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Dear John: How Will Boyfriend React To Her Diagnosis?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]

Dear John,

I have been with my boyfriend for a little over four years, and things are usually great...except on the rare occasions when we fight. I go completely off the deep end, crying hysterically, hitting myself and inanimate objects (though NEVER another person), and sometimes even having a full-blown panic attack. He is beyond patient with me, but everyone has their limits and I think he is getting close to his. I just recently found out that I have Borderline Personality Disorder, which would explain, well, just about everything. I haven't told this to my boyfriend yet. On the one hand, I feel like if I let him know what was behind my antics and we were able to go to therapy, either separately or together, and find ways for both of us to deal better with my emotional outbursts, we could have a relationship that is great 100% of the time instead of just the 90% of the time that I am not having an "episode". On the other hand, movies such as "Fatal Attraction" portray women who suffer from BPD in such an unflattering light, I am worried that the news might send him screaming for the hills! Is there some way to talk to him about this without scaring him, or should I suffer in silence and hope that I can get a handle on my sickness before hejust plain gets sick of ME?



Dear Anxious,

It sounds like you’ve suffered enough. So I definitely don’t think you should suffer more in silence.

You’re looking at this from the perspective of someone reluctant to share bad news, but I see it differently. I think there’s a lot of good news here that you can be proud of: You’re not blaming him for everything. You’re seeking help instead of making excuses. You want your relationship to succeed. You’re willing to own and work on the problems between the two of you. Your diagnosis aside, this all speaks very well of you. And furthermore, none of this is your fault.

Sometimes, when we love someone, we have to go out on an emotional limb. When they could react with anger or rejection, we have to give them a chance to react with love. (See the next letter for another example.) That’s where you are. I think you should share your diagnosis with your boyfriend and give him a chance to respond with the compassion and caring you deserve. Ideally, the two of you will attend counseling together to better understand and live with your condition. But if he won’t do that, you should continue going alone. I don’t say this lightly, but if he does run “screaming for the hills,” he probably would have ended up there anyway.


Dear John,

I am a college student. My best friend, a guy, is gay but he hasn’t come out to his parents yet. He plans to do that soon, but he is very apprehensive about it. His parents are very nice and loving, but they are also very old-fashioned and he doesn’t think they will take this news very well. Do you have any advice for how to break it to them or anything I can do to help? He is such a great guy and I hate to see him this nervous…and I also hate the thought of him feeling rejected by his family. What can I do? Thanks.


Worried Friend

Dear Worried Friend,

Sometimes we have to do things for which there is no shortcut or easy way out. Your friend is in one of these situations right now. He has to be true to himself and honest with his parents and hope for the best. And when he tells them, he should just be forthright and unapologetic. In situations like this, the hard part is just getting the news out, so I wouldn’t spend a lot of time working up to what he has to share. Just get it out there – “Mom and Dad, maybe you suspect this, maybe you don’t, but I’m gay.” The time for talking comes after he makes that statement. Everything that precedes it is just stalling.

I’m sure the thought of doing this fills him with anxiety, and that’s normal. But you say his parents are nice and loving, so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to hope that they love your friend more than they love their idea of how things should be – that they love their son how he truly is, not how they thought he was. Give them a chance to rise to this occasion.

What can you do? What you’re already doing: be supportive, let him know how much you care about him, and be there for him no matter how this turns out. He’s lucky to have a friend like you.


Dear John,

I have been dating a sweet guy for about two years now. We want to move in together in the expectation that we’ll get married, but he’s very allergic to cats.  Which means I will have to get rid of my cats. The thought of doing this breaks my heart. I’ve had them both for nearly ten years and they have been my faithful companions through some very difficult times. He doesn’t really understand how hard this is for me, and I have to say, he’s a little blasé about it. Not being a cat person (obviously), he doesn’t understand the bond I have with them. I have acted like I’m okay with it, but the truth is I’m really broken up inside. Is there any way out of this – any option I’m not seeing? I want us to be together, but I want my cats too! I hope this doesn’t sound silly. It has become something that is on my mind constantly. I would appreciate any advice you could give me.


Want Them All

Dear Want Them All,

I understand how you feel. When my son was born, my wife and I were confronted with the same painful situation because he turned out to be allergic to cats. Ours was more of a no-brainer since we had no choice but to get rid of our cats, but it was heart-wrenching just the same. So I get it.

The choice for you is clear – not the answer, but the choice. If you want this guy to move in, the cats have to go. So you have to ask yourself if this relationship is as serious as you think it is. Do you have any reservations at all? I think you should share your feelings with your boyfriend so he understands the sacrifice you will have to make and to ensure that he has no second thoughts about your future together. Hopefully, if he does, he will let you know before you take this drastic step.

If you do move in together, is there anyone who would be willing to adopt your cats? That way, you would know they’re well cared for and you might see them once in a while. That knowledge could provide you with a lot of comfort. There’s really no other solution, though, unless you postpone moving in together until your cats are no longer around. But putting your relationship’s progress on hold doesn’t seem like a great option, either, so you’re back to the same stark choice, and only you can make it. Relationships require sacrifice, and we can only hope the sacrifices are worth it.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]


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