1. The situation: He’s caught up in childhood and family drama.” As Marcy* watched Jorge smash her printer in front of their home, she finally realized the truth: Her man was becoming a carbon copy of his dysfunctional family. “His parents were involved in a drug trafficking ring when he was a child,” she explains of her now ex-boyfriend. “I don’t think they considered what it would do to him long-term.”
But Marcy, a 31-year-old Boricua from Connecticut, knew he had lingering issues. “He told me tragic stories about gun exposure and serious gang-related shit.” Before Marcy knew it, Jorge was bouncing from “scheme to scheme,” lashing out, destroying their property, and accusing Marcy, who worked 60 to 70 hours a week, of being a “bum,” just like his parents.
But still, she stayed. “I’m a woman, naturally I’m going to try and fix everything. I had to ‘remold’ him,” she explains. “I had to teach him how to talk to me, address people without anger, and to show respect.” But after countless violent outbursts, she’d had enough.
Although there’s nothing wrong with wanting to nurture your partner, Misha N. Granado, MPH, MS, founder of Love Grows: The Relationship Consultants, advises women to refrain from treating a lover like a patient, especially if he’s physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive. “Therapists have very specific boundaries, expertise, and the ability to be objective,” Granado explains. If you want to help a loved one who has been exposed to extensive violence, encourage him to seek help from a professional.
2. The situation: He’s got mommy issues. Abandoned by his mother and raised by an “emotionally crippled” grandmother, Leia’s ex-boyfriend Antonio had an embarrassing habit of throwing temper tantrums when they got into fights. “He’d give me the silent treatment or take jabs at me whenever we were among friends,” explains the 30-year-old Colombiana from New York City. Leia discovered it was a pattern he couldn’t break.
For three years, Leia and Antonio would argue, play the blame game, make up, and repeat. But Leia realized Antonio never owned up to his behavior. “He’d ask me to be understanding,” shares Leia. At first, she empathized — she had felt abandoned as well. “We all have insecurities that can play out in relationships,” explains Xiomara A. Sosa, a clinical mental health-forensic counselor and founder, president, and CEO of The Get-Right! Organization. When insecurities that are born out of parental neglect and abuse go unresolved, they “can create a dysfunctional relationship that is filled with chaos and stress.”
At Leia’s insistence, Antonio went to counseling, but that didn’t last very long. “Once the subject of his grandmother came up, he stopped therapy and never went back,” she admits.
Sensing that Antonio would never get the help he needed to move forward, Leia moved on without him.
3. The situation: He’s a recovering addict. Mari?a, 31, always knew her boyfriend Toma?s had a rough upbringing. They had heart-to-hearts about how his father’s death left a gaping hole in his life and how he drank to forget. A few weeks into dating, they took a road trip to San Diego to unwind. The second morning of their trip, Mari?a found Toma?s passed out and covered in vomit, an empty tequila bottle at his side. “I was in disbelief,” admits Mari?a. She was sure then that she’d break up with him. But when she got news that her abuelita was in the hospital, it was a sobered-up Toma?s who insisted on driving her there.
Now married, the couple has come a long way. Though he stumbled at the start of their relationship, Mari?a stayed with Toma?s to offer the support he needed to recover. “While we were dating, he severed ties with all of his childhood friends,” Mari?a explains. “By the time our oldest son was a year old, he stopped drinking completely.” With her support, and his own hard work, Toma?s slowly became a better father and husband to his family.