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How do I deal with my SO's yelling and outbursts? Is it over the top?
December 27, 2011 11:17 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with my SO's yelling and outbursts? Is it over the top?

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 I went home quite upset and acted withdrawn.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.
posted by hollypolly to Human Relations (110 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Guy's an asshole. Dump him.
posted by xingcat at 11:19 AM on December 27, 2011 [72 favorites]


You deal with this by leaving. This is not how a healthy adult behaves in a relationship.
posted by pinky at 11:22 AM on December 27, 2011 [47 favorites]


Run, don't walk away. A man in his thirties does not behave like this.
posted by Anima Mundi at 11:22 AM on December 27, 2011 [32 favorites]


The guy is an asshole and you're enabling him. Dump him and get some therapy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:23 AM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


He's emotionally abusing you and will soon be physically doing so if you don't DTMFA.
posted by brujita at 11:24 AM on December 27, 2011 [23 favorites]


Yes. Asshole. Dump him.

If he doesn't like your crying, he can go someplace where he doesn't have to hear it. Like, Peru.

By the way, it's not you that should be ashamed and embarrassed by his yelling at the party. However, perhaps it will give you the incentive you need when you realize that going back to him, after he acted that way to you in public, will make you lose face among your friends.

Whereas if you dump him, they'll be all, "hollypolly doesn't take crap from guys. If guys are bad to her, she dumps them. Hollypolly kicks ass." Having this kind of reputation will be a big time-saver for you into the future.
posted by tel3path at 11:25 AM on December 27, 2011 [92 favorites]


I know lots of people who grew up in families and relationships where being loud, yelling and screaming is acceptable, because BOTH parties do it, accept it and get over it.

When it's one-sided like this, it will NEVER work. You will always feel hurt, embarrassed, and ashamed by HIS behavior, and from what I can tell, you didn't deserve it in either case. I hope you can find the strength to move on from him.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:27 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


He is not psychologically manipulative

Yeah, he is.

I've been known to have a temper, I've slammed doors and punched walls, though usually when I can't get some piece of technology to work, never when I'm angry at humans. But this:

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.

Is wrong.

Dude isn't worth it. Move on.
posted by bondcliff at 11:28 AM on December 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


Best case scenario: it sounds like you guys don't communicate well with each other even before the fighting.

Good communication is essential for a good relationship, so I think you should break up.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:28 AM on December 27, 2011


- Were you guys drinking alcohol before that second fight after the party? Because that can really amplify emotions.
- Not everyone "fights" the same way. Some people are raised in environments where screaming and yelling is standard. Some people are not and it is a little shocking to them when they see it. I'm not saying that kind of fighting is ok, just that some people are raised like that and it is all they know.
- Your fighting styles are not compatible and therefore you don't communicate well. He yells, you cry, that makes him angrier, that makes you angrier, things escalate.
- Unless you two invest in some therapy to work out these issues, you're much better off breaking up, because the rest of your life will contain these outbursts if you stay with him.
posted by NoraCharles at 11:33 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Four episodes. Clearly, he learned nothing from the first three, because you told him it was unacceptable. Four strikes and you're out. Say goodbye and move on.
posted by beagle at 11:34 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


For me to have that kind of emotionally unhinged reaction in front of my girlfriend would scare ME, let alone her. Either the two of you go to couples counseling, or you leave him very soon.
posted by emelenjr at 11:34 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I read the first example, and thought you need to get away from this guy. Then I read the SECOND example.

Seriously, get away from this guy. What do your family and friends think? He is definitely psychologically manipulative, and the bit about him listing what your friend 'wants to do to you' after the pretty innocent exchange with said friend that you recounted is seriously chilling.

You shouldn't be ashamed and embarrassed, HE should be. Maybe he's not a bad person, but he has serious anger problems to resolve, from what I've read here. Anger problems can be solved with self reflection, practicing healthy habits and therapy, but he needs to get this done before he can be in a relationship. This is not a good situation for either of you.
posted by sweetkid at 11:35 AM on December 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


He is abusive, whether you call it that or not--throwing things across the room and acting possessive when you interact with other people or don't 'pay enough attention' to him are signs of an abusive partner. Dump him before it escalates any further, and don't be ashamed for his behavior: it was not your fault and he was totally out of line, and his putting the blame on you for crying is a convenient way of justifying his inappropriate behavior by shifting the attention to your responses.
posted by Papagayo at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


Four episodes in a 1.5 years is way too often. Most grown people don't have four episodes like that in a lifetime. You should break up with him. Would you really want to deal with his "episodes" every few months for the rest of your life? Get out now.
posted by CheeseLouise at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's a lot to unpack here--and it isn't going to be unpacked without some help--probably from a therapist.

It doesn't sound like either of you is talking, ahead of time, about your expectations. In the first episode, it sounds like you made a commitment to your friend and you had an unstated expectation that he would help you babysit. You stew, he stews and erupts.

In episode 2, again, he has expectations about being the center of attention. I can be like this -- it's something Mr. Vitabellosi has learned about me, and I've learned about myself. He'll take a small amount of time to highlight me to his friends, and I'll deal with my own discomfort at not being the center of attention every moment. It takes some self-reflection and a willingness to be uncomfortable and not always get what I want.

The jealousy, and his willingness to get graphic and tell you what your friend wants to do to you--- that's a dick move that's emotionally violent and makes me very concerned. You need to be able to cherish one another especially when you're angry at each other.

His reluctance to see a need to get help or make any changes is a blessing -- it's your "out".
posted by vitabellosi at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Others are giving you good advice on the anger/aggression side of things. I'd like to talk about this:

definitely did not spend enough time with Max

Careful, your sense of what is normal and healthy in relationships is getting warped.

When you host a big party, you do not need to spend time with your SO. Your SO should be able to see that you're working hard to be a good host, realize that you haven't seen your friends recently, and entertain himself for the evening--or better yet, ask you if you need him to run to the store for more ice, watch something on the stove, or do anything else to make the party easier for you.

If you blew off date night to hang out with an old friend, Max would have cause to feel neglected and be hurt. That's not what you did. His expectations regarding your attention are unreasonable and unhealthy. You're starting to believe that they're normal, and that's a problem.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [116 favorites]


Another vote for get out now. This man is being abusive to you. It is not a culture clash or any failure of yours to "deal" with him. It is not your job to fix him. It is his and he may never do it.

In families where loud, "hot under the collar" types get along well and live in some degree of healthiness, I notice these factors:

-- The loudness stems from brusqueness and interest, not sulkiness and brooding,

-- Negativity is accompanied by an equally open devotion and even sentimentality,

-- Everyone in the family interacts on this level. They give as good as they get and always have.

In short, there is respect and love. I see no respect here whatsoever. As for love -- what do you owe him for it, if this is how it makes him treat you?
posted by Countess Elena at 11:38 AM on December 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


He IS psychologically manipulative. Leave him, adults don't act like that.
posted by wwax at 11:39 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


You say you've been together for a year and a half. If this has been a chronic, if infrequent, pattern of behavior then I agree with the above advice. If it has happened all together much more recently it is possible that something has changed for him, either emotionally, psychologically, or medically.

Let him know in no uncertain terms that this is a major problem. But, it is possible that he needs help if these are all recent occurrences. I know of people who've gone through extremely negative shifts rather suddenly due to chemical/medical changes in their bodies. If there is any reason to believe this might be the case get it checked out.

But yeah, nthing this is abusive behavior and your first responsibility is to take care of yourself.
posted by meinvt at 11:39 AM on December 27, 2011


Destroying things can be a bad sign because of this: if you stay after he acts violent toward an object, you could be the next object. Because some people think of their female partners as objects. Hence, the ownership and screaming at you for talking to an old friend. It's real cute when 2 year olds do it with toys, not so much with adult people who have the potential for violence against others.

I used to be with a guy who said I was a "hysterical woman" if I cried or objected to his behavior. As in, Victorian age hysterical. Ooh yeah, fun times.

Real man: yes I let you do the babysitting work because I don't know how to take care of kids. I'm sorry. How can I make it up to you? (backrub, dinner, do dishes, etc.)
Jerk man: blaming you for being upset and trying to gaslight you into thinking you have psychological problems.

Real man: isn't intimidated by you spending times with your friends at a party where all are in view. In fact, encourages you to do things that make you happy.
Jerk man: makes wild accusations and screams and yells. Tries to turn it all into your fault so you end up apologizing to him, even though you didn't do anything wrong.

I spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why this person behaved the way he did and making excuses for him. Finally I realized he would never, ever change. Didn't want to. It was all my fault.

Also, yes, booze can make things worse but again, if you try and excuse it or figure it out, you are doing yourself a disservice. If it were a total stranger would you put up with it? Why put up with it from someone you are supposed to have trust in? Because... because why? How is he so great that you will put yourself at risk for being emotionally and possibly physically abused later on down the line? He's not. Trust me. No one is that great.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:39 AM on December 27, 2011 [37 favorites]


It was all my fault in his eyes (his behavior - I made him do it). Ha-ha. Not.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:41 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


My husband and I had fights like this ALL. THE. TIME when we were first living together, complete with the thrown things and the swearing. I finally got sick of it and told him he could either come to therapy with me or I was leaving. He really really really did not want to come to therapy with me, but he did. We did couples counseling twice a month for two years and it was the best money and time I've ever spent on anything in my life, and now we have a great, solid relationship with two children and all kinds of healthy disagreeing.

So, yeah, it can be saved, if you both want to save it and if you're willing to do some hard work. But you can't fix it yourself, so if he won't go to therapy, I'd say DTMFA.
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 AM on December 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


I am concerned by the extent to which this demi-man seems to have gotten into your head.
Re-read what you wrote, specifically: "I admit that I got distracted and did not pay much attention to Max." And again: "I fully admit that I got lost in conversations, was distracted, was drinking, and definitely did not spend enough time with Max." You use a lot of words in between to excuse this thing which you obviously think is some kind of sin: You were throwing a party and being a hostess.
In a healthy relationship between decent human beings, one partner is not the High Priestess/Priest of the Cult Of The Other Partner. It is not a healthy expectation that your partner should be the object of constant adulation, attention, and energy. The very word "Partner" tells the true tale: Instead of it being your job to find a good balance between socializing with the guests of a party you are throwing and your usual full-time job of entertaining/appeasing your SO, it is incumbent on your partner to join with you as the two of you throw a party for your friends.
You spend way too much time in this question apologizing for and excusing his horrible behavior. You really need to speak to a professional about what role you play in your relationships with other people, because at this time it seems you not only need to get rid of your monstrous SO, you also need to avoid getting a new one until you can get your head on straight.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 11:41 AM on December 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


DTMFA.

I'm not fond of saying that, but, wow. This is not how adults behave. Arguments or discussions are one thing - tantrums are a completely different ballgame. If he's acting like this now, he's probably acted this way with others, including family, and it won't stop. He doesn't sound like he has a filter on who gets the bad treatment.

I'm sorry, but dump him, and consider it a wonderful decision. Move on, go to therapy if you want, and find someone more suited to your personality.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 11:43 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


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.

"I am so sorry all of you had to witness that. Obviously, I am embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as I am that it has taken me 18 months to see the light and break up with Max." Because if you don't break up with this guy, this is how this story goes.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:43 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


In a healthy relationship between decent human beings, one partner is not the High Priestess/Priest of the Cult Of The Other Partner.

I love this and wish I had heard it as a young girl.

hollypolly, I just wanted to add another word in case you're upset with us for piling on your boyfriend, and thinking of all the wonderful things he's done that we can't see. I'm not saying Max is a Lifetime movie villain. Is he always abusive? No. Can he be helped? Very probably. But only over years of work, and his work alone. You need to give him the kick to the curb that should help him get that started. In the meantime, you deserve someone who did his own work himself.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:45 AM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


HIS BEHAVIOR IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!
For me, one of the big warning signs is that he is trying to make you responsible for his bad behavior. For example, some people (although far from all) might feel a lack of attention and some jealousy at your party. However, very few would indulge in the kind of angry attack that you experienced. Even if your behavior is passive-aggressive (and I'm not saying that it is), he is responding with aggressive, intimidating behavior and then trying to make you feel guilty.

Feeling ashamed and embarrased means that you believe that his behavior somehow makes you a bad person. If you are not in charge of his behavior (which you are not) then you need to try to let go of the internal judgment that is making you feel embarrassed. Your friend and family care about you. Try telling them (and yourself) "He is an anger problem. His behavior last night was awful. I think he owes you - and me - an apology but that is up to him. In the meanwhile, i am trying to figure out what all this means for our relationship." Acknowledge what happened and how you feel about it but don't take responsibility (which means you don't apologize for what he did).

Also, you might do some reading on "the cycle of violence" and see if that kind of explosion/apology/homeymoon/explosion fits your relationship. The bad news is that it usually gets worse until you are spending all of your energy tiptoeing around his anger.
posted by metahawk at 11:47 AM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Lots of people have anger issues. They can be really hard to work out. I have so, SO much sympathy for the people in my life who have anger issues, because I've seen how difficult it's been for them to work toward overcoming their own inclinations.

However, those people are still in my life because they own up to the fact that their anger is a problem, and are actively working toward getting it under control. When they behave inappropriately, they calm down and then apologize to me. When I try to tell them it's my fault for doing ____, they say no, I'm wrong, my doing ____ is no excuse for them behaving that way.

Your boyfriend is not admitting he has a problem and he's allowing you to take responsibility for it when it is absolutely NOT your fault that he's overreacting in this way.

Anger is one thing. He sounds like he has no perspective on his own situation and no ability to judge the appropriateness of his own behavior. That's a big, big red flag.

Seriously: You are not responsible for other people's terrible behavior. Maybe you could have handled things a bit more gracefully, I don't know, I wasn't there. But his response was completely unreasonable, and there is no excuse for it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:48 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I agree that dumping him at this point is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

At the VERY LEAST if this were me, I would demand couples counselling and perhaps individually for him. It is possible that if he had some tools for appropriately channeling this anger, things might get better. But it isn't your responsibility to make that happen, and it has t be done willingly on his part, and if he isn't wiling, go back to step one and DTMFA.

Question: do these things happen more often when he is drinking?
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:48 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify: when I say "if you're willing to do some hard work," that's a plural you, it means both of you. As in, him and you both. Not just you. In my case, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover the extent that I was contributing to and participating in the crazy fights -- NOT that I was causing them or deserved the treatment, just that I could have reacted in de-escalating and drama-minimizing ways and I chose not to. He needs to cut it the fuck out and pronto, and you also need to figure out why you continue to participate in this situation.

Argh, no matter how much I try to hedge my language, I can't make this not come off as blaming you. You are not to blame; he is solely responsible for his bad behavior and every word, action, and thrown object. My only point is that therapy for you is useful to uncover, recognize, and honor your agency in your situation.
posted by KathrynT at 11:49 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Therapy might eventually help him (or not) but he'd better be an absolutely stellar guy for you to wait around for years while he figures his shit out. My guess is he's not worth it.
posted by desjardins at 11:51 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


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.

His yelling is a tactic. When he has strong feelings, he "wins" the argument by using this tactic. Worse, he thinks that crying is your tactic, and that you two are in a battle for victory. Screaming vs Crying.

I don't care if he adopts puppies and kittens and cares for the homeless on the weekends. This. will. not. end. here. Do not bother trying to get him to see the light, communicate better, etc. Just leave him.

This is what red flags are for, so that you stop spending you time with assholes. Trying to figure out if a red flag is actually a red flag defeats the purpose (which would be not wasting your time and emotional energy on jerks). Instead, go find someone who isn't throwing up red flags to begin with.
posted by Shouraku at 11:52 AM on December 27, 2011 [21 favorites]


Definitely over the top.

Max sounds like the guy I'm working on leaving.

Every argument is my fault, and I'm the one out of control even when he's the one screaming. I approach every conversation and question wrong. My way of communicating is wrong. Nothing is ever his fault or responsibility. I need to just "decide to trust him" inspite of suspicious behaviors, and I am unreasonable to expect him to take any steps to work on fixing the relationship or proving he isn't cheating...

This is the same man who deleted an entire email account rather than let me see his inbox to show that he hadn't been posting "casual encounter" ads to craigslist.

I'm sure even if I caught him in the act, he'd still find a way to blame me for his behavior.
posted by myShanon at 11:54 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


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.

People who act like that with other people will inevitably act like that to you. This is a consistent pattern with just about any sort of behavior. Observe carefully how he treats others: that's how he will eventually treat you.

Do you like being with an aggressive person, or is aggressiveness a turnoff? Do you want someone who will be aggressive and bullying with others, but treat you differently? I think that is going to be impossible.

At best you two have incompatible fighting styles. At worst he's a dangerous out-of-control lout.

None of this is about who-is-more-to-blame for those two incidents you describe or what the specifics of what set him off were-- we all have a choice about how we react, and he exposed himself by the way he chose to react.
posted by deanc at 12:01 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, he IS psychologically manipulative. That's what these fights are--attempts to deflect responsibility for his own behavior onto you, because you "make" him get so upset. It's bullshit and you are having a difficult time seeing it because it is very skillful psychological manipulation.

Adults with appropriate emotional regulation skills don't behave this way. You can't fix him or fix this for him. Is he able to take responsibility for this problem of his and seek ways of handling things better? No? Well, then you are either making the choice to 1) accept that he does this to you and continue to endure it because this is NOT going to change unless he wants it to, or 2) get the hell away from him and find a good, healthy relationship to build with someone else. This is not the only man on earth who will love you back, and you are worth more than the way he is treating you.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:06 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


-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)

You cannot do anything about his anger problem. Only he can. You can suggest that he has a problem that requires fixing and you have done that. He won't change till he wants to change and there is nothing you can (or should) do about it.

So the next time he yells and you do decide to DTMFA, when he says "%#$@ you!", or rather yells, you say, "you know babe, you are right. You are so right that I can't even come up with anything to say. Adios!"

-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...?

He is not treating you that way. That's just how he behaves. Its always good to listen to your instincts rather than talk yourself out of them.

-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.

Nothing. It's a good thing they heard. Next time they can watch out for you and/or tell you that you need to DTMFA.
posted by xm at 12:07 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


DTMFA.

You should not ever be put in the position where your partner's actions frighten you. EVER.

I think deep down you know this because you are trying to explain his behavior in terms of what you did or did not do (I was passive-aggressive, I wasn't paying enough attention to him). The bottom line is the guy has issues, issues that you have no business trying to fix and that if left untreated, will cause you a lot of grief down the road.

You are your best friend in this kind of situation - do yourself a favor and get out of the relationship ASAP.
posted by Leezie at 12:16 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are your best friend in this kind of situation

I like this line of thinking. What would you say if a friend brought you this same story?
posted by sweetkid at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


How do I deal with my SO's yelling and outbursts?

You leave.

-What do I say to my sisters and friends who heard the whole thing? I am so ashamed and embarrassed.

You say, I am leaving my SO because I am so ashamed and embarrassed by his behaviour - I will no longer put up with someone who treats me like crap. Or you just leave him and everyone will know and understand (and respect you).
posted by mleigh at 12:30 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Passive-aggressiveness and crying do not outweigh violence in behaviour, verbal assault and intimidation. Not on most properly calibrated scales, anyway. He is a bully who is trying to condition you, through his verbal aggression and physical outbursts, into behaving a certain way and thus meeting certain of his psychological needs (those that relate to his inadequacy and immaturity). He may well be a lovely man the rest of the time (although the other people who meet him when he's off on one - at work, in bars etc might not think so). Life is too short and far too precious to waste on someone who can treat another human being like this.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Walking away may be best, but it is much easier said than done.

But KathrynT provides a middle way...
I finally got sick of it and told him he could either come to therapy with me or I was leaving. He really really really did not want to come to therapy with me, but he did.

When a relationship has problems it is the duty of both people to work on it. So put the ball in his court -- demand you both go to couple counseling and work on this issue that is very clearly upsetting the applecart. If he goes then good for him (and you!); If he doesn't then you have a clear statement about this and future conflicts and can leave with a clean conscience.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:34 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, this is scary behavior. You're wondering how to *fix* this, and the answer is truly that you can't. I hope that you accept this and leave sooner rather than later so that you can move on to situations where your desire to give love to your whole community is valued and supported.

Here's a mantra for you, so quick to hold yourself to perfection-level standards of behavior and so slow to hold him accountable for behaving with a mere semblance of appropriateness: two wrongs don't make a right. Regardless of what you do, he chooses whether he throws something, yells at you, or has a reasonable conversation about the situation at an appropriate time. How he behaves is his responsibility no matter what you do. Reread what NarrativePriorities wrote. Or think about times you truly did make some big mistake. Did that loved one yell "go %^# yourself" over and over? Probably not. So when he says "I yelled at you because you were being manipulative by crying," say "your yelling is absolutely unacceptable, no matter what." When he says, "I threw the water vase because you blah blah blah," say "throwing the water vase is unacceptable no matter what." (Sounds like you did that.) Of course, even if you say those thing every single time he does something, he won't change. It's you who needs to hear and believe them.

To reply to your thoughts:
- The only sure-fire solution is for you to leave. Ask anyone who has been in a relationship with abusive behavior like this whether they figured out how to fix things, and they will chorus with me, "no, it just got so bad that I finally left."
- You are right that it is probably not possible.
- Tell them the truth, that this is not extremely unusual behavior for him but that you are embarrassed they saw it, that you need help to stop believing that his behavior is reasonable or justified, and that you're trying to figure out what to do about this relationship.

Sorry this happened at your party, but maybe this is a positive thing, a wake up call, and a way to get the help of all your loved ones in leaving this guy? Don't feel too embarrassed, though. His behavior reflects on him, not you. It's not that you did anything "wrong." But it sounds like this guy is trouble, so I hope you move on soon.
posted by salvia at 12:36 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are some pretty powerful emotions telling you to work it out with him - the warmth of intimacy, the glow of when things eventually resolve themselves between you two, all of the little things that attracted you to him in the first place, as well as the small details in the relationship that mean "love" to you.

It's a trap, and it will lead to serious heartbreak - or worse, actual physical abuse - further down the line. If another man has to step in to tell him how to treat the woman he "loves", as your sister's BF did, he may love you, but he will destroy you, and he won't even feel terribly bad about it.

Make sure you break up with him in a public place, or that friends or family are within (literal) shouting distance. He'll try to manipulate you into taking him back, through fear or emotional trauma.

Gonna be tough. Sounds like you have a good support structure around you, tho.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:37 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Re: episode 1: My first thought was that you could have asked him to participate in the feeding, bathing and playing with the baby, such as, "Could you help me feed the baby? E.g. open that jar of baby food, grab me a spoon, wanna take turns feeding? etc." Like another commenter said, it sounds like the first issue here was about expectations and communications. I think you made a mistake (look, no one's perfect) by acting withdrawn on the way home, but that does NOT justify his response to you. That's the second issue, his extreme response. Throwing a water canister? Slamming a door? You might've made a mistake, but his response was just completely wrong. You are willing to admit you made a mistake, but he is not able to take responsibility for his actions at all - instead he throws it back in your face. That's psychologically manipulative, and he is selfish.

Re: episode 2: Why does he need so much caretaking? Why does he need you to make sure that he's ok and that he's getting enough attention from you? Then he tells you to fuck yourself. That is abusive behaviour.

To your questions: Well you can't do anything about his anger, that's his responsibility. What you can do is bring this all up as "This is a problem. I want to work on this and get counselling. If you do not agree, then I'm leaving." I suspect he'll put the blame on you. "If you weren't so X, then I wouldn't get so angry." Don't fall for this bullshit. If he pulls that, that's more reason for you to walk away.

Is it ok to you that you have a partner that has been in bar fights and won't back down? Is that the kind of partner that you want? What do these actions say about him as a person?

What to say to your sisters and friends: just be honest. You're ashamed and embarrassed. Ask for their support.

This post could be you a few years into the future. The circumstances are a bit different, but please do not let yourself end up in this situation a few years from now. You may also want to read this excellent book, frequently recommended on the green.
posted by foxjacket at 12:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


His behavior IS psychologically manipulative. He may not mean to manipulate you, but he's given you cause to be afraid of him (emotionally, if not physically) and created situations in which you must tiptoe, or else be screamed at or publicly humiliated. That's manipulative. I would even say that it's emotionally abusive.

First, I suggest reading a book on emotional abuse. You need to recognize what it is so you can be absolutely sure that your behavior is not emotionally abusive. That may give you more confidence in recognizing that your SO's behavior is.

Second, if he can't recognize his own behavior as emotionally abusive, I strongly suggest that you walk away. You can't change him, but you may give him the impetus for him to change himself. I wouldn't wait for it, though--there are so many good men out there if you know how to spot them.
posted by melancholyplay at 12:44 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"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"."

So, he acknowledges that "it" got out of hand, that his way of dealing with conflict (shouting, swearing, aggression) is not wrong but that your way of dealing with conflict (crying) is (just as) wrong? Do you see how confusing that way of processing the situation is, how wrong it seems? "I'm not wrong - but if I was, you'd be just as wrong as me for getting upset"?

Shouting and screaming and swearing is a way that some people have of processing and expressing strong emotion, true, but depending on the context and people involved it can also be incredibly destructive. That on this occasion you were not physically threatened does not mean his "... another way of dealing with it ..." did not damage you, but he doesn't seem to see it that way - perhaps he thinks that as long as he doesn't hurt you physically ot's good for him to say what he thinks and in the way he thinks best because it's "natural" and "honest" to express himself freely. But putting himself into a situation where another man has to step in to get him to cool down and move away is not a "normal" loss of temper - I've lost my temper, most people have, but even in the depths of anger we can still somehow manage to avoid involving others. He doesn't seem to be able to do that.

" ... he doesn't seem to think he needs help (despite the fact that he admitted what happened that night was really awful) ... "

I suspect he is going to lose his rag in a situation that sees him in trouble with interests outside family and friends if he keeps going - if he's getting into fights with people, he does have a problem that will see him arrested or in danger of hurting another person at some point. HE should be worried. HE should be seeking help. Perhaps he thinks this is how men behave - do you know his family at all? Is he repeating behaviour he learned there? Not an excuse by the way - there is still choice and agency even then.

And you don't have to say anything to your sisters and friends - they saw it, they understand and you don't need to be ashamed because you didn't do anything wrong.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 1:07 PM on December 27, 2011


This is how an abuser behaves. They can be wonderful most of the time and then.....you get what you just got.

This has nowhere to go but down particularly since he is not owning his behaviour. Dump him before this gets worse.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:09 PM on December 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


Get out of there. He can't even accept his own capacity for doing wrong.
posted by ead at 1:14 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


@Martha My Dear Prudence : You hit the nail on the head in regard to his belief that his way of dealing with things is more honest. He has said to me a few times that he would rather have me shouting at him, telling him what I think, than turning away, crying or acting passive aggressive. For me, it takes time to express how I feel, and if someone is yelling at me, all I can muster at that moment is tears-- I get tongue-tied, hurt and then just start crying. While he continues to go on and on.

This doesn't excuse it at all, but I would like to mention that he did grow up in a household where yelling and screaming was the norm. He mentioned this the other day, specifically that this was how he was brought up to argue and defend himself. I was definitely not brought up this way, my parents almost never raised their voices. So his response to that is: "So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"
posted by hollypolly at 1:16 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


A year and a half isn't that much time. It's a lot easier to break up with him now than it will be in 6 years and after 18 more violent outbursts.
posted by bq at 1:21 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, even if his behavior WAS normal- which it most definitely is NOT- but even if it was, you two would STILL clearly be a bad match. Think about that.

Also, realize that he is not going to stop behaving in exactly this same way, so ask yourself if you think you can stand this for another 40 years. If not, break up with him NOW. And if I were you, I'd do it in public.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:22 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, so, you yell and scream in the manner he stipulates that he requires from you, and in return, he punches you in the face for talking back to him.

Or not. Maybe he is as happy and satisfied with your yelling as he says he will be. [1]

So fucking what? Who is he to say that you must express yourself only the way he wants? If he can yell, why can't you cry?




[1] Possibly because it allows him to justify further abusive anger, excuse me I should say yelling, because look! You're doing it too! See, everybody, hollypolly is such a yeller. It's impossible to live with a woman that yells like that, amirite?
posted by tel3path at 1:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


Hollypolly, I'm so sorry you're going through this.

I think there's a big difference between arguing and defending yourself in the course of a discussion, say, where different points of view are being expressed (someone upstream expressed it much better than this), and when that shouting and "expressing" is being directed in anger at someone with a different way of communicating their feelings. He sees that, but he still behaves towards you in a way that he must know will upset you and drive you to a point of tongue-tied misery and STILL he doesn't stop? This is not a good match for you. On preview, as tel3path has so rightly said, he wants you to behave in a way he understands and he gets angry when you don't. That simply isn't fair.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 1:27 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


So his response to that is: "So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"

It is wrong because it is not acceptable to you. And, it is not acceptable to be someone's houseguest and disrupt the entire household with profane outbursts. You've tried to tell him that, and he still doesn't get it.

If you accept the therapy advice given above, you need to be VERY firm about the fact that this can NEVER happen again. If you can't do that (IOW, if you think you actually might give him another chance if it happens, and then another, as you have been doing), then don't go into therapy, just get out.
posted by beagle at 1:27 PM on December 27, 2011


that doesn't mean my approach is wrong

His approach is wrong. I grew up in a house with yelling and screaming and throwing things and I don't yell and scream and throw things because that approach is wrong.
posted by sweetkid at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2011 [26 favorites]


"So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"

Shouting and screaming verbal abuse at you is objectively wrong.

Crying is not wrong.

He's equating his verbal abuse (screaming at you to go fuck yourself) with your reaction to it (crying). It's nonsense--harmful, awful, manipulative nonsense.

It would be different if he were saying, "I am so sorry that I screamed at you and lost it like that. It was unacceptable and I know I hurt you. I'm going to get help by seeing a therapist and finding support groups for anger management." Then, after he'd started his own treatment and begun making progress, perhaps it would make sense for the two of you to see a therapist together and work out better strategies for dealing with conflict together.

But he's not taking that first step of owning up to his egregious behavior. He's saying "You're just as wrong as I was," as a way to brush off having been incredibly--incredibly abusive and cruel toward you. You were not wrong in this instance, and even if there are times when you handle disagreements imperfectly, you deserve to not be screamed at, belittled, insulted, or otherwise verbally abused.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:30 PM on December 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


You urgently need to buy and read this book.

It has scripts for handling the scenarios you describe, and for understanding what's going on when this stuff happens.
posted by tel3path at 1:34 PM on December 27, 2011


Yelling is one thing, but he is being verbally abusive, blaming, name-calling, not listening, controlling, shaming you in front of family, and throwing things. You told him it was unacceptable, but he's still doing it, and may even have escalated. You deserve respect. He is not getting better; he's getting worse. You might think you can live with this if it doesn't get worse. It's already gotten worse. It's possible that it could get better with therapy. My ex- got a little bit worse, and a little bit worse, in such small increments that I was a nearly boiled. We went to therapy; he was unwilling/unable to change, and I was able to see that I couldn't live with it any more. But maybe your guy will be able and willing to change.

Do you live with him? Get in touch with the Family Violence project in your area, and have a plan. When you split up, you may be in danger of physical abuse. Set some money aside with a family member, and make plans to leave. You deserve to be treated well, to be loved and valued, and to have the love you give recognized and appreciated.
posted by theora55 at 1:39 PM on December 27, 2011


Does he always have to "win" a fight/debate/argument?
Does he ever accept responsibility or blame himself?
Is there something seriously worth it to put in the work it will take to try and fix this and is he even willing to do that work?
I hope you don't live together and can get some space from him to try and figure things out.
Just because yelling and screaming in his house was the norm, it doesn't mean it was healthy or normal. It does mean he probably doesn't know other ways of dealing with his emotions. So far, it doesn't sound like he's willing to change that.

I don't understand why it sounds like you feel your SO needs extra special attention during a party. Is he really needy as well? If he's your SO, he should be helping you.
posted by provoliminal at 1:42 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"
He's wrong. He's manipulative and abusive and jealously ugly. He demands that you read his mind and expects you to tip-toe around him, constantly monitoring his emotional climate.

So you don't want to DTMFA? Then be prepared for this to escalate. Soon he won't be missing you with the water bottle. He was shouting at you to F@!# yourself where your family could hear him, and he obviously thought nothing of it. Is THIS what you want to be with, to have your friends and family be around?

Whatever you decide, I certainly wouldn't take him anywhere around a child again. If he loses it that bad at a party with other adults around, I'd hate to have him start his shit around a child. Of course, be prepared for him to accuse you of going out and f#@$& when you come back from babysitting. Believe me, it will only escalate.

This guy is dreck. Dump him.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:48 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


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

This is all you need to know. He is adamant that flying into an irrational jealous rage, interrupting you with hurtful and rude comments when you are in obvious pain, and yelling at you multiple times to "go $^& yourself" are what he considers fully appropriate ways to deal with his feelings. He is making sure that you know that this will happen again and again and again and again. Believe him.

I know that you deserve better than this because everyone deserves better than this.

As you're working this through, why not make a free, anonymous, totally private call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)? That way you can have a more in-depth conversation about the whole situation, and at the very least get some informed questions to ask yourself to help put things in even better perspective.
posted by argonauta at 1:51 PM on December 27, 2011 [20 favorites]


So his response to that is: "So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong

I would guess that "right" and "wrong" is not going to be a useful way to discuss this. There's what works in your relationship and what doesn't.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:58 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"

Difference in and of itself doesn't mean it is "wrong" but it CAN in and of itself mean it is wrong FOR YOU.

However, yelling profanity and throwing things is, in my view, outside the norm of behavior and threatening enough to be "wrong."

The fact that he grew up with it does not make it right. If he grew up getting hit, would that make it right? "Hey, we're different, that doesn't mean hitting you is wrong." Bullshit.

He needs to accept and respect your standards about how you want to be treated. You need to stop negotiating those standards and start enforcing them. Meeting those standards is not conditional on you being perfect. Those standards about how people behave when they're angry (e.g., take a walk, use "I" statements) are meant to apply when people are angry, not when things are hunky-dory.
posted by salvia at 2:04 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's something to think about, outside of the yelling etc.

Your boyfriend doesn't like it when you pay attention to people other than him. His reactions to you paying attention to anyone other than him range from sitting on the couch sulking to yelling and screaming at you until a third party intervenes.

Seriously, outside of the yelling: Your boyfriend does not like it when you pay attention to anyone other than him.

Did the other two outbursts involve you paying attention to other people? Or even other hobbies or just other activities? How does he react to you having hobbies outside of the relationship? Does he think you work too much? Does he resent time spent with your family? Was he supportive of your trip to do research?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:05 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sometimes I watch parents give in to children who are throwing big temper tantrums and I wonder why they do it as it just tells them that will work in the future to get them what they want. This isn't any different. If you'd continue to reward a 3 year old, then I guess you can continue to reward a 30 year old, but neither of them turns out a great grown up in the end.

His approach is Wrong, because it upsets someone he claims to love. So his approach can be Right, but you don't have to stand there and take it. It'll be Right to an empty room and an empty life. Parents don't get to DTMF(3YO)A but you get to DTMF30YOA.
posted by marylynn at 2:07 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So his response to that is: "So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"

Telling your girlfriend to fuck herself at the top of your lungs, in your girlfriend's parents' house, during a party, is not an arguing tactic and has nothing to do with arguing styles, period.

You need to be aware that what this guy is feeding you is complete bullshit.
posted by facetious at 2:17 PM on December 27, 2011 [29 favorites]


"So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"

Everyone else has picked apart this statement, but here's one more: relationships aren't about being right or wrong. A person doesn't have to be wrong for you to be justified in leaving him. A person doesn't have to be wrong for you to acknowledge that he's not right for you. If you ever say, "I do not like X," and he says, "X is how I do things and it's not wrong," here is your response: "You have every right to do whatever you want, but that does not mean I have to want to be with you if you do X."

But, I want to talk about something else. This whole situation isn't really about other people, but let's examine how his most recent behavior relates to other people.

He was at someone else's house -- your parents. These are people I'm sure he knows fairly well, but they're still people unrelated to him whom he has reason to want to impress. And he was in their house. He then proceeded to go into a room, scream, shout, and tell their daughter to go fuck herself, all with them perfectly able to hear. He behaved so terribly that he had to be asked to leave.

That's not how a person behaves when in someone else's house. When you're a guest, you act like one. You are kind and gracious. You avoid giant fights. You do not tell your host's daughter to go fuck herself. You do not get into such a giant screaming fight that they have no choice but to overhear. If, for some reason, you find yourself emotionally incapable of avoiding a giant screaming fight, you excuse yourself to go for a walk or otherwise avoid being so horribly unpleasant. You most certainly don't keep it up to the point that you must be asked to leave.

This tells me one thing, very clearly: he does not respect your family. He does not respect your sister. He does not respect these other people.

Now. That's how he feels about the people who are dearly important to you. He doesn't respect them. He couldn't care less about their emotional well-being. He couldn't care less about forcing them into an incredibly awkward, difficult, embarrassing, and frightening situation while in their house. That's how he feels about your family.

And your family isn't even who he told to go fuck themselves.

If that's how much little respect he has for your family, how much respect do you think he has for you? You're the one he was actually screaming at, not them. You're the one he told off. If his behavior shows a total lack of respect for them, how much respect can he have for you?

Here's the biggest question: do you think it's good to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't respect your family or you?

You know the answers to these questions. No -- don't explain it away. Don't rationalize. Don't excuse. You know the answers. The most significant thing you owe yourself is to surround yourself with people who respect you.

You know, I really hate parties. I rely on my partner to kind of protect me from the onslaught of strangers and smalltalk. But, know what I would do, if I found my partner distracted by other stuff and unintentionally ignoring me when I desperately needed help? I'd go up to him, and I'd say, "Oof -- this party is killing me. Can you try to stay by my side for a while, please?" That's not what your SO chose to do. Instead, he chose to get huffy and let his anger and discomfort boil up to the point that he was screaming his head off at someone else's house. That was his choice -- he could have done otherwise. You didn't make him react poorly to the situation. You weren't responsible for him boiling over into rage instead of making an earlier request for a bit more attention. So, one last question: how, again, is this in any way your fault or something you were responsible for controlling?
posted by meese at 2:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [20 favorites]


I read like half the responses here and I don't disagree that he is abusive and you should leave.

But I also wanted to second this: "In the first episode, it sounds like you made a commitment to your friend and you had an unstated expectation that he would help you babysit."

I'd be upset too--though I hope I would express it differently--if someone offered to babysit, on their own and without consulting me, and then expected me to do some of the work, and sulked if I didn't meet this unvoiced and un-agreed-to expectation.
posted by parrot_person at 3:02 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


The yelling and throwing things and blaming sounds just like my ex. I regret that I did not leave until it escalated to violence against me.
posted by kamikazegopher at 3:03 PM on December 27, 2011


Everybody fights in relationships. One key difference between good relationships and bad relationships is how those fights play out. In a bad relationship, fights are about winning - about having the other person admit that you're right, and about getting what you want. These kinds of fights include things like namecalling and things that are said just to hurt the other person - you know, shit you would pull if you were in an argument at recess in eighth grade, and your goal was just to make the other person look and feel bad.

In a good relationship, a fight may start out this way, but it moves, as quickly as possible, into a discussion about how you're going to work things out - identifying what went wrong, making sure everyone's clear on what the problem was, and figuring out what you should do moving forward. These discussions can still be uncomfortable, and might occasionally lapse back into the more argumentative mode, but it's the general spirit.

It seems like you're fighting with him as though you're in a good relationship, and he's fighting with you as though you're in a bad relationship. It's true that it's not necessarily a bad thing to get angry - people can't help that any more than you can help your crying. But it's bullshit to claim that you have no control over how you vocalize your anger. He's not trying to express his anger so you understand where it's coming from. He's trying to win the fight and shut you down. Break up with him, and be sure to do it in public.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:04 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree that...
This is not how a healthy adult behaves in a relationship and that you should leave right now, today.

But I can't help but agree with parrot_person that there are certainly things about yourself you should change in order for your next relationship to be healthy. Mainly, you need to communicate. If my SO offered to babysit and then got pissed because I didn't help her, it would cause a pretty serious rift.

This level of non-communication is a symptom of deeper problems that might not go away on their own.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:09 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I hope the shame and embarrassment is only because you realize what an asshole you've been dating. A year and a half isn't such a long time that you're now in the long-term tolerance phase; it's practically still the getting-to-know-each-other phase.

I could never be even friends with someone who yelled at me like that, much less a romantic relationship.
posted by Occula at 3:20 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if expectations about the babysitting were not communicated clearly, the two examples put together show that this actually isn't a communication problem.

If this weren't an abusive relationship, the OP's changing the way she communicates might be a good thing to focus on. But nonabusive people just don't act the way this guy did, and if they do they at least manage to come out with a crap apology like "sorry everyone, I was [possessed by the devil | abducted by aliens and replaced by a replicant], I do hope this won't cause problems between us"

Also... the babysitting was something that the OP went to (i.e. she went to the friends' home) and the guy "came along". That means he (apparently) chose to accompany her to a babysitting gig. Unless you're 14 and your goal is to make out on the couch, you have very little reason to accompany your girlfriend on a babysitting trip unless you plan to help her babysit.

I mean, why else go at all?

That's not a throwaway question, btw. Cause, look what he accused her of at the party?
posted by tel3path at 3:23 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


If he doesn't like your crying, he can go someplace where he doesn't have to hear it. Like, Peru.

Oh no honey, we have enough assholes in Peru, thank you.

OP: You really don't need to share your life with this guy. Choose someone that respects you and that won't do you the disservice of thinking you're trying to manipulate him when you are just crying. Just that fact alone shows you that he thinks very badly of you.
posted by Tarumba at 3:26 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Red flags going up all over the place as I read this. This is not normal. This is abuse.

You deserve so much better.
posted by SisterHavana at 3:29 PM on December 27, 2011


He made you cry and then blamed you for crying. Who does that?

Please don't get mired in the details of who's more wrong or irrational or whatever. Max keeps bringing that up because he's trying to justify his own abusive behavior, and he's trying to distract from the real issue. It's bad enough when someone refuses to listen to or address regular relationship issues, like dividing chores or whatever. But when the problem at hand is something like this, forget it. Stop trying to explain to Max why his outbursts are unacceptable, and just leave.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:37 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


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.

metahawk mentioned this above, but just give this article a quick read, and see if you notice any resemblance to your situation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycle_of_abuse
posted by so_gracefully at 3:44 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The yelling and throwing things and blaming sounds just like my ex. I regret that I did not leave until it escalated to violence against me.

Me too. I hate to repeat myself, but it's pretty classically manipulative - trying to gaslight you into thinking that your crying is an attempt to fight, so "fair is fair."

And throwing stuff is physical violence. And "yelling" isn't the same as telling you to f* yourself.

This stuff usually gets worse.
posted by Pax at 3:48 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


"So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"

So he's unwilling to change his behavior. Is that what you really want to deal with for the rest of your life? Someone who screams at you, belittles you, and embarrasses you around your friends and family? Also his weird, jealous reaction about the conversation you had with a male friend is a HUGE RED FLAG. From your timeline, it seems like his behavior is escalating, you don't want to stick around to see how bad it can get. There a men out there who will not treat you like this and you don't have to put up with it. For your physical safety and sanity, DTMFA.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:50 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay I want to add something to my previous answer. Looking at your previous askmefi question, a year of your year and a half relationship was spent long distance. How long, if at all, have you two lived in the same place? Do you live together? The thing about long distance relationships is that sometimes they can delay you finding out just how bad your SO really is.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:55 PM on December 27, 2011


@MaryDellamorte Perhaps I should have included that in my post-- I'd say we've spent about half of our relationship thus far long-distance. With skype and g-chatting, I've rarely seen him angry, so when things like this happen, it is really shocking to me because that's not the person I know otherwise. Obviously this is a major red flag and I need to leave if he doesn't step up and do major work on this issue. I'm just trying to process this all, this was suppose to be, finally, our time together as I'm not going away again for a long while. Just kind of devastated that this had to happen.

As per the other posts, I acknolwegde that in the babysitting scenario, I should have spoken up prior. I tend to hold things in. But, I know in my heart of hearts that he crosses a certain line when we get into arguments, and throwing stuff is not adult/healthy behaviour.

Anyways... need time to process this all. I do not live with him, so I have the advantage of being on my own, being left alone, for a while before I talk to him.
posted by hollypolly at 4:09 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This doesn't excuse it at all, but I would like to mention that he did grow up in a household where yelling and screaming was the norm. He mentioned this the other day, specifically that this was how he was brought up to argue and defend himself.

You know what? I grew up in a household where yelling and screaming was the norm. And, just FYI, being a terrified kid was also the norm - so you need to think about that eventuality, too. But you know what? When I'm pissed at my husband, I a) trust him to hear my words b) tell him I'm really angry c) tell him why d) let him speak e) try to listen without interrupting f) tell him what I need.

In other words, while I am still working on item E, I do not yell, scream, or call my husband a whore. I strive to do better than my parents did. Your boyfriend's excuses are bullshit. He can choose to live with the excuses, or he can choose to live in a healthy relationship. So can you - just not this relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:09 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


He has said to me a few times that he would rather have me shouting at him, telling him what I think, than turning away, crying or acting passive aggressive.

He mentioned this the other day, specifically that this was how he was brought up to argue and defend himself.


I have a very serious issue with this. He was brought up to argue and defend himself? That is great if you are being falsely accused of a crime in court, not so great if you are having an argument with your partner.

If he enters arguments with the mentality of "I MUST ARGUE MY POINT AND DEFEND MYSELF AGAINST THIS THREAT" then plan on many years of pain in the future.

The issue is not only that he yells and gets angry, but that he sees disagreements as battles and attacks that he has to overcome and defend himself against.


This means that he didn't have good role models to teach him how to argue constructively, fairly, and respectfully.

Don't waste your time trying to teach him this, just leave.
posted by Shouraku at 4:14 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"that doesn't mean my approach is wrong" says the guy you want to live together with.

Speaking from a long-term, successful relationship: I regularly feel the way he does. I'm not wrong. Mr. K's wrong. Obviously. But .... would I rather be right or happy? would I rather be right or have him happy?

If he can't move from the "I'm right, you're wrong" place to the "I may be right, but you're upset, that upsets me" place, you two don't have a hope in hell. And from your description, he doesn't even seem to know there is any other way to be than the way he's being. Get out, pronto. Again, with the benefit of experience, I wish I'd left my first husband after a year, rather than wait 10 years. The longer you stay, the more damage to each of you.

Good luck.
posted by kestralwing at 4:19 PM on December 27, 2011


Obviously this is a major red flag and I need to leave if he doesn't step up and do major work on this issue.

From what you told us, it sounds like he isn't willing to work on his behavior because he doesn't see himself as wrong. And honestly, someone in his early 30s that still acts that way will almost certainly stay that way unless he's willing to get some major help via therapy but I wouldn't put much stock into that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:54 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd say we've spent about half of our relationship thus far long-distance.

Oooh, so he could be doing this a lot more often but you wouldn't know? Yeesh.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:58 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Everything you've written suggests that at the base, the two of you are not compatible - not in expectations, not in communication styles, not in how you have and resolve conflicts. And it doesn't sound like he's willing to meet you halfway - rather, he's framing the problem as you, and I think your question (its focus and wording) suggests that you've internalised this whole heartedly. Nowhere did I read him apologising to you for scaring you by throwing things, for humiliating you by screaming at you in front of your loved ones. I see him defending himself a lot, quite poorly.

I'm sorry to say that I think the writing is one the wall with this one. I feel like you've already given him chances, but ...maybe if he thought he'd lose you, he'd try to change. But most likely he's waiting for you to just get with his program and I would strongly advise you to reconsider your position on that.
posted by sm1tten at 6:09 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shouting is one thing; verbal abuse is another. Even if you make the argument that someone who shouts and is scary when they are angry is not abusive (and I am not sure if you could except in very special circumstances), there's still the issue of the way he talked to you and the names he called you.

Besides that issue, even if he was speaking in a whisper, his behavior (especially in the second scenario) is, as someone stated above, chilling. It's controlling and abusive. Mature adults recognize that they don't have ownership over their SO, especially at a party where the SO is catching up with old friends.

Reading this question made me sad because you seem like a very nice person. I'm sorry for this situation and wish you the best of luck.
posted by bearette at 6:43 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I told him he needs to get some help, but he doesn't seem to think he needs help

Obviously this is a major red flag and I need to leave if he doesn't step up and do major work on this issue.
Okay, so which is it? Either he doesn't feel like what he's doing is wrong, in which case you should break it off immediately, or he's already making the effort to fix things. There's a ton of evidence for the former, and none for the latter. To me, there's really no reason to give him that leeway, because unless he's already called around for therapists, he'll just keep on taking advantage while getting more defensive. Rinse, repeat.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:01 PM on December 27, 2011


Please leave him. He clearly thinks it's completely ok for him to act this way. You don't deserve this.
posted by bunderful at 7:09 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This doesn't excuse it at all, but I would like to mention that he did grow up in a household where yelling and screaming was the norm.

So did I. In arguments, I raise my voice, it's hard for me not to. I don't however, insult, throw things, or get loud enough to be heard on another floor. Screaming for you to go fuck yourself in the middle of a party at your parents? Think about that. Yes, your childhood experiences with conflict influence you- my instinct is to be very aggressive- but people need to be able to rein in the worst bits. I'm not perfect, but I'm also not going to throw the TV through the window just because I grew up with that. He needs to find that restraint; but it's probably not worth you waiting around for him to see that.
posted by spaltavian at 7:34 PM on December 27, 2011


I haven't read the whole thread so I'm sure I'm repeating lots of people, but the second episode you describe is shockingly verbally abusive and manipulative. I actually felt tense in the pit of my stomach as I was reading it. I know you said your post that you don't think he is abusive or manipulative but I think if you read up on verbal abuse you will see that it is. Also, did you know that many domestic violence professionals consider violence towards objects to fall within the definition of physical abuse, and that people who violently throw things in a display of force would be appropriate candidates for batterer programs?

There is a book I recommend a lot called Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. It's about why habitual verbal abusers do what they do.

The summary of the book is that even though verbal abusers often appear to be totally out of control when they flip out (like the bottle throwing, wild screaming, etc.) they are actually in total control and are acting very deliberately and with skill. They act deliberately and with skill in order to create the situation that they want, which is you jumping to serve their every need, making their feelings, wants and needs the top priority you are always thinking about, and never doing anything they don't want you to. In order to achieve this, they train you to be afraid of them and what they might do. They don't just train you to be afraid that they will physically harm you -- they train you to be afraid that they will cause a humiliating scene, alienate you from your friends and family, etc. Sounds familiar.

Your boyfriend deliberately frightened, intimidated, and humiliated you. Far from being bothered that his girfriend was frightened and humiliated, he did this on purpose, and he bluntly stated he thought there was nothing wrong with it. Why would someone do this? The only reason I can think of is to get someone to behave as you want by any means necessary. That to him, you doing what he wants is more important than your psychological and emotional well-being. And remember, he thinks there is nothing wrong with this. He thinks there is nothing wrong with damaging someone else's psychological and emotional well-being so that they do what he wants. That's chillingly twisted and warped!!!! Would you really want to have your children raised by a guy who truly believes this?? Could you imagine if you had kids, finally it became too much to bear, you broke up, split custody, and you had to spend every weekend wondering if they were okay alone with him?


Be careful about suggesting therapy. The book I mentioned also discusses the fact that a lot of abusers love to go to therapy (conventional therapy, not batterer programs specifically targeted to abusers). They love to go to therapy because it gives them excuses/justifications for their abuse (using a bad childhood as an excuse, for example), because having a status as being "sick" can elicit more sympathy/willingness to stick around/guilt from their partner, and because they learn "therapy-speak" that they use to gaslight their partner and "diagnose" what's wrong with her. If you want to stick it out and insist that he get help, I really think you should insist on a program specifically targeted to abusers. Couple's counseling is also not recommended for abusive relationships, FYI.

Honestly, I think the outlook isn't good for this guy. I think it might be helpful in making your decision, to read up on the rates of success for abuser programs.
posted by cairdeas at 7:35 PM on December 27, 2011 [15 favorites]


I grew up in an angry, screamy household. It was a fucking pleasure to enter the adult world, and realize that it is not normal to get yelled at every day. Or even every week. Or every month. Sure, life will involve disagreements, and they can really and truly suck. But for me, regular yelling is a bridge too far. I don't see it as a communicative style. I see it as evidence that someone cannot maintain control of their emotions or behavior. And that's without slamming things and personal attacks.

That said: it sounds like you guys don't do a great job of communicating your needs in the moment of. Is there a reason you didn't ask him to play with or help you with the baby while you were still babysitting? Is there any reason he could not have come up to you during the party just to say hi, and say that he knew that you were busy but that he felt a little lonely, and wanted to spend time with you?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:53 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, you've been long distance and you don't live together... And already, the relationship has forced him to have four of these incidents in a year and a half?

How many do you think there'll be if you moved in together?

If you've never lived with a romantic partner before, this may be hard to understand... But nothing can be more stressful than living with a romantic partner. Every. Single. Detail about the other person is right there, waiting for you to get pushed over the edge about it. Different laundry habits? Different preferred ways to spend a lazy evening? Different preferred room temperatures? Different ways of squeezing toothpaste? Different opinions about how often to vacuum, how to set the table, how to deal with the mail? If he can't handle you spending one night not giving him optimal attention when he didn't even express this desire, how do you think he'll handle everything else that will go along with your relationship growing more serious?
posted by meese at 7:54 PM on December 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


This doesn't excuse it at all, but I would like to mention that he did grow up in a household where yelling and screaming was the norm.

So did I, by the way. Adult temper tantrums, scene causing, gaslighting, hitting, and lots of other things were the norm too. And that's why I've done a lot of reading and thinking about verbal abuse, and other kinds of abuse. And I do not ever have tantrums, cause scenes, gaslight people, hit them, etc. I still have an instinct to yell and scream which I have to keep under control. I keep it under control because I don't want to hurt people or get my way over them by force, because I believe that doing that is morally wrong, and I don't want to be that sort of person.

Regardless of how people grow up, I think that some people just believe behaving that way is wrong, and some people believe behaving that way is just fine. I think people rarely change the way they believe about this and a lot of is is just inherent, and I think your boyfriend is in the latter group.
posted by cairdeas at 7:55 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


we've spent about half of our relationship thus far long-distance. With skype and g-chatting, I've rarely seen him angry, so when things like this happen, it is really shocking to me because that's not the person I know otherwise

It may not be the person you know, but it's very much the person that he is. In a long-distance relationship it's very easy to make any time you spend together a special, happy time, during which you can keep any unfortunate personality traits to yourself. As you are coming to find out, you learn much more about who a person is in day-to-day living.

I have been in a long-term relationship with someone who turned out to be very abusive once we were living in the same town. It's been my experience that people who don't see anything wrong with screaming and intimidation and manipulation do not change these behaviors.

You did not do anything to cause these outbursts to happen. And you do not deserve to be treated like this, no matter how sweet he is to you when he's not angry.
posted by corey flood at 7:58 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


He IS psychologically manipulative - making your crying "wrong" is manipulation and is a tactic he's using to slowly eat away at your self confidence and your ability to judge what is "normal". He's also shaping the behaviour he wants from you with no ability to reflect on his own.

I went out with a guy that sounds so literally like your SO that chills went down my spine when I read this. We broke up after 3 years, and I still sometimes feel like I have PTSD from our relationship.

He also said that girls only cried to manipulate an argument or get attention. He yelled (not often) but horribly. He would be adamant for DAYS that he had done nothing wrong, even if what he had done was terrible by anyone's standards. One of these later incidents involved him screaming at me about how stupid I was seconds after I rear ended the car in front of me, when I was still in shock. When I DARED to be upset that his reaction was so inappropriate and unsupportive, he stayed mad at me for 3 days, in my family home in front of family.

The thing is, at first it was infrequent. Then I got conditioned to accept his unreasonable attitude. I kept convincing myself it was ok because he was usually SO NICE AND LOVING. That it was ok because he was never violent. What I didn't see was that it was so wrong for him to try and make me feel wrong all the time, that it was terrible to allow myself to be in a position where I'm always questioning my very normal actions (like being a good host at my own party). It took me 3 years to realise it was NOT a good relationship, and my friends and family were unanimously relieved.

I'm now with an amazing man who acts like an adult and NEVER scares the crap out of me, and where displays of temper are not part of our lives. We talk things out and I'm "allowed" to cry as much as I need! And like I said, a few years on, I'm pretty sure I have mild PTSD from this guy.

Sometimes I go to tell my partner something fairly normal, like, "our friends from interstate asked if they could visit this weekend", and I spend a good hour stressing about his potential reaction if this wasn't his idea of a good time. Invariably, my current partner and I have a GREAT discussion about the weekend planning, and then I realise just how much of a fool I was to have spent so long in such a fearful and completely time-wasting and emotionally draining way, and just how insidious the conditioning from my ex was.

GET OUT.
posted by shazzam! at 10:32 PM on December 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


His behavior is abusive, and you absolutely do not deserve it. Your boyfriend sounds a lot like my ex-husband -- I wish I'd paid attention to the red flags (like his screaming at me for hours if I dared to speak to another man, throwing things, guilt-tripping me into apologizing for "upsetting" him by crying when he did these things...). I did eventually divorce him, but not before his screaming and throwing things turned into violence against me. You can't fix him, and no amount of excuses on his part will make his actions anything other than verbal and emotional abuse. DTMFA.
posted by sarcasticah at 11:10 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


As per the other posts, I acknolwegde that in the babysitting scenario, I should have spoken up prior. I tend to hold things in. But, I know in my heart of hearts that he crosses a certain line when we get into arguments, and throwing stuff is not adult/healthy behaviour.

Ohh, I'm sorry, but your logic here seems to suggest that your line for "normal" has been nudged firmly out of whack by this guy. Look, couples sometimes hurt each other's feelings and disagree about it, it's part of being in a relationship, and figuring out how to resolve this stuff is hard sometimes.

The problem is not the throwing of stuff per se. The Line that he's crossed is the one where he consistently considers your opinions and feelings to be an attack, something that you're doing to him, and that he persists in this justification for his fury even when not in the heat of the moment. Seriously, this is not normal.
posted by desuetude at 11:52 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Prediction:
If tou tell him you're leaving unless he works on these issues in therapy, he will:
(a) get too angry to have that discussion, so you won't feel he heard and had a fair chance to meet your ultimatum, and so you resolve to bring it up again when he's calmer
(b) say this is just another one of your passive-aggressive maneuvers to manipulate, bully, and undermine him, this time by trying to label him as "broken," and he won't be pushed around like that / can't go while feeling so unsupported by you
(c) say that in fact, you're the one who needs therapy, for all this histrionic and manipulative crying and inability to deal with someone just expressing their feelings, so why should *he* be the one to change himself? Your perception is skewed; he'll consider going if you go first.
(d) ask: did your family put you up to this? He knew they were always against him, which is why it was inevitable that the party was going to go wrong
(e) accuse you of wanting to get him out of the house so that you can sleep with your high school friend

If you hear any of that BS, file it as "proof he won't change," and DTMFA.
posted by salvia at 12:11 AM on December 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


I also just want to point out:

He mentioned this the other day, specifically that this was how he was brought up to argue and defend himself. I was definitely not brought up this way, my parents almost never raised their voices. So his response to that is: "So we grew up with different arguing tactics and need to resolve this.... that doesn't mean my approach is wrong"

Catch that? He even said it himself. His anger is a tactic.

His anger, screaming, throwing things, telling you to fuck yourself, accusing you of wanting you to sleep with your male friends --- is a tactic. He does all of those disgusting things to you, hurts you, scares you, embarrasses you, deliberately, as a tactic.

A tactic is an action you choose, and you choose it because it is the most likely to get you the result that you want. He chooses the actions on purpose to get the results he wants out of you.

If you don't believe any of the rest of us, at least believe him when he tells you flat out what this behavior is (a tactic) and what he believes about it (that there's nothing wrong with using this "tactic" on another human being). He didn't even beat around the bush, he said it plainly and flat out.

Please don't waste your time with someone who has FLAT OUT SAID that there is nothing wrong with him using the tactic of hurting you in order to get what he wants from you.

The sickest thing of all is that he characterizes your trying to work it out without raising your voice as a tactic. He characterizes your CRYING as a tactic. It really gives you a window into how his mind operates because I think he knows full well that you are trying to work things out in good faith. I think he knows full well that your crying is a genuine expression of pain.

I think he characterizes these things as tactics because then he can feel justified in doing what he is doing to you. Because he can say you use tactics on him too. It's incredibly creepy and disturbing.

(Along those lines tel3path nailed it with this: Maybe he is as happy and satisfied with your yelling as he says he will be. [1] Possibly because it allows him to justify further abusive anger, excuse me I should say yelling, because look! You're doing it too! See, everybody, hollypolly is such a yeller. It's impossible to live with a woman that yells like that, amirite? Yes, yes, yes. If you do it too, then that makes what he does okay and justified. In fact then he will be justified in ramping it up.)

I think there is something very wrong mentally with a person who can hurt someone else on purpose and be okay with it, not feel any guilt or remorse. Much less someone who blatantly and openly hurts people as a "tactic." When people have that quality, I think it goes really, really deep and I do not think it's something that can be easily changed.
posted by cairdeas at 1:34 AM on December 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


And I can't remember where I heard this, but I have always found it to be true --- if someone accuses you of something really bizarre, random, or preposterously false, that you know is not true of you, you have good reason to think that they are projecting something *they* are doing onto you.

So for example, say you are at work and someone comes up to you out of the blue and accuses you of embezzling money, when the thought never crossed your mind. Your antenna would go up that this person may be embezzling money.

Or if your spouse suddenly accuses you of cheating when you never once even considered it, your antenna would go up that they might be cheating.

So when Max accuses you of crying to get attention, be irrational and aggressive, and win the argument, when you know that's not true, to me it's practically like he's just saying that he is deliberately being irrational, aggressive, and attention-seeking in order to win the "argument."
posted by cairdeas at 1:48 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


All the comments here warning you about his abuse (it is abuse) are great.

I wanted to come at your reaction from a different angle – has anyone you trust ever accused you of being manipulative or noticeably, unacceptably passive-aggressive before? I'm guessing the answer will be "no".

That's because you're not. I've been where you are, so I'm also going to guess that you read that and think "but he might be right, I might not be aware of what I'm really like, he loves me, he might know me better than I do".

No. He doesn't.

He's training you to become someone who A. he can blame for his outbursts and B. won't do anything about it.

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".

How, exactly, did he word his apology, then? If he didn't think that what he did was wrong, why did he apologize for it? Did he use any weasel-out phrases when apologizing? Such as, oh, "I'm sorry for what happened". "What happened" makes it a sort of "act of God" thing out of his control, see, when in fact, it was entirely under his control.

Like so many other commenters here, I too grew up in a screamy, fighty family (check my AskMe commenting history if you want). I can honestly say I have never insulted someone in my life. The only time I really yell is when cars run red lights or blaze past me in designated crosswalks. I once had an ex who started out like yours – we were long-distance at first, and he seemed great, there were no warning signs. Then, in real life, he had "episodes". Like your bf, mine accused me of being manipulative, and when I insisted he knock it off with the unfounded accusations and angry outbursts, he said exactly what yours did: "you need to be more outspoken with me. I wouldn't be like this if you'd just MAKE me stop." I told him it wasn't my place to make anyone do anything.

He escalated. Hit walls by my head. Said he "sometimes felt like he wanted to kill me." Slapped me in a supermarket one day. That was when I finally left.

Within a few weeks he'd found a woman he lorded over me: "she stands up to me! She doesn't take my shit! Oh, it's so wonderful!"

A couple months later, she was pregnant. That was six years ago. My ex's entire family has not seen him ever since, except for my ex-MIL, who makes the 6-hour trip to this part of France to ask to see her granddaughter, and is often refused. No one knows exactly what's going on, apart from these two frightening facts: the 6-year-old girl has developmental issues that are known to be related to abuse, and is under the supervision of a school psychologist.

Do you really want to be the woman your boyfriend wants? Or do you want to be the woman you've been until now? The one who has family and friends who care so much about her, that they tell this abusive asshole when he needs to leave.

You are under no obligation to help this man change. That said, if you do feel it is your responsibilty, also know that breaking up with him could help him. It sends a clear message that his behavior is unacceptable, and that he needs to take responsibility for himself, because no one else will.
posted by fraula at 2:12 AM on December 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


I think it's really important in DV threads like these to point out as much as possible that it doesn't matter if what you did would make a reasonable person mad, too. It doesn't matter if you were paying too much attention to the kid while babysitting. It doesn't even matter if you spent your entire party flirting with some other dude (though it definitely sounds like you weren't). What if you had done something actually wrong and extreme, like, I don't know, cheated on him in the bathroom at the party. Guess what - the responses he had to the above would be JUST as out of line and awful. The point is that he is attributing 100% of the blame to you and acting incredibly inappropriately to perceived wrongs. Whether or not you did something slightly blameworthy -- in these cases, him feeling that you weren't paying enough attention to him, NOT cheating on him or anything else actually out of line-- is a total red herring at this point.

Marie Mon Dieu and others in this thread have examples of adult ways that Max might have dealt with feeling upset or hurt in situations like these. The fact that he did not choose these ways and instead chose to be abusive and manipulative is all you need to know.
posted by fireflies at 7:41 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


What if you had done something actually wrong and extreme, like, I don't know, cheated on him in the bathroom at the party. Guess what - the responses he had to the above would be JUST as out of line and awful.

Hmm, I think that if you literally had cheated on him in the bathroom, then his response might have been understandable. Still out of line and awful considering that it was a) in public and b) in your family home, but you can see how a person might go temporarily insane if they walked into the bathroom and found their SO in flagrante with someone else. Crime of passion, you might say.

But for anything less than that? Like saying hello and goodbye to an old friend they hadn't seen in three years? Hmm, let's think. Is that equivalently provocative to finding you in flagrante with him in the bathroom? Because your BF thinks it is. In fact, that's what he thinks you did, based on the evidence that he saw.

Actually, my intuition tells me he doesn't really think that. He'd have to be mentally ill to think something like that based on what he saw. I don't know if he is mentally ill, perhaps he just wants you to think that he is so you'll be more patient and understanding when he acts like a screaming paranoid. Because that is what he was acting like.

And in case you hadn't worked it out by now - no, I don't think that a bit of silent huffiness in response to babysitting disappointment would be equivalent provocation to you shagging someone else in the bathroom, either.

Anything short of that is just not equivalent provocation.
posted by tel3path at 8:31 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you should re-read your October AskMe about his response to your interest in your country's federal elections in light of all of the above advice you're receiving and paying special attention to your own comments in the threads. It's the same story as above, only involving you paying attention to an interest rather than other people. He disparaged your excitement about the election and you for your feelings (allegedly because politics is pointless because nothing changes). He had you so spun around that you moved from expressing sadness that your life partner didn't share your desire to discuss/follow politics (dashing a lifelong hope) to characterizing a simple incompatibility as "[your] problem... issue... hang-up...fault." (And he picked a fight about it too, for which you also felt at fault. ) Meanwhile you appreciate that he should be able to continue to pursue his many interests that you don't share.

The point: even if you dismiss the 100+ comments in this thread characterizing his behavior as unacceptable and abusive, you're still not compatible as a couple. Don't invest any more of your life energy in this relationship. Good luck; you're in my thoughts.
posted by carmicha at 8:43 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It does not matter how you behave. Even if you are Victorian hysterical woman who cries too much (and also threw a lamp at his head), yelling, throwing things, and the childish "what you did is just as bad" refusal to take responsibility are not correct responses.

Take your behavior out of the equation - he's still a bully. It's not really clear if your fear and crying are your normal way of if he's done this to you - but that doesn't matter. He's a bully. If you were fearful and hysterical, a real man would want to talk to you and help you mange your emotions and help you take control of your life. A real man wouldn't put blame on you.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:17 AM on December 28, 2011


Another few tidbits from your October question and follow-up comments...

Here you are being the high priestess of the Max Cult as BigLankyBastard put it above: He is a brilliant guy, extremely confident, and I value his opinion so much, which is why I wish i could hear his thoughts on these things I suppose.

Here's your pattern: [H]e had no interest in reading up on it or even voting. This completely baffled me... I then got upset and we got in a fight.

Here you are commenting on your ability to ignore your own intuition: I have always been told you can't change someone, they are who they are who they are. I blame myself for seeing this disinterest fairly early on in our relationship and choosing to ignore it.

Here you are foreshadowing a major compromise you'll be making if you choose a future with Max: I guess the real issue is that deep down I always envisioned my future husband/partner as someone I could turn to and discuss these things with.... I guess I like learning from my partner, I like sharing information, or coming to conclusions on things, and I feel like I can't do this with him.

Here you are describing how you must walk on eggshells to avoid setting off a chain where your innocent actions are misinterpreted: [I asked him something like "Why aren't you into politics; it's important"] and of course it did not go over well. I've been afraid to bring things up or send him articles ever since because I don't want him to think I am testing him...

Here's you summarizing your communication dilemma: This bothers me. Can I say something?

Here's you assuming it must be your fault several times, perhaps because it's an easier conclusion than the much more painful reality that Max is an immature jerk: Am I being a snob? and I think perhaps I jumped the gun and judged him too harshly for it. and [W]e got in a fight. I felt like such a jerk. I know I came off as condescending, and I know I hurt his feelings. I felt awful and just tried to end the discussion with "I love you so much, I guess I just have a strong desire to talk about these things and it makes me sad to know that I can't talk about them with you"

And finally, you ask: I should love him for who he is, and not who I want him to be, right?

If you're lecturing yourself about how you "should" love someone this early in a relationship, there's trouble; these are supposed to be the golden days of mutual discovery and bliss!! So I wonder whether you actually do love him or whether you love something else... being in love, the drama of a great long-distance romance, even the quality of his brain or his bod.

In any case, I think it's a triple whammy:

a) you are incompatible as a couple

b) you want different things in a relationship than you're getting with this man

c) he's treating you very badly.

Start 2012 unencumbered.
posted by carmicha at 3:09 PM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Apologies if this opinion has already been expressed:

I have a temper. Essentially, it feels like my fight-or-flight response is out of whack and in situations of conflict I can get unreasonably mad (and narrow-minded, meaning I get stuck in "here's why my anger is justified" thought loops instead of listening to the other party).

It sucks. I have never acted anywhere nearly as bad as Max, and I think I may be not suitable for relationships because of my behaviour, which I would call an order of magnitude less than his.

But here's the thing: when my anger gets the better of me, and I get mad at someone, and especially if I express that anger, afterwards I'm always hideously embarrassed and ashamed that I let that crap out. I see what happened to me, and I understand its mechanisms - the reptile part of the ole' brainmeats is too strong and loud in me. But I know my behaviour is unacceptable, and shouldn't be tolerated by anyone.

The fact that Max doesn't see this, doesn't repent, doesn't recognize that this shit is beyond bad - get away from him. Be done with him. For emphasis: the temper is bad enough; that he doesn't admit that it's a problem should make things perfectly, perfectly clear.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:25 PM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


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