My Boyfriend's Anger Scares Me
We have been together on and off for 7 years and have a 4 year old son. We are no longer living together as I couldn't cope with his moods/anger/depression. During the course of our relationship he has tried to commit suicide at least 3 times. The last time he did it, I was in my last month of pregnancy with our son. He slit his wrists because he couldn't cope. This has had a huge effect on me and I have suffered a breakdown and have been on anti-depressants several times.
Now my son is having problems with his anger. He just blows, and will turn a table over, or throw his plate across the room. I am completely stuck as to what to do and would like some guidance. My partner says he is just a boisterous 4 year old and will grow out of it, but I know this is not normal behaviour for a child.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Selk. Thanks for asking for help on this site, where others can benefit as well. You are wise to be separated from your boyfriend, in view of his instability and its effect on you and your son. You are a good person, and it's clear that you want to do the right thing here. Consider my recommendations and see if they work for you.
I recommend that you consider these three priorities:
1) Keep your contact with your boyfriend to a minimum, or just don't see him at all.
2) Take care of yourself by following some of the recommendations I will make below.
3) Work on some parenting skills to help your son deal with his emotions.
Okay, first, I strongly suggest you limit your contact with your boyfriend. It's not that he's bad, it's just that you and your son need to get better, and it sounds like that can't happen with him around. I can't know that, of course, it has to be your decision. I'm just going by what you've told me here. Again, you did the right thing by choosing to live separately--just make sure you don't spend so much time with him that it is harmful to you and your son.
Re. taking care of yourself, here is what I recommend:
1) Write a detailed account of all of any abuse, abandonment or neglect you received as a child. Don't hold back or leave anything out. Try to describe every detail. This is for no one's eyes but yours, so don't worry about that. The benefit is how it will help you to revisit these memories from your present position.
2) Use the journaling processes you will find described on this page
to begin managing your anger more effectively on a daily basis. This will include a daily journaling process of writing from your anger and then shifting to positive journaling about the good things in you and your son.
4) Moment by moment, day by day, every time you think of your son, think of his positive aspects--what you like, admire, and love about him. Use this to extend the benefit of the positive journaling process above, and to help with your parenting of him.
And regarding your son, this is a program that I highly recommend:
As you can see, this is going to require some work on your part. You can do it, and your son is counting on you!
Believe in yourself, and believe in your son.
My very best to you,