How do I deal with my SO's yelling and outbursts? Is it over the top?
posted by hollypolly to human relations (110 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I have been with my SO for about a year and a half and have witnessed about four instances of temper tantrums/ angry outbursts. The one that happened most recently was in my family home just before Christmas during a party, and has left me devastated and extremely embarrassed and ashamed because my sisters and some friends were within earshot of the episode. I'd like to recount one episode prior to that that affected me, and then the party episode. I need some help as to how to handle this. My partner has some anger issues, but I would like to preface the following stories by saying that he is, in every other way, a great partner. He is not psychologically manipulative, or physically abusive, or selfish in other respects. However, these two episodes have made me question the relationship.
(I am in my late twenties, he is in his early thirties.)
Episode # 1: I had offered to babysit for my SO's friends' child, because they seemed like they needed a night off. My SO, let's call him Max, came along (they are his friends), and I felt like he did not really help, he mostly sat on the couch while I fed, bathed and played with the baby. I went home quite upset and acted withdrawn. Max noticed and asked what was wrong, so I told him. He proceeded to get extremely angry with me, calling me cold and passive aggressive, which I admit was true, I was acting that way. After I said something along the lines of "I was disappointed that you didn't really do anything," he threw the water canister he had in his hand across the room. Water went everywhere. He slammed the bathroom door, and I was in complete shock. I have never witnessed something like that before. He left the apartment, came back an hour later and we talked about it. I told him what he did was unacceptable and totally immature. He was adamant that my passive aggressiveness was just as unacceptable and immature.
Episode # 2: The latest episode has been the most hurtful. I threw an Xmas party at my parents' house with my sisters and our high school friends. It was a fairly big event and we spent a lot of time planning and cooking for it. So when people began arriving, I admit that I got distracted and did not pay much attention to Max. He knows my friends and gets along well with them, so I looked over a few times, saw that he was involved in conversations with them, and thought everything was ok. I had to put out lots of food, check the oven, etc. In addition, I have been away for three months for research, so I had not seen a lot of the people at the party in a long while. I fully admit that I got lost in conversations, was distracted, was drinking, and definitely did not spend enough time with Max. As the party was winding down, an old friend from high school came to say goodbye. I had not seen him the entire party (there were a lot of people there), and had also not seen him in about 3 years. I gave him a hug, asked him how he was, and said "we should get together some time, it's been so long!" He said "that'd be nice", and then left with his friends. That was the entire extent of our convo. Max walked up behind me during the exchange, and apparently thought it was flirty. I found him in my room about ten minutes later and he was furious. We had an argument and I started crying. I said I was sorry for not paying enough attention to him, that I was distracted. Then the following happened:
-I left the room because it was escalating and I was getting very upset. My friend and sister found me to comfort me, and we talked it through. I mentioned how sick I was of his temper.
-I went back in about half an hour later to talk, and he lost it. He said some awful things about how this guy wanted to do certain things to me (putting it nicely), and I remember explicitly saying how mean he was being, to which he responded by yelling at the top of lungs that I should go $^& myself. He screamed it a few times, and it was so loud that everyone downstairs heard it. I slammed the door and ran into another room. I was in complete shock. My sisters came in, and of course that led to me crying my eyes out because I was so embarrassed and hurt.
-He came to the room half an hour later, and we started to talk and then he just kept interrupting me and saying very rude things, and I started crying again. My sister's boyfriend had to come in the room and ask him to leave.
Obviously this whole situation was extremely hurtful and embarrassing. He apologized to my sisters the next morning, and then left. We have since talked about it, and he admits that it got out of hand, however he is still adamant that his way of dealing with these things isn't "wrong", it is just another way of dealing with it; that my crying is just as "wrong".
Max thinks that my crying outbursts are just as irrational and 'aggressive' as his yelling. Its almost as if he thinks I cry to get attention, and to win the argument. I can honestly say that I cry because I'm upset. I can't yell like he does, I just shut down, which is why I leave the room.
This is my thinking, and I need some outside advice/guidance.
-I feel like his outbursts are way over the top and indicate that he has an anger problem. What can I do about this? I told him he needs to get some help, but he doesn't seem to think he needs help (despite the fact that he admitted what happened that night was really awful)
-I have come to see that he is a hot-under-the-collar type person (has been in bar fights, enjoys debating, won't back down). I just wish that he wouldn't treat me that way, be so aggressive and angry with me. However, I'm beginning to think that that is not possible...?
-What do I say to my sisters and friends who heard the whole thing? I am so ashamed and embarrassed. I haven't a clue how to approach this with them.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I feel sick to my stomach about everything and am really unsure about how to approach this.