Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I am 26 years young and I have been dating my son’s father for about 3.5 years on and off due to infidelity and incarceration. I know it sounds bad, but he has had a rough, hardcore life and I’m very empathetic to his past. He will be 30 in a few days, and is currently incarcerated. Our son is 2 years old and loves his dad very much. He has 2 other siblings, 6 and 1 (yes 1, the infidelity times 1000). My mate has been with his other children’s mother prior to me for 13 years (really 6 because he was incarcerated half the time) since they were 13 or something (puppy love) they broke up and he found me and fell in love.
We have been through A LOT, however I can’t let him go just yet. This past Thanksgiving, I found out that he was adopted and his biological parents are his aunt and uncle. His uncle raped the aunt and his now mother, took him in. His mom told him he was adopted at age 9 and he went through a host of behavior issues, got a caseworker, and left home at the age of 13 to sell drugs and make a living.
The only time giving is bad, is when you are giving up.
He obtained a diploma, a CDL class A license, a certificate for HVAC, and goes to college for business. I do not know the inner story because he won’t let it out completely. It’s always bits and pieces of everything inside because of his street life. He wants to go to couples counseling and I agree, but I think he needs individual counseling too. My question to you is how and if, I can persuade him to go? And, do you have any free or low-income suggestions in the Philadelphia, PA area?
Also, we are making the couple’s vision board I saw on your site. He really is kind, smart, generous, thoughtful, social, sweet, protecting, loving, affectionate, strong, ambitious and family oriented. I love him and I see the qualities that make him a good man, but I also do not want to enable his behavior or mask the issues to become bigger life-altering ones, especially while raising a Brown boy. My Son’s Father Has Some Bad Boy Qualities: Should I Run or Stay and let him get the help he deserves so we can grow?
Please help. Thank You
Dear Ms. B,
I am glad that you contacted me for guidance. Your son’s father has been through a lot as you indicated and as a result he will probably be dealing with his past for a while. You are correct in your thinking as it relates to not enabling him by making excuses for him due to his past. Unfortunately, some people allow past childhood victimization to dictate who they are as adults. You should be empathic to his past, but definitely do not allow your empathy to turn solely into sympathy.
Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes so that you can try to understand things from their viewpoint. In contrast, sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow or pity for the hardships that another person encounters. Continue to try to understand him by demonstrating empathy, but do not allow sympathy to dominate your thinking.
The worst thing that you can do is to feel sorry for him and allow him to feel sorry for himself. I often remind people that victims never win. They never win because they usually spend more time focusing on what happened to them as opposed to focusing that energy on trying to move forward.
Your son’s father has taken steps to move forward by trying to better himself and you should continue to support him in his efforts. However, when it comes to his potential psychological demons do not try to address them alone. I agree with your thoughts about him needing individual counseling to work on himself, but do not rule out the power of couples’ therapy.
The therapist can help you better understand how to cope with and relate to him in counseling. Also, once your son’s father attends couples therapy with you the counselor will probably assess his individual needs and make recommendations. Use the couples’ counseling foundation to introduce him to the power of individual counseling.
In regards to your question, “Do You Run or Stay?”, I highly recommend that you stick it out, especially since he his willing to get professional help. Everyone needs a second chance, especially black men who are trying to do right. I am a victim of a troubled past and I turned out to be the first doctor in my family.
Use therapy to help you determine how long you should stick it out. Great qualities such as kind, smart, generous, thoughtful, social, sweet, protecting, loving, affectionate, strong, ambitious and family oriented do not resolve mental health issues such as Major Depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. A trained professional like myself can help you understand and determine how to move forward in your relationship.
Unfortunately, I do not know of free or low-income services in Philadelphia, PA. However you can Google Psychology Today and search for therapist in Philadelphia, PA. You should look for someone who works with low-income families and who specializes in Depression and PTSD. Also, please visit my website: www.drbuckingha.com and consider purchasing a copy of my book, “A Black Man’s Worth: Conqueror and Head of Household”. In my book I talk about my childhood struggles and what I did to overcome them. My book will definitely help you and your son’s father, especially in raising a “Brown Boy.”
Lastly, as you move forward on your journey toward finding answers please keep in mind three of my personal quotes listed below.
- “Resilient people find solutions in problems. In contrast, troubled people find problems in every solution.”
- “The only time giving is bad, is when you are giving up.”
- “Failure is not determined by your setbacks, but by your unwillingness to fight back.”
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to email@example.com
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.
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