Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My girlfriend gets hammered, her friends hate me, what should I do?

Dear HTT,

Girlfriend's friends are a problem.

When I first started dating my girlfriend a little over a year ago (we live together now), I met all of her friends and although a few of them were annoying, I took it in stride and decided they were along for the ride. Since then, I've helped them move, watched their houses and animals while they were out of town, hung out with them, basically accepted them as friends and put my heart and soul into that just as I would any friend.

When my girlfriend and I began to argue about alcohol (she drinks too much and has admitted that several times; she can never have just "a few" - always has to get hammered; she said several times she would change for the better but consistently failed at that after just a few days at most and we would argue again), she would seek the help of these friends as "second opinions". Of course, being her girlfriends and drinking buddies since long before I knew her, they supported her. They told her that I was "controlling", that I "didn't want her to have any fun", that I was "trying to take her away from her friends", etc etc the list goes on and on. It has degenerated into them flat-out declaring that I am an "asshole" and a "dick".

I have never done anything wrong to these friends - have only been genuine and treated them like my close friends as well. Now that they are picking me apart and beating me and us down, I tell her that this is too much and I no longer have any use for any of them. She says that I am the one with the alcohol problem (for not accepting her getting hammered frequently) and that I am alienating myself as far as these friends are concerned. I told her that they are the ones who screwed up.

Everything else is my fault. My girlfriend never apologizes for anything. When she is wrong and we argue, I apologize just so that we can move on; with the hopes that such forgiveness and understanding and work toward the greater good will be met with relief and she will work harder.

I know she loves me and she tells me that she does. She has a new house and new car (all in my name because she has no credit; I'm 5 years younger). I tell her I love her each night and each morning.

How do I fix this craziness of denial and friends?

Thank you for any advice.

Dear Anonymous,

I’m afraid that her friends are the least of your problems. When I boil your letter down to its core elements, this is what I see:

  • Your girlfriend “gets hammered” whenever she drinks
  • She has admitted she drinks too much, yet says you’re the one with the problem because you don’t accept her drinking
  • She counts on her drinking-buddy friends to enable her behavior
  • She thinks everything is your fault and never apologizes for anything
  • She has used your good credit to purchase a house and a car

These are red flags. Briskly waving flags. Giant ones, like the enormous American flag that flies over at least one car dealership in every town in this country. You ask how to fix this situation, but your girlfriend seems to have problems that you can’t fix, no matter how much patience, forgiveness, or understanding you muster.

Believe me. I know all too well the appeal of “helping” or fixing someone. Hello, I’ve got a crush on Gregory House of the television show “House.” If you watch the show, you know he’s a pill-popping, emotionally distant, ass who is also brilliant and handsome. I imagine his character as possessing a kernel of goodness that would blossom with the love of the right woman (aka me, if House were actually a real person).

To some of us, people who go off the rails have their own crazy allure, but we have to fight the tendency—and hubris—to think we can make them better. And in case you’re thinking, “easy for you to say…House is just a television character and I’m talking about a living, breathing person whom I happen to love,” rest assured that I’m not delusional; I know it’s only t.v. But I also briefly dated a man who was an alcoholic. He readily admitted as much and was working hard, albeit not very successfully, to stop drinking. He had more than a kernel of goodness, but a relationship with him would have been unhealthy if not impossible.

Your girlfriend might not be an alcoholic, but clearly her drinking is of concern to you. And that’s a problem. Also, I’m troubled for you about the possible ramifications of having put her house and car in your name.

I trust that you love her. I even trust that she loves you. But, cliché though this may be, love isn’t enough. I’m going to stop just short of suggesting you break up, because maybe your girlfriend is capable of change, although it doesn’t sound like she thinks she needs to. I do recommend disentangling yourself financially. And then spend time alone, someplace restful and quiet, and think about whether this relationship really makes you happy.

Good luck,