My boyfriend is a wild animal

He's charming and lovable and completely out of control. Should I stick around?

Published September 7, 2006 11:00AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I have fallen in love with someone who is very bad news. I like him because he is kind -- he just phoned to say he was in a boutique buying me a suit for a conference I am due to attend next week. He could hardly speak. "What have you been smoking?" I said. "Nothing" he said.

On Saturday we went to see an Elvis impersonator. Great fun, lots of laughs and dancing, then went to a Mexican restaurant (donning sombreros). A couple of tequilas later and we were merry. A waitress bent over at the table next to us. "Slap her arse," I said (nonchalantly). He did. Four men launched on him and he was pulled out of the restaurant by his neck. They (her father and two brothers) threatened to break it.

We went to the cinema last night. He had had a few drinks (six pints). As we were walking to the cinema, some guy (black fella in hoodie on bike) rode so close to me that I jumped. "What the fuck are you playing at?" said my aggressive partner. This fella knocked him out with one blow. I pulled him off the pavement. "My lips have popped," he said. Then he burst into tears.

He was a heroin addict for a year (won't touch it now), is scared, was disowned by his (middle-class) family, is still a black sheep but back in the fold. He is also a heavy smoker/drinker. Did LSD regularly until recently -- was frightened of losing his mind.

The dilemma is, I hate him when he's drunk/stoned (and stupid) and love him the rest of the time -- 60/40 straight. What are the chances that he'll get over it? I mean, people grow up, don't they? But if he isn't going to change I have to get out now -- wouldn't you agree?

Crazy Guy's Girlfriend

Dear Girlfriend,

Well, I think he's not terribly worse than me or some of the people I've known in my life, but I'll tell you this: It's going to take a while for him to clear his head and be relationship-worthy. He may get over it but until he does you may have to break it off.

If you want to wait around, and take the risk, you can. But the most reasonable thing to do would be to back away and let him rehabilitate himself first. There's always a chance that he won't -- he's in a dangerous spot. It's not just who he is but what he's been allowed to do, the way he's been allowed to live.

And there's also the psychobabble thing of you enabling him. That is, the way he's going through life is working pretty well right now, all things considered. He's got you, hasn't he? So there may not be enough impetus for him to change right now. Meaning that if you stick with him, thinking he'll get better, he may not get better. But if you back away, of course the risk is that he'll get better with somebody else, or not get better with somebody else, or just not get better.

You can't go on with him the way he is. Life with him is exciting and unpredictable and he's charming and it's like a movie but it will wear you down and eventually you'll have to end it. So the best thing to do is to step away for a year or so while he clears his head. Observe what he does when let loose in his natural environment, and make your decision accordingly. p.s. Lots of acid, you say? My, that might take a while to shake.

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