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Is rage a defense mechanism?
Apr 18, 2002

My forty-something HIV+ partner has a multi-year relationship with a young man of 19 that he claims is not sexual. I believe that buying things for him, taking him to expensive places, putting insurance policies in his name, are signs of emotional attachment that is inappropriate for a man in a heterosexual relationship. The expenditures amount to about 500 per month. He says I need to let him have his "child" because he'll never have a real family. When I suggest that his actions are not those of a mentor, but those of someone with an inappropriate emotional attachment, my partner becomes enraged. He has been known to scream for two hours without cease. He respects the time out rule and has never hit me. I am at the point of breaking off the relationship, but feel as though the young man should be warned that the man that selected him as a mentee has admitted having homoerotic fantasies and has had past attachments to men that resulted in physical violence from both parties, suicide in one case, alcoholism in another, and in one man's complete dependence in a slave-like relationship. Is it possible at 19 years old that my partner's latest young man is naive and not homosexual? Or is he likely to be homosexual or bisexual given that he accepts the gifts and attentions of a much older man? Is my partner's rage a sign that he is not honest with me about the nature of this relationship? He is clearly threatened by my discomfort with the relationship and my belief that if he truly wants to mentor this young man, he's reached the point where he needs to shake his hand and say you've got the skills to succeed in life, good luck and keep in touch.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I can not comment on the state of the 19 year old's thoughts or knowledge or that of your partner. I do hear that you are fed up, hurt angry and not getting anywhere when you try to talk about this with your partner. The main focus here needs to be you asking yourself why are you still with this person and what are you getting out of the current situation?

It is not your place to speak to the 19 year old as it is not you with whom he has a relationship. Keep the focus on yourself and your needs and comfortability with the situation you are currently in. If you feel that you need to leave then begin to make plans for how to do this.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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