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I began seeing someone and after about a month or so things were progressing fairly quickly. I met his family, there was talk of spending the holidays together, and possibly taking a trip to Europe. We both seemed extremely happy to have made a connection.
About a month into the relationship, he experienced a family issue that escalated into a physical altercation between him and his step-brother. There is a history between the two that was not good. As a result of this altercation, he began this cycle of anger where he isolates himself in order to calm down. He has stated that he needs his space and does not typically speak to anyone during this time.
This is a complete departure from the way our relationship had started and I am having difficulty in understanding this side of him. I understand everyone deals with difficulties differently, however this has been going on now for almost a month. Throughout this time we've had limited conversations, with most of them escalating into heated or angry conversations.
I have considered ending the relationship altogether, but am not sure I am ready to do so. I care about him and want to be supportive of him during difficult times but I'm not sure how long this process for him lasts (as he's given no indication). He says these situations are extremely rare and do not happen often. How can I be sure?
He is a wonderfully loving, loyal, and caring person who believes in many of the same core values that I do. I do not want to give up on a potentially amazing relationship too soon if this is something that we can endure.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Jean, and thanks for telling your story here. It sounds like there are a lot of good things about your relationship, and you're wise to want to preserve them if possible.
How someone handles and deals with their anger is a major factor in their overall health and well being, and it has a significant impact on relationships. Your friend's pattern of shutting down and disconnecting is better than blowing up and becoming abusive, but as you know, it can be damaging in other ways.
Some experts in relationships have suggested that in the early stages, you take a look at the problems, multiply them by ten, and ask yourself if you can live with that long term. I'm not sure I totally agree with that approach to evaluating a relationship, but I see the point. Unfortunately, the "worst" of people surfaces within intimate relationships, because that's where they feel safe enough to allow their inner emotions to emerge.
That said, here's what I recommend:
1) Watch, listen and stay tuned in with your own inner feelings. Spend some quiet time alone, and journal from your innermost thoughts and perceptions about the relationship. Their is an inner wisdom in you, and it will guide you well.
2) Do this positive journaling process, and focus on yourself and your friend. See the best in him, and expect it to re-emerge.
3) Perhaps set a date in your mind, and if you're still unsure at that time, perhaps seek counseling for yourself or the two of you together.
4) Make sure you keep your self esteem high, so that you don't sacrifice your well being for the relationship.
So, I think you can see here that I'm recommending you focus more on yourself than on your friend. Notice how you're feeling, how much you worry, your stress level--vs your comfort, joy and appreciation level in the relationship.
And trust yourself to know the right thing to do when the right time comes.
My very best to you,
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