How do you handle your spouse's angry outbursts when you feel they are irrational?
posted by anonymous to human relations (132 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Over our six years of marriage, my partner, let's call him Jodie, regularly throws the adult equivalent of temper tantrums. When set off, he will storm out of the room, refuse to talk to me, and after a while, the litany of wrongs he's suffered at my hands gets rolled out. Sometimes I can understand why he's upset, and will attempt to apologize and appease him, but often, it is for something that I find really difficult to accept was "my fault." Sometimes I submit and apologise because it's the only way to end the argument. Then that makes me incredibly depressed.
Here are some recent examples:
1. He was struggling to hold a garbage bag open and put in some fiddly bits of garbage. I reached over to put some of the bits in the garbage. He then dropped the bag, accused me of treating him like a mentally handicapped child, and stormed out. He only returned when I left the kitchen altogether, and then made passive agressive comments and noises to indicate that he was still angry. When I (several times) offered to help, he told me that he didn't want my help NOW, and that when he asked me to help earlier, I refused (he didn't ask me - he actually explicitly told me that he didn't want my help). It's so frustrating and there's literally nothing I can do to stop him from getting angry, and nothing I can do to stop the tantrum once it's blowing at full strength.
2. We live in a duplex, and our best friend, let's call him Grant, lives next door. Grant often comes round for meals and to watch movies. Grant and I wanted to watch something that Jodie didn't like, so Jodie offered to go get some work done while we watched it. While he was gone, Grant sat in his chair (the most comfortable seat). After the show ended, Jodie came back. When Grant didn't immediately get up, Jodie stormed off and didn't return for quite a while. I finally had to go find him, and he claimed that he wasn't feeling well. When Grant went home, Jodie started a massive fight about how rude Grant had been and how I always took Grant's side. That is completely crazy - I'm always hyper-sensitive about making sure Jodie has whatever he wants so it doesn't start a fight.
3. Grant bought us tickets to a play as a surprise. When he told us about it, we were all together, eating dinner. We continued to talk about it and plan it in the two weeks leading up to it. The day of the play, we were talking about when to leave, and Jodie suddenly looked at us like we were speaking Russian. He claimed that we never told him about the play and that we should just go on our own. After hours of fighting, I convinced him to go and we all had a good time in the end. But it was 8 hours of tearful pleading to get him to just calm down and come along.
4. He often complains that we don't have any food he likes at home. No matter what I buy, he wants something different. He'll ask for something, I'll get it for him, then he'll want something different and say that I never listen to him. We have so little money that I can't always afford what he wants, but I try my best. No matter what I do, I'm never doing enough or the right thing or what he wants me to do.
I could give a lot more examples, but it really boils down to this: I feel like no matter what I do, he's never happy. I don't really ask for much - I am the primary income earner, I do most of the cooking and cleaning, and I don't need much attention. I'm a fairly happy person and I love my job and my friends.
But this constant fighting and tension is wearing me down. I feel like I've used up my emotional allowance for the next 15 years and just feel numb a lot of the time. I believe marriage is important and divorce is off the table, but I have serious concerns about raising children in this environment. He's just angry and bitter so much of the time that I don't know if it's fair to children to bring them into this situation.
I've tried to get him to at least be assessed to see if depression medication would help. I've tried to get him into therapy (both couples and individual) but he doesn't believe in it and/or just doesn't want to. Hell, I've tried to get him to do ANYTHING about his anger and depression but to no avail.
I just feel so powerless and useless. How can I deal with his outbursts? Is there any way to logic someone out of an irrationally angry state?
If it matters, we're in the Midwest USA, and both of us are in our early 30's.