I am in my late twenties have been in a relationship with a man of similar age for almost four years. I have a daughter from a previous relationship, who has never met her biological father. This man I am/was with has raised her as his own since she was 4. I was a very independent woman, and never felt like I needed anyone other than my daughter. I have done quite well for myself since she was born and thankfully never needed help from anyone, something I truly pride myself on. When this love came along, we had been friends since childhood and grew up together, but I was hesitant to begin a relationship for fear of it taking something away from my daughter. Once I did, however, it was the best thing for her and me. He was better than anyone could imagine and everyone I know — family, friends, coworkers, etc. — all loved him. I love his family so much and they treat my daughter and me like we are part of theirs. He believed I worked hard enough as a young single mom and his goal became making my life happy, full and easier. He did everything a woman would want and more and loved me more than I could imagine anyone is capable of loving. We discussed marriage, and even him adopting my daughter when we got married.
Then, truly out of nowhere, we were on an overnight trip just the two of us and got into a heated argument (drinking more than we normally do, which is usually just a glass of wine at dinner) and I said something vicious out of anger just to make him feel as mad as I did. It was like a switch went off at that point (one I had never seen even the slightest indication of). He snapped and threw me to the floor, and basically beat me up. I immediately left alone and have since received emails from him, not asking for forgiveness which he says he doesn’t deserve, but relaying his desperate regret and sorrow, wondering even if he had been slipped something, but has also said that even if he had, it is no excuse, and that he cannot understand where this came from.
Knowing this man my entire life, even knowing his prior girlfriends, I know what happened that night is not the man I know and love. I have not responded to him. He has started to go to therapy, anger management, anything he can and said he is going whether I join him or not and whether or not I consider being with him again (which he doesn’t expect). I am a strong woman and have been through some very tough times in my life. He was my salvation. I want to be mad, but I just cannot connect that the man who hurt me with the man who has loved me all these years. I can’t get over him. I still want to be with him. I know that everyone would probably say MOA, but I can’t. I have never felt such emotional pain like this before. My daughter misses him so much. I know that even though HE did this, he is not this horrible person. Please guide me. Is there any way under any circumstance this could be resolved? I don’t want my life without him in it. I have easily walked away from bad relationships before, but this is truly the love of my life. — Missing my Salvation
It sounds like what you’re looking for most of all is permission to try to resolve things with your boyfriend — the only man your daughter has ever known as a father-figure and the person you call your “salvation.” If that’s the case, and if it means anything coming from a stranger, you have permission, at least from me. As long as you can look your daughter in the eyes years from now and tell her that you felt in your heart you did what was best for her and you, I wouldn’t find it irresponsible or inappropriate if you explored your options here before walking away. But keep in mind, that that day in the future when you look her in the eyes could very well come after another episode like you experienced on your recent overnight trip. And what if your daughter is the victim then?
Mine will be a controversial answer, I’m sure, and I don’t give it lightly. A man beating up a woman is serious stuff. Really, really serious stuff. And under almost any other circumstance, I’d say “MOA!” without blinking, but that fact that you’ve known this man since you were children — you know his previous girlfriends, even — and you’ve never seen even a hint of this kind of behavior counts for something. The fact that you were both very angry that night and acting out-of-character means something. Indeed, I wonder if it is possible you could have been slipped something in your drinks. And the fact that this man is, without much expectation that you’ll take him back, going to therapy and anger management classes means something.
That doesn’t mean you should jump right back into a relationship with him. Not at all. Obviously, if you’re to have any future together at all, you’ll need plenty of space and time apart to process what has happened. In the meantime, you said you didn’t want your life without him in it, and I wonder if you’ve considered that one option is to keep him as a friend instead of a boyfriend. As friends, you can offer lots of support and love to one another, but at a safer distance than you would as love interests (and in public or around mutual friends and family). You can hear about his progress in therapy and anger management. And you can decide, without the crushing desperation of losing him from your life forever, whether having him as a romantic partner is the best thing for you and your daughter. Before you make that decision, though, I’d recommend therapy on your part, lots of soul-searching, and feedback from the people who love and know you best. The decision is ultimately yours, of course, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from multiple perspectives.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.