I'm a very easy-going young adult type of a girl, just trying to make it in life. My parents were divorced when I was young and I haven't seen my dad since I was 6 years old, but he used to beat on my mother and I remember it. I live with my grandparents right now because I'm just barely graduating high school and my mom kicked me out of her house last month. Those facts probably sound weird, but I'm actually a very kind and loving and optimistic person-a hippy, as a matter of fact.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I recently fell in love with a 20-year-old guy and we've been seeing each other for a couple of months. We get along really great and he's truly the sweetest and most self-sacrificing guy I've ever known. As a matter of fact, I think that he cares about me more than he cares about himself. We love each other immensely and have a great friendship going on and know each other better than anyone else.
There's a big problem on my end of the relationship. I think that I might be sadistic or something and I can't stand myself for it. I get in these moods where I start saying some mean things to my boyfriend and then I start hitting him with hard objects for no good reason. I actually get some kind of a morbid high from inflicting physical pain on him and I hate that. My boyfriend hates it when I treat him bad like that. He always reacts by telling me to stop hurting him and telling me that he's going to leave if I keep doing that to him. And then he gets mad and walks away by himself because I just won't stop it. It'll take me about ten minutes before I am overwhelmed with guilt and shame and go to find him and sob and apologize all over him and promise never to do that to him again. It's happened about three times now and each time he has forgiven me.
I just don't know how to make myself stop hurting him. I don't want to hurt him anymore and I feel awful about it. It's also putting a strain on our relationship because he'll probably end up leaving me if I keep treating him so badly. What's wrong with me? How can I stop beating on my boyfriend?
Heather (18 year-old woman)
I want to begin by telling you that what you are experiencing is a serious psychological problem and that, if you can, it would be a good idea if you talked this over with a counselor in person. If you don't have access to a counselor in the community, try to find one at school. Many High Schools have counselors on staff (someone besides guidance counselors although they might be helpful also).
The good news is that you are not sadistic or at least I seriously doubt that you are. The bad news is that you are behaving as though you were and probably your boyfriend is wondering whether you are.
I'm guessing that you haven't experienced anything like this before. It must be a strange feeling for you to find yourself doing something so out of character. You have done a very good job of providing background material that helps me guess about what's going on.
When we find ourselves in a close relationship (like the one between you and your boyfriend), we experience a whole lot of feelings. Many of those feelings are there because of the present relationship. When those feelings come, however, they trigger a lot of other feelings that we've had in other similar relationships over the course of time.
In your case, the feelings you have for your boyfriend are triggering feelings that you have about your father (both the kinds of feelings that you had when you witnessed him abusing your mother and feelings you have about him abandoning you), feelings you have about your mother (perhaps seeing her as weak as she was being abused or because she failed to protect you from witnessing the abuse-which is abuse to you also), and perhaps feelings you had (or have) about yourself because you were not able to stop abuse or because of the difficulties you are having at school or because you have been thrown out of your mothers house.
I can't know what all of those feelings are (which is why I want you to talk to a counselor), but I'm pretty sure that is what is going on and that you are pouring out all of those feelings (which include rage and aggression) on your boyfriend.
The solution is to work through all of those old, bottled-up feelings so that they are resolved and laid to rest. When this has happened, you can return to your relationship with your boyfriend free of all that old stuff. Then you and he will be able to relate to each other as "just who you are" and your boyfriend will not trigger all those old feelings and you won't have to keep beating on him - in fact, you won't want to do so any longer.
Good Luck, especially in finding a counselor to talk to.
Jerry Button, L.M.H.C.