Auntie SparkNotes: My Stoner Boyfriend Messed With My Cat
Hello Auntie Sparknotes:
I think you'll find this problem relatively original (although douchebag boyfriends aren't too terribly new). I am a freshman, and my boyfriend is a sophomore. One day, he came over to my house. I think he had been smoking pot, which annoys me, mostly because he knows I don't like it when he does it, especially when he comes to my house high. After he got there, I left for about 5 minutes to go to the bathroom, and I came back to hear my cat screaming. She was on top of the water cooler (which is thin and tall, maybe around 5'9) and my boyfriend had put her there. My cat is no spring chicken, and if she had tried to jump off she would have gotten hurt. I asked my boyfriend what the f*** he was doing, and he started mumbling about how much cats like heights? It may sound like I am being over sensitive, but that is exactly how my dad acted when I was 13, and now he's in rehab.
My boyfriend is kind of a bad boy, and I do like him, but I like my cat more. I am not the anti-drug police, all that I have asked is that he doesn't be high around me. Please tell me if I am being unreasonable, or if there is anything I can do change my own behavior. I know that I cannot change the behavior of my boyfriend.
Let's start by separating out your problems into two separate categories: on one side, we'll have Unforgivable Offenses Against Catkind, and on the other, we'll have the part where your boyfriend was maybe, possibly stoned at the time that he did it. And for now, we're going to keep ourselves limited strictly to category number one. Because while I understand the impulse to assume that these two things are related, and particularly in light of your family's history with drug use and abuse, the truth is that human beings have never needed drugs in order to act like idiots… and that's particularly true when the brain of the human being in question a) lacks a fully-formed frontal lobe and b) is being continually basted in a bath of crazy-making hormones.
In other words: sure, your boyfriend might have put your cat on the water cooler because he was stoned. But it's also equally likely that he was acting under the influence of the same magical, mystical biological forces that lead guys his age to eat cheeseburgers by the sackful, gleefully set their farts on fire, jump off of cliffs into pools of dubious depth, and draw penis doodles on the walls of every public bathroom stall ever, and to do it all without the influence of any illicit substances.
And more importantly, it's not like it makes any difference in this case. I mean, whether or not he was high, it's your boyfriend's callous treatment of a scared animal that made this incident upsetting, yes? That, and the way it echoed the shenanigans of a parent who'd disappointed you. (We'll get to that part in a second.)
And while you're right to realize that you can't control another person's behavior, you're wrong to dismiss as an option the possibility that he could control it himself—and that he very well might, if he knew how much it bothered you. That's the lovely thing about dating a fellow human with free will: you can say to your SO, "I don't like it when you torment my cat/come to my house high/play naked Wii in front of my grandmother," and then see how he handles it. And though there is a limit to the changes you can ask a person to make (i.e. "I want you to switch your hair color/college major/entire personality to suit my particular tastes")—and while it also does sometimes happen that the thing you're asking for, however reasonable, is a thing your SO is nevertheless incapable of giving—telling your boyfriend how much this business with your cat is still bothering you is the kind of straightforward communication that good relationships are made of.
So, start there. Explain your feelings about what happened, and see how your boyfriend responds. And by all means, be up-front with him about how disturbing it was to see him behaving that way in light of what you've already experienced with your dad—but at the same time, recognize that this part is very much your issue, and that it'll be up to you to cope with it. Keep in mind, too, that there's a big difference between an adult addict's destructive behavior and a teenage boy acting like... well, a teenage boy. (Lots of people do stupid things, take risks, and experiment with illicit substances when they're young. The vast majority of them turn out fine, and only a tiny minority end up in rehab.)
And finally, remember that whatever your boyfriend's flaws, he and your father are two different people who have nothing to do with each other… except, of course, for the common link you make between them. Which, if you want to do more than just address this problem on its face, might be an interesting place to start digging. Maybe it's just a coincidence that you've chosen a guy whose behavior mirrors your dad's—or maybe, like many kids in your situation, you've unwittingly adopted as a romantic blueprint the same dysfunctional-but-familiar dynamic you grew up with. But no matter what you discover, good for you for being willing to ask yourself these difficult questions, and to look inward for the answers. Those are the marks of a truly caring, mature, self-aware person, and you should be proud of yourself! Your boyfriend might be a dumbass, but your cat is lucky to have you.
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