I used to like my ex. How can I still support him and not let him ruin our friendship?

Hi Ellie,

When my boyfriend and I got together, I was really excited about meeting my now-husband. I had insecurities about my first relationship, and I was going to start building my confidence with my new boyfriend. Before we met, he spent half his time drinking, while I spent half my time working out and enjoying a well-balanced diet. He would drink with his coworkers and just be sick. He would host a party once a week and drink so much he would miss the party and our first date. The more he drank, the less in control he felt.

Fast forward to us going to a party together and when he started drinking, he acted like a completely different person. I noticed that he couldn’t seem to focus on me and I had to grab him to make sure he stayed with me. I told him that if he wasn’t satisfied when we were together that we weren’t meant to be together.

After our breakup, I realized that he’s not the same person he was when he drank. I think that part of the reason I wanted to get together was because he drank and missed so much time with us.

I would love to know your advice on how I can continue to support him and remain at ease. Can I trust him to not drink again? Would it be weird if he acted a little more drunk than normal? What are my options here?

-With Teeth

Dear With Teeth,

Stop for a second and think about how pathetic you sound and how disrespectful you sound. I can’t even imagine how difficult and draining it must be for you to have to state to someone exactly what you feel. Yes, sometimes friendships can be important to someone and people can take things so personally, but I have no idea how anyone could possibly carry that conflict for so long.

Going out with your ex in public and having a great time that night is also important. And I’m going to assume, since you tell me about the party, that you had fun. So if you want him to feel good, he should feel good.

If I were you, I would have experienced another breakup because it would have been really easy for me to keep that door open, wait until he was in a new relationship and then make the move. But you wouldn’t have realized until too late that he’s not who you thought he was, and I guarantee you would have taken the wrong approach. One of the reasons it was so exhausting for you to have to put yourself out there is because you kept telling yourself he was the man you wanted to spend the rest of your life with.

I understand that when people are missing out on life because they are drinking, sometimes you feel compelled to jump into a new relationship that isn’t healthy. But if you continued to date him on the off-chance that one day he’d want to change, you would eventually start to realize how much you were missing out on and the pressure he put on himself to be perfect.

I encourage you to support him, but I would also encourage you to have healthy and healthy boundaries around the issue of alcohol. There’s no reason to pretend that he’s someone else when he’s a completely different person than the one who said you were everything he wanted in a partner. You also have a lot more to offer him, personally and in life, than he does to you.

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Lisa Beyer is a licensed clinical social worker and clinical editor for PsychCentral.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaBeyer.

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