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home : columns : dear harriette May 13, 2021

2/26/2021 8:09:00 AM
Boyfriend's past trauma affects his behavior

DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend comes from an abusive background. He has experienced a lot of terrible things, such as sexual, physical and mental abuse. I can tell he is still heavily affected by his childhood trauma because he can go from zero to 100 real quick. He is a very logical and sweet person, but sometimes those bursts of anger consume him. Although he is seeking some therapy, sometimes I am concerned whether that anger and aggression will ever become directed toward me. I do not think that he would ever hurt me, but I am also a realist and understand that anything can happen. Should I be more concerned about this? What are ways that I can help him? Do you think I should try to talk to him about seeking more therapy? -- Concerned

DEAR CONCERNED: I am sorry to hear that your boyfriend has had so much hardship in his life. It is good that he is seeking help. You may want to ask him if he would be willing to go to therapy with you as well. Explain that you care deeply for him and want to learn to be the best that you can be in a relationship with him. A couples therapist may be able to provide the two of you with tools that will help you manage disagreements, anger and aggression. If you have the courage to talk about your concerns in front of him with a professional, you may gain insight into how to best manage the situation and grow as a couple. Go for it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: After some irreconcilable differences with my business partner, we have decided to part ways. Our disagreement was a huge misunderstanding, but things spiraled out of control and ended in a very messy way. Regardless of what happened between us, I haven't spoken out about her publicly, but she's handling it in the complete opposite way.

Since our falling-out, my former business partner has sent countless emails to our colleagues, spreading lies about me. She has tried to interfere with my professional relationships as well as my personal ones. Everyone is suggesting that I take her to court for defamation of character, but I lack the time or resources. What would you suggest I do? -- Can't Sue

DEAR CAN'T SUE: You cannot afford to stay silent while your business partner actively works to destroy your reputation. Craft a statement to your colleagues and friends saying how unfortunate the demise of your professional partnership is. Rather than addressing each of her lies, reinforce the positive. Let them know what you are currently doing, and invite them to be in touch. You can make a general statement indicating that it is unfortunate that your business partner has chosen to air her unfounded ideas publicly, but you want to assure them that you are still in business and available to work with them.

You may also consider hiring an attorney briefly to send a cease and desist letter to your former business partner indicating that if she does not stop, you will sue. Often, the threat of a lawsuit can be enough to put out a fire like this. If not, you may have to invest money into the preservation of your reputation.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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