Counseling/What to do?


Okay, well... I'm 20, and my boyfriend Paul is 22. Him and I have been together for a little over 3 years, and he lives with my mom and I. My mom agreed to let him move in last year around this time because his father is a drunk and would verbally abuse him constantly and smack him around when he was drunk. One time he came over my house with a nasty black eye and marks all over him and my mom offered to let him move in because she knows he's a good kid. Honestly, we would move out but him and I are both full time students and cannot afford it right now. He pays her rent, and he's really helpful around the house. He does all of the yard work for us, cleans up around the house and helps take care of our animals.

Him and I share a room and my mom knows that we have sex, and while she doesn't love it, she knows that we're safe about it. He is my first and only and him and I are probably going to get married someday. My mom and I have discussed this topic and she says that she knows she can't stop it from happening, but to just "be careful." Anyways, (sorry to be blunt) I'm sort of into light sub/dom kind of stuff; I like being dominated and pushed around a bit. We don't get too into it, though. No tying up anyone or anything. But Paul sent me an... Inappropriate text... At one point, and my phone screen turns on when I get a text. My phone was on the table and my mom saw. The text included him talking about his hand around my neck and he called me some really inappropriate things. My mom lost it, saying how demeaning that is to me, letting him do/say all that stuff. I told her that I encourage it and it's fine. Those names that he calls me stay in the bedroom. He is a sweetheart and he would never call me anything disrespectful unless it is in the bedroom and I'm okay with it. He's very respectful of me, but the bedroom is different than the rest of the time but she doesn't get it. She is very angry and I can't seem to calm her down about it. I don't want her saying anything to Paul because... Awkward... What do I do?

Hi Sara - you have two groups of problems: (1) relations in your home now, and (2) your bf has - and possibly you have - inherited psychological wounds from your ancestors.

I suspect the first problem is that your Mom has lost respect for, and trust in, Paul - regardless if he's nice and helpful. His treating you disrespectfully is an insult to her, even if you "like it." I also suspect that your "liking" private verbal disrespect makes her feel like a failure as a Mom - specially if she's unmarried or divorced. No matter what you say, every time she see's Paul now will cause strong feelings in her - and put you in the middle of both of them.

Rebuilding lost trust and respect takes a long time, and a lot of honest conversation among all of you - specially if your Mom inherited psychological wounds from her ancestors.

I believe your Mom needs to tell Paul what she feels and needs for her own self respect. If you try to block that, I believe it will raise tensions among the three of you.

I encourage you to take a long-range view of your life, and set your priorities like this: [1] your wholistic [mental + physical + spiritual] health;, including your self respect [2] your education; and then [3] your relations with your Mom and Paul, in that order.

Overall, I encourage all three of you to study and discuss this online "lesson." It's about each of you and your all your respective parents:

If you have questions about any of these, Sara, please ask. - Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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