true confessions

True Confessions Agony Aunt: I'm worried about my partner's short temper

Sunday, November 20, 2011
Woman worried about angry partner
"Anger is a very normal process that has helped humans evolve and adapt but problems occur if it isn't managed in the right way..."

Question:

My partner has a short temper and little things really get to him and eat away at him and he also doesn't take criticism well. It scares and upsets me when he gets angry as I'm quite a placid person.

When he gets upset he lashes out and hits things, but he says he'd never hit me.

However, I'm worried his over-reactions will get worse with age — he's 33. I'm concerned about how he'll react when something really bad happens in his life as so far it's just seemingly small things that frustrate and upset him like if we have an argument or he has a bad day at the office.

Is this just normal male testosterone behaviour and I'm overreacting or should I be worried? I love him and don't want to leave him so how can I help him?

Answer:

If his behaviour is frightening or disturbing you then you are not over reacting so you need to deal with this by talking to him about it while he is calm. Everyone feels their anger is justified when they're actually angry and most people will realise if they have over reacted after the incident is over and they have calmed down.

But for some people anger can become a problem that needs to be addressed and anger management classes or techniques can be very useful. The first issue is his reaction when you bring the subject up — do so by approaching this as something which needs to be dealt with and be honest with being overly accusing or dramatic.

Something like “I know this is your way of dealing with things but it scares and upsets me so could we look at other ways of letting frustration out?” is a reasonable approach, but if he refuses to consider that or even gets angry at you for raising the subject then you are the only one who can decide whether you want to stay with someone who frightens you. That is no way to live.

On the other hand, if he understands why it upsets you even if he doesn’t mean to then there is a lot of help available. Most GPs can refer you as a couple for anger management and your support will encourage him to deal with it, especially once he takes the big step of acknowledging that he has a problem and is over reacting.

Anger is a very normal process that has helped humans evolve and adapt but problems occur if it isn't managed in the right way. It is also a mixture of both emotional and physical changes which make a surge of energy go through the body as chemicals such as adrenaline are released.

Reacting to that by lashing out becomes the coping mechanism but some people find they have to lash out more and more and this is clearly your worry.

Anger management techniques help identify the situations which bring about those reactions and look at finding appropriate coping mechanisms, which will vary from person to person, but can include different ways of helping vent frustration and burn off feelings which are bottled up such as non-contact competitive sport, running, learning relaxation methods or even shouting and screaming in a place no-one else can hear you.

There are three aims here — your partner learning not to lose control in any situation, not to get angry over minor irritations and for you to stop feeling frightened of his behaviour. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t scare you intentionally — if you’re frightened he has to stop and you can sort this out together if he agrees to deal with it.

This Friday, November the 25 is White Ribbon Day, the UN sanctioned day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On this day men are encouraged to swear an oath "Never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women."

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Related video: Living with domestic violence.
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