Is my relationship with my gay lover abusive?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on May 20th, 2009 - Last updated: May 28th, 2024
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I am in a gay relationship with someone I thought I knew. When we met he told me he was a cocaine addict at one time but had been clean for 8 years. After a year together money started disappearing and so did he. I’d wake in the middle of the night to find him and the rent gone. This has been an ongoing problem for four years. He has months of being clean followed by relapses. The relapses are sometimes major. He is currently using for the past 9 days. He appears in the middle of the night demanding money we don’t have. Telling me he’ll get hurt or killed if he can’t pay whatever debt he has run up. (He recently lost two teeth at the hands of a dealer.) As you know this life is a hell and I’m at the end of my rope. The added dimension of this problem is that he threatens to “OUT” me at work and to my parents when he’s in his time of “need.” My job would surely be lost and I have just landed a position that offers much promise to a straight guy. I’m afraid they’ll find a way to get rid of me if he does tell them the truth. My parents would be hurt but I’m sure they’d accept it with time. How can I deal with this and not just lock him out on the street. (He has secured an education since we’re together and has had a series of good jobs. Only to lose them when he messes up.)



One of the most frequent types of letters I receive is from people in abusive relationships. In these situations, people hang onto something at the cost of constant humiliation, degradation, and frustration. You know you’re in an abusive relationship when you see a pattern repeat itself, and you’ve had sufficient evidence over a period of time that the person or situation is not going to change. Yet, despite the harm and lack of enjoyment of the relationship, you take it as a given. One of the best indicators of an abusive relationship is when your lover attacks your well-being as a regular part of achieving their own.

Of course, from Love and Addiction on, I have explained that this is an addiction. When you keep doing something that’s harmful and basically unsatisfying, when you continue to be involved with someone who does not display love towards you, but is out to destroy your self-esteem and to abuse you, then you’re addicted.

Your situation seems to have two parts: (1) you’re in an abusive relationship, (2) part of your explanation for putting up with it is that you can’t afford to be outed. You know that (1) is wrong. And I think most gay advocates would tell you that you can’t put up with (2) either. My therapy recommendation is that you set about thinking about how you would approach (2) — changing jobs? locales? having a frank conversation with those in charge of your work on the off chance that they’ll be more open than you imagine?

Coming out is a personal decision which each person must weigh. This situation may be a hidden message from your real self to reveal it. It sounds like you already expect that your parents love and respect you and will accept you despite this “surprise.” But you can’t tolerate being blackmailed. Are you really going to go through life in imminent fear of being outed?

And, Jim, you must know you don’t sleep with people who threaten your livelihood. Finally, consider what else must you do to provide yourself with a viable existence.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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