You’ve seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it’s your turn to sit in her chair…

Dr. Sherry,

I have been living with my boyfriend for about two years now, but I feel like I am living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Most of the time my boyfriend is loving, helpful, kind, caring, affectionate and attentive toward me, and the kind of man any woman would want to be with. But, it seems that when we argue, he becomes very mean. During heated arguments he has overturned furniture, broken my laptops, broken my mobile phones, pushed me and threatened to hit me if I don’t respond to him in the manner that he wants. He will apologize afterward, but the damage is already done. He doesn’t allow me to interact with my friends very much either. The very few times that I have gotten together with my friends he has rung my phone over a dozen times in effort to reach me and to check up on me, and he always begins a heated discussion about my whereabouts with my friends when I get home. He has even gone to the extent of taking the light fuse out of my car, so that I had no lights at night to drive my car to meet with my friends. I am not unhappy in my relationship and I think my boyfriend’s behavior when he’s angry is a bit extreme. Dr. Sherry, am I dealing with a true Jekyll and Hyde (split personality)? Or am I dealing with a man who needs to learn how to manage and control his anger? Help!

Dear Sis,

You describe your boyfriend as ” Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” but I would call him abusive. You may not be aware of this, but you are definitely in an abusive relationship that is quite volatile and dangerous. You are experiencing the cycle of an abusive relationship – this includes periods of being treated really nice until an angry, abusive outburst occurs followed by an apology with the promise that it will not happen again and then the cycle repeats itself. Your boyfriend’s behaviors are likely to become more and more violent over time with each angry outburst. He has already destroyed your property, pushed you, and threatened to hit you. Another classic sign of an abusive relationship is that he is controlling and he isolates you from friends and loved ones. Your comment that your boyfriend “does not allow you to interact with your friends” is serious and frightening. I clearly understand that your boyfriend has a serious problem but that is his issue and he must decide to deal or not to deal with it. What I am having difficulty understanding is your issue. You stated that you are not unhappy in your relationship and you question if your boyfriend’s behavior is a “bit extreme.” Really!? My question is, what is going on with you that is allowing you to be ok with being abused? If the answer is that he is “not that way all the time or it is not really that bad,” you are fooling yourself. The time between things going well and an anger outburst in the abusive cycle will get shorter and shorter if you continue to accept his behavior. The problem with your boyfriend is not the real problem. The real problem is your acceptance of his problem. If you don’t like his behavior, your behavior must change. Otherwise, you will become a victim for life. I recommend that you seek individual therapy to process issues to help you understand yourself better and your role in an abusive relationship. – Dr. Sherry

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