How do I deal with my alcoholic boyfriend with a dark past?

We're in an eight year relationship. My boyfriend drinks a lot. He experienced childhood trauma. I don't know how to deal with violent outbursts.

Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Recovery and Wellness Expertise

First, let me extend my compassion to both of you -- it sounds like you have a lot on your plates. Childhood trauma carries its negative effects into our adulthood and affects everyone who loves us. 

Your question is brief, so I'll just try to give general answers as best I can. From my experiences treating many people with your boyfriend's experiences, the short, healthy answer is that you can't fix the situation and maybe not even be able to help. He needs a professional. Period. 

What you can do, is take care of yourself. With his background, it is not likely that he will be able to help you or take care of you in a healthy way. Your task needs to prioritize your own safety and well-being. Trauma and substance abuse are the definition of being out of control, unable to set and manage appropriate boundaries, manage his own emotions and behaviors. So your boyfriend is unlikely to be able to change in the near-term, certainly not without professional help. You might also benefit from help and support, to understand your own role in your relationship and how you can make changes in your life. I am NOT blaming you for any aspect of your boyfriend's behavior, only acknowledging that there are two people in every relationship. If you have accepted your boyfriend's drinking and violent outbursts in the past (by staying in the relationship), that is likely to perpetuate his behavior. And there isn't any way to "handle violent outbursts." They shouldn't be handled at all, and if you have to be away from your boyfriend during his outbursts in order to be emotionally and physically safe, then that may be what you will have to do. 

We can never really change anyone else. The only person we can change is ourselves. Sometimes our behavior changes the odds of another person's behaviors, but it doesn't control it. I would recommend that you work with a professional to first, ensure your own safety above all. Then make decisions about what behavior you are willing to accept or be connected to, and which you want to separate from. Whatever your boyfriend does in his life, you will be happier if you manage your own feelings, set boundaries, etc. Let me say again that you also would benefit from some good insight and support as you continue your journey. 

Wishing you and your boyfriend healing and recovery. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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