Ask Amy: Abuse survivor reacts to boyfriend's outbursts

FresnoMay 2, 2014 

Dear Amy: I was married to an abuser for 23 years.

The marriage ended when he died. I felt relief and freedom for the first time in my adult life.

In the seven years since his death, I have dated nine guys. I have been with my current guy for almost two years. We love each other, but he has a temper.

He gets irritated very easily and will blow up verbally about whatever is bothering him. His outbursts are short-lived and involve cursing.

His anger has never been directed at me, and he has never shown any signs of being abusive.

He is wonderful in every other aspect, but when he is cursing out whatever the issue is, his yelling scares me. My fear is deep-seated, and I can't seem to get rid of it.

He knows he scares me and is profoundly sorry after an outburst. During an outburst, he will even walk away so that we are at opposite ends of wherever we are, but it doesn't help.

I don't know if there is anything to do to help, short of getting a 60-year-old man to change a behavior that he has had his whole life.

Do you have suggestions?

— Startled

Dear Startled: You imply that a 60-year-old man isn't capable of changing a behavior he has had his whole life.

And yet, you also say that your guy will walk away from you when he is having an outburst, out of sensitivity to you. That indicates an awareness of what he is doing. Is it also a change in his behavior? If so, give him credit for this.

Talk about this during a time when he is calm. Thank him for working on his lifetime habit, and ask him if he can realistically do more to modulate his outbursts.

You also have work to do. You have to sincerely ask yourself if it is healthy for you to be in a serious relationship with someone who has a hair-trigger temper.

Dear Amy: I could not believe your response to "Wondering," who said she maintains a text-based daily friendship with a man even though she is married.

If I were her husband, I would feel betrayed and furious. This is cheating on the marriage. I cannot believe you didn't address this in your response.

— Furious with you

Dear Furious: There were several unanswered questions in this letter, including why "Wondering" was pursuing this relationship in the first place, as well as whether the husband knew about it. That's why I chose not to address that aspect of the letter.

 

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@tribune.com, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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