidly. Face facts, if you can: That's not love, that's an unhealthy obsession. You could just as well find yourself attracted to the idea of being Bonnie to his Clyde. But unless you want your life and the futures of your children to blow up in a messy explosion of dysfunction and pain, you've got to get out of this bind. You can't get him to like you on a permanent basis, seriously enough to make him give up drugs and other women, since he's so obviously a sensation-seeker who keeps drifting toward the new and exciting. Move on without the pain? That's not going to happen either, unfortunately. Some things worth having are worth suffering for. Look at it this way: You're bound to suffer either way. With him, the pain will go on and on, but without him, you'll get over the pain one day and have a chance to find a better life for you and your kids. Do what it takes to protect yourself from this user.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.