We argue and he flies into a rage

-- Question for John --

It seems that I can do nothing to please my love. I love this man tremendously, and I know that he loves me very much too. We would like to get married next year and start a family, but this pattern is beginning to scare me. When we argue, he so easily flies into a rage and shouts obscenities. He seems controlling and if he doesn’t get what he wants he explodes.

Here’s the latest example. Saturday was a tiring day for us both. After getting up early, working and helping his mother, then hitting a large bucket of golf balls, he decided to take a nap – he needed it badly. I did some things for work while he slept. His mother then came in and said she was hungry – I was too. He had been asleep for an hour, so I decided to try to wake him and see if he wanted to go eat. He would not wake. He said only “wait.”

I thought he was just extremely tired and would probably sleep for quite a while longer, so his mother and I decided it would be best to just go pick up take-out and bring it home so we could eat and he would have dinner waiting for him after he got up.

He woke up in a rage. He spoke obscenities to both his mother and I for not waiting for him, saying we were basically selfish. He reminded me of things he’s done for me when I was tired or stressed out and just would not see that I thought I had done the right thing. Every time we have an argument, it’s over something I’ve done wrong and he ends up throwing something at me that he did for me, basically telling me that I’m selfish and that I don’t think of him and his feelings.

Is he controlling, or am I truly selfish? It’s now Sunday, and all of this occurred on Saturday night. He had planned on going horseback riding with me today, but I asked him to bring me home instead. He’s angry with me for this too now. Honestly I just didn’t think it would be a nice time – horseback riding in silence. Please help me.

-- Answer from John --

This is a pattern that you ought to be concerned with. It can indeed damage the quality of your love together. It would be good to work on this pattern and change it.

Tell him that this kind of communication does not work for you. Tell him that it is going to destroy the love you share with him.

Obviously, he is not happy during this pattern either. Point that out to him and ask him to admit that the pattern does not work for him, either.

Tell if there was a better way to handle these kinds of situations — that you would want to learn how to do so. Because you want the love to last and grow stronger with time. Tell him you are very afraid that these incidents are going to ruin the love and decrease your willingness to stay in the relationship.

Ask him if he would agree that there must be a better way to handle these situations. Tell him that this means both of you learning to do something new — to really address the needs for both of you.

It is essential to get him to agree to learn to change. Do not make this just about him changing — include yourself in that process. Because, in fact, you will both have to learn to act differently in these situations for things to change. Also, make it clear to him that you will not accept this pattern and that if it doesn’t change, he is risking the relationship in a very real way. You need to motivate him. Use everything you know how to do — both being sweet, on the one hand, and tough, on the other.

Certainly, his mother cannot think this is a good pattern. I don’t know if it will help or hurt to get her involved on your side — assuming that she isn’t in fact the root cause that he acts this way!