How Do I Deal With An Acoa?I don't know how this can be brief....
I'm struggling with how I should behave with my boyfriend. He is 48 (I am 35) and is an Adult Child of a brutally abusive and neglectful Alcoholic father. His father was a high powered lawyer in a big city, who was an extreme alcoholic. He was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive and left his mother for a flurry of girlfriends - he left his family destitute and ruined. My boyfriend's sister is a drug addict and has two children that are in and out of jail....she goes through periods of leaving threatening and/or manipulative voice mails looking for money or support. My bf has completely cut off all communication and will not have a relationship with his sister. His mother was wrecked as a result, she suffered deep depression and expected my bf to fill all of her emotional intimacy needs. Both of his parents have passed away....he walked away from his father while he was on his deathbed and basically told him to die in shame.
My bf and I have been together for over three years, the beginning of our relationship was incredible....we made time for each other, talked about really deep things and over the course of time have become best friends. I know this man loves me, I can feel it. That has been what keeps me hanging in there - even though the past year has been spent with no physical intimacy (beyond kissing, hand holding and cuddling). I find him getting his emotional needs met by his 8 year old son. Which is disturbing and beyond frustrating for me - and it's causing developmental issues with his son....he's 8 and cannot take a shower by himself, tie his shoes, make a sandwich, pick his clothes or perform any other seemingly normal activities. Up until about 9 months ago, he wasn't even wiping his own bottom after going to the bathroom. He also has a hard time making his own decisions or answering easy questions in school because he is so very insecure without his Dad. I try not to be critical, but I have to admit calling him on it on more than one occasion. This typically results in denial, misplaced blame and anger. So, I pick my battles.
My bf will go through horrific mood swings....one minute he's happy and laughing and enjoying himself.....the next minute he's having violent tantrums where he acts more like a 5 year old than he does a 48 year old. I tell him that I don't understand this and it seems to come out of the blue - but he tells me that when he reacts this way, it's usually because something has been brewing for some time, but he's chosen not to talk about it.....because of his trust issues. We lived together for over 2 years - recently, I accepted a position in another state. We discussed the decision for me to move at length and came to the decision for me to move together....with the understanding that in no more than two years, I would come home. We thought this made sense because we are definitely at different stages in our lives - I am still building my career and growth, while he is more focus on sustaining for the kids and retirement. WE made this decision together because we thought it would be the best thing for both of us in the long run. I left everything behind at our house and for the first 6 months, we were dedicated to seeing each other every 2-4 weeks and talking on the phone every night. Now, I can barely get him to answer an email without him telling me that he's lost and doesn't know what he's feeling anymore.
His self esteem has never been great, but recently it's in the toilet. He feels terrible about is inability to be intimate, but keeps telling me it's because he feels inadequate and doesn't know why I love him. I don't ever get turned off by his need for reassurance, and will reiterate ad nauseum all of the wonderful qualities he possesses that I love. It's never enough.
For a while, this arrangement has been ok - even in the times I have gotten extremely homesick and missed him, he's been able to bring me back to the reasons why WE made this decision....and points to the fact that 2 years is nothing in the grand scheme of a forever life together. But now, with the combination of feeling terrible about himself and my physical separation - he's gone dark.
We are both currently in therapy - him to deal with his issues and me to deal with the fall out. It's been healthy for both of us, but I'm hearing him say things like "I need to figure out who I am and what I want out of life"....or....."i'm not sure I can deal with or meet your expectations". I assure you that I am not needy and have a healthy view of what I need and expect (or so my therapist tells me). So, to hear him say this is crushing. My therapist tells me that I have to stay vigilant in my efforts to communicate, no matter how he tries to cut me off. She tells me that I need to be honest and try to keep the line of connection to him open - any holes in consistency will be like a coffin nail to him.
I love him entirely and am positive that I have the strength to work through all of this with him. His messages are wrought with pushing and pulling - if he feels me falling away, he cries and begs me not to go - if he feels me pushing, he tells me I'm backing him in a corner and he needs space - and I am at a loss as to what I need to do, how I need to behave and where to start to help our healing. I am doing my best to give him the space he says he needs to work through his issues, but this is contradictory to what my therapist is telling me to do.
I've examined the possibilities of him having a personality disorder like narcissism...but the more I read and research, the more my gut tells me that isn't accurate. When I found this group and read some of the other entries - it screams to me that this wonderful person is suffering greatly from ACOA.
I'd like the preamble here to state that I am NOT sitting at home constantly pining or worrying. I've established a nice group of friends in this new state, I take good care of myself - am confident and successful, and feel like the decision was a good one for my professional and personal growth. But, I do have to say that had I known the extreme challenge he faced with finally seeking help from a professional, I would not have left.
Can anyone out there help me with what I should / should not be doing?