Hax: Contemplate anger from relationship

The Washington PostSeptember 20, 2013 

Carolyn: I am in a serious relationship, the problems of which have been blamed almost exclusively on my “anger issues.” After months of accepting this as fact and working on myself (going to therapy, etc.), I now feel my angry responses never would have occurred in the first place if my partner had even been the least bit friendly, loving, kind or interested in me. I know I’ve been verbally explosive at times, but why should I blame myself for an understandable, human reaction to someone talking to me like a dog when all I said was, “Pass the syrup”?

At what point should we start calling others on their behavior and stop telling ourselves to “be responsible” for every reaction we may have, even when that reaction is perfectly justified?

ANGRY GIRL

Why did you stay with someone who wasn’t “the least bit friendly, loving, kind or interested” in you, and talked to you “like a dog”?

This isn’t an exercise in snarkery or victim-blaming. It’s an opener to proving the unlimited value in being responsible for our own emotions. You describe a situation in which you were plainly mistreated, and you responded with understandable anger.

Were your partner a better person, s/he might have responded to your anger by feeling contrite and working to be kinder. But as is common with people who mistreat others, your partner responded by blaming you and apparently gaslighting you off to therapy.

That outcome does not speak well of the method that got you there.

What if, instead of expressing your anger to no avail, to the unhealthy point of getting “verbally explosive,” you took a moment to recognize the provocation continued no matter how right you were or how angry you got? And what if you calmed yourself, then spelled out for Partner that when s/he did X, you felt Y, and that kindness was important to you — with the full, unspoken intention of giving Partner one clear chance to turn things around, and of breaking up if that failed?

Remaining single unless you’re treated well solves the anger, too.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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