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Angry Son With Angry Partner

by Sue

OK. My son is a high achiever. Very. Works in films, aged 27.

He veers from being loving, highly intelligent, incredibly entertaining and funny, and extremely loving with his wonderful partner who he is very lucky to have, to sudden unpredictable outbursts of rage, when frustrated in some way, usually petty.

Even his otherwise 100% positive work appraisal mentioned his anger issues. I have seen many examples of it since his teens but they are now mostly between him and his partner, who reacts with fury and long silences. This was played out in front of me and my husband this weekend when they were our guests.

Something in my head just clicked: it was the 'I've had enough' point. My father died just two months ago and had the same anger, and as I was his caregiver I had to experience it. The best way I dealt with it was by walking away, which I can't do with guests in my own house.

My mother put up with it all her life but it left her cowed. Both my father and my son have/had deeply loving relationships with their other halves. Anger was just their weak point.

But I can't take it any more. I got very upset, partly because it is very worrying to witness, as I don't know where it will lead them. I know that's up to them, and they have since said they do love each other very much, but I cannot cope with these furious episodes each time I see them.

I felt I had to tell my son I'd had enough of his anger, and it did cause me to cry. While first accusing me of the same thing, and of trying to control him (which is unjust), he did apologize, as he has before.

But I am becoming like my mother: cowed, depressed, loving my son but terrified of the next meeting, and a gulf has grown between us. I love him so deeply but feel I am either the butt of his anger or the witness to it, and I also love his partner and don't like to see her being abused like this.

I know he won't change and it has to be me, but how?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Sue, and thanks for telling your story here. It is good that you have set your boundaries with your son's anger. With all you've been through with your father, and now your son, it makes perfect sense that you've had enough.

As difficult as it may be, the wisest, healthiest and most loving choice for you at this time is to "find a distance from which you can love" your son. What I mean is, limit your time with him as long as he displays anger in your presence. You will need a lot of distance if he continues to show his anger in front of you, but you can be closer to him if he manages it better.

I also suggest that you "tell your story." By that I mean to write about your history with your father and mother, in as much detail as you can. This is for your eyes only, by the way. Get clear in your mind what your mother's patterns were. When you can see that clearly, make up your mind to create and maintain healthy relationships with everyone in your life. Use these quotes on relationships to help you with that.

Your focus needs to be on you, Sue. Let your son have his life and his anger, and you focus on yourself, your healing and your happiness. You may want to tell him that if he's going to express his anger in that way, he will have to do it somewhere else--not in your house or around you. And then you'll need to follow through with that, so that your words are not empty.

Believe in yourself and take care of yourself. You're the only one who can do that.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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