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Nine months ago I met an amazing man. We met through mutual friends and it was an instant connection. And here we are nine months later and he recently proposed. I accepted the proposal.
However, even though he has a great personality and wonderful qualities that made me fall in love and keeps me in love with him, he has an anger problem. If I don't answer my phone, or if I decide to leave during heated arguments, or even something as simple as trying to express myself during arguments, he gets furious.
Now, this is not in any way shape or form a physically abusive relationship. But I fear that if it is untreated, anger can lead to that sort of behavior.
I love him very much and would like him to get help. What should I do?
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Jasmine, and thank you for your contribution. I can tell that you are a good and a smart person, and that you love your partner very much. I also hear very clearly that you are very concerned about his anger and how it could possibly get worse.
Your concerns make a lot of sense. The kind of behavior that you describe in your partner usually does lead to more extreme, and at times physically abusive behavior. Your relationship is very young, and yet this verbal and emotional abuse has already begun to occur. In my experience, this is a very serious warning sign of things to come. I notice that it is you, not your partner who is reaching out for help. You cannot help him. He needs to help himself, and he has to really want help--for himself, not to appease you.
The patterns of anger that you describe in him are an indication of a controlling, abusive personality. That is not a permanent condition, but it is something that requires a lot of work over a substantial period of time before this type of person is safe to be with in an intimate relationship. I strongly encourage you to put the brakes on regarding moving forward with the relationship.
If you do this, you can tell him something to the effect of, "I want to be with you. I love you. And I am absolutely determined that I will only be in relationships in which I am treated with respect at all times. At this time, you are not treating me respectfully when you're angry, and that is unacceptable to me."
I realize this may be hard for you, but it is my professional opinion, based on what you've said here, that you will be hurt consistently, and it will get worse over time, if you stay with this man. The prognosis for people with his issues is guarded at best--not because there is not effective treatment, but because they are usually in denial of their problem. For example, is he looking for help for himself right now? Is he as concerned about his anger as you are? If he were an emotionally healthy man, he would be more concerned than you are.
I think it is possible that you have a history of being treated poorly in your past relationships, or something has happened in your past that has made it acceptable for you to be with someone who treats you badly. If that fits, I suggest that you do the "Trauma Writing" exercises on this page, and see if you can see where your relationship patterns come from.
If you do have past emotional trauma, you might consider getting some counseling, and/or try these imagery processes for emotional healing. This will possibly undo the basis of your dysfunctional relationship patterns.
The bottom line here, Jasmine, is that you have to put yourself first. If you don't, and you let your love for him override your concern about your own welfare, I'm very concerned that you will be hurt more and more in this relationship as it progresses.
Let me assure you that any promises from him to change--without a serious commitment to therapy and long-term follow-through, are worth nothing. You are in the beginnings of a "battered person syndrome," which means you are too easily forgiving, and too quick to put your partner's needs and feelings before your own. And you are too easily influenced by the love you feel when things are good in the relationship.
Regarding your partner getting help, you can refer him to this site and see how he responds. If he doesn't dive in enthusiastically and begin taking advantages of the many resources we provide, I suggest you end the relationship.
You have to love yourself as much and more than you love him.
My very best to you,
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