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Why are we always arguing?

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In this reader-submitted letter, a woman asks for advice regarding whether she should rekindle her relationship with her former boyfriend. Her question is being answered by Tanay Hudson, a licensed psychotherapist. The letter has been edited for clarity and the name of the author has been changed for anonymity.

My 21-year-old ex-boyfriend and I were working our way up to getting back together. Sadly, things didn’t work out because of him not being faithful in the past and being abusive. He has done a lot for me so I gave him a second chance but the damage was already done. I ended things. However, he said he has changed and wants to work things out, but here comes the surprise. He has a baby by someone else, a married woman who’s about 27 years old.

He said he was drunk and it was a mistake but he had no idea the girl was pregnant because she thought the baby was by her husband. They did a DNA test and it’s for my ex’s. He said the husband is okay with it and I should be too. It’s a beautiful baby girl by the way, but I don’t think I can accept any of this. At one point, we were discussing having a family together [but] it’s too painful [now]. I’ve been crying ever since nonstop. Maybe I was in denial this whole time. What’s your take on this whole scenario? Do you think he’s bad for me and one day he will end up repeating the same things or he has changed and wants to do better?

— Mika


Pay attention to your feelings. They are valid. You highlighted that the “damage has already been done,” and “you don’t think you can accept any of this” and you’ve “been crying non-stop.” All of these statements are signals that this situation is heartbreaking for you and that you are struggling to accept it. You don’t have to accept any of it though. You are pushing yourself to do something that isn’t in your best interest. Instead of putting your own feelings first, it seems like you are prioritizing what will make him happy. What about you?

You also pointed out that your ex-boyfriend has an abusive history with you, which means if you return to the relationship you are making yourself vulnerable to being abused again. You didn’t say if it was verbal or physical but when he told you that the woman’s husband has accepted that she was unfaithful and had a child and you should be too, that is a sign that the likelihood of him being abusive is high. He cannot tell you how to feel. This is a sign that he has a tendency of being controlling and manipulating. Just because the husband has allegedly accepted what his wife did doesn’t mean that you will do the same or have to.  He could be being untruthful about the husband’s acceptance in order to manipulate you as well. If he was abusive in the past, he has some issues to address and needs to seek professional help.

He may love you but it seems like he doesn’t know how to show it in a healthy way. In a relationship you need trust and security, two things you are saying you no longer have with him. The damage that he has caused is basically irreparable from what you said, and though it will be hard, it’s time to move on. Seeking psychotherapy for yourself will be helpful as well. I recommend talking to a therapist not only to help you grieve the loss of this relationship (if you decide not to return) but also because you are considering returning to an abusive partner, which means there may be some of your own issues you may want to process as well.

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