I Need Help Saving My Relationship
August 26, 2013 12:16 AM   Subscribe

I might have pushed my boyfriend past his limits. After an ensuing huge fight, he now wants some time to himself and rethink the relationship over. Possible breakup. I love and care for him, and want things back to normal. Details inside.

Last week I went, as my boyfriend's plus one, to an event his client organized. It started out alright, and we enjoyed the event - networking, drinking etc. As the night went on I got increasingly tipsy as I hadn't had a meal and couldn't eat the canapes served (I am allergic to peanuts thus wary they might contain some). At the end of the night, as the event ended I was well tipsy and was feeling the vibe to head out and party a little. However my boyfriend wanted to head home as he was tired (he had been having late nights that week juggling work and caring after his father who dislocated his hip). This led to a huge fight as I wanted him to come with me and we ended up going separate ways, he went home and I went to meet some friends at a bar.

The next day I woke up to a text from him saying he has had enough of my behaviour, and that he was beyond disappointed with my lack of understanding for his situation and how I embarrassed him in front of his client. He raised the issue of my problem with alcohol again and how it has caused a lot of fights between us. He said he wants time out, he needs to rethink this relationship and I should really address my problem with drinking. I called him and we talked about it, and he said while he still loves me, he was adamant with his decision of taking time off to think. I asked him how much time, he said he doesn't know but he will contact me when he is ready. We hung up on that note and it has now been almost a week since. I feel very miserable. This is the first time he's done this and I have a feeling he will break up with me.

I know I was at fault here and I feel horrible. I don't know why, but when I'm drunk I get angry and emotional very easily. It has been that way since I started drinking and has caused many rifts with various people. But I've never taken it seriously until I started dating my boyfriend who encouraged me to seek help. I have since then drank considerably less. But there are times when I let loose and got into fights, either with my boyfriend or other people.

But I AM working on it, and I am very very sorry. We love each other very much and I want to make this relationship work. We are compatible in most ways, have similar world views and values, he's very supportive of me, and we communicate very well. We are generally awesome together... we have great chemistry and I still get those loved up feelings when I think about him even after more than 1 year of dating.

So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this? I plan to go to therapy about my problems and I believe I WILL get better. But I feel this approach he's taking is counter-productive, it won't help with our relationship at all. What does he mean when he says "rethinking the relationship" anyway? Shouldn't it be clear-cut if he wants to be with me or not??

I guess what I want is a way to get through to him and make him see that I will do whatever it takes to save us. I am afraid he will come to the conclusion that this relationship isn't worth saving if left to himself. But I'm also afraid that if I keep contacting him before he's ready he'll just withdraw further away. Please help! I don't know what to do.

PS: If it matters, we're both in our mid to late 20s.
posted by milque to Human Relations (53 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Actions speak louder than words. Show him what you've done while he's been away "thinking about the relationship". Maybe you've seen your therapist a couple of times, maybe you've been to Al-anon, etc. Waiting for him to come back before you act will send the wrong message.

Also realise that you can't force a relationship with this guy. If he wants out, he wants out and there's not much that you can do about that. Do you want to change for his sake, or for your own?
posted by Solomon at 12:24 AM on August 26, 2013 [17 favorites]


So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this? I plan to go to therapy about my problems and I believe I WILL get better.

i think your best bet if you are serious about dealing with a drinking problem is to go to AA. from what i've read in the past, therapy isn't typically that effective at treating drinking problems. the thing is you really have to deal with this issue for you. i think if you are just doing it for him it won't really stick. i am sorry you are facing this relationship crisis.
posted by wildflower at 12:28 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this? I plan to go to therapy about my problems and I believe I WILL get better.

Book the therapy. Start going. Be completely honest with your therapist, and do whatever s/he tells you to do (which is quite likely to be 'go to AA'). 'Plans' are not going to cut it at this stage, you need to take action.

But I feel this approach he's taking is counter-productive, it won't help with our relationship at all.

You're entitled to feel that way, but he feels differently. At the moment, he obviously thinks that it will help him to clarify how he feels about the relationship. You need to respect that.

What does he mean when he says "rethinking the relationship" anyway?

It means exactly that: he's reconsidering his decision to be in a relationship with you. Same as when you rethink a job offer, or rethink signing a lease on a house, or...whatever. In my experience, it also means he has one foot out the door, and the other not far behind.

Shouldn't it be clear-cut if he wants to be with me or not??

Umm...no? Why should it be? You're only in your twenties, you're not married and you don't have kids together, and there is an aspect of your behaviour that really, really bothers him. On the other hand, he cares for you very much. I can see why it's not at all clear-cut for him.

I guess what I want is a way to get through to him and make him see that I will do whatever it takes to save us. I am afraid he will come to the conclusion that this relationship isn't worth saving if left to himself. But I'm also afraid that if I keep contacting him before he's ready he'll just withdraw further away. Please help! I don't know what to do.

Okay, here's some tough love. You don't get to 'save us' unless he decides that there is an 'us' to save. And that's something that he wants to decide by himself, without pressure of contact from you. If he comes to the conclusion that the relationship isn't worth saving, then it's much better for both of you to let it go now.

I know it's tremendously difficult, but please respect his decision and give him the space he asked for. If you force him into making a decision prematurely, I very much doubt that it will be in your favour.
posted by Salamander at 12:42 AM on August 26, 2013 [30 favorites]


I don't know why, but when I'm drunk I get angry and emotional very easily. It has been that way since I started drinking and has caused many rifts with various people.

You are an alcoholic.

But I've never taken it seriously until I started dating my boyfriend who encouraged me to seek help. I have since then drank considerably less.

This, I'm afraid, is not really taking it seriously. You are externalizing the "solution" to your drinking problem, rather than internalizing it. Drinking less is not enough, nor is drinking less because your boyfriend doesn't like your drinking. You are making another person responsible for solving your drinking problem.

But there are times when I let loose and got into fights, either with my boyfriend or other people.

You are continuing to drink when you admittedly cannot control yourself. You need help, as you seem to realize. Please get it. I am sorry for the tough love, but I feel compelled to give it because I love an alcoholic very dearly, and watching her externalize her solutions, rationalize her behavior, and fail to get the help she needs is, quite frankly, killing me, as I am sure your behavior is killing the man who loves you. And as far as that man is concerned, I would write him a letter that goes along the lines of: "Boyfriend, I have come to terms with the fact that I am an alcoholic and am getting into recovery right away. I am truly sorry for everything and I hope once I am well you will be willing to give our relationship another chance." Leave it taped to his door, and start doing what you need to do, which is focusing completely on your recovery.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 12:48 AM on August 26, 2013 [45 favorites]


So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this? I plan to go to therapy about my problems and I believe I WILL get better. But I feel this approach he's taking is counter-productive, it won't help with our relationship at all. What does he mean when he says "rethinking the relationship" anyway? Shouldn't it be clear-cut if he wants to be with me or not??

I will never tell another person that they are an alcoholic. But with all due respect, this is classic alcoholic behavior. You have a couple of drinks and turn into a completely different person...

... and yet you expect consistency from others. It blows your mind that they are not. Some people love this drama; your ex-boyfriend does not. Why would anything be clear-cut with you? Do you make that easy?

we have great chemistry and I still get those loved up feelings when I think about him even after more than 1 year of dating.

Chemistry's not enough for a relationship. You figure this out in your 20's. You have got to grow up and take care of yourself and take care of your loved ones.

So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this?

Let me save you a whole lot of trouble. If you only trim a bush, it will grow back twice the size. You have to uproot it. Appearing serious to people is not your problem. Actually being serious is.
posted by phaedon at 1:05 AM on August 26, 2013 [14 favorites]


Adding to the above that as your boyfriend grows in his professional life, these events with clients and coworkers can become increasingly stressful. If he has to worry about putting a good face forward for his clients and bosses AND has to worry about your behaviour as well, he's possibly going to be tired at the end of what, for a purely social occasion, would likely be an early night - and that's even after compounding it with the late nights/parental care you refer to above.

If you care about him, you need to be conscious of being a partner and not a burden. Whether or not this is something you end up defining as textbook alcoholism in your head and your heart, it's at least selfish for your behaviour to become a dominant factor on a night where being a good partner is to be a charming sidekick to your boyfriend, at maximum.
posted by GamblingBlues at 1:06 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


What does 'working on it' look like for you?

Based on the language in your post I gather that you're British. The culture in the UK has a very different relationship with alcohol than in the US; it's just more acceptable (sometimes unavoidable) to go out and get obliterated in the UK than the US. I know my British friends find it really puzzling when I go out and don't drink.

You need to seek out help for alcoholism. This may mean going io AA, this may mean a therapist who specialises in drug and alcohol addiction. It definitely means pushing against a cultural norm which says people in their 20s 'blow off steam' by smashing a bunch of alcohol, and it means not drinking. Not drinking less, not only having a couple, it means not drinking.

And it also means accepting that your boyfriend is probably going to break up with you, because that's what it sounds like. You shouldn't be seeking help to try to cling to this relationship; you should be seeking help for yourself.
posted by nerdfish at 1:09 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's not a lot you can do if your partner doesn't like you when you're drunk: you can either quit getting drunk, or you can accept that he's not the partner for you. There is no way you can persuade him to like you when you're drunk, and it is very unlikely that you can persuade him that you are getting control of your drinking if you're still getting drunk. I don't know if you're an alcoholic - in AA there seems to be a lot of talk about hitting bottom and having cravings and drinking mouthwash that doesn't really work with the one-night-binge party culture - but if your behavior when you're drunk is fucking up your life, you have a drinking problem even if you don't drink or get drunk very often.

He has a right to give up, you know, even if you're great together. He doesn't owe it to you to approach the problem "productively" - this is your problem. He can opt out.

I have all the sympathy in the world even though I likely sound unsympathetic - you are in a bad spot, and you're going to have to face it, fix it, and accept that it's unfair you have a drinking problem and you might have fucked up a really good thing because of it. But first you have to understand, all the way down, that this is all you.
posted by gingerest at 1:56 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Stop drinking, period.

You do this for yourself, your life, your future. Whether or not he's a part of it.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:23 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Do you prefer him or drinking?

Choose wisely.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:26 AM on August 26, 2013 [19 favorites]


There's not a lot you can do to change his mind. All you can do is work on yourself-- whether it be for this relationship or any future relationship you have. There's no magical thing we can tell you that will increase the odds of saving this relationship, especially if your boyfriend has already decided that he cannot be in it any more.

Nthing what other people are saying. Cutting down won't be enough. You need to stop, and you need to do whatever it takes to get there.

But you need to want to change for you, not for him. Do you feel your drinking is a problem? You don't mention quitting as an option-- and I find that people that seem to think they can 'just cut down,' are in denial about the seriousness of their drinking. Moreover, they tend to slip up often. I feel this is where you kind of were prior to this. Also, they tend to harbor resentment against the people who feel this is a problem, because part of them doesn't really truly agree. And I kind of get the feeling that you kind of want to stop solely to win him back, and not because you think it's a very serious issue. I would totally examine whether you really think he's completely right, or being unfair or not.

For what it's worth, I don't think he's being unfair at all, but, if any part of you thinks: "I'm really not that bad," it's going to hinder your progress in getting better. In this, I see you rationalizing the drunkenness a lot, "I couldn't eat the food, because this, and this," and that's kinda telling.

I find mental barriers like this are lies we tell ourselves when we don't really want to do the thing we know we must, and when we don't truly want to change deep inside. "It's not that bad, and also I couldn't because this happened," Be careful of that voice. It's denial. It's not helping you. If he broke up with you, would you still go to AA or similar? If you're doing it for you, and you mean it-- the answer should be yes.

Again, outline the things you feel you need to work on about yourself, no matter what happens, commit yourself to improving these aspects of yourself.

I know it's tough, but, give him space and let him come to you, yeah.

In the meantime, start working on you. Like I said, that's all you can really do. You can't show him how serious you are-- just be serious. Therapy, AA. All of that. He either sees it or doesn't. He has either had enough or he hasn't. Understand that even if he does, it might not be the outcome you want. And if so, that hurts, but it'll still be okay.

Yeah, you messed up. You can't change that. Don't beat yourself up about it. Just be better.

Either way, your life isn't over, and if he does leave, at least it gave you the initiative to look at yourself, and improve your life from here on out.

Good luck.
posted by Dimes at 2:27 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Brit here. I don't think you're an alcoholic. Not necessarily. Lots of people go through a phase of misjudging alcohol, especially as they carry over practices from their student days into the big bad world of working and more responsibility.

I've seen people have these issues and have them affect their relationships and the easiest solution is to take a time out from the grog, and if and when you go back at it, know your limits.

Showing him you're serious is about making an explicit commitment about how you plan to change and delivering on it. You also need to respect his scepticism. You've broken his trust, been selfish and embarrassed him.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:33 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess what I want is a way to get through to him and make him see that I will do whatever it takes to save us. I am afraid he will come to the conclusion that this relationship isn't worth saving if left to himself.

What happened is, your boyfriend wants a break to decide whether or not he wants to be with you, because he hates your drinking.

You want to change this situation, but what does that mean for you? Apparently it means that you want to control and change his reaction. You want him to be okay with how things are.

And how things are = you are "working on it".

But your "working on it" is not enough for him. It's not cutting it. He wants you to stop.

So the answer to your question "how can I make him see" is "you can't". You can't change his mind for him. Even if you stop drinking entirely, you don't know if that will be enough to save your relationship.

Stop focussing on changing him, that's what you're latching on because it sounds the easier option - focus on changing yourself.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:56 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


At the end of the night, as the event ended I was well tipsy and was feeling the vibe to head out and party a little. However my boyfriend wanted to head home as he was tired (he had been having late nights that week juggling work and caring after his father who dislocated his hip). This led to a huge fight as I wanted him to come with me and we ended up going separate ways, he went home and I went to meet some friends at a bar.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not you are an alcoholic, do you think this kind of situation is fun for him? I would have dumped you after one instance of you picking a fight over something this minor, whether you were drunk or not. You claim to love this guy, but when you get angry at someone for not doing exactly what you want right away, that's not adult love. That's bratty and childish. If you want him to get back together with you, the first step will be examining that kind of behavior. He is not a possession but a person and you should respect his right to want a good night's sleep.
posted by chaiminda at 3:17 AM on August 26, 2013 [29 favorites]


Your actions showed you care about partying, whereas his actions showed he cares about career and family. These aren't compatible goals.

This doesn't make you a bad person or an alcoholic, but it could mean the relationship is a poor fit at this time.

I suggest you stop thinking about saving this relationship, and instead focus on deciding what's important to you. If you want to get "well tipsy" at professional events and then go out afterwards, you need to find somebody who shares nightlife as a priority.
posted by grudgebgon at 3:29 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


You know you get belligerant when you drink a lot, and yet --- at a professional event for his client --- you chose to drink. And you're not even facing up to *how* drunk you were: you know you have allergies that prevent you from eating some foods; knowing this, you could have had a sandwich before you went..... instead, knowing you had an empty stomach and that you had no intention of eating, you chose to drink. And let's face it, there is no such thing as "well tipsy": you were DRUNK, in front of Boyfriend's client at that, and were agressively demanding he go with you and get drunkER.

You say you're 'working on it', and PLAN to get therapy --- it's been a week since this event and fight; exactly what concrete steps HAVE you already taken? It sounds like you want Boyfriend back, but don't want to do more than merely *promise* to change, which he's heard before and doesn't want to hear over and over again. Promises, especially promises you've made and broken before, mean absolutely nothing: the only thing you can do is to actually DO something about your excessive drinking, and that doesn't mean another empty promise to 'drink less'.

Yes, he is totally justified at being embarrassed being seen with you. From what you say, this is not an isolated incident; he's reached his limit, and can't take it anymore. You may or may not be able to save this relationship, but please, get help: get help NOW. Get into therapy, go to AA, but do it today.
posted by easily confused at 3:37 AM on August 26, 2013 [42 favorites]


I have no idea if you are an alcoholic or not, but I basically agree with everyone else...

You can not control what this guy is going to do or decide.

But, you can take steps for yourself which will be useful with this guy or without him:

Learn about yourself to see what you need to be a person happy with your own life and your own decisions whether you are alone, with this partner or a new one. You can do this through therapy or not.

Confront your relationship with alcohol and make changes if necessary. It sounds like a few months without alcohol wouldn't do any damage. I would try to find out alone, or with a professional, or with AA if it is time to stop drinking.

good luck...
posted by jazh at 3:59 AM on August 26, 2013


Saving your relationship is out of your hands. Your most immediate concern is getting a handle on your drinking.

One of the classic tests for alcohol dependency is asking whether your drinking has ever caused you problems, you have indicated that it has. Much as I hate to side with knee jerk diagnoses that "you're an alcoholic", you do indeed seem to have an actual "drinking problem" and that is much more serious than any lost boyfriend.

If you're a Brit, see your GP.
posted by epo at 4:06 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


What does he mean when he says "rethinking the relationship" anyway? Shouldn't it be clear-cut if he wants to be with me or not??

Of course not. Relationships are complicated. He loves you but you have a drinking problem. This is a problem that is entirely in your power to solve, which is where it gets complicated. He wants to be with you but not the you that gets drunk, embarrasses him in-front of his client and starts fights over nothing and is completely inconsiderate of his feelings. He is powerless to control your drinking so the only thing that is in his power to do is to dump you. Taking a break to rethink the relationship is time for him to decide what hurts him more, your drinking or being apart from you.

If the only issue you two have is your behaviour when you're drinking then the answer is simple, stop drinking. Completely. He may take you back, he may not but it sounds like your boyfriend isn't the only one who has a problem with drunk you.
posted by missmagenta at 4:18 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The other thing : you note in your question that you might have pushed your boyfriend "past his limits". It is worth noting that these are not just his limits, these are most people's limits who are looking for stability. The qualities that make him such a great boyfriend are the qualities that won't let him put up with drunken abuse. You can find shitty guys who will tolerate it - but don't.
posted by corb at 4:28 AM on August 26, 2013 [17 favorites]


Your drinking is absolutely the problem. Not "a" problem, but "the" problem. Not just because you are alienating the people you love, but becasue you don't seem to show any amount of good judgement when it comes to drinking. (ie. Why didn't you eat before hand? Why did you drink that much at the event? If you know you get angry and beligerant when you're drinking, why didn't you just NOT drink during that event because it was important for your boyfriend's career?) I would bet that your drinking is having a negative effect on other areas in your life, not just your relationship with your boyfriend.

Are you an alcoholic? Maybe. I don't know. It really appears that way from what you've written here, but I obviously can't know or diagnose you. You probably don't want to think of yourself in that way, but for the time being I think you need to function under the belief that you very well could be, and address this issue from that persepctive. Stop drinking altogether. Get therapy. Most importantly, go to AA. You want to show your boyfriend that you're seriously? Then BE SERIOUS. Talking a good game isn't going to help you with him, and it isn't going to keep things like this from happening over and over.

I think there is a good chance that your drinking has pushed him too far and that your relationship is over. For you to not have this happen again I think you still need to go to AA and stop drinking. Alcohol is having a very negative impact on your life, not to mention your health. You need to get better and get treatment for YOURSELF, not for him. The necessity of your stopping drinking and getting help isn't affected by his being in the picture or not. You need this. You need to stop drinking. You need to take control of your life. You said your drinking has pushed people away before, so this isn't a new thing. Really see what the alcohol has done, is doing, and will continue to do to your life. Drinking less won't work. You shouldn't drink ever.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:58 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree with others, you have a drinking problem (at least), and maybe you are an alcoholic. In any case, you will not lose anything by discussing these problems with your GP. Also, you should stop drinking. You will not lose anything by doing these things, and might probably gain a lot.

Also, I think you should ask yourself (in therapy, if you want), "Why am I pushing my boyfriend's limits? Why am I not respecting them? What reactions do I need? Why don't I recognise/respect the limits of the one I love?"

Quite honestly, if your boyfriend had posted a question for this instead, I think many here would advise/support him to end this relationship.
posted by carter at 5:09 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let's be clear:

As the night went on I got increasingly tipsy as I hadn't had a meal and couldn't eat the canapes served (I am allergic to peanuts thus wary they might contain some).

You got increasingly tipsy because you kept drinking. If you knew you weren't going to eat you could have just not had anything to drink. The fact that you did so anyway, and kept drinking, and blame it on the lack of food - not the alcohol consumption - sends a pretty clear message.

If you don't get help for your drinking now, it's not just going to be this relationship that suffers. It's going to be every single relationship and everything that is good in your life.
posted by something something at 5:12 AM on August 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


I agree with MuffinMan in that I don't think you necessarily have a drinking problem. As a UK mid-20s urbanite I sympathise with the pressure to drink to excess at the weekends and, like you, I tend to lose some of my empathy when drunk, and my ability to resolve conflict is diminished. However, I don't force my boyfriend to stay out with me and my friends; equally, he's fine with me taking the odd night 'off' to do things he doesn't enjoy (namely: drunken dancing). That said, you certainly wouldn't lose anything by going tee-total for a while, and how you deal with that may be a clearer indicator for how deep your issues with alcohol go.

It sounds as you are going to therapy because your boyfriend thinks you have a drinking problem and you want to fix your relationship. You should be going to therapy because you know you have a drinking problem and you want to fix it.

I agree with others that the decision to stay in this relationship is out of your hands. However, at some point he needs to figure out his feelings and let you know if there is a chance for reconciliation so you can move on. It's been a week, you say? With no contact whatsoever? It sounds like a break-up to me, and I think it would be OK for you to ask him straight up if you are even in a relationship anymore.
posted by dumdidumdum at 5:18 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's telling that, nowhere in the question, do you say you'll never drink again.
posted by Unified Theory at 5:23 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this? I plan to go to therapy about my problems and I believe I WILL get better.

To get better, you first have to acknowledge that you have a problem. Not just that he has a problem with it. So get better. Not for him or the relationship or anything else other than it's healthier for you to

But I feel this approach he's taking is counter-productive, it won't help with our relationship at all. What does he mean when he says "rethinking the relationship" anyway? Shouldn't it be clear-cut if he wants to be with me or not??

What does he know about you? He likely believes you to be either a problem drinker or an alcoholic. Either way, it has caused grief for him. So why should he know if he wants to be with you? You admit that you're a different person when you drink and this has caused problems for you. Why should he be sure?

It just really seems that you are blaming everything else but your drinking problem for this. You drank on an empty stomach. You have a peanut allergy. But you know what being drunk does to you and yet you still do it. Why? You clearly do not have a healthy relationship to alcohol and it's eclipsed your relationship with your boyfriend.

Even if he does breakup with you, you should still work on you...FOR YOU. You're worth it. You can put yourself in a better, healthier position in life. Go to AA today. There's a meeting somewhere. Start the journey NOW.
posted by inturnaround at 5:31 AM on August 26, 2013


But I AM working on it

No... you're not? You're working on it in your mind. You actually haven't done anything yet. Go take some actions. Leave your boyfriend alone for a while. Go try some things. Right now your mind is scheming about how to "get him back." That's not quite it, though I understand. Instead, it's time to scheme about your self-improvement. Maybe you want to be who you are! That's great. It's just not for him, that's all.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:34 AM on August 26, 2013 [17 favorites]


As an American your behavior screams alcoholic to me. Your boyfriend has decided that he doesn't want to be with someone who drinks as you drink. It's not you, it's your drinking.

You may have reached a crux in your relationship. He would like to be with someone who has good judgement, someone who will go to a work function with him and who can decide not to be even a little tipsy, let alone 'well tipsy'. You're not that person. He would like to be with someone who takes accountability for her behavior, instead of blaming her drunkeness on the lack of food, you are not that person. He would like to be with someone who recognizes that the world doesn't revolve around her, that other people have issues and needs and that sometimes, going home to sleep is a better choice than continuing to get completely shit-faced.

So in case you didn't get it, you have a drinking problem. You may be a binge drinker, or a straight up alcoholic, but either way, your boyfriend, as much as he loves you, doesn't want to date your issues.

There are tons of people out there who don't let alcohol ruin their relationships. You're not one of those people right now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:08 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I speak from personal experience when I say that the behavior you describe, the "mean drunk" phenomenon, is absolutely horrible, and the fact that the person is sorry once they're sober again doesn't make it better at all. In your question I see very little of you taking responsibility for this situation; I'm really troubled by the fact that your boyfriend had already encouraged you to seek help for your "problem," and then you say "But there are times when I let loose and got into fights, either with my boyfriend or other people." That seems absolutely like the behavior of someone who should NEVER EVER drink.

I'm in my forties and definitely enjoy alcohol, drinking something most days. Guess how many times I've gotten in a fight or argument with someone while drunk? Zero. Seriously.

It really seems like you can't drink and shouldn't drink and until you realize that, you're barking up the wrong tree.
posted by Unified Theory at 6:13 AM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'll kindly suggest that the relationship is over. I am sorry. Stop focusing on this man - he's a distraction.

You need to accept that your drinking caused this break up.

Take responsibility for your actions and choices. You didn't eat. You know you have an allergy. You did not take steps to make sure you were fed. You drank anyway, knowing you're a mean drunk. That's that, really.

Relationships end, so this break up is not that dire in the bigger picture.

At the very least, you should go to therapy to work on your relationship with yourself.

And quit drinking for a while, too.

Focus on yourself and the next relationship. Focus on improving and growing up.

None of this is your (ex) boyfriend's responsibility, it's yours.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 6:15 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't know why, but when I'm drunk I get angry and emotional very easily.

Because there's stuff you don't want to or can't address when you're sober, so it leaks out when you're drunk. Alcohol "gives" you permissions to to express whatever you feel like you can't express without it.

You may or may not be an alcoholic, but alcohol does seem to cause you problems. Make an effort to address those. That effort may or may not cause your boyfriend to not want to break up, but even if he does want to break up, continuing to ignore the problems will not improve your life. Don't do it to get him back*, but to make your life better.

* Because even if you start therapy and so on right this second, he still gets to decide he doesn't want to be in this relationship. You doing everything "right" should not be contingent on being with him - he's an adult, he gets to decide to stay or not stay for pretty much whatever reason.
posted by rtha at 6:16 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


So here's the thing about getting too sidetracked about whether you're an alcoholic, or whether you have a drinking problem.

The thing is, even if you have never in your life had a drinking problem - right now, as of this very moment, you have a drinking problem. Your drinking has caused you to come perilously close to losing, and perhaps to actually lose, a relationship you did not want to lose. That's a problem.

And I'm sorry you're hurt and frantic like this. I have been in your boyfriend's shoes and I have a world of sympathy for him, but I do also see that you are hurting, you did not intentionally set out to screw up your boyfriend's work shindig or be mean to him or pick a fight, and if you are someone with a complicated relationship with alcohol it might not be as easy to "oh, just stop drinking!" as people including me are prone to suggest.

From his perspective, I can promise you it is not clear-cut. It is incredibly muddled, and incredibly painful, to be with someone you love and want to have a life with - except that you don't love or want anything to do with the person they become when they drink. It is fair for him to ask for some space to think about this. You and he both probably should have set some limit on when you would talk next, because it's not fair for him to leave you spinning waiting for some indefinite time when he'll be ready to talk to you again.

I think at some point in the not too distant future it would be fair to check in, once, to ask him to clarify if you are still together and to set some point soon when you can talk again. Maybe after a full week? Maybe after two weeks? But not today, not while you're spinning like this. He's asked you for space; give it to him. I think you're right that you risk pushing him away otherwise.

The best thing you can do right now is actively take steps to deal with your part of this. Get yourself a therapist's appointment. Throw out any booze you've got in the house. AA is not for everyone so I'm not going to say "throw yourself wholeheartedly into AA" - but sure, check out a meeting. Toy with the idea of taking a few weeks off drinking to see how it feels. If you think you could do that, tell a couple of trusted friends that you're going to lay off drinking for a while, and you'd love to schedule some fun non-boozy activities with them.
posted by Stacey at 6:30 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


But I feel this approach he's taking is counter-productive, it won't help with our relationship at all. What does he mean when he says "rethinking the relationship" anyway? Shouldn't it be clear-cut if he wants to be with me or not??

No, it's probably a very tough call. The most productive thing you can do is respect his space and give him time so that he can have some time to think it through. Be serious and briefly acknowledge that you have a problem, and you will give him his space.
posted by ignignokt at 6:36 AM on August 26, 2013


Your boyfriend hates how you are when you're drunk. He hates you when you're drunk. Your solution to this relationship problem has been to continue to get drunk, albeit less frequently. You chose to get drunk at this work event, which embarrassed your boyfriend a great deal.

If I were him, it might be over already. But for sure, if I were him, it would be over if you did not quit drinking -- now, and entirely.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:38 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


If this were only about you and your boyfriend, I'd think maybe you're just a bad match and you should seek out someone who enjoys a similar lifestyle. But the fact that this is a recurring problem for you and has caused "many rifts with various people," and you just never cared about until it destroyed your relationship with your boyfriend, makes it clear that the problem is with your drinking and not just with your relationship.

I am afraid he will come to the conclusion that this relationship isn't worth saving if left to himself. But I'm also afraid that if I keep contacting him before he's ready he'll just withdraw further away.

I think you should proceed as if these things are both the case, and focus on yourself. So what happens if the relationship is really over? Would you just continue treating alcohol the way you always have, allowing it to turn you into someone people don't want to be around? Or would you actually work to make that change so it stops having a negative impact on your life, even if that means giving up alcohol completely?
posted by wondermouse at 6:48 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some people are great people but terrible drunks, I think it is genetic. I had a very kind sweet mild-mannered friend in college who would try to punch strangers when drunk so he decided to not drink. I have also known more people like this, violent or embarrassing drunks even after a relatively small amount of alcohol.

You might be a bad drunk to some degree, and have to be far more careful than others when drinking, even when just being tipsy. It sucks, especially when people around you can have a few glasses with almost no effect, but might be necessary if you want to keep them feeling comfortable. You could also be an alcoholic which is very bad in combination with this.
posted by meepmeow at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2013


If your drinking has caused rifts with people you care about, and you're still drinking -- you're an alcoholic. "Slowing down" your drinking isn't going to help. You have to stop.

Alcoholics think they're fine, when in fact they're unpredictable assholes 100% of the time. The only way to stop being an unpredictable asshole is to stop drinking, period.

You need to decide what you like better: having relationships, or having a drink. Alcoholics don't get to have both.

I can guarantee you as someone who's been in family and romantic relationships with alcoholics, he absolutely thinks you prefer alcohol to him. And he absolutely prefers you sober to you drunk. Whatever "loved up" feelings you're having about him even a year in, he does not have those about you when you're drinking. He has the exact opposite of those feelings about you when you're drinking. Everything he felt about you that made him want to be in a relationship with you is impossible for him to feel when you're drinking.

If you want him, stop drinking. It may be too late with him, but if you want there to ever be anybody after him, please see all of the above.
posted by kythuen at 7:30 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not comfortable diagnosing you as an alcoholic, or ruling it out, based on the information you've given us. It's possible to be a lousy drunk without actually having a drinking problem. But it's clear that you behaved disrespectfully when you drank at this event, and it's apparent that you have a pattern of doing this. And if it's cost you relationships before, it's certainly a problem of some sort.

So, first, of course, is to stop drinking. Go to your doctor or a therapist or AA. Don't just feel sorry and resolve to do better, take action now. Remorse doesn't do anything on its own; you need to act on it.

Second, alcohol often amplifies feelings that we carry around all the time but normally keep in check. If there's something that keeps coming up when you drink - you pick fights, you get clingy, you decide to act recklessly because fuck it - that probably didn't appear out of nowhere. Therapy can help with that, too.

It makes perfect sense that your boyfriend needs to "rethink the relationship" instead of making an immediate decision. Whether he considers your behavior a serious-but-surmountable problem or a complete dealbreaker, it's an emotional decision for him and you need to give him time and space. But you shouldn't dwell on whatever he's thinking; it's not under your control. Only you are under your control. Save yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:37 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of people, especially in their 20s, go through a problem period with alcohol that is not the same as being an alcoholic but is legitimately a problem with alcohol (and for other people, it's a problem with video games or a problem with shopping or a problem with food) and it is necessary to take a step back for a while - like six months or a year - to get some perspective. You should consider doing that while you pursue therapy, to help keep your head clear.

As an auxiliary move, you need to focus on controlling yourself and stop trying to control your boyfriend. He's allowed to think what he wants and do what he wants and make decisions about his own life. Trying to manipulate him just so you don't have to be alone with yourself is bad. And sad.

It's probably over - "I need some time" is mostly code for "I need some time to figure out how to end this". Your last best hope is to start working really really hard on yourself, because you still benefit even if the relationship doesn't make it. Put away the alcohol, find a good therapist, start journaling privately, sort yourself out.

The damage is already done in this relationship; also, you're both really young and this is unlikely to be your last relationship, statistically, on top of the fact that you maybe don't need to be with anybody right now. It's very difficult to do hard work on yourself with someone else's anxieties and expectations hanging over you.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:47 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


If your boyfriend posted a question here about what to do about you, we'd tell him to dump you unless you stopped drinking immediately.

So if you want him back, stop drinking. You have already had your last drink. You will never have another drink again.

If you can't accept that, then you've already lost him. He deserves better.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:15 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this?
Look, I'm not going to internet-diagnose you as having a problem, but it's been a week and you haven't done anything that suggests that you actually are serious about working on your drinking problem. This isn't the first time you've had conflicts over your drinking, either. He's already encouraged you to seek help before and you still didn't do it. It would not be possible for ME to take you seriously as this point. You don't even sound like you are really taking responsibility for your actions.

Your post is 100% about saving the relationship. At this point, you need to save yourself from yourself.
posted by sm1tten at 8:15 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know why, but when I'm drunk I get angry and emotional very easily. It has been that way since I started drinking and has caused many rifts with various people. But I've never taken it seriously until I started dating my boyfriend who encouraged me to seek help. I have since then drank considerably less.

Until this networking event of your boyfriend's client, when you drank considerably more. If he's already encouraged you to seek help, and this is still happening, he might very well be done.

While you wait to hear from him, if you hear from him (and no, you shouldn't be contacting him), actually take steps to stop drinking. don't "plan to go to therapy"; go to therapy. Go to AA to see if it will help. Take this as your rock bottom moment so you don't have to go any lower.
posted by RainyJay at 8:17 AM on August 26, 2013


Maybe it's because I come from Australia where the drinking culture is, ahem, robust; but based on the info you've given it seems to me like you have a problem with alcohol that may or may not justify the label "alcoholic." Regardless, there's a pattern here that's affecting your relationships and that is reason to change.

Booze has a way of magnifying emotions and dissolving the restraints that usually keep them under check. So if you're finding that you're becoming an angry, obnoxious drunk, therapy is a great idea to explore those issues and lean how to communicate your needs and concerns in a calm way when you're sober rather than letting it all out when you're drunk. It's also good starting point for reflecting on some of your beliefs around drinking and drinking behaviour (i.e. "I need to drink to have a good time" "I drink to help me relax" "My Partner should want to come and party with me" etc and whether those are useful to you.

Finally, check out the movement "Hello Sunday Morning" and the book "High Sobriety" by Jill Stark which both look at reassessing your relationship with alcohol in a culture whe drinking is the norm.

Best of luck!
posted by rockpaperdynamite at 8:30 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think a lot of people, especially in their 20s, go through a problem period with alcohol that is not the same as being an alcoholic but is legitimately a problem with alcohol (and for other people, it's a problem with video games or a problem with shopping or a problem with food) and it is necessary to take a step back for a while - like six months or a year - to get some perspective. You should consider doing that while you pursue therapy, to help keep your head clear.

I agree 100%. I was working on one hell of a drinking problem by my mid-to-late 20s, but I wasn't an alcoholic; I was a problem drinker because I didn't know how to regulate my emotions and because I didn't have a sense of there being any other purpose to drinking other than to get obliterated, and the two of those conditions together is a terrible combination. So I took a break from drinking for several months, got into therapy, and began to see that as I had a different relationship with myself I could have a different relationship with drinking. (I'm now a social drinker with no problems with alcohol.)

Now, that may or may not be the case for you; it may be that you are someone who just can't drink. But I don't think you have to decide you're actually an alcoholic; however, I do think you need to own your drinking problem, STOP DRINKING, and start working on yourself. This relationship may or may not survive (and a lot of that it out of your control), but you can work on saving the one thing that's within your control: you.

Good luck.
posted by scody at 8:51 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thank you all for your kind and very honest advice. I realise that I have a bigger problem to tackle than just my boyfriend leaving me.

I do plan to stop drinking till I'm sorted out. I blocked my calendar for my first AA meeting this Wednesday after work. I'm also currently seeking a therapist in my city to help me work this out. As some have indicated, I may have underlying issues that bring out ugly drunk me and I want to get to the bottom of that.

As for my boyfriend, I am still holding onto hope that we'll get back together. As much as I long to hear from him, I am going to give him the time and space that he requested. I honestly don't know how to keep myself together till he contacts me again, but I guess I have no other options.

Once again, I can't thank all of you enough for your thoughtful responses! :)
posted by milque at 9:07 AM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I agree with Lyn Never as well. I think lots of people in their 20s develop a problem with alcohol but fail to address it because they think the only option is to go to AA and never drink again.

I'm in my late 20s too - earlier this year I realized that I was consistently picking fights (sometimes nasty ones) with my boyfriend when I was drunk. These were really starting to affect our relationship in a negative way, and it scared me. I didn't drink at all for a few weeks, but more importantly just became more aware when I was drinking. I realized a few things:

1) I couldn't drink nearly as much as I thought I could. I started really slowing down and sticking to beer over wine or liquor - I realized I was feeling a nice buzz after two drinks, not the 4-5 I thought I needed before.

2) Drinking when you are angry/sad/tired/emotional is always a bad idea. If there is some tension bubbling below the surface, don't drink until you've sorted it out. Drinking will not take the edge off for you.

3) Once I get drunk, I think I can drink more and more and more. Slowly I've trained myself to recognize when I get drunk and then STOP DRINKING!

I agree the immediate step should be to cut the drinking all together - and maybe AA is the right choice for you. But it's not the only option for some people. Good luck either way!
posted by Bokonon11 at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know why, but when I'm drunk I get angry and emotional very easily. It has been that way since I started drinking and has caused many rifts with various people. But I've never taken it seriously until I started dating my boyfriend who encouraged me to seek help. I have since then drank considerably less. But there are times when I let loose and got into fights, either with my boyfriend or other people.
This is alcoholic behavior. Your drinking is affecting your life and your relationships. People have a lot of ideas about alcoholism. My definition would be - if your drinking causes problems, or if you are unable to control your drinking, or your behavior while drinking, alcohol is a problem. Some people need to completely stop drinking. Some people are able to reduce and manage alcohol. AA is anonymous, and, in fact, you may be very surprised by who you meet there. You can go and take what help it offers.

There are a number of alcohol self-assessments on the web. It's not just about passing or failing the test - it's about honestly assessing your use of alcohol, and deciding what to do about it. It's good to have the opportunity to do this while you're young. Alcohol is very powerful, and can ruin lives, or can be a pleasant part of life.
posted by theora55 at 10:29 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know why, but when I'm drunk I get angry and emotional very easily. It has been that way since I started drinking and has caused many rifts with various people. But I've never taken it seriously until I started dating my boyfriend who encouraged me to seek help. I have since then drank considerably less.

Your boyfriend saying "seek help" means "I need you to STOP drinking, completely."

You didn't. You kept drinking. It was pretty clear what could have saved the relationship even prior to this point. If I were him, I would have ended it when you didn't stop drinking.

I do plan to stop drinking till I'm sorted out.

I'm sorry, but this is an indication that you don't understand the impact of your drinking and that you don't understand what your boyfriend wants, or what others want who you have already pushed away with drinking, or whats best for you as a person.

You need to stop totally and completely, forever. You have a problem with your emotions, that affects people when you drink. How in the world would you be "sorted out" enough to not become that person when you drink later? Why would you do the work to quit drinking then start again?

Let's do a hypothetical situation:
-You stop drinking, and get "sorted out" whatever that means to you.
-Boyfriend comes back! Hooray! You say "See, I stopped drinking!"
-You think you are "sorted out" so you start drinking again.
-Boyfriend doesn't like this. He leaves you.

Don't you see how "stoping until I'm sorted out" sounds like "lying and changing my behavior until I can convince him (or another person) to be in a relationship with me, then I can start drinking again" ?

It also sounds from that statement that you can't imaging a life without alcohol.

I honestly think this relationship is already over. You need to get help for you, and for others in your life, besides your boyfriend. I am also concerned that you didn't stop or think you had an issue as others in your life left because of your drinking. I am concerned that it took until your boyfriend left for you to think you need help. I am extra concerned that you don't plan to stop drinking forever. Please take advantage of the help linked above. I hope you become a master of the phrase, "No thanks! I already have a drink!" and that drink is a soda or water.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


So how can I make him see that I'm serious about this? ... I will do whatever it takes to save us

Quit drinking. Not just "until you sort it out" -- do you think your boyfriend is going to be impressed that you are planning to start drinking again if you get back together?

If you value your boyfriend more than you value having a drink, prove it to him.
posted by yohko at 1:31 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't you see how "stoping until I'm sorted out" sounds like "lying and changing my behavior until I can convince him (or another person) to be in a relationship with me, then I can start drinking again" ?

Quit drinking. Not just "until you sort it out"

I would caution against "just" stopping drinking. You may be using alcohol as a crutch to cover up something Bad - there's no reason to think you won't find something else to cover it. As others have indicated above, "stopping until I'm sorted out" could actually mean "stopping until I've uncovered and addressed my underlying psychological issues."

Maybe you're an alcoholic. Or maybe [your specific life circumstances] made you feel [powerless/unable to express emotions/other really bad thing] and you deal with it by drinking, and then the bad stuff comes out.

Either way, I think the AA/therapy combo, which you say you will do, is the way to go.

And start loving yourself, even if you think you already do - especially your flaws.
posted by 3FLryan at 1:40 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


You cannot save relationships when you are incapable of saving yourself.

You certainly can't save an intimate relationship by asking strangers for strategies. You might be able to do it once or even twice, but you can't sustain that over a longer period of time.

The best thing that you can do right now, hard as it may be, is actually to not try to save the relationship. Instead think hard about what you are doing to yourself and others, and why. You don't "let loose"; you actually lose it! It seems that there is much between you two regarding the drinking that you have left out as irrelevant, but it is ultimately relevant to where your life is going. And this relationship- where ever it goes- is a good indicator of where your life is going thanks to drinking.
posted by xm at 11:52 AM on August 28, 2013


I don't know if you're an alcoholic or not, but I hope you won't get distracted by the idea that this is just a British cultural norm.

Number one, whole cultures can have unhealthy norms. That's very unfortunate when the effects of an unhealthy norm just happen to land on you, but it doesn't make the situation any healthier.

Number two, your BF's complaint is that you embarrassed him - that is, broke cultural norms, even British ones {:-0 We can't negate his complaint by saying that he's being uptight and just has a stick up his ass, because as you point out, you've lost other relationships because of your drinking.

The whole situation must have been very very hard for him. He has a heavy work schedule, his father gets seriously injured and he has to care for his father while holding down this heavy work schedule, and then according to him, his GF embarrasses him in front of his client.

Heavy drinkers often experience something called "euphoric recall" - remembering things through rose-tinted spectacles. Most likely the incident was much worse than you describe, and what you describe is pretty bad. Caring responsibilities tend to increase financial pressure on the breadwinner (even with the NHS, it's expensive in ways you can't anticipate until you experience it), so he must have had to be very mindful of keeping up a good impression at work while simultaneously taking care of his father, who is a person in this world that's supposed to take care of him. That kind of role reversal is distressing and fear-inducing because you realize how soon you will be alone and you wonder how you will find sufficient resources to do right by your family.

After all that, the last thing he needed was for you to undermine him in front of his client. In a literal sense, you showed yourself to be a liability to him.

Basically what chaiminda said. You can't do stuff like this and expect to still have a BF.

You say you're going to AA and a therapist. Keep going.

You're doing it to get him back, huh? If you can't have him back as a result of this, it's not worth it? Wrong, you have so much left to lose.

Keep going to AA, or you are going to spend the rest of your life watching everything you want go away, and knowing that you can never get it back. Is this where you want to live? Do you want to experience this pain again and again, forever? Then go to AA.
posted by tel3path at 2:46 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also,

"Shouldn't it be clear-cut if he wants to be with me or not??"

One of the things he's almost certainly thinking is "Shouldn't it be clear-cut if she wants to be with me or keep drinking?"
posted by tel3path at 3:15 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


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