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Short fuse... (38 comments)
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Short fuse...

Friday, May 16, 2008 - 01:03 PM

A reader writes... I love my husband dearly, but I do not love his short fuse. On many occasions he throws full blown temper tantrums, screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs and throwing whatever is in reach whenever he gets frustrated about something. I know that he loves me, but I'm worried about getting in the way of his temper and getting physically hurt as well as emotionally. He and I have talked about this many times and he says that he sees vast improvements, but I think that he is acting exactly the same if not worse. I'm thinking about leaving him, but I am not sure if it is the right thing to do. Should I keep dealing with his short fuse despite the danger, the embarrassment, and the emotional beatings or should I stay with him because he is trying to change to be a better person?
aibas
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 16, 2008 - 02:31 PM (#42735)

I don't want this to come out harshly, but don't know where else to begin. Love doesn't excuse domestic violence...which is what this is. Any time you're living in fear of your partner, regardless of whether it's gone to the physical level or not, it's domestic violence and has long-term ramifications if not addressed.
I don't know where you're located, but the Washington State DV hotline is 1.800.562.6025, and they'd at least be able to help advise you on who to call near you if not steps you should take for your safety even as you're trying to work with him and his trying to change.

I'm guessing some anger management classes would be helpful, and if y'all haven't tried it yet, counseling is definitely something to consider, even if it's just for you.

I wish you the best, as I know how difficult a situation like this can be, and I definitely hope yours doesn't continue to decline.


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evasko
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 16, 2008 - 03:14 PM (#42736)

This is going to sound like Ann Landers, but...

Have you tried to get him to go to counseling with you? If he won't go with you, go alone. Finally, you have to ask yourself, are you better with him or without him.


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markdf
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 16, 2008 - 11:33 PM (#42742)
In Response to evasko (#42736):

Have you tried to get him to go to counseling with you? If he won't go with you, go alone. Finally, you have to ask yourself, are you better with him or without him.

 It's probably better if he goes alone. This is his problem, not your problem. It's a problem with his personality, not with your marriage. Being there yourself would just complicate things.

 If it helps, consider it this way: a psychologist will be much cheaper than a divorce lawyer.

 In fact, even the world's most expensive psychologist is probably more affordable than the world's cheapest lawyer.


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LisaDroesdov
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 12:08 AM (#42743)
In Response to markdf (#42742):

Honey, it speaks to how abusive he must be that you are even asking this question. Run, don't walk, from this relationship. He throws things and verbally abuses? Maybe you have flaws, too. But you can work on whatever you think you're doing wrong, with a psychiatrist, AFTER you're out of the relationship. For now, focus on the fact that he is an abuser and you need out.

Someone I care about very much lost a dear friend in January of this year. She hung herself in her bathroom because she saw no way out of an abusive relationship. She believed her boyfriend would harm her family if she left him. Leave now. Don't let it get to that point.


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Threesome
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 03:35 AM (#42746)

My girlfriend also has anger issues, and she is trying to get better. It takes a lot of time, work and energy.

However, and this is the important point, there is a vast difference between a 5ft girl screaming at me until her eyes bulge, or a somewhat bigger and stronger man throwing heavy kitchen implements.

You did not actually say that he hits you, only that you are afraid of it. So he still has himself under control somewhat, but you don't trust him not to hurt you. Loss of trust is a serious thing.

I agree with everybody else, if you want to keep him, go find a psychologist and therapist. He needs to learn to deal with his anger, and you need to learn how to deal with it in other ways. Traditionally I would recommend "tootsing", which means ignoring him every time he throws a tantrum.

Then again, the fact that you are asking this question, and that you are thinking about leaving him, suggests to me that you have already made up your mind.

On the plus side you only had one point, that he is trying to change to a better person. The potential person someone might be in the future cannot be the basis for a relationship in the present. If the future is not too far away, and the costs are acceptable, maybe. But a man with temper tantrums of a four year old will need a lot of time, and willingness to change. That willingness to change is not seen by you, yo don't expect him to change in the near future.

As cruel as it sounds, but maybe a separation from you might be the incentive he needs to realize that a) his temper tantrums are not appropriate for a grown man
and b) there are consequences.

Habits, like temper tantrums, often develop because people with these habits do not face consequences for it.

Alternatively, if you want to try some homebrew methods first, try recording his tantrums, then play them back at him when his friends are around. Involve his social groups - if he plays football, involve the whole team. Send a video to America's Funnies Video. Or call his mother.

This might work, or it might make things worse. I personally favour the "tootsing" method.

I cannot advise you on what to do. Ask yourself what you really want, and whether you see a future with him. How much time, effort and energy will you have to invest, and will he change enough ? Can you bear this, or do you think it might break you ?

Then make your decision.


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Pengy
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 10:48 AM (#42751)

Get out. Now. This question sounds exactly like me 6 months ago - terrified but believing it might get better if I just gave him time.

In fear of your husband is no way to live. He says he's trying, but his actions speak differently. You know you can't trust him. Get out, and consider counseling.


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markdf
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 12:30 PM (#42752)
In Response to Pengy (#42751):

You know you can't trust him. Get out, and consider counseling.

 Let's be fair -- people are acting as if this guy is already hitting his girlfriend.

 Right now, he's just doing what a billion or so women do every time they get angry -- throwing things and losing control without harming anyone. So it's not like he's some evil monster.

 It's true that this may evolve into something worse. That's why he needs to get his ass to a psychologist. People who express their emotions physically MUST learn to control and manage their anger... and few other emotions too.

 Just dumping him now would be cruel and pointless. He hasn't hit his girlfriend yet -- why dump him for actions that he might do? Particularly if those actions can be prevented.


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Dynamo
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 07:24 PM (#42758)

 Wow, this is a tough one. I struggled for years with an anger problem. Though I never raised a hand to my first wife, it finally turned out that she was terrified that I would someday strike her. She had to get out, and I don't blame her.

 Therapy, a lot of love from my current wife, and a whole bunch of growing up have helped me get a handle on my issues. My first reaction to adversity is still anger, but I keep it internalized almost 100% of the time, striving to channel the energy generated into positive action.

 Here's my advice: Choose one of three courses of action:

  1. Accept on faith that he will not strike you and will actually improve in time. I think this is not a good option and will eventually lead to you becoming a victim. Judging from your description, his problem is either very advanced or completely unchecked. Everything and everyone around him is in jeopardy (I say this as someone who's been there). This option is probably bad for both of you. He needs help, and you are unsafe.
  2. Get him into counselling and go with him. This will take a lot of work on both your parts, and may require medication. This is the best option for his long term mental health and general well being, but will be very stressful for both of you, maybe you more than him, but in the long run you wil both emerge all the stronger and probably more in love than ever (trial by fire will do that). You must decide how much your relationship is worth to you. If he cannot be convinced to enter therapy and stick with it, you are left with option 3.
  3. End the relationship. Living in fear is no life at all. Yes, it will feel like you are abandoning him, and the guilt will be crushing at times, but you must act to save yourself if you believe you cannot save him. This may be the best option for you in the long run, but for him the only improvement over option 1 is that he won't ever have to live with the guilt of hurting you.


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LizKitten
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 11:53 PM (#42759)

You need to get out of this. Trying to change is great, but what you need is 'changed.' I've seen too many women that I've known and loved make this mistake and end up hurt, emotionally and physically. He needs therapy before he needs a relationship.

I don't know how popular this opinion will be, but I really don't think I care.


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anonymous
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 12:06 AM (#42760)

My solution for you was constructed as soon as I read how you phrased it: "emotional beatings".

Did you know that health care providers have an obligation to report suspected physical, sexual, or emotional abuse? Do you know why? Because one usually leads to the other.

Abuse is abuse. His shallow promises are complete BS. I'd get out now, while you can. You didn't sign on to a lifelong committment for this, did you!?

Or are you staying because you are afraid to leave? If this is the case, then you definitely need to get out. You're being abused and using this whole "he'll change" thing as a COVER for your fear of what he might do to you if you leave.

Leave before it is too late.


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Murgatroyd
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 02:10 AM (#42761)

Hey, lady, I've got a great idea for you -- take the advice of a bunch of random people who have never met you or your husband, and immediately end your marriage. Give me the pink slip to your car while you're at it, OK?

Yes, he has a problem, and yes, he needs to change ... but he doesn't fit the typical profile of an abuser. He seems more like a guy at the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of having a volatile personality. This isn't particularly good, but consider: he hasn't ever hit his wife in all the time they've been married.

(Hey lady -- why did you marry this guy in the first place?)

And the women here seem to be making a lot of the phrase "emotional beatings" ... but she also says she's "worried about getting in the way of his temper" some day -- indicating to me that she is not the target of his outbursts. Face it, women: you don't have enough information to ethically make so drastic a recommendation as "Leave him now!"

Mark and Dynamo make the most sense: get him to a therapist. And while you're at it, get him to a physician for a complete checkup, ASAP. He may have a medical problem! Possibilities include high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, and diabetes. (I have seen a diabetic friend of mine throw some of the most awe-inspiring shitfits when she doesn't pay attention to her blood chemistry.) Lady, wouldn't you feel like a **** if you deserted him and then found out he had a treatable medical condition?


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markdf
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 03:36 AM (#42762)
In Response to Dynamo (#42758):

it finally turned out that she was terrified that I would someday strike her. She had to get out, and I don't blame her.

 So, despite NEVER hitting her, she dumped you because of her own unfounded fears?

 There is nothing good about persecuting and demonizing someone for something that they haven't done.

 It's like racial profiling. Call it emotional profiling. It's really not okay to assume that anyone who openly displays strong emotions is going to be violent.


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LisaDroesdov
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 04:41 AM (#42763)

Murgatroyd, Markdf, you're missing a couple of things here.

Murg, you added a "someday" where there isn't one in the original question. She's worried about getting in the way of his temper. As a woman, to me that reads, "I'm worried that someday he will not just emotionally, but also physically injure me." She says that elsewhere in her question, very clearly. She's already the target of some of his outbursts, and is worried that this will lead to physical abuse- "getting in the way of his temper." That's also language abused spouses (male AND female) use. "I was just in the way when he was angry." It reflects an abuser's tendency to make the abused partner believe that they came to harm accidentally or by making a mistake.

The second thing both of you are missing is "embarrassment."

He's having these fits in public, not just in private- she's embarrassed to be seen with him because of his short fuse. Abusers often intentionally dominate their partners with anger in public, first to prove that they can control their partner, but also to alienate the spouse from friends and family. If friends and family stop wanting to be around her because he comes along is so difficult to deal with, then the abuser has cut her off from support and people who might advise her to get out.

The third thing both of you are missing is that he can get counseling and deal with his anger WITHOUT her staying with him. A trial separation is in order. It doesn't sound like they have kids, so there's no children to be uprooted if she gets an apartment for a few months. If he can change, he can do it without a convenient target in the house as easily as he can do it with her there. She doesn't need to endanger herself so that he gets a chance to change.

His personal growth is not her responsibility. Her own safety is. They can certainly give cohabitation another shot if he does change, but so far, his token efforts to change ARE a sign of an abusive personality. All abusers SAY it's the last time, every time that they abuse their partners.


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CANgerADAmany
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 11:44 AM (#42765)

As a married man that actually did have a short fuse and sometimes still overacts and takes the things my wife says the wrong way, I have lots to say about this.

Before you take off running in the other direction, consider a few things:
1) Does he actually verbally abuse you, or he getting pissed off at a situation. What's happening? If it's directed at you, then I think that's something concerning.
- When I was snapping, it was because I hated myself or the situation. I love my wife and my anger was never directed towards her in any way but it didn't stop me from swearing a whole lot, nor did it stop her from feeling emotionally distressed.-
2) Has he always been like this or is it possible that it comes from a form of stress?
- Stress can make you do awful things. I got better by learning to relax, by finding more ways to release my stress, by learning to control and handle the things that brought me stress. -
3) A lot of have suggested therapy. When you talk to him, does he actually want to change? There's no point in him going to therapy unless he believes that he must change and wants to change. But if he does, then there's probably value in that.
- The reason I've changed in this matter is because I was sick and tired of being this way. And that help me a lot in handling this problem. -
4) Here's an old Tony Robbins technique you might consider: Disrupt the pattern. When he starts getting all fired up, say something in a sexy voice or ask him something completely unrelated. Like "Is Kilimanjaro part of Kenya or Tansania?" or something like that.
- If his anger is directed towards you, it might not work but otherwise, I'd recommend trying it. -

Anyway, make sure you're analyzing this properly. Make sure you're completely honest with him about your fears and concerns. And make sure you're honest with yourself... if you feel the need and urge to run, then do it.


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Dynamo
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 08:49 PM (#42774)

Disrupt the pattern. When he starts getting all fired up, say something in a sexy voice or ask him something completely unrelated. Like "Is Kilimanjaro part of Kenya or Tansania?" or something like that.

 This might as well be straight out of the anger therapy handbook. The goal of course is to internalize the process, but an external source of such distraction can make it easy to build the habit.


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markdf
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 10:55 PM (#42777)
In Response to LisaDroesdov (#42763):

His personal growth is not her responsibility. Her own safety is.

LisaDroesdov, you're missing some things here. There is more to life than safety. There is knowing that you're not a pathetic, shitty person who walks out on others when they are in need. Particularly when you are in love with those people.

Did you skip the very first phrase? "I love my husband dearly, but I do not love his short fuse."

That says it all right there. She loves the man, but not the temper. That's a recipe for counselling, not divorce.

LisaDroesdov, I'm guessing that you've never really been in love, never actually valued another person's company enough to enable them to grow. I suppose it is easier to just ditch your lover for someone who is a bit easier... until the next time they have some problem that you're too lazy to help them work on.

REAL relationships are work. Hard work. And you'll never find a partner who is perfect, or even close to it. But so long as your partner is working on their flaws and making some kind of progress, it's unfair to fault them for being imperfect.

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TheOriginalJes
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 19, 2008 - 12:03 AM (#42778)

Before you follow ANY of the above(or below) advice. I'd like to know something. Didn't you know this about him when you married him? If you didn't, what changed? If you did, what changed in you?

His temper isn't your problem to fix. He needs counseling on his own. Problems like that don't just materialize without serious head trauma, MAJOR new stress, or chemical imbalance.

If you really are in fear of your physical safety, call a cop and have him removed from your home. But, something tells me it isn't that serious yet. Or you would have done just that.

You say you've talked with him. Well, if that isn't helping, perhaps a discussion with other people who know and care for HIM (and that you BOTH can trust) may be in order. This could lead to a very productive 'intervention'. I believe this should be a necessary first step before involving the authorities.

I don't know how long you've been dealing with this. If it's been more than a year, you may need to ask yourself why you've let it go so long. Do you have any other male role-models in your life who act in this manner?

The most important thing you've been told thus far is that if he doesn't really believe he has a problem (whether he admits it to you or not) and doesn't really want to change, then he won't. If that's true, then any outside help you seek will only make a bad situation volitile, so be sure to choose your course of action carefully. And be prepared to commit to it.


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TheOriginalJes
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 19, 2008 - 12:07 AM (#42779)
In Response to markdf (#42777):

"...it's unfair to fault them for being imperfect."

You're right about that. That's why I think people have to take responsibility for choosing to be with people that "need fixing".


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Murgatroyd
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 19, 2008 - 02:30 AM (#42781)

LisaDroesdov wrote:

Abusers often intentionally dominate their partners with anger in public, first to prove that they can control their partner, but also to alienate the spouse from friends and family.

Jam that square peg into the round hole, Lisa! I don't think he fits the pattern of a wife abuser. He hasn't hit her. He hasn't been telling her it's her fault, that she's making him act that way. She hasn't even claimed that he belittles her. No, he admits that he has a problem and he's trying to work on it.

So he has anger fits in public -- this tells me that he can't control his volatile temper, in public or private, not that he's manipulating her.

BTW, I said that she's worried that some day she'll get in the way of his anger because apparently so far it hasn't ever happened. What's so hard to understand about that?

Look, I freely admit that I don't know all the facts. I don't know either of these two people, and neither do you. There aren't enough unambiguous factual statements in the single paragraph she's given us to let anybody in this forum accurately diagnose the problem.

Recommending that he see a counselor -- and a doctor! -- at least puts diagnosing the problem into the hands of experts who can assess the real situation, not our conjectures and projections. Giving her the blanket command "Leave him, now!" without knowing all the relevant facts could destroy their marriage.


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Murgatroyd
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 19, 2008 - 02:53 AM (#42782)

I know that he loves me, but I'm worried about getting in the way of his temper and getting physically hurt as well as emotionally.

Is the author of this question out there? This one sentence is being interpreted in several very different ways by the various readers of this column.

* You're "worried about getting in the way of his temper" -- how? Are you worried that he will someday take his temper out on you? Are you worried because he is taking his temper out on you?

* Have you ever been physically hurt by him during an outburst? If so, in what way?

* How are you being "emotionally hurt"? Are you the verbal target of his anger? Or are you hurt because you get upset at his outbursts? Or what?

* So why did you marry him? Was he like this when you were dating? Did you ignore it, thinking that he'd grow out of it, or that you would change him? Or has his temper become worse with time?

* Has he consulted a physician or a therapist about his outbursts? If not, why not?!


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markdf
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 19, 2008 - 03:19 AM (#42783)
In Response to TheOriginalJes (#42779):

You're right about that. That's why I think people have to take responsibility for choosing to be with people that "need fixing".

 That seems like an unhealthy way to look at things. EVERYONE needs fixing. We're all less than perfect. Anyone who isn't at least trying to better themselves isn't worth knowing.

 If you choose to be with other Humans, you are choosing to be with people who "need fixing".

 That's not to say that you need to fix them -- because you can't. It's something that can only come from within. We all have to better ourselves. But you can support your partner, encourage them, help them, and motivate them.


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LizKitten
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 19, 2008 - 11:14 AM (#42789)

It occurs to me that I was damned tired when I posted my original reply to this question, and I'd just seen my mother (who has recently been a victim of domestic violence) and so was unnecessarily biased.

I do think that you should leave him. I do -not- necessarily think that you should divorce him, however. But just... give him a couple months, on his own, along with a list of your grievances, in nice big capital letters. So that whenever he's throwing a fit and is working his way towards violent, he might actually remember that gee, not only did you tell him this was a problem, you told him in writing, and see what else he can do about his emotions.

That approach always worked pretty well for me, anyway.


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Murgatroyd
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - 01:38 AM (#42795)

I do think that you should leave him. I do -not- necessarily think that you should divorce him, however.

You know, if it turns out that he has bipolar disorder [wikipedia.org], or diabetes [wikipedia.org], or any number of other possible medical causes for his outbursts ... leaving him alone and on his own might not be the best idea. Unless she takes out a nice big life insurance policy on him first.

Apparently he hasn't ever physically abused his wife. Her statement is ambiguous as to whether he's mentally abused her at all -- it may be that she's simply reacting badly to outbursts not directed at her. She doesn't appear to be in danger. I don't understand why people are telling her "Leave! Now!" instead of "Get him to a therapist and a physician for an evaluation!" If she does that, she can leave afterward.


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TheOriginalJes
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - 09:54 AM (#42798)
In Response to markdf (#42783):

" If you choose to be with other Humans, you are choosing to be with people who "need fixing". "

Markdf, I know you're smarter than this.

There's a big difference between accepting and loving someone inclusive of there faults, and accepting and loving someone despite there faults.

If you (you general, not you specific) go into a relationship thinking that you can just change the parts you don't like, then the relationship is already set up to fail. That's because you're looking forward to being with someone you haven't met, and isn't actually there.


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TheOriginalJes
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Re: Short fuse... (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - 10:02 AM (#42799)

Yes, a person can change for the one they love. But, that doesn't mean you can change someone without their consent and (a big AND) active participation. The person who can be changed that way is a submissive personality (which is not a trademark of a person prone to fits of rage).

Let's say he's very serious about changing for his woman. All but one of the posters here overlooked the one human phenomenon that's going to make this the hardest thing he'll ever do. And that is shame. Or at least nobody's discussed it.

Shame can make a person feel even worse for something than they should. It can cause even more un-expected outbursts over increasingly more trivial items. A prideful man can be hit harder by shame than a humble man. But, so few people talk about it. Most would rather dismiss it.

Shame is part of why the few who do want to change can often times only do it in absence of the person they wish to change for. And, it often times causes the penitent to lose the object of their desire entirely.

So, maybe this is part of his problem.

On another note:

LisaDroesdov wrote:

"He's having these fits in public, not just in private"

Who told you they were in public?


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