Can't Maintain A Loving Relationship
(Bossier City, La)
I've been married three times and I am responsible for all of the failures. I've just ended a four month relationship with a woman whom I adored, and I feel terrible about why it ended and how I handled the situation. I now recognize my anger problem and want help, but I'm not sure how to begin.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Malcolm, and thanks for submitting your story on this site. I respect your integrity in being willing to take responsibility for your part of the problems in your relationships.
I will help you get started, and you can take it from there.
First, let's get a clear understanding of your anger.
You can't hate it, or fight it and win. The only way to master your anger is to understand it and heal the emotions that fuel it.
Your anger has its own thoughts, actions and feelings that go along with it. So, start by answering these questions (for best results, write out all of your responses:
1) What are you thinking when you get angry, while you're angry, and after the anger has passed?
2) What do you do when you're angry? What do you do when you're starting to get angry? What do you do when you're starting to calm down?
3) What other feelings besides anger are you having while all of this is going on? Does something hurt you, make you sad, or feel rejected, neglected or abused? Are you aware of any fear while you're in the anger situation?
If you can come up with some answers to these questions, that will help to raise your level of awareness of your anger--and awareness is the first step to change.
Now, take a look at your personal history, to see what underlying emotional issues you may have that are fueling your anger.
Whatever your childhood situation was, that's where you were introduced to marriage. To get an idea of what your "training" was, try this writing exercise: Just write the unfinished sentence, "Marriage is..." and finish it as many ways as you can think of--positive and negative. Then ask yourself, "What part of that is my idea, and what part of that did I get from my own parents and from other people?"
Another exercise would be to write your response to these:
- I learned from my mother that a woman is, a wife is, a mother is...
- I learned from my father that a man is, a husband is, a father is...
- I learned from my parents that marriage is...
After completing the above exercise, reverse mother and father, so that you're writing what you learned from your mother that men are, and from your father that women are, etc.
Next, go even further back in your personal history, and try these exercises:
1) Review your personal history, going as far back as you can, and write about all of the frightening, painful or shaming experiences you have ever had.
2) This writing is just for you, unless you choose at some point to share it with a trusted confidant. But while you're writing, rest assured that no one will read it unless you absolutely want them to. You can shred or burn it when you're done if that feels right to you.
3) Use the guided imagery process on this page
to work directly with any traumatic memories you may have and bring about your emotional healing.
4) Begin writing daily from your anger. Do this whether you feel angry or not--this is a "purging" exercise. Let it flow out on the page (again, this is only for your eyes), and don't hold back. No matter how foul, vulgar or whatever--just let it out. This gives you an opportunity to look closely at this unconscious part of you, which helps to heal and give you conscious control.
5) Also write daily about what you are grateful for, what you appreciate, and what you are looking forward to in your future. Keep doing this after your anger is winding down--I suggest you do it for the rest of your life.
Most important of all, Malcolm--do not give up on yourself. Ever. Stay with it, follow these recommendations, read the free information on this site, keep writing, and you will get there. Nothing will stop you from reaching your goals unless you decide to stop yourself. You have what it takes. You can do this. You are a good person.
By the way, you are 100% responsible for your emotions and your behavior in your relationships. But in any adult relationship, there are two participating adults. Your wives and your most recent love are also responsible for their part. You are right to focus only on yourself at this point, however.
My best to you,
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