Ask Dr. Tracy

The Nosebiter (a case study)

Here's a true story of "Crazy Love" which illustrates the importance of being able to "Spot The Crazies" and of "Qualifying Someone".

Helga, a tall, slim television anchorwoman with sharp features, intelligent green eyes and red hair, came to see me with an ugly cut on her nose. When I heard her story, I think I was more upset than she was.

"I've been telling my friends that my shower door broke and I got cut by a piece of flying glass," she said, "but the truth is Bob bit me."

"He bit you? On the nose?"

"Well, he was trying to get the ring, but I'd better start at the beginning.

"I met Bob at a car wash while I was waiting for my car to be done. He's tall, slim, really good looking and about six years younger than I am. I was flattered. We started to talk, and he asked me out to dinner.

"The first night he told me he had seen me on television and had always thought I was very attractive. As a matter of fact, he was a big fan. Usually, I'm not interested in men who want me because they've seen me on television, but Bob is different. He's deep. Committed. He served in the Peace Corps in Angola and works with underprivileged children in Watts.

"He runs and works out and has a great body.

"Anyway, he started calling me a lot, and we had these long talks on the phone. Our relationship became obsessive. I didn't think about anything but him. I bored all my friends talking about him all the time.

"We began to have dinner every night. He said he loved me. Then he gave me his grandmother's diamond ring and asked me to marry him. We moved in together.

"At first we were inseparable -- always in each other's arms. He wanted to hold me and have me next to him every second. I thought this was terrific, because my ex-husband never wanted to be that affectionate. My ex was very self- centered. He spent hours and hours at his computer and never gave me the kind of time or attention Bob did.

"Bob was pushing me to marry him, but I didn't want to rush into anything.

"I was enjoying the `being engaged' period too much. I went to lunch with my girlfriends and showed off my new diamond. Much bigger than the one my ex had given me. I felt really smug and couldn't wait to show off my new young lover to my ex and all my friends. Here I was a woman of thirty-five being adored by this handsome twenty-nine-year-old.

"Then he started to become more and more possessive, and angry and demanding. He'd expect me to take his shirts to the laundry and do all sorts of things for him.

"On New Year's Eve he'd been drinking more than usual, and he started asking when we were going to get married. We were sitting in a booth in a hotel dining room when it happened.

"I said I didn't want to rush into marriage, and he went into a rage. He reached over and tried to pull the ring off my finger. When he couldn't get it off, he grabbed me by the hair and bit my nose.

"I was so shocked I didn't know what to do. I ran out of the dining room with blood all over me and everyone staring. I went up to our room, put a towel and some ice on my nose and then got out of there before he showed up. I found an all-night emergency room to stitch me up and give me pain pills, and they also gave me a tetanus shot.

"Anyway, Bob's been calling me. He's been all apologetic, and he says he loves me and wants me back. The reason I'm seeing you is that I want to go back.

"Everyone says I'm nuts to want to. But I saw him the other day, and the passion's still there. I've never had anyone so in love with me. I'm drawn to him. I think about making love to him all the time.

"I don't think I can stay away from him. What do you think? What should I do?"

"I think he's crazy and you should absolutely stay away from him," I told her, "Sane men don't bite women."

"He's never bitten anyone else before. He's not a violent man. He says he's just so passionately in love with me that he can't help himself." Helga actually seemed a little pleased with the idea that a man was so driven with passion for her that he'd bite her nose off rather than lose her.

"Are you sure he hasn't left a whole slew of women behind with parts of their noses, ears, fingers missing?" I asked her. "Maybe there are women with bitten noses all through his past. Usually a man doesn't act violently just one time. It's almost always part of a learned behavior pattern he has with women.

"If you let him get away with this, you'll be doing a disservice to yourself and to every other women who comes into his life in the future. The reason he does it is because there are no repercussions. Have you thought of suing him or filing a police report?"

Helga looked stunned. How could I think of doing such a terrible thing to this man who was so sorry and who loved her so much? "Oh, I couldn't do that. I don't want to do that. I don't want to make him angrier. I'm just not sure I should go back to him."

Helga did go back to Bob, and continued coming to me for therapy. Soon it came out that Bob not only had a violent temper and was a heavy drinker to boot, but that he had borrowed quite a bit of money from Helga to finance his move into a bigger apartment so they could live together.

In spite of everything, Helga hung in. She thought she could reassure Bob enough to overcome his violence. He promised to stop drinking. He promised not to be possessive. But of course, overwhelmed by his passion for Helga, he got abusive. He called her names -- "always out of jealousy," she assured me.

"He's insecure. He wants me there every day when he comes home from work. He wants to know where I am all the time. He's so different from my ex-husband, who never cared where I was or what I was doing or who I was with. We had a `you do your thing, I do mine' relationship. I always wanted a man like Bob who really cared passionately for me."

"You must talk to other women in this man's life," I told her. "What about his ex-wife or his last girlfriend? Can you talk to them?" I was sure that once Helga found out Bob's passionate violence was not unique to their relationship, he'd lose a lot of his charm.


"Easy, look in his phone book. If you're really thinking about spending the rest of your life or even another month with this man, you have a right to know if he's always been violent with women."

Needless to say, when Helga contacted Bob's soon-to-be ex- wife, she got the real story. He'd been violent many times, and that's why she was divorcing him. Bob's ex told Helga that she was lucky she didn't get more seriously injured by Bob.

Helga wanted to know if I would talk to Bob, but I told her I don't do nosebiters or other violent people. I refused to condone her relationship in any way, not even to talk to the two of them together. I suggested that Bob get help from someone else, and gave Helga the name of a pyschiatrist.

Eventually, Helga talked to Bob's mother, his sister and an ex-girlfriend, and they all agreed that Bob was definitely disturbed. Although it was hard for her to accept that her passionate, adoring lover always hurt the ones he loved, she came to realize that the longer she stayed with him, the more danger she was in.

She moved out and gave him back the ring. Still, he followed her. He called her day and night. He cajoled and pleaded; he flattered her. They met for lunch. "I saw him, and I want him again."

"Avoid him," I persisted. "Protect yourself. How much does he have to hurt you before you say goodbye for good?"

Eventually, Helga got an apartment Bob didn't know about and an unlisted phone number. Then, just three weeks after breaking off communication with him, she was tempted to hear his voice and she called his apartment. A woman answered. "I'm Bob's fiancee," she told Helga. "He gave me his grandmother's ring."

Related Keywords: Bad Prospects, Fighting, Sexual Attraction, Love Addiction, Over-Romanticizing

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