How upset should I be about my boyfriend's temper?
August 26, 2013 6:16 AM   Subscribe

I've been dating my boyfriend for 5 months. I'm 25, female, he's 36. He's been the best boyfriend I've ever had. Dedicated. Loving. Caring. Kind. He's funny, super smart, handsome, great in bed...I've never been in a relationship this good. Since we started dating, I've seen him get angry a few times. Usually he calms down relatively quickly, apologizes, we talk, and everything is fine. He's mentioned he has a temper and can get very angry, but I had never really seen that side of him.

Last night I was in a funk and I couldn't figure out why I felt so wretched. I told him I just needed to think it through and I would be fine. I get like that sometimes and I know it is probably exhausting and un-fun for people who are close to me to have to deal with me slipping into weird moods all the sudden. Still he sat with me trying to get me to talk about what it was that was bothering me. He's really wonderful in so many ways.

At one point I said something that he translated as me trying to manipulate him. I don't think I was, but I can see how it may have been misconstrued. It was a poor way of saying whatever it was I wanted to say, and I said that immediately after I noticed it bothered him. It didn't matter, he totally flipped. He started yelling that I'm trying to mind fuck him, that he's been sitting with me for 20 minutes trying to make me feel better and now I'm going to play games with his head, etc. The whole time he's ranting, I'm saying, "What are you talking about, that's not what I meant, sit down, let's just talk about this." He grabs all his stuff slams my bedroom door, stomps down the hallway. I'm follow him to the front door and ask him again to stop and come back at which point he turns to me and says something that ends with "You're a cry baby little bitch." Slams the door and leaves.

How serious is this? I know I was not innocent; maybe I was being manipulative on some level. He had every right to be upset with me. I've apologized. He's apologized. I know he feels bad. I know he loves me. I'm mostly just surprised that he would say something to intentionally hurt me out of spite, I can't imagine ever wanting to do that to him. I didn't think he was like that. If that's how he's going to react when we have disagreements, I'm a little concerned. Is this just a "He got mad, he apologized, people say dumb things when they're mad, forgive him and move on" situation, or is this something I should be worried about?

How upset should I be about my boyfriend's temper?
posted by to Human Relations (138 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
No. Not okay. If someone called me a "cry baby bitch" I would be out the door, period. I hope you will be too.
posted by something something at 6:17 AM on August 26, 2013 [116 favorites]

I'm sorry, I should have added this before posting so quickly but I feel like it's important that you see it: You don't deserve that reaction. I don't care what you said, and from what you have written here it doesn't sound like you even said anything remotely offensive. You were clear about what you needed - some space to just feel your emotions - he wouldn't let you have that, forced you to discuss things when you didn't feel ready, and then yelled at you when you didn't respond how he thought was appropriate. None of this is your fault. Not one bit of it. He did not have "every right" to be upset with you, much less to yell and call you names and storm out dramatically. Seriously. This is 100% on him.
posted by something something at 6:22 AM on August 26, 2013 [33 favorites]

People may say dumb things when they're mad, I know I have. But I've never called anyone a "cry baby little bitch". What he did was emotionally and verbally abusive. No one can tell you how to feel or how you should feel, but I can say that this type of relationship rarely ends well.

For all the good you say he has in him, for me, this would be a huge dealbreaker. I couldn't deal with that type of chaos in my life, even if it wasn't initially constant.

And you most certainly didn't deserve it. No one deserves to be called that ever, especially by someone who says he loves you.
posted by inturnaround at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

Please leave.

At best, he is immature. At worst, he is grooming you for abuse.

That you think you maybe you kinda did something you weren't aware you were doing because he said you were doing this thing and because you were doing it, it must be on purpose is the biggest red flag that this isn't a healthy relationship (see: he translated something as me trying to manipulate him; see: maybe I was being manipulative on some level; see: he started yelling that I'm trying to mind fuck him).

Please leave. There is no excuse for a 36 year old man to behave this way. None.

You're 25. You don't need this guy.
posted by zizzle at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2013 [89 favorites]

Well...can he prevent this happening again?
Apparently your behaviour pushed some guilt and abuse buttons for him. Is he willing to go into why this happened and take concrete steps to prevent it happening again? (Like leaving instead of saying anything).

That would make the difference for me.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah at 36 he's probably not going to change and that's not a real great way of handling emotions. I am VERY emotional and in 6+ years have never lashed out at my partner like that!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

5 months together? Walk away. Backwards. Slowly. When he's out of viewing range, run.
posted by xingcat at 6:28 AM on August 26, 2013 [53 favorites]

"Until you learn to control your anger, our relationship is on-hold/paused/nonexistent."

Don't wait for violence.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:28 AM on August 26, 2013 [21 favorites]

You don't necessarily have to break up with him, which a lot of people are going to tell you to do - but you do need to drop the thinking that he "had the right" to behave that way, or say what he did, because he didn't. Nothing you did waived your own right to be treated with respect. Regardless of what conclusions you come to about his temper, he was not treating you with respect, and you have to call him on that.

I'd treat this as two separate issues - if you sometimes getting into a funk is something you just do sometimes, I'd have a conversation with him in which you explain that this is something that just happens, and that it isn't necessarily about him, it just is, and the best way for him to handle it is to leave you alone. And then, the second conversation is about how the next time you tell him something you need, he doesn't get to second-guess you, and he also does not have the right to criticize your emotions. PERIOD. He can be angry about that, if he wants, but if you tell him you need to be by yourself, he just has to go be angry somewhere that's else.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

Oh god, he tried to make you feel better by sitting with you for twenty whole minutes. What a saint.

This guy is an asshole. I'm sorry you're in a relationship with an asshole. This is not a good relationship. People have a right to be upset, sure, but no one ever has the right to slam doors and yell at you and call you a cry baby little bitch and stomp and carry on. It is socially acceptable for toddlers to do that (even though it's still bad behavior). Not 36 year old adults.

Please end this relationship for your own safety and sanity.
posted by phunniemee at 6:29 AM on August 26, 2013 [43 favorites]

You were probably in a funk because it sounds like you might be in an abusive relationship. I know that when I was being abused I would have days where I just felt so awful I could barely function. I felt awful because the person I trusted to take care of me was actively sabatoging me and abusing me. I was constantly scared and walking on eggshells and I was just a mess.

It's funny. The times when I was sad "for no reason" (and really to me I just couldn't figure it out - it was right in front of me but I didn't want to see how abusive he was being) always caused my abuser such frustration and anger. He hated that I was having an emotion that he couldn't control.

Also? You should be as upset as you are. Your feelings are your feelings. It is what you do with them that matters.

Anger is a tool. It is a big blaring alarm saying "this is not ok! this is not ok!" I hope you listen to your alarm bell of anger right now.
posted by sockermom at 6:32 AM on August 26, 2013 [19 favorites]

This sounds really pretty disturbing! If there was some other mitigating factor (like, this is his first long-term adult relationship; or if the topic was really upsetting for him for some reason; or if there's some kind of unpleasant childhood emotional thing where maybe he was punished for expressing reasonable anger or resentment and thus doesn't have any experience with 'I am trying to help and it didn't work') and if he agreed that this was a really bad way to handle the situation and really bad language to use* and that he was going to focus on handling his anger better....then I'd give it another shot.

It does not sound like you said or did anything terrible, and it still wouldn't justify his language and behavior, but if you feel that you weren't just being withdrawn but actively sulky/snappish/passive-aggressive, then perhaps apologizing yourself would be okay. (I could certainly imagine a dynamic where you're passive-aggressive and snippy and he's furious and loud after a certain point - that doesn't excuse his behavior, which would still be a total inappropriate escalation....but it's a lousy dynamic I've observed in certain relationships.

*Where did that language come from? Is that typical of his family's social circle? Of some part of your social circle? I am willing to admit that some people say "bitch" much more often and casually than I do, and that it might not be as disturbing and grave an insult - but I still wouldn't put up with a repeat.
posted by Frowner at 6:33 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

You are me, 17 years ago. It's not going to get better. Cut him loose. Please, for the sake of future you 17 years from now.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:33 AM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]

Yeah, at best this is someone who's very immature and possibly has a lot of baggage, at worst its a sign of a much more serious problem. There are awesome, amazing people in the world who will love you and never pull crap like that, its up to you if you want to continue looking for one, or settle for the guy that is only occasionally a douche bag. If you stick with him, proceed with caution, and I recommend (as I would to EVERYONE who is dating) that you familiarize yourself with the signs and cycles of domestic abuse.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:34 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry that your previous relationships were so shitty that you think this jerk is awesome.

1. You wanted time to yourself, he violated your stated preference for alone-time and forced himself on you.

2. You didn't react the way he wanted you to.

3. He got angry with you FOR NO REASON.

4. He said and did unforgivable things.

He's asking you to accept this behavior. I'm suggesting that it would be a terrible idea for you to do so.

As for THIS: I know I was not innocent; maybe I was being manipulative on some level. He had every right to be upset with me.

Bullshit. You were 100% innocent. You weren't being maniuplative. He had NO right to be upset with you. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

There are plenty of guys out there who are nice, handsome, good in bed and who DON'T erupt in scary, door-slamming anger at the drop of a hat.

You have my permission to never see him again. I encourage that outcome for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 AM on August 26, 2013 [36 favorites]

I've seen him get angry a few times. Usually he calms down relatively quickly, apologizes, we talk, and everything is fine. He's mentioned he has a temper and can get very angry, but I had never really seen that side of him.

That was enough to make me think, "Flee!!!!!!!!!!"

What followed was somewhere between disturbing and disgraceful.

Please believe me when I say that you do not want this person in your life -- today or ever.
posted by ambient2 at 6:36 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Last night I was in a funk and I couldn't figure out why I felt so wretched. I told him I just needed to think it through and I would be fine.

You dealt with this just fine. This is a mature way to deal with a random crappy mood -- explain it's not his fault and you'll be fine dealing with it on your own. (Note that I was thinking of the kind of random crappy moods that can happen to anyone, but on preview, sockermom may also be right that the "random" crappy mood wasn't so random.)

Still he sat with me trying to get me to talk about what it was that was bothering me. He's really wonderful in so many ways.

How is this wonderful? You told him you needed to think it through; you didn't say you needed him to stay there and badger it out of you.

He started yelling that I'm trying to mind fuck him

What does this even mean, WTF

that he's been sitting with me for 20 minutes trying to make me feel better

You didn't ask him to do this. I'm sure you'd rather be in a good mood; it's not like you were having low blood sugar/etc. AT him. In fact, you went out of your way to be mature and NOT have the bad mood at him.

and now I'm going to play games with his head, etc.

Again, WTF

I know I was not innocent; maybe I was being manipulative on some level.

The fact that he has you thinking that maybe you were being manipulative and were in fact playing games with his head/"mind-fucking" him is the most worrisome part of this. This sounds like gaslighting. Frankly, even if you had been being manipulative (and it doesn't sound like you were), his reaction was WAY the hell over the top.

He's mentioned he has a temper and can get very angry,

He's trying to excuse his temper in advance? Believe what people tell you about themselves.
posted by pie ninja at 6:36 AM on August 26, 2013 [18 favorites]

He's mentioned he has a temper and can get very angry

In my view, it's not sufficient that he acknowledges that. Given that he knows this about himself, it's absolutely his responsibility to manage his anger in ways that don't cause damage, especially to people he's intimate with.

I get like that sometimes and I know it is probably exhausting and un-fun for people who are close to me to have to deal with me slipping into weird moods all the sudden. Still he sat with me trying to get me to talk about what it was that was bothering me.

You gave him fair warning that your mood was unstable, and you didn't ask him to sit with you; you told him what you needed (thinking time) and he chose to sit with you. As soon as he chose to do that, it became his responsibility to manage his own behaviour in a way that would in fact help you feel better. The fact that he ended up yelling at you is absolutely his failing, not yours.

Dude has an anger management issue. He needs to hear from you, in no uncertain terms, that the next episode of verbal violence (and this was verbal violence, no question) directed at you is the last one he will ever have an opportunity to deliver.

If he reacts to that news with more verbal violence, he needs to be gone.

If he reacts by saying that he is going to seek anger management counselling, and he follows through on that, he's probably a keeper.

Anything in between: your call.

Here's an answer to a related question from a couple of years ago that might be of use to you.
posted by flabdablet at 6:36 AM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

I wish I had left when my ex-husband first reacted this exact same way to something similarly minor.

I left after I could no longer take the physical abuse, which it oh-so-gradually evolved into.

This is the universe sending up a warning flare. Please heed it. I wish I had.
posted by Punctual at 6:39 AM on August 26, 2013 [29 favorites]

Not okay. No matter how much he would have been justified in being upset by what you said, this is not an even remotely acceptable upset reaction. He obviously has serious anger problems, and this makes him dangerous. He needs to fuck off; you two need to be done.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:44 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm at work, so I copy-pasted this from the first google result from 'signs of abuse'. Sorry, and protect yourself.

Signs of an abusive relationship

There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior

Do you:

feel afraid of your partner much of the time?

Does your partner:

humiliate or yell at you?

avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?

criticize you and put you down?

feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?

treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?

believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?

ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?

wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?

blame you for their own abusive behavior?

feel emotionally numb or helpless?

see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:

have a bad and unpredictable temper?

Does your partner:

act excessively jealous and possessive?

hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?

control where you go or what you do?

threaten to take your children away or harm them?

keep you from seeing your friends or family?

threaten to commit suicide if you leave?

limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?

force you to have sex?

limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?

destroy your belongings?

constantly check up on you?
posted by Jacen at 6:49 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

He's really wonderful in so many ways.
Who are you trying to convince? Us, yourself, everyone?

I know it is probably exhausting and un-fun for people who are close to me to have to deal with me
I think it's really interesting to contrast how you're speaking about yourself and how you are speaking about this man. He is "really wonderful" and you are "exhausting and un-fun".

Now, where ever did you get that idea?
(Spoiler alert: I think you got it from him.)

Also, part of being human is being sad sometimes for no reason. I mean, I know that I get sad sometimes for no reason. I know that my boyfriend gets sad sometimes for no reason.

You know what I do when my boyfriend feels that way? I order his favorite pizza and we sit around and eat pizza and he plays video games or we watch a movie together and then we have sex if we're feeling it, and then he says something to me like, "Hey, today sucked, but you made the second half of my day really nice, and I feel a little better now." You know what we do when I feel that way? We eat pizza and I browse Metafilter for a few hours and then we go to sleep and cuddle, and I thank him for helping me feel a bit better, because I do feel a bit better.

You know what neither one of us does? Sits there for twenty minutes and then latches on to something the other person said and uses it to make them feel worse.

Now, that is manipulative behavior, what he did. He seems pretty upset that you had emotions that he couldn't control. He seems pretty upset that you weren't performing ideally (i.e. being bouncy and happy and on good behavior). And he decided to use yelling, name-calling, stonewalling, and anger as a way to deal with his feelings.

Also, I have to say: if this is already happening five months into the relationship, and he is thirty-six years old? Things ain't gonna improve unless he recognizes he has a problem and gets help. And given his age, I doubt this will happen.

Listen to your alarm bell and all the bells that everyone here in Metafilter is ringing and walk away. It'll hurt, it'll be painful, you'll be afraid that no one that handsome/smart/funny/sexy/charming will ever look your direction again - but you'll be wrong about that, and you'll be free to be a person again.

Being a person who just sometimes has a funky day and doesn't feel great is better than being an abuse victim. Trust me, as someone who has been on both sides of this fence. It's far preferable to be out than it is to be in. My relationship started almost exactly the way you describe yours. I hope you don't stay for three years like I did. It only gets worse.
posted by sockermom at 6:50 AM on August 26, 2013 [21 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your advice. I'm reading all of the responses and appreciate your thoughts. I just wanted to say, I am definitely not in an abusive relationship. I know people who are in abusive relationships and I am not one of them. He may have a temper that comes out once or twice a year, and this episode was inexcusable, but I can say that he 100% is not abusive. This has been the only evidence in 5 months that he is even capable of being mean to me. He is generally incredibly kind and extremely considerate. And there is no way, in million years he would ever physically abuse me. If I was even remotely concerned about that I would be gone already. I'm not worried about this developing into something worse.I'm just concerned that the way he dealt with this disagreement is an ingrained behavior and that, even in a less disturbing, non name calling form, this is the way he may continue to react when really mad.
posted by at 6:50 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

How do you know, though, that this is something that only comes out once or twice a year? You've only been with him for five months. People are generally on their best behavior at the beginning of a relationship.

This is not going anywhere good.
posted by something something at 6:53 AM on August 26, 2013 [47 favorites]

While it's not okay that he acted like that, I hardly think you are in immediate bodily danger (c'mon AskMeFi, seriously?). People get angry sometimes and act like jerks, that doesn't make them irredeemable. The only right answer here is: talk to him, and decide whether or not you think he will do that again.
posted by wrok at 6:54 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites] Is this just a "He got mad, he apologized, people say dumb things when they're mad, forgive him and move on" situation, or is this something I should be worried about?

I understand that you believe 100% that he will never abuse you, and that may be. What people are trying to tell you is that the answer to this question is "Yes, you should be worried about it." I'm a pretty emotional guy, but in 20 years I've never raised my voice to my wife.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:54 AM on August 26, 2013 [28 favorites]

Which is exactly why his taking the anger management issue seriously ought to be your precondition for staying with him.

there is no way, in million years he would ever physically abuse me

Think carefully about the number of battered women who have believed this very thing about their verbally abusive partners.

The thing he just did to you is something you both need to take seriously. Brushing it off will go nowhere good.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Thanks for your update. I'm generally on board with the "grooming you for abuse" crowd here. In this case... I dunno either. It doesn't sound like he's otherwise controlling. Only you can decide, however! Time will certainly tell.

Still there's no qualifying it: his behavior was insane, unacceptable, stupid, frightening and weird. You didn't "do anything" to make that happen. He was a TOTAL FREAKSHOW.

At different points in my life, I would have reacted differently. I once broke up with someone—like, walked away and never talked to him again—because he told me what to order at a restaurant. It was so clearly a sign of who he was and how controlling he was that I knew that there could be no second chance. He never yelled at me or raised a hand but, yeah. So I might have walked on this guy.

And then I've put up with "much worse" kinds of volatility or unpredictability because I understood it or didn't find it frightening or whatever. We're all flawed, etc. Some people don't learn how to be angry, some people never learned what's not okay to say. He doesn't have the skills to be angry properly.

It's notable to me that he was interested in getting away when he was mad, not coming at you. He stormed out. Generally I think he made a mistake in being with you when you just wanted to get your head together. Relationships are not for solving everything! Personal time and personal dealing-with-shit is important. "Hey I'm in a shitty mood and I want to sulk alone for an hour" is an important thing. It's too bad that he's not grown up in this way.

Really, in answer to your question, basically... no. This is a fairly big deal. That is not how people behave or should behave. I would be concerned if he didn't want to tackle this without you in therapy. I would not tolerate his behavior in my relationship. Period. The end. And he is right now certainly not a person you could ever have children (or even pets!) with.

Unfortunately you might find that in talking about this he gets angry again. That'll be informative.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:57 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Personally I wouldn't want to spend my life wondering if the next thing I say to my lover he's going to misconstrue as me trying to manipulate him and then scream cruel epithets at me as he slams the door. So, yeah, I'm going with "this is something to be concerned about."

I know I was not innocent; maybe I was being manipulative on some level. He had every right to be upset with me

Based on what you've told us, he had no right at all to be upset with you. Even if he misunderstood what you said and got angry as a result (which, yeah, happens), you saying "wait that's not what I meant" should have been the end of the angry, or at the very least the beginning of sit down and listen to you so you can clear the air together.

It's a little disturbing that you've already accepted his narrative of the events to the extent that you think "maybe" you were being manipulative (without, y'know, having any intent to manipulate, which would be a neat trick) and therefore you "know" you were not innocent.
posted by ook at 7:00 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

Thank you all for your advice. I'm reading all of the responses and appreciate your thoughts. I just wanted to say, I am definitely not in an abusive relationship. I know people who are in abusive relationships and I am not one of them. He may have a temper that comes out once or twice a year, and this episode was inexcusable, but I can say that he 100% is not abusive.

I said this once. They all say this.

I was wrong.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:01 AM on August 26, 2013 [23 favorites]

It's always so tough to read these kinds of threads because I know how hard it is to hear people saying these things about someone you love and care for. It seems like they are talking about some stranger or a caricature.

I do think that he:

1. Was not under great stress or in a unique situation--many people in his life will have bad moods.

2. Used misogynistic language

3. Said something to hurt you out of spite

Considering these facts, I do think that you should be worried that in times of perfectly normal stress, he will say misogynistic things to hurt you out of spite, since he's already done it once. The logical conclusion is that will he do something similar--or perhaps worse--if he's in a very stressful situation.

So then you have to ask yourself:

1. Do I want to worry about being called a name every time I'm upset?

2. Do I want to worry about being called a name--or worse--when we're both under a lot of stress?

3. Do I want a partner who will make me feel better when we are stressed, or a partner who will make me feel worried and more stressed about his reaction?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:03 AM on August 26, 2013 [34 favorites]

You're going to get a ton of feedback in these responses advising you to DTMFA.

If you're anything like me, and are viewing this instance as an aberration in an otherwise wonderfully magical relationship, this probably isn't even on the table.

However, I can tell you what he did was unacceptable, and should be corrected immediately, if possible. The answer to your question of "How upset should I be?" is: "VERY"

I say this as a 37-year old male, who used to do almost exactly what your b/f is doing:

1. Fall madly in love with girl.
2. Wow her with affection, compassion, empathy, understanding and graciousness.
3. Struggle internally with the unrealistic persona I am exuding.
4. At about 6 months, I cannot maintain this fake "perfect boyfriend" any longer and the mask starts to slip.
5. Resentment builds, at her and myself, and I become verbally and emotionally abusive.
6. The mask continues to slip, and she begins to hope valiantly and fruitlessly for that perfect man to come back.
7. Emotional and sexual distance builds. Derision and blaming become my immediate response to unmet expectations.
8. She leaves.
9. Once my heart is broken, I become that perfect man again and try to get her back.
10. She comes back (repeat 1-7)
11. She leaves and is gone for good.
12. Repeat with another "hostage"

If the above steps are familiar, or become familiar to you at any point, you had better leave. Perhaps not forever, but long enough for him to figure some shit out.

Because, I disagree with some people in this thread, he is sick, and he can change. Whether or not he will change during the time you know him is not up to you, nor is it something you should hope vainly for.

I changed, but it was as a result of consequences and proactive action on my part. It depends on whether he thinks these things are a problem or even realizes what he is doing. I was 32 before I began to change, and it was a process that took several additional relationships (and consequential heartbreaks) to get.

You must be very clear with him on the following points.

1. He MUST respect your feelings. Whether or not you are angry, standoffish, or just plain snappy and "bitchy" for absolutely no good reason, you have an emotional right to feel these things (and so does he), and this is a MUST that each party must recognize and allow in the other.

2. He MUST figure out where the mask ends and the real man begins. He's not all bad, those perfect understanding boyfriend things he does are really him, they're just amped up to 200% and it's just not realistic. If this is the only reason you love him, then you're really in for some disappointment.

3. He MUST never talk to you like that. If there are only a few things which cause him to react like that, that are currently beyond his control, he MUST tell you what they are. If he is constantly adding to this list, he obviously has deeper issues and not just a few triggers.

As I mentioned, he may be a really great guy that after some time he can figure out some shit and you can revisit this relationship in the future. Trust your gut, don't buy into the bullshit, and if you're going to stick around for a little while longer, be careful, and don't let the man he's trying (and failing) to be fool you into thinking that this is the man you truly are with.

I no longer go to 200% in relationships, I'm not the perfect boyfriend (or husband), and here's a hint, No one is.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:04 AM on August 26, 2013 [74 favorites]

Patterns of abuse take time to develop.

Just because he doesn't behave THIS EXACT WAY all the time doesn't mean it's not an abusive relationship, or doesn't mean you're not experiencing abusive incidents.

He has you doubting how you feel and he has you doubting your actions.


this is the way he may continue to react when really mad.

If this is the way he continues to react when really mad, then this is abuse and you need to leave.

Please listen to the people in this thread who have been there Please listen to the part of you that has you posting this question --- and then go read some questions about other relationship disagreements. You will see marked difference in the ones where the relationship is healthy but the people in it are having a hard time and the ones where people are saying the person posting needs to leave because it is abusive. The differences are very clear. And this question, this question you are asking in this way here ---- this question has been asked before. Here on the green.
posted by zizzle at 7:05 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I understand that you are sure he would never abuse you physically. I think what some of us are trying to say is that we were certain, too. And that's how it started.

I'm not saying he will definitely do this again or end up hitting you - I don't know. But my ex never screamed at me like that until after we were married and didn't start hitting me until a couple of years into the marriage.

We are all saying to take this seriously because abuse starts so gradually - no one would live with an abuser if they did it right away. It's that whole boil the frog by turning up the heat one degree at a time so the frog doesn't even notice.

If you'll put up with this tantrum, you'll put up with more as he turns it up one degree at a time.

Again, I'm not psychic and don't know the future, but I do hope you will take it seriously, whatever that may mean for you. I wish you the absolute best.
posted by Punctual at 7:06 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

I had a partner who reacted similarly. Suree, he was never physically abusive toward me (there were some holes punched in the wall along the way, though), but that really wasn't the worst of it. The way he reacted was WAY out of line. You calmly and rationally asked for what you needed in an emotional situation, and he did not respect that. Further, he turned that rational request into an opportunity to malign your character and to personally tear you down. Ask yourself if that is how you want to live your lives together. This speaks to a future of blaming yourself for these outbursts, and as everyone else said here walking on eggshells to avoid another blow up. Sure, it might not happen all the time, but when it happens often enough it slowly kills your spirit. By the end of that relationship, I was depressed and suicidal.

Ask him if this is what he meant by a bad temper and ask him what he means to do about it to ensure it's not going to happen again. Base your response on that answer.
posted by goggie at 7:10 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Put aside the issue of whether you're in an abusive relationship or not.

His reaction was over-the-top, unwarranted, and just plain nasty. Yes, you absolutely should be worried about this, especially since you've only been dating five months. Is this how you want your partner to deal with you when you're stressed out and unhappy? This isn't fair to you. He needs to know that behavior and name-calling is out of line, and that he needs to get a handle on himself if this relationship is to continue. What is he going to do about it? Listen carefully to his answer. Does he minimize what happen? Or does he apologize and lay out an actual plan for dealing with his temper that includes professional help?
posted by canine epigram at 7:11 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Be a lot concerned, not a little. How are you two going to deal with conflict in the future if this is how it's dealt with now? How many times do you want to have misunderstandings be handled this way?
posted by redindiaink at 7:11 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

No, actually, he is abusive. What he did to you is abuse, verbal and emotional. He's not severely abusive- yet.

This is how it starts. This is how it started for my mom. By the time it got bad enough for her to have publicly visible bruises, she was so conditioned to accept bad treatment and believe that these bruises were somehow due to something she could have controlled that she still didn't believe it was abuse, or that it was bad enough to leave him over or press charges. Everyone thinks that if it gets "that bad", they'll put an end to it. Why wait for it to get that bad?

The funny thing is that he's the one being manipulative here- trying to convince you that his bad brhaviour is somehow your fault. Bullshit. You can't control another person. His actions are his responsibility.

I've been with my boyfriend almost a year, and I have never been called a name. I have never been accused of being manipulative when I made a good faith effort to discuss my emotions. I have never been shouted at. This is what a relationship should look like.

It is not acceptable for anyone to shout at you, ever, unless they're yelling "look out for that bus!". Please break up with this guy.
posted by windykites at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2013 [15 favorites]

This is the first time? I would leave. I can tell you don't want to, though.

This is your big, biggest huge red flag.

Is it a one off incident, never to be repeated? Then maybe this is somehow salvagable with therapy and lots of work.

If there is a second incident, run away.

Anyone can fake normal for 5-6 months.
posted by slateyness at 7:17 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

How upset should I be about my boyfriend's temper?

Incredibly upset. And also upset about how you're taking responsibility in some fashion for his horrific behavior. You apologized? There's no shared responsibility. Unless you're misrepresenting what happened, and misrepresenting yourself, he acted like a monster all on his own. "Maybe it was my fault" is the sort of thinking you may want to watch very closely.

He had every right to be upset with me.
It really doesn't sound like that is at all true. It sounds like he should have backed off when you asked for a little space, didn't, you maybe got a little peevish, and he behaved abominably, treated you contemptuously, and stormed off and it sounds like it was probably pretty terrifying.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:23 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

Maybe you can excuse an outburst like that if you've been married for ten years, have kids, and he just got fired from his job and was extremely drunk (and doesn't drink often), and it was the first time something like that happened. After five months, cut your losses now rather than later.
posted by empath at 7:38 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

You don't seem to agree with the bulk of the responses, making it a bit unclear as to why you asked this question here. There is all sorts of cognitive dissonance here; you grok that "he would say something to intentionally hurt me out of spite" but still want to claim that he is "Loving. Caring. Kind."

That's fine; you can stay with the scary loser who calls you a 'cry baby bitch' and then later on does not say 'Good god, I @#$* lost my mind there, don't apologise; tell me how I can make it up to you' when you say sorry for having been called a 'cry baby bitch.'

But he is absolutely unsuitable for breeding. If you stay you must do so with the understanding that you shouldn't have kids with a cry baby bitch like him; children do not benefit from Scary No Self Control Horrible Insults fathers.

They also do not benefit from having parents with a lousy relationship, and this is really not 'normal spat, kiss and move on' stuff; this is junk that chips away at trust and security and eventually ends the relationship or brings you quite unambiguously into abusive relationship territory.

On preview here, +1 "please, please listen to all the people who are telling you that this is exactly how their abusive partners behaved." Somebody once dragged me down stairs, naked, by my hair, and it started with exactly the sort of situation you've described here. How do you think people end up in relationships with assholes? The assholes present as "the best boyfriend I've ever had. Dedicated. Loving. Caring. Kind. He's funny, super smart, handsome, great in bed."

You're in a really, really vulnerable spot here, believing what you do about him, so please be aware of that going forward.
posted by kmennie at 7:40 AM on August 26, 2013 [18 favorites]

So.... He got mad, reverted to a child and called you a name and stomped out....and YOU apologized to him?!?!

No. No, no, no! You have the mindset of someone who is willing to accept abuse. You shouldn't have apologized, you should have told him to go fuck himself and then either a.) waited for a heartfelt apology from him, or b.) never spoken to him again. If you chose option A, and you got your apology, he still only gets 3 strikes and he's out.

But no way should you have apologized. Why are you apologizing to him when he's the one who was abusive? And make no mistake about it, this was abuse. He is at fault, not you. You should be thoroughly pissed off. You should be furious. It s absolutely unacceptable to call your partner a name. It shows a total lack of respect. He should be begging you to give him another chance. And like I said, 3 strikes MAXIMUM. If there's a 3rd time, he's history.

But I wouldn't even give him a second chance. There are people out there who have all his good qualities, plus they aren't abusive. Go find one of them.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

Also, although you didn't ask, I'm going to tell you: the reason this is your best relationship so far is because you put up with too much shit.

You deserve better.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:43 AM on August 26, 2013 [24 favorites]

Please read these responses with your eyes wide open. Please do your own research on what the beginnings of abusive relationships can look like. Please value yourself and your safety above everything else. Please please believe me when I say this isn't okay, this isn't excusable no matter how infrequent, and this is absolutely something that should have you packing your things. You have been together for 5 months, and already he is engaging in some very scary behaviour. 5 months in most people are still trying to show their best side... and he is showing you this.

Please. Protect yourself. Demand more from yourself. Don't live a life where you are always worried you are going to set someone off in to a rage.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:47 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

What would you say to a friend in your situation?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:50 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

My husband and I have been together for almost a decade, and the last year of our relationship has been difficult, difficult to the point where I considered divorce. We've argued, a lot. Over stupid things, over major things, raised voices, tears, the whole smack.

What has absolutely never happened, even during our worst arguments, is name-calling. Seriously, THAT SHIT IS NOT OKAY. Not ever. He can never unsay it, and you will never unhear it. He called you a little crybaby bitch? For a possible communication foul at worst? No. That's an absolute, 100% dealbreaker, especially from a man in his mid-thirties. At some point we have to learn how to fight fairly and argue like grown-ups, and this dude flunked that lesson.

Calling you foul, misogynistic names is not "having a bit of a temper". It's unacceptable.
posted by timetoevolve at 7:53 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

Also: he may not ever become physically abusive, but he is already emotionally abusive. He manipulated you into thinking it was your fault he was in a rage. HE IS ALREADY MANIPULATING YOU. And you totally cooperated with it. Years from now, you will look back at this relationship and wonder what the hell you were thinking. You will feel like an idiot for ever having put up with this crap. The sooner you end it, the less you'll feel like an idiot.

I personally will be surprised if you follow everyone's advice and break up with him right now. So I'm going to suggest that you come back and reread this thread often. I'm betting that more and more of these answers will start to resonate with you as time goes by.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:55 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Consider this: it's considered entirely unacceptable for children, who are learning to navigate emotions, language, and social relationships, to call someone a "cry baby little bitch." How is it acceptable in a grown man?

I believe you when you say that you know people in abusive relationships. I guarantee you know a lot more people in abusive relationships than you realize, because everyone does. My abusive relationship was with a guy who was an absolutely beloved figure in a small town, sweet and thoughtful and funny; he was completely different behind closed doors. This is the problem with identifying abusers: they are not full-time assholes. Abusers are charming and magical enough of the time to get their partners to stay.

And abuse does not have to be physical to do damage.

You told him that you were in a bad mood and needed to think it through, yet he sat with you and tried to get you to talk about I misunderstanding that you didn't want to talk about it? Because it sounds like he isn't listening to what you're telling him you need and instead insisting that you need what he wants to give you. Another red flag.
posted by corey flood at 7:59 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

One thing just occurred to me that I didn't realize until it was too late for me - I hope it is helpful, but use it however it best serves you:

Abusers are not obviously evil, ugly monsters. My ex-husband was smart, charming, attractive, wealthy, kind to animals, and mostly kind to me - with the exception of his anger episodes, which resulted in verbal and, eventually, verbal and physical abuse. I thought, "But he is so educated and smart and important! How can he be an abuser?" He was.

It's SO HARD to reconcile the "two sides" of a person you love who is 90% great.

That 10% bad will kill you, spiritually, physically, or both.

Just something to think about.
posted by Punctual at 7:59 AM on August 26, 2013 [18 favorites]

A man who calls his girlfriend a bitch is not fit to date.
Also, in no way is this your fault.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:01 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Just a few clarifications.
1. He had a right to be upset with me for being manipulative. He DID NOT have a right to behave that way.
2. We had just been talking about his past girlfriend who treated him like total shit. I think somehow what I said made him feel like I was trying to test his love the way that she did. It definitely hit a nerve; I don't think this is a normal reaction for him.
3. He is the least controlling person I know. Neither one of us ever wants to be the one to make a decision. He's always wanted to go along with anything that he thinks will make me happy (what kind of restaurant I want to go to, what show I want to watch, what movie I want to watch, what friends I want us to go out with) even if it's not something he particularly wants. He is not a controlling person.

That being said, I agree completely that this was an unacceptable response to any behavior I may have had and I am taking everything said here seriously.
posted by at 8:02 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm curious as to what you said that made him flip out, fly off the handle, accuse you of mindfucking him, and stomp off while calling you a cry-baby little bitch. I mean... you're defending him really, REALLY hard after all that, so either you said something really awful, like you accused him of something really unfair, or... you actually said nothing wrong at all and your boyfriend just flat-out acted like a dick.

My money's on #2.

You're worried that this is how he's going to be during every minor disagreement? Oh, honey. I guarantee it. You've only been dating the guy for 6 months. It's been honeymoon behavior up to this point. Little episodes like this are just going to get worse, and more frequent. So unless you're into being screamed at all the time and called things far worse than "cry-baby little bitch", for such minor infractions as disagreeing about which movie to watch or wanting to process your feelings in your own way instead of his (which is what this was about, BTW), I'd suggest dumping his ass now.

There's a reason this super smart, handsome, almost perfect 36 year old man is single and dating women 11 years younger than him... they're usually the only women without enough life experience to see through his act.
posted by palomar at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2013 [33 favorites]

I don't know whether your boyfriend is abusive or has the potential to be abusive or not. I do know that in 5 months, you've seen him get angry enough that it requires an apology multiple times; that he didn't respect your request to be left alone when you were in a funk; and that you've contorted yourself into a pretzel trying to justify his shitty behavior. So yeah, I'd be worried.
posted by sm1tten at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Could you share what exactly you said that he interpreted as manipulative?
posted by joan_holloway at 8:06 AM on August 26, 2013 [15 favorites]

Still he sat with me trying to get me to talk about what it was that was bothering me. He's really wonderful in so many ways.

I don't think this is as exceptional as you may believe it is. But, you know, even if he spent those twenty minutes giving you exactly the kind of support you needed, even if he was the best boyfriend in the entire world for those twenty minutes, what he did and said afterwards tarnishes this and means you can't rely on it in the same way in the future.

Next time you're feeling down and he wants to talk to you about why, are you going to think "Yay, he's so kind, I can share exactly how I'm feeling!", or are you going to be second-guessing what you say and how you say it in case he hears it as manipulative? Next time you get upset, are you going to trust that you can talk it out with him and have him respect your feelings even if he disagrees with you, or are you going to remember "cry baby little bitch" and be wary? By accusing you of being manipulative and trying to mind-fuck him, he made it very, very clear that he does not consider it acceptable for you to be honest about your thoughts and feelings, and/or that he expects you to cheer the hell up right then and there if he's talking to you and will take it as a personal insult if you don't.

I know I was not innocent; maybe I was being manipulative on some level. He had every right to be upset with me.

This is really worrying, and it's worrying for several reasons. It suggests that he hasn't accepted responsibility for doing this, which significantly ups the odds that he'll do it again because in his mind this is an okay way to behave. It suggests that you're holding yourself to much, much harsher standards than you're holding him (you being down and upset for no reason is 'exhausting and un-fun', but him blowing up at you beyond all proportion is okay). It suggests that you will, at some level, be prepared to blame yourself for his unreasonable outbursts if this happens again. It suggests that you think there are circumstances where it's acceptable for someone you're in a relationship with to behave this way to you.

And okay, I don't know what it was you said to him that he took offence at. But the thing is, "cry baby little bitch" is not ever an okay thing to call your girlfriend. Whether you were innocent or not doesn't matter - there is nothing you could have said that would make that an okay response. (Well, maybe "It was I who burned down your childhood home!" or something, but in the course of normal conversation? No.) If he really truly felt like you were saying something unfair to him, or that you were trying to manipulate him, he could have said "Wait, backtrack a second, that seems unfair" or "I feel like you're trying to manipulate me and I'm not comfortable with that".

Being treated decently and respectfully is not a reward you get for being a good enough girlfriend, for not being "un-fun" or "exhausting" or ever feeling down for no reason. Being treated decently is something you deserve all the time. Even when you're feeling down. Even when you're arguing. He has the right to disagree with you, to say "You're being unfair" or "I find that manipulative" or "I'm tired of this, I'm going out for a walk to get some space", but he does not have the right to throw a fit and call you a "cry baby little bitch." He owes you an apology. And even if he gives you an acceptable apology (which for me would have to be on the level of "I am so so sorry, I accept total responsibility for my completely unacceptable behaviour, I am horrified by how I behaved to you, and I am getting professional help to deal with what I did right now), I'd still be wary if I were you. You can't un-hear "cry baby little bitch".
posted by Catseye at 8:08 AM on August 26, 2013 [17 favorites]

You don't think he'll end up physically abusing you, and you may be right. This incident looks in writing like an early warning sign of physical abuse (and argh, on preview that stuff about how his previous terrible girlfriend treated him so awfully sounds almost cliched, as far as "warning signs" go), but maybe we're missing out on details, maybe it won't end up that way. However, even if that is the case please remember that unhealthy relationships don't ONLY mean "physically abusive ones."

Verbally abusive relationships can be insidiously damaging because we're trained to equate "abuse" with "physical harm." It can be easy to stay with a person who only lashes out verbally because "they never laid a finger on me." Please realize this can warp your thinking, your self-perception, and your self-esteem in pretty damned lasting ways. As others have pointed out, this is already happening if you apologized for possibly manipulating him, rather than telling him off for ignoring your request for time for a little time and space to yourself (it is NOT wonderful to badger someone about their feelings when they've told you this - and I say this as someone who struggles not to go into "IT IS MY JOB TO FIX ALL THE FEELINGS" mode any time someone I care about is upset ...).

So yes, as everyone else has said here, you should be VERY upset about your boyfriend's temper. Don't let him get away with just an apology, or with some meaningless gesture like making dinner and doing the dishes: what you both need is action on his part to address this unacceptable behavior. Anger management therapy sounds like a great idea to me; if all you get instead is sweet talk and promises that he'll never do it again, please be on guard because things don't change just because someone says they will.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:11 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

2. We had just been talking about his past girlfriend who treated him like total shit. I think somehow what I said made him feel like I was trying to test his love the way that she did. It definitely hit a nerve; I don't think this is a normal reaction for him.

Are all his ex-girlfriends crazy, controlling people who tested his love and treated him like shit? If so, I think the common factor there is actually him, not the ex-GFs.

How does he talk about his ex-GFs? Is he still friends with any of them? Do any of them still like him?

3. He is the least controlling person I know. Neither one of us ever wants to be the one to make a decision. He's always wanted to go along with anything that he thinks will make me happy (what kind of restaurant I want to go to, what show I want to watch, what movie I want to watch, what friends I want us to go out with) even if it's not something he particularly wants. He is not a controlling person.

Based on how you described the start of this fight, it sounds (to an outsider) like he was trying to control your mood. "Controlling" doesn't mean "Always gets his way with the remote" or "Always chooses the restaurant"; it can also mean "doesn't give you space to feel your own moods." Which is what he did here. I personally would be much more upset by someone trying to control my mood than by someone who hogs the TV remote.

Also, I don't think you need to label him abusive to leave him. You can leave someone for having anger issues.

This sounds very stressful. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this.
posted by pie ninja at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2013 [20 favorites]

We had just been talking about his past girlfriend who treated him like total shit. I think somehow what I said made him feel like I was trying to test his love the way that she did. It definitely hit a nerve; I don't think this is a normal reaction for him.

I wonder if his former girlfriend really treated him like total shit...did he portray himself as someone who treated her like gold? I mean, he has a temper -- if someone treated him like shit would he not erupt in anger? It would seem he gets mad when he's treated not like shit -- i.e., by'd wonder about that relationship and why it ended.

Just a thought, but you only know what he says about how she treated him. The truth could be very, very different. I might look into it.
posted by Lescha at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Just speaking to your clarifications:

1. You weren't being manipulative; he was over-reacting.

2. Even if what you said hit him the same was as what his ex said, doesn't mean he can react that way (Did she treat him like shit in that she didn't put up with this?)

3. Not choosing the restaurant doesn't mean he's not controlling, it means he's picking his battles and letting you feel like you have choices.

This is a still a big old bouquet of red flags.

To your original question: you should be upset about your boyfriend's temper.
posted by RainyJay at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

He had a right to be upset with me for being manipulative.

....You haven't exactly convinced me that you were being manipulative. Were you?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

To respond to these specific things:

1) What people are saying here is that you were probably not being manipulative. He was accusing you of being manipulative. In what tangible, perceivable-to-outsiders way were you being manipulative? Or did he just unilaterally decide that you were manipulative?

2) In my experience, people who go on and on about how exes treated them like shit are generally not awesome people. How on earth were you testing his love? You were in a bad mood, and suddenly this is somehow testing his love? That's madness.

3) Why is it 100% your job to decide things? Being decisive is not being controlling. Being some long-suffering martyr about letting you watch Finding Nemo when he wants to watch Tangled is pretty controlling. Playing the long game. And even if it's not "controlling" it's obnoxious and tiresome.

Point is, regardless of whether or not he's textbook abusive (I have no direct experience in this, but I tend to trust those above who have been in abusive relationships and say how familiar this all sounds), this is still a really lame relationship. Five months in, and he's making you feel bad. That's not a good sign.

So, if it makes you feel better, don't leave him because he's abusive. Leave him because he's a turdface of a boyfriend and you deserve so much better.
posted by phunniemee at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Look, you shouldn't be with someone whose anger manifests in a way that frightens you. "Having a temper" is not an excuse even if he gives you a heads up that he tends to fly off the handle. He's an adult. Conflict happens in relationships from time to time. What you're doing right now is setting yourself up to avoid conflict at the expense of your own needs because you're afraid of his reactions. That's not good.
posted by something something at 8:15 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

What i mean with my question is, were you sincerely and intentionally trying to manipulate him into something, or was it more like, he accused you of being manipulative and you decided maybe he was right?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sure.

I also didn't flat out ask him to leave me alone. I just said it wouldn't be productive to talk to me cause I was tangled in my own emotions.

I did want him to stay there and lie with me until I felt better. I didn't say that though.

We were lying in my bed and we had been talking about what was bothering me. I said a few things about how I'm probably too nice to him, or how he and his former girlfriend seemed like they had more of a real life together, I was really just hypothesizing, nothing I was saying was making sense. It takes me a while to understand why I'm upset about anything and usually I rationalize whatever it is that's bothering me and I realize I'm not even really upset. It just takes me time to go through it on my own. Anyway, this is paraphrased, obviously, but he said something like, "Do you know that I really try hard to be a good boyfriend to you?" And I said, "what do you mean?" And he said, "I try hard to be the best boyfriend I can be to you." And I said, "Well, how do you try, I don't try with you"

That's what set him off. I have no idea why I said that. I think because I didn't want him to feel like he had to say he needed to try, so I wanted him to think it's okay cause I'm not trying. I really have no idea. It was a dumb thing to say. I try extremely hard to be a good girlfriend and I know he tries very hard to be a good boyfriend. I should have said that, but I was just not thinking properly.

Anyway, he took that as me trying to get him to prove himself or make him tell me how dedicated he is to me, or whatever. Shit that I imagine his past girlfriend used to do. I had just been asking all sorts of questions about why he loved her if she was such a beast. So I'm sure his anger had something to do with that.
posted by at 8:19 AM on August 26, 2013

Been there, done that, can't add anything to previous commenters' wise advice. DTMFA. And stop trying to excuse his behaviour as something you caused - "you made me do it" is not mature and normal behaviour. Fuck that shit in particular.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:19 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree with EC that I am unsure about how you manipulated him. I understand people have hurt and past issues and 'hot buttons' or as I call them 'land mines' but this seems too weird and too explosive and too.... mm.... unrestrained even for normal hot buttons issues. Friends of mine had dis-proportional anger issues (after being in a very bad relationship) and GOT HELP IMMEDIATELY (Therapy!)
posted by Jacen at 8:23 AM on August 26, 2013

Sorry, but that doesn't sound like "manipulation" to me, the worst thing it sounds like is "saying something without thinking first what it may sound like", which is SO way down low on the list of Bad Things You Can Do To Someone that it's not even funny.

And this:

I also didn't flat out ask him to leave me alone. I just said it wouldn't be productive to talk to me cause I was tangled in my own emotions.

So, you didn't tell him to leave you alone, told him to leave you alone. Not convinced that was your fault either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm gonna go kind of against the grain here. As I've talked about before, my husband is a man who definitely has an angry streak, a tendency towards temper. In the early years of our relationship, we had many very angry, heated fights. He used language like you're describing here towards me once or twice. We stayed together, worked it out, and now I can't imagine being with anyone else.

However, I think the two situations are different in a couple of very key and important ways:

1. My partner's angry, inappropriate words came when he was trying to leave a fight and I was following him from room to room trying to prolong it. This does not make the words acceptable in the slightest, but it makes his impulse less problematic. Your partner was angry at you, not because you were infringing upon him, but because he didn't get the reaction he felt he was entitled to.

2. Immediately after those words left my partner's mouth, I told him "Don't ever fucking talk to me like that again, or I'm fucking leaving." He immediately and with enormous effort agreed that his words had been problematic, and we ended the fight.

3. When I said I wanted to go to couples counseling, he agreed, and he went in with an open mind and an open heart and made a staunch and good-faith effort to change his behavior.

Your updates are making me feel worse about this situation, not better, btw. If I were in this situation -- as I kind of was -- I would ask him to come to counseling with me to see if we could resolve these conflicts, and I would consider his reaction to that idea to be very illuminating, no matter what it is.
posted by KathrynT at 8:26 AM on August 26, 2013 [15 favorites]

Yeah, based on your latest update I'm still not seeing how what you said gives him any license to act the way he did, but I think all of this can be boiled down to this: a relationship doesn't have to involve what you would label "abuse" to be bad for you.

The next time you're in a funky mood, how will you react? Will you be able to dedicate as much attention as you need to working through your emotions? I suspect you will now have to dedicate at least some of that energy to managing your partner, watching what you say, and otherwise directing attention to him when it would be better for you to be focused inward for a little while.

A partner should be someone who supports you when you need it, in the way you need it - not something that robs you of the energy you need to take care of yourself.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

2. We had just been talking about his past girlfriend who treated him like total shit.

Unfortunately, this is a really common thing that all kinds of guys say, from guys who dated awful women to guys who perceive totally normal, reasonable behavior as being "total shit".

Since he has just recently interpreted your normal, reasonable behavior as you being a "bitch", there is some evidence that he might have done the same thing to her--interpreted her normal behavior as shitty and deserving of an angry, spiteful response.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:30 AM on August 26, 2013 [37 favorites]

While he behavior was unacceptable there is an awful lot of cavalier advice here about terminating/dropping/drawing a final line/etc. The simple fact is none of us know what you should do or the intimate dynamics of your relationship. Regardless of your behavior that kind of anger can be problematic--but I can say as a person who has been privy to literally 100s, if not 1000s, of intimate relationships if every one broke up over this specific kind of incident there would be very very few ongoing relationships. If this continues to trouble you it is entirely appropriate to sit down with a professional and sort out the issues on both sides.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:31 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Neither one of us ever wants to be the one to make a decision. He's always wanted to go along with anything that he thinks will make me happy (what kind of restaurant I want to go to, what show I want to watch, what movie I want to watch, what friends I want us to go out with) even if it's not something he particularly wants.

You have just spent 5 months with a Nice Guy(TM). He is bend-over-backwards nice until he isn't. And suddenly you owe him for the 5 months of niceness that you didn't even deserve but he gave to you anyway because he's so NICE and isn't it enough that he always eats/watches/does what you want even when he doesn't want to and hasn't he sacrificed enough for you to APPRECIATE him .... and after that blowup, another few months of him being Nice(TM).

Abuse, not abuse, what you call it doesn't matter. The guy didn't give you space when you asked for it, and then piled onto your crappy mood with his nice-with-strings-attached solicitousness, and then exploded at you when you weren't GRATEFUL enough.

You. Deserve. Better.

On preview please read Debaser626's comment 100 times.
posted by headnsouth at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2013 [20 favorites]

This was me 6 years ago. At the start of a .relationship that lasted 4, at least 2 of which I desperately wish I could do over / get back.

Maybe you're right, maybe this was a one time overreaction, maybe he is as wonderful as you think he is. Excerpt for that one thing. And then there will be another thing. And maybe you'll find yourself making more excuses, to you're friends, family, your self.

Maybe don't dtma, but see this incident for what it might be - the beginning of verbal and emotional abuse. Which is sometimes worse than physical abuse because you don't see the bruises, the breaks. I woke up one day after 4 years and had no idea who I was - I was this scared, shy, stripped down and stepped on version of myself that I did not recognize. And I left. And it was the hardest thing I've had to do but I left and didn't look back. It took me another year to get back to the crazy, smart, fun, confident person I was before those 4 years - so count that as another year lost. And I almost lost the best thing that's happened to me since and threatened to leave my current amazing incredible non abusive partner because now I'm still a little damaged and much more cautious and jaded and I will do anything not to lose myself again. (for the record he did nothing wrong, except want to be more of a part of my life, which scared me because of aforementioned bad relationship).

Maybe that isn't you, maybe this is a one time thing with your guy. But don't make any more excuses for him, talk to him about how you feel and if he doesn't respond in an understanding way and make strides to change, please walk away. Don't lose any years.
posted by danapiper at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

Thank you for sharing what exactly you said. In my opinion, what you said was NOT manipulative at all-- especially because you did not say it with manipulation in mind. He interpreted it that way, which he's allowed to do but it isn't a very generous way of interpreting the words of someone he supposedly loves, is it? You should be very worried about that, first and foremost. That he would take something you said in the midst of a really emotional time and read it in the worst possible light immediately and responded to that. That he didn't even stop to consider maybe he had misunderstood you and ask you for clarification before deciding "yup, that's manipulative."

The second thing that you should be worried about is the fact that he's now convinced you that you were manipulative, even though you didn't intend it to be manipulative AND even though you said at the beginning that it wasn't manipulative. But slowly throughout your responses here you've gone from "what I said wasn't manipulative" to "maybe I can see why he would take it as manipulative" to "oh, maybe I was being manipulative" to "oh yeah, I was definitely manipulative." How did that happen? And yet you say he's not controlling?
posted by joan_holloway at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2013 [22 favorites]

I don't think you'd be here asking this question if you thought this was reasonable behavior in response to the situation. You don't, and people are validating that. It's hard to go from thinking a situation is awesome to thinking it's unhealthy or abusive, so I can see why you're resisting what people are saying here. But you know something's not right - trust that.
posted by judith at 8:41 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Eh, people always make excuses for abuse. It's why abusive behavior is so effective and difficult to disengage. I mean, people even explain away PHYSICAL abuse, which really, they shouldn't logically. I've been there, done that as have many young people. Boyfriend with anger issues, emotional baggage, verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, etc. etc. One day, in the early stages of our relationship, I was in a bad mood (it happens!) and he took it personally, called me a bitch in public, stormed off. I was confused and sad and yet he was able to rationalize why my behavior caused him to act that way. Lather, rinse, repeat, for 3 years. Que intense therapy for one of those. It really takes being in an abusive relationship (either short term or otherwise and with varying levels of severity) to understand how not to enter into an abusive relationship again, so I wouldn't be surprised if us telling you not to get involved wasn't at all persuasive. After all, we all read the pamphlets, we've all read these threads.

But you really should communicate with him "that was not okay. Next time, we're done." You're not married, you are not cohabiting, you have no ties to a man you've known for 5 months, nip it in the bud before you fall into that hazy funk that occurs after you internally normalize an abusive environment and lose your sense of self. Because it will only cause damage to your mental health and perhaps even your future relationships in the long run.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:45 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Oh, for God's sake. We do not know that this man is abusive, or that he will become abusive. He may be abusive, and he may become abusive, but none of us internet-strangers have ever met him or met the OP or seen them interact, so we don't know. Given that fact, I think it is incumbent on us take what the OP is saying at face value and assume that he is a non-abusive person with some anger management issues.

So, what to do about these anger management issues?

I have a temper that can get like this, and I'd also like to take a moment to explain what it's like. It's like this little anger-worm ferrets itself inside of your brain and needs a release valve. I don't feel like me when I lose it like this; I feel tiny and helpless and filled with tension. It's literally like my brain goes pop.

Now, I've mostly got this under control. I don't go through life angry, and I'm perfectly capable of expressing anger or frustration without losing my cool or yelling or insulting people. But every few years or so the anger worm somehow finds its way inside my brain. When this does happen, even though I feel tiny and helpless, I've been told by people I trust that it's fucking scary.

How do I deal with it when it happens? I apologize, and I don't beat around the bush. The thing with losing your temper like that is that, pretty much no matter what happened to cause the outburst, the minute it happens you are the one in the wrong. Period. I also seek therapy. The two times this happened in the past 8-ish years, I've gone into therapy shortly thereafter.

It's OK to discuss the causes of the outburst, but still - bottom line, he did something that is totally unacceptable, and whatever happened before that is now moot, and he needs to recognize this. I'd say you really didn't do anything wrong here, even accounting for that, but the way I see it his outburst was completely his own fault and you really shouldn't be apologizing for anything pretty much regardless of what you did.

So, I think you need to stop thinking that any of this is on you, I think he needs to realize that he was totally wrong and he needs to seek therapy. Outbursts like this are never acceptable, period. I know. I've been there

Oh, and if you want to dump him, dump him. That's totally up to you, and you don't need anyone's permission to do it.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:48 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

His anger has nothing to do with anything other than himself.

Let me tell you from the perspective of someone with a terrible temper-- I get mad for essentially no reason, and I have this terrible ability to talk my way out of it. I used to come up with very convincing excuses-- "I got mad because you did x.. if you didn't do y i wouldn't have gotten upset..".. but the truth is, I did the getting mad, and only I can stop it.

For what it's worth, I have learned some self control, but I did manage to completely destroy a relationship before I learned it. For my current SO, he knows I'm working on it (actively, with a therapist), and I tell him always, all the time, that it is NOT his fault. It isn't, it's mine, it is my responsibility to behave properly and to treat him (and everyone else) well. It's gotten to the point where I know when I'm unreasonably angry, and I occasionally have to ask to be left alone so I don't lash out at innocent folk nearby, but it's very rare that I actually take the anger out on another human. Even so it's still a work in progress.

If your boyfriend doesn't understand that his anger is his problem, then there's no hope for this relationship. If *you* don't understand that his anger is his problem, then there's also no hope for this relationship. Even if it never escalates to physical abuse, the relationship is still doomed.

So what can you do? First, realize it is not your fault. You do not cause his reaction. You cannot prevent it or fix it, it is not your problem, it is his. Second, tell him this, and see how he reacts. If he agrees that it isn't your fault, then request that he get some professional help with the problem. Third, if you still think it's your fault, or if he thinks it's your fault, or if he refuses to get help-- then it's time to leave. Same if he promises to get help but then does nothing. You need action on his part here, not just words.

Lastly-- he can also investigate what some of his triggers are. Does he get mad when he hasn't eaten? When he's tired? When work stress is bad? None of these are acceptable excuses for treating you poorly, but all of them are situations he can try to prevent (for me, I'm not nice when I'm hungry, so I keep food bars in my car, in my office, in my suitcase, so I can eat one if I'm getting grouchy, *before* I have a temper tantrum). If he claims not to have any such issues, or if he doesn't take immediate steps to prevent the situations which make his temper worse, then professional help for him or you get out.
posted by nat at 8:56 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know about abuse, but if based on your followup he's convinced you that "He had a right to be upset with me for being manipulative" he's definitely having some success at gaslighting you.

You were not being manipulative. You were, at worst, being a little bit confusing.

Even if something you said somehow reminded him of an ex-girlfriend's behavior, that does not give him the right to flip out on you, because you are not that ex-girlfriend. He should be able to think of you as an individual person, not as an interchangeable member of the set Women I Have Dated.
posted by ook at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mod note: This is a response from an anonymous answerer.
I wouldn't usually tell anyone to issue an ultimatum in a relationship, but since you do say that you're otherwise treated well and that blowups like this one are rare, I think this is a situation that calls for it. I.e. - "If you ever blow up at me and call me names like that again the relationship is over, period - no ifs, ands, or buts."

Here's why: my parents have been happily married for about 40 years. They have what I would consider a successful marriage, with a great deal of love and affection, despite both being the kind of people who 'blow up' when they get angry. I've never heard them insult each other even when having loud arguments (which I would say happens maybe once or twice a year) - they attack each other's opinions, but not each other.

I learned recently that during one of these heated arguments early in their relationship, one of them threatened physical violence. The one who was threatened said "If you ever use physical violence against me, the relationship is over, period." There have been no threats or incidents of physical violence in their relationship since then, EVER, because the person who threatened violence decided that the relationship was valuable enough to learn to control their temper. If your boyfriend doesn't believe the relationship is valuable enough to do that for you, then it is not a valuable enough relationship for you to try and salvage.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:00 AM on August 26, 2013 [24 favorites]

Kindof a side point, but to your statement, This is the best relationship I've ever been in as a reason for your reluctance to end it--

It's pretty typical for someone to be of the mindset, "This is the best relationship I've ever been in" while they're in that relationship. Think about it. All of someone's previous relationships have ended for one reason or another, so you're comparing the present to something that is by definition flawed. Also while you're in any relationship, you're immersed in a soup of brain chemicals that make you think "This is the best!" just like the best ice cream cone or brisk fall day you've ever experienced is often the one that you're currently experiencing.

All of that is just to say, that even if your current relationship is the best one you've ever been in, don't confuse that with thinking it will be the best one you ever will be in.
posted by Asparagus at 9:11 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Frankly, the way he treated you was insane. I understand that you think he has not previously shown himself to be what you would think of as "abusive" in your short months of acquaintance, but eighty-something Internet third parties are here to tell you that what he said to you and what you are describing meets a formal definition of abusive behavior. So, yeah. Please do not dismiss this. Is it guaranteed that this will ever happen again? No. Is there a chance that he could behave perfectly in the future, and this is just some random fluke occurrence instead of part of his personality or behavior showing itself in the course of your deepening acquaintance? Sure. But the fact is, he has already behaved abusively to you, and as of today, you are objectively ALREADY in an abusive relationship. Please let that sink in and make your decisions from that reference point.

If you are still skeptical about this fact, I really encourage you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline and tell them exactly what he said, then ask "Is this abuse? Should I be worried about my situation in this relationship?". Please be willing to look this hard thing in the face in order to protect yourself. There are other men out there who will treat you well ALL the time--not just when they have their temper in check, not just when they're courting you during the honeymoon phase of your relationship, and even if you behave in a way that upsets them.
posted by anonnymoose at 9:14 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

The last few comments have been contrarian to the DTMFA mindset and I'll jump in too.

Don't dump him (unless you want to, and that's fine.) He's impulsive and said a horrible thing but he's not abusive. He may become abusive, so watch out for that and certainly let him know this behavior is unacceptable no matter what he feels the provocation was.

meta: I understand why everyone is concerned for OP and there is no dispute about his reprehensible behavior. But sometimes you need to take OP's word for it that this is something worth sticking through and working on. Here's what's happening: the good stuff about the relationship is presented in generalities ("best boyfriend I ever had") and the bad stuff is presented in specifics ("called me a bitch"). So what do we know about him? Nothing other than the horrible thing he said. There is no nuance and nobody other than OP is invested in the relationship. I mean, who gives a shit about this guy? Might as well replace him with another generic good guy who didn't say the horrible thing, right? But that's not real life, and as such, the advice is compromised by the commenters' detachment from the relationship. Things aren't that simple sometimes. Be careful, OP, of course, and issue an ultimatum if you need to, but trust your own instincts.)
posted by moammargaret at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

That sounds like an innocuous, or maybe (tone/context dependant) an unpleasant statement. A statement that you were making to appease him, no less.

Sure, sometimes people are hurt by innoccuous statements. The appropriate way to deal with that is by saying "wow, that really hurts my feelings, are you expecting me to prove myself to you?" Or similar. Not by flying into a hissy fit.
posted by windykites at 9:16 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sorry honey, he sounds like he has the potential of being a controlling abusive (emotionally and/or physically) partner. The six month to one year mark is when the true colors start to show. I am not saying he is, just be on the look out for these red flags summed up in this blog, My life as a Puppet: Red Flags of an abusive relationship.

Why does he do that? Inside the mind of angry and controlling men Is an excellent book I highly recommend. I only wish I had read this book when I was your age.
posted by JujuB at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

On seeing your update:

We had just been talking about his past girlfriend who treated him like total shit. I think somehow what I said made him feel like I was trying to test his love the way that she did. It definitely hit a nerve; I don't think this is a normal reaction for him.

When I was younger and had not yet been in any deeply shitty relationships myself, I had a great deal of sympathy for the guys who behaved brattily to me or my friends because their exes had been bad to them. I didn't excuse the behaviour, exactly, but I made an effort to get myself to see where that behaviour was coming from and to be calm and understanding about the underlying problems.

Since that time, I've been in an abusive relationship myself - one in which I was hit, screamed at, lied to, stolen from, a whole carnival of awful. I'm long out of that relationship, but it still has ripples today - and those ripples include that it makes me hypersensitive to any hint of the same behaviour from my partner, even if it's minor or accidental and nothing like the bad relationship. So you'd think I'd have even more compassion for the people who behave badly and blame it on bad relationships in their past, right? No. It's the opposite. I have pretty much zero tolerance for it these days. Having experienced the aftereffects of a terrible relationship directly for myself, I found that hey, surprise, it didn't actually make me act terribly to future partners and it didn't make me feel like I was given a pass on my own behaviour towards them.

Your boyfriend is 36. He is an adult. He doesn't get to stop acting like one even if you did hit an ex-girlfriend-related nerve. By 36 pretty much everyone is going to have some raw nerve like that, whether it's from a bad relationship or a painful breakup or even a friend/family fall-out or whatever. Even if your boyfriend's ex was the Devil incarnate, even if you said something that was exactly word-for-word identical to something she'd said to him, that does not explain or excuse why he behaved in this way to you and it is not something that you should be offering yourself as an even partial explanation.

Also: I know you've said you believe it very unlikely your boyfriend will ever hit you, and maybe that's the case and he won't. However, I warn you that my abusive relationship also started with my boyfriend flipping out and yelling at me and storming out of the room, and with me trying to work out why the hell he'd done something so out of character for him and being willing to take some of the blame for it myself (well, I didn't mean to upset him, but maybe he heard X when I said Y... or maybe he has bad experiences with someone saying Y... and after all I'm not exactly a perfect girlfriend and he's really good to me anyway most of the time, so maybe we're both to blame!... and so on). I deeply wish I hadn't been so willing to excuse/justify/apologise for his behaviour - and not just because that behaviour would later escalate to physical violence, but also because I would have been able to determine whether or not the relationship was good for me a whole lot sooner if I'd been willing to say "This behaviour is not acceptable to me and if it happens again I'm out."
posted by Catseye at 9:19 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


In re-reading this thread, I don't think you were being manipulative... Perhaps insensitive, and you hurt his feelings.

I don't handle hurt very well. A large part of my "perfect boyfriend" scenario above is that I have always felt inadequate. The problem is that I don't naturally process words of criticism (perceived or real) properly.

For example, "You never take out the trash" = "You're a terrible husband."


"I got me some, but I forgot to ask you if you wanted coffee" = "I don't love you anymore"

Part of my goal in being the perfect boyfriend would be to never be in a situation where I could be criticized, and only in those where I would be praised.

However, as I mentioned, this is unrealistic, consumes too much energy to be maintained, and is unhealthy.

Also, the only thing other people can guarantee me (and that which I can guarantee them) is that at some point, I will be let down (and will let you down). This is relatively unimportant. What happens after, however, is a measure of the relationship, whether it be friend, relative or significant other.

The best advice you can get is to figure out what you would tell a friend who told you this story:

Last night I was in a funk and I couldn't figure out why I felt so wretched. My boyfriend asked what was up with me, and I told him I just needed to think it through and I would be fine. I get like that sometimes and I know it is probably exhausting and un-fun for people who are close to me.

Bad timing, but we had just been talking about his past girlfriend who treated him like total shit. Still, he sat with me trying to get me to talk about what it was that was bothering me. I didn't really want to talk about it, but I did want him to stay there and lie with me until I felt better. I didn't say that though. He's really wonderful in so many ways.

After 20 minutes, he says: "Do you know that I really try hard to be a good boyfriend to you?" And I said, "what do you mean?" And he said, "I try hard to be the best boyfriend I can be to you." And I said, "Well, how do you try, I don't try with you"

Then he snapped. He started yelling that I'm trying to mind fuck him, that he's been sitting with me for 20 minutes trying to make me feel better and now I'm going to play games with his head.

The entire time he's ranting, I'm saying, "What are you talking about, that's not what I meant, sit down, let's just talk about this."

He refuses to respond, grabs all his stuff slams my bedroom door and stomps down the hallway. I'm follow him to the front door and ask him again to stop and come back at which point he turns to me and says something that ends with "You're a cry baby little bitch," slams the door and leaves.

posted by Debaser626 at 9:19 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

You're getting some advice here that I think you're reading as "dump him because otherwise he's going to eventually beat you up." I'm not going to touch that.

More immediately, though, here are the facts: your boyfriend blamed you for saying something confused while you were in a mood, and screamed at you that you are a crybaby bitch. That is... just NOT the way loving adults behave to each other.

When I'm pissed off about something stupid my husband says to me in a confused moment, I tell him -- either at the moment or later once I've figured it out -- that he hurt my feelings and that he was wrong to say whatever it was. I do not scream at him that he is a crybaby bitch. Ever. It wouldn't cross my mind to do it.

Imagine wondering if he's going to repeat that shit every time you are down. Imagine what that will do to your ability to trust and communicate. Don't you want to be with an adult?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Two things bother me about this.

1. You are saying that something you did caused his reaction. No. That's not true. He reacted that way because he likes to react that way.

2. He told you he has a bad temper but is doing NOTHING to manage it or control it. He is basically telling you: "I get to blow up, be nasty and say whatever, and you can't be upset with me because I TOLD you I have a bad temper." Bullshit. I totally call Bullshit on it.

Now, you don't have a good relationship. You don't believe me because you've never had a good relationship so you don't know what one looks like. Trust me, it doesn't look like a partner telling another partner that they are "Cry-baby, bitch."

You sound exactly like every abused partner in this situation. You are making excuses for him, you are trying to justify his actions and you are accepting blame for causing him to act inappropriately.

Knock that shit off.

Now, you might be able to continue on in this relationship, but only if your boyfriend realizes that what he did is a deal-breaker. That it must NEVER happen again, and to that end he gets himself into some serious anger-management classes. If this doesn't happen, you should leave.

Not because he may physically harm you, who knows if that will every happen, but because you are already in too deep. You already believe that you did something wrong in this scenario, and you didn't. He's already mind-fucked you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

Once upon a time I dated a guy who blew up on me for something really dumb like that early on. I thought it was my fault and apologized. A couple of months later he got mad about something else stupid and ransacked my apartment. Again, I thought I must have not communicated well, it must have been my fault. There was no way I wouldn't recognize a potentially abusive partner. I was too intelligent for that! A few weeks after that, he tried to literally SHOVE A PHONE DOWN MY THROAT. Then he tried to strangle me. Yup. He was history. This all happened in the span of 8 months. Based on my experience, I would get out now.
posted by MayNicholas at 9:44 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

So, he has a nasty temper and you're supposed to understand this about him, but if you're in a funk and are not looking for him to solve it, but he tries anyway and against your wishes, he makes it all about him by naming calling and blowing up at you? When that's the last thing you need when you're feeling down? Would this be acceptable thung for a guy to do to your best friend? I didn't think so. Start by being your own best friend.
posted by SillyShepherd at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

Ultimatums rarely work in life.

Tell him what you find as unacceptable behavior. And leave it at that. If he does something like this again, quietly end the relationship - no ultimatum required.

Also, understand what you said that triggered him by asking him. You need to know as well to best avoid such comments in the future.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:54 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know I was not innocent; maybe I was being manipulative on some level. You and your BF sound pretty enmeshed. You were moody. It's a good idea to learn to deal with your moodiness. You can experience feelings without having to draw others in. It's not about innocence or guilt or blame.
He grabs all his stuff slams my bedroom door, stomps down the hallway. I'm follow him to the front door and ask him again to stop and come back. When somebody stomps off, let them go. They are leaving a situation they can't deal with, and leaving is actually a pretty good response, at least in this situation.
He's mentioned he has a temper and can get very angry This concerns me the most. He's aware that he is sometimes unable to deal with his anger. Ask him if the behavior you saw was him at his worst. Ask him about the ranting. Talk to him about how bad his anger is, and what he does to deal with it. People do fight, have moods, get angry. What's important is how they deal with it, learn to cope with it, learn to manage their emotions and behavior.
posted by theora55 at 10:03 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, understand what you said that triggered him by asking him. You need to know as well to best avoid such comments in the future.

No. OP should be able to speak without fear of her boyfriend becoming erratic, unpredictable, and angry. She should not be expected to walk on eggshells for the rest of this relationship.

Of course she should avoid intentionally hurting his feelings, but it is supremely unfair to expect someone to play a constant guessing game of, "well, if I say X will he slam the door this time? Will saying Y make him call me a cry baby bitch and stomp around the apartment?"

That's an unacceptable way to live.
posted by phunniemee at 10:11 AM on August 26, 2013 [33 favorites]

OP, please feel free to memail me if you'd care to hear in more detail from someone who had a similar experience 5/6 months into a relationship (with someone who treated me like the center of his world, and was incredibly loving toward me in general) which slowly became more & more abusive until the point several years later where I moved out of our shared living space into an undisclosed location because I feared for my safety (with very good reason). I'd rather not air much detail publicly, but please take note: this sounds very familiar and is a very common Abusive Relationship 101 situation. Very loving relationship, a sudden caustic outburst once you're safely in love with the guy, and then a decline so slow that by the time you realize something is amiss, you've been making excuses for his behavior (and taking on the blame for it yourself) for years.
posted by pammeke at 10:18 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

I'll be less kind-- Kruger5's comment that you should "understand what you said that triggered him" is flat out wrong and possibly dangerous. I am a person who gets unreasonably angry, and I know full well that's on me, not on what anyone else said. This is true for anyone with a temper, excepting people who have had severe PTSD-causing trauma, perhaps. I highly doubt that's what's going on here, and if for some reason it is, he should still get professional help dealing with it.

There is no understanding possible, you did not cause this, and trying to analyze your behaviour to figure out why-- that way lies madness. Because if you think it's your fault, you will try to change yourself to fix the problem, and it won't work. You'll try to change yourself again to fix the new problem, and he'll still get mad. You'll start thinking you're a bad person because you can't seem to keep from making him blow up.

The thing is, you can't keep him from blowing up. Only *he* can keep himself from blowing up.
posted by nat at 10:24 AM on August 26, 2013 [16 favorites]

I learned an incredibly unhealthy fighting style - stuff down feelings until pushed beyond limits, then with the yelling and screaming and crying - and even with that, I never name-called during those fights and was never called names by the parent I learned this technique from.

I also figured out that this was a really unhealthy and unhelpful way of resolving conflict, and I learned how to do it differently. So could your boyfriend; it's not like he's legally required to fight this way. Likewise, you are not required to put up with someone who fights this way, and it's also not your responsibility to fix his problems. Your responsibility lies with stuff you can control, which is you. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think that something to consider is whether or not, after this event, you feel safe and comfortable in confiding in this person (and a huge part of being in a relationship, to be, is being able to confide in your SO) without worrying about him blowing up on you.

Possible future abuse aside, which I'm in no position to predict will or won't happen, if you can't express yourself to someone that you love (and ideally loves you) then what kind of relationship do you really have?
posted by Fister Roboto at 10:44 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of the worst things you can do on AskMe is to provide evidence your boyfriend is abusive. I'm using a technical sense of the word "evidence," to mean any fact that makes it more probable something is true. Nevermind whether it actually is true. If you provide some basis for thinking it might be, then you've skewed things irreparably. This is DTMFA Land, and people lie in wait for evidence of abuse.

That said, we're totally in opinion territory here. It's silly for any of us to read a couple hundred words from you and pretend we can tell you, "Okay, I am now able to advise you precisely how serious this situation is and how upset you should feel." Certainly, "you're a cry baby little bitch" was an immature response, we can agree on that pretty readily. But what caused it, what exactly does it indicate, what comes next? Ehh. We're reading tea leaves.

You mentioned a past girlfriend of his. This is an issue worth thinking about: when your boyfriend experiencing rage, is he experiencing an emotional reaction to a past experience (eg, did something remind him of a pattern he repeated in previous relationships?); or is he emotionally in the present, and expression of anger in immature and/or unhealthy ways is a characteristic behavior for him? I won't presume to tell you whether either problem means you should leave him, and I'm not a therapist so I won't presume to suggest how each problem might be dealt with. But they are somewhat different problems, and that's worth looking at.

If Joe accuses Sarah of being manipulative, it's a good bet that Joe is either manipulative himself or has experienced manipulation. That's one of those accusations that doesn't tend to come out of the clear blue sky. It usually has a basis. And it's also worth noting the possibility that Sarah is being manipulative—and the fact that people tend to repeat patterns, so if the last four girls Joe dated were manipulative, then the casual observer has some evidence (again, technical sense) to think Sarah might be, too. This is an issue separate from Joe's temper and how he expresses it, obviously.

The anonymous commenter's story about an ultimatum is interesting. It's certainly a tactic you might try. The counterpoint I'd add is that not everybody reacts well to ultimatums. For behaviors rooted in anxiety, for instance, ultimatums can compound the problem. For every case where an ultimatum is the right approach, there's probably another where lowering the stakes is what's called for. Also, if you issue an ultimatum, I'd suggest you don't bluff. If the time comes, you may feel inclined to give a second chance, and ultimatums only work when they are the second chance. If they play out differently, then emotionally it sometimes turns into two steps backward.

Good luck. I'm sorry for your relationship difficulties, and I hope you and your boyfriend both experience more good days than bad.
posted by cribcage at 10:53 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Here's another thing that jumped out at me. "...his past girlfriend who treated him like total shit."

I'm always suspicious about stuff like this. Most people break up because it didn't work out, they grew apart, or they both lost interest. Low drama stuff like that.

Very few normal people are in relationships where they stick around to be treated like total shit. But it sure is convenient for justifying shitty behavior now, isn't it?

Also see: All of my exes are crazy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:13 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

> I wouldn't usually tell anyone to issue an ultimatum in a relationship, but since you do say that you're otherwise treated well and that blowups like this one are rare, I think this is a situation that calls for it. I.e. - "If you ever blow up at me and call me names like that again the relationship is over, period - no ifs, ands, or buts."

I wasn't going to comment in this thread, because lots of people have said what I wanted to (red flag, dangerous situation, abuse often starts like this, be very very careful and don't let your feelings for the guy blind you, etc.), but since somebody posted the idiotic comment that ultimatums don't work, I feel I have to counter that with a concrete example that yes, they can. I was in a relationship with a woman who had a difficult/abusive family background, and after we'd been together for a while she started to get abusive with me. When it became physical, I said pretty much exactly what the anonymous commenter suggested ("If you ever do that again the relationship is over, period"), and it worked. Our relationship wasn't always easy, and we had some battles, but it never got physical and she never got abusive in that way again.

If you try the ultimatum and he gets mad at you, defends his behavior, and tries to turn it around so you're at fault, then of course the situation is greatly simplified: run away, as fast as you can.
posted by languagehat at 11:29 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

I don't think this single incident is necessarily "end it" territory, but it is definitely something to be worried about.

You have not mentioned remorse from him or a recognition (not prompted by you) that what he did was over the line. Also bad.

5 months is not that long and somewhere in that zone is when the new wears off and you start seeing the less lovely side of your loved one. That might be what's happening. His comment about having a temper might be a hint here.

Don't trick yourself into making excuse after excuse for him. That's how people end up stuck in abusive relationships that get worse and worse.
posted by mattu at 11:33 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would be pretty concerned. You were perhaps being legitimately annoying, but 1)his anger was disproportionate, and 2) what he did once angry was unacceptable. It is 100 percent not cool to call someone derogatory names, no matter how upset you might be, and he is more than old enough to know better. So I would be very concerned, especially about what he might do if you guys got into a really upsetting situation.

I would sure as hell draw a bright red line now, viz, "That incident really worries me. It is totally unacceptable to me to be called names when you are mad. If you ever do it again I will break up with you. Also, I am concerned about your temper, which I know you know is a Thing for you already. How are you planning to handle it the next time we are fighting and you get pissed off?"
posted by feets at 11:36 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

He called you a cry baby little bitch. An adult. Who is supposed to love you (or, you know, really really like you) called you a cry baby little bitch.

What happened in your life that you think it's acceptable for people to treat you that way? You don't have to answer that! But just think, why do you believe it's your own fault that a grown-ass man called you a mean, nasty, misogynistic, little child insult? Even if he has a temper, even if you'd done something like throw a tantrum because he bought you the wrong birthday cake (was that an AskMe or am I imagining it?) you don't have to accept someone insulting you like that, with words like that. In your own room, no less.

And I'd like to favorite palomar's comment multiple times.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:41 AM on August 26, 2013 [17 favorites]

I think the notable thing here for me is that you're trying to figure out 'why this happened'. The thing about things like this is that it doesn't matter what you did or didn't do, or what his past girlfriend did or didn't do - dude got triggered in a serious way that 36 year mature men really should be past as of, say, age 25.

When I think of 36 year old guys, who feel triggered and handle it well, I think of guys who turn red in the face, get up, and leave the room because they know that they seriously want to call someone a cry baby bitch right now, but they aren't going there. My husband literally walks away from me, and starts doing the dishes, or exercising, because he just needs space to figure out whatever he is feeling. Does he feel like calling me a cry baby bitch? I don't know. But he never has. And he does have a 'past girlfriend who treated him like total shit' (trademark) in his history as well.

I think the difference here is that regardless of your age, or his age, the most you seem to be saying is ' what the fuck was that?', which is good - but I think the hope is on the thread (and I know if you were my sister) that you would be saying 'I don't know what the fuck that was, but you need to understand that calling me a bitch is just not something that is going to work with me. Ever.'

Because even if you understand it - understand all the reasons for his behavior, you can't control it. You can't stop it. Regardless of you accidentally - accidentally! - saying something that landed so hard on him it took the wind out of him for a moment - the answer is not escalation or retaliation. It's curiosity and candor. It's 'Damn, what you said just hurt like a bitch. What do you mean you don't try? It sounds like you're saying you don't care? Do you?' Because that gives you a chance to clarify. That's what communication is about.

Your guy isn't doing that. The appropriate response to feeling manipulated is to ask the other person if that was their intention after you tell them how you feel and how it makes you feel, and really listen to their answer. What can you do if you aren't actually trying to manipulate him and he feels manipulated? Nothing because he isn't paying attention to you - he's in his head. And only he can control that.

I trust you when you say your guy is a sweetheart. So I'm only suggesting that you take this datapoint and put it somewhere safe, where if he accuses you of something you aren't actually doing, or calls you a bad name, or accuses you of trying to mind fuck him, accept that you have 2 datapoints, and see if that is something you want to live with. Because seriously, you should be working with a number of 0, and he's already surpassed that. You were being you. Rather than accept that you occasionally get into a funk, he made it about him, flipped and surprisingly accused you of trying to hurt him, which is crazy, because that isn't what you were trying to do. That is so incredibly unsettling to my 40 year old ears, and painfully familiar to my long time gone 22 year old ears, that it's got me a bit worried. But one is only a data point. If you're thinking 'aberration', well OK then. But keep the data point. and bring it out and look at it again if something like this happens again. Because then you aren't at datapoint, you're at 'trend', of great amazing guy until he gets triggered and then he says verbally abusive things because he flips. This doesn't even have to escalate into something physical. You don't deserve to have anyone yell at you, ever, no matter what you do or don't do. You might deserve to have someone leave you because you are treating them poorly. But accuse you of trying to mind fuck them and yelling that you are a cry baby bitch, like they just regressed to an emotionally crippled 16 year old? You never deserve that.
posted by anitanita at 11:46 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

I don't know how familiar you are with the commenters on this site, but you've gotten a fairly wide range here. If this was a tv show, this would be the Christmas special where they bring back a bunch of supporting characters and that uncle from out of town who was only in a couple episodes.

The reason I gave that lead-in, is that I'm general skeptical of a lot of the "OMG HE MUST BE ABUSIVE" knee-jerks I see on AskMe. I'm more in the territory that cribcage is in here.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I've been crazy yelling guy. I've also dated people who would act in completely manipulative ways or have their own little toddler like temper tantrum outbursts. I've even had problems with drinking too much and hitting someone while blacked out... Which is something I pretty much don't bring up or admit ever.

That said, there's something about this story and this guy that squicks me out. It's not why he yelled, or even what he yelled. There's just too many variables there to make some Internet diagnosis at least to me. Although I will say not apologizing or taking ownership of it is a HUGE red flag. Even at my worst, I'd come back a few hours later or the next day and go "hey, that struck a nerve and I need to figure out why, that was fucked up of me, and..."

No, it's the "crazy ex" thing.

Even the shittiest people I know don't refer to even their shitty exes that way. It goes like "yea, it was pretty alright until XYZ happened and fuck that action, and fuck them for doing it" not just "yea they were a crazy stupid bitch lol".

And having been a somewhat socially deformed angry asshole weird dude, somehow I'm still on speaking terms with all my exes. Even the one who actually assaulted me for no reason and was "crazy" in theory by the usual metrics.(medication and growing the fuck up happened)

I've never met someone who wasn't stuck being a teenager in a really weird, unproductive for an adult relationship, and honestly kind of scary way who had a "a crazy ex", or worse multiple crazy-bitch-exes.

I mean especially a dude in his 30s, Jesus.

There's just so many adult ways he could have approached the, admittedly "dating expert mode" conversation of "hey you said something that poked me where I'm still bruised from my ex, this is why and it really upset me" possibly with the turbo-awesome follow up of something like "and I just wanted to let you know that's my issue, not yours, you didn't even really do anything wrong. Just know that kind of thing might upset me sometimes and that's why". And then you guys would just cuddle in the dark or some shit like you wanted to.*

Because, I mean, Jesus.

I don't know if I'm explaining this super well, but the ex thing coupled with the structure of the situation just had me going "oh, so he's a teenage asshole who probably blasts through relationships at highschool to maybe college length and speed and transfers his baggage forward"

The entire thing just sounds like high school to me. With a side dish of my friends shitty overly drunk college relationships from like 18-20. There's a distinct tinge of serious immaturity that has nothing to do with being abusive communicated in everything about his behavior that's been displayed here**. Just like Ode A Manchild scent wafting from it.

Do you really want to date a teenager in your mid 20s? This guy doesn't sound like an adult, just like someone good at faking it sometimes.

*i will note that I'm not this awesome, but I have fucking actual aspergers and on an at least intellectual level I can recognize this is what I should be doing. And I'm 23. Hopefully in 13 more years ill have actualized this. This dude has 13 years and being likely neurotypical on his side. What's his excuse for acting like me at 16 or 17?

**which as I've said isn't a ton of data to go off of, but I'm starting to understand why others have had such visceral reactions from what little is here.

posted by emptythought at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm just concerned that the way he dealt with this disagreement is an ingrained behavior

Sorry, five months is not long enough for you to say he is definitely not an abuser, in this case. He is on his best behavior.

That reaction is incredibly troubling.

For you to have a healthy relationship you absolutely canNOT feel you are walking on eggshells, ever. If you are, if you find yourself censoring what you say around him, you need to get some space and reevaluate the relationship.

Be careful.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

I've read all your updates, and nothing you said sounds manipulative.

However, you also seem to be looking at this like you caused him to react this way. You didn't. You didn't "trigger" this behavior, you didn't cause it, and you cannot view it that way. He's 36 years old, and should be able to control his temper, act like an adult, and not emotionally and verbally abuse you. It does not matter what you did or said prior to him acting this way, it does not matter what his ex did to him, his behavior is his fault and his responsibility.

Has he apologized, like an adult, with a real understanding of why what he did was unacceptable and cruel? Or did you apologize first for "manipulating" him, which makes me concerned that he hasn't truly apologized at all, and you're trying to figure out if this is something you should just ignore?

His behavior is the one that seems manipulative here. You asked him to leave you alone, he didn't, you were upset, well too bad, he's going to have a big meltdown because his feelings are more important than yours.

You say you know that he isn't abusive and that he would never physically hurt you, but you also said: 'm mostly just surprised that he would say something to intentionally hurt me out of spite, I can't imagine ever wanting to do that to him. I didn't think he was like that.. It just shows, it's been five months, you really don't know this guy.

My dad has a temper like this. Growing up, my siblings and mother knew and any one small thing would set him off, but we could never figure out exactly what it was or prevent it, and being made to feel like we had always done something horribly wrong to warrant the hours of screaming and name-calling and subsequent apologizing we had to do, for stupid minor kid things like leaving toys out, well it wasn't fun. But the reason I am bringing this up is that he never acted this way towards his friends, or even towards anyone else in his family. He does kind things for other people without being asked, he can be thoughtful, generous, he's well-liked at his job, no one has a damn clue. Family members wonder why we don't have a good relationship.
posted by inertia at 11:54 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

OP, if you decide to give him another chance (and it looks like you may be leaning that way, since you best answer'd the suggestion to issue an ultimatum), it might be worthwhile for you to set out--for yourself--some ground rules for how this relationship proceeds.

Right now, sit down and write a list for yourself. This is a list of behaviors and actions from him that you will not tolerate. This is a promise you'll make to yourself that if anything on the list ever happens, you will end the relationship immediately because YOU have already decided that the behavior is intolerable.

These can be things like:
-he blames me for his bad behavior
-he slams doors in my presence
-he does anything to intentionally frighten me
-he takes my words out of context and uses them against me

Make this list and keep it close. Go back to it from time to time. If you find at any point he has crossed any of your pre-set lines, it is time to end the relationship, no excuses.
posted by phunniemee at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2013 [14 favorites]

I have two things to add.

One is that an isolated incident may not be reason to leave someone. But you are entitiled to draw a hard line. You can say, for instance, "Don't ever talk to me like that again. If you do, I'm leaving." I ended a friendship that had lasted over 25 years last year because my friend became verbally abusive to me. The first incident, I could have attributed to stress and let go off, had she taken responsibility for it and apologized. Not only didn't she do that, but she became abusive in her language when I tried to talk to her about it. And that was it for me.

Your boyfriend has a lot of other options rather than calling you terrible names. He needs to figure out what they are and use them. Even if, at first, they're less-than-ideal, like leaving the house, they'll be better than behaving hurtfully.

I will also say that sometimes a partner can be controlling not because they like exercising power but because they are so insecure. My first long-term partner was a very sweet person, but she had untreated anxiety that led her to become extremely insecure if I spent time away from her with friends, or wasn't where she expected me to be when she expected me to be there, or if I didn't drop everything to help her through an anxiety attack, which could happen at any time--it was very common for me to think we were having a good time, and then all of a sudden she'd be freaking out and need me to drop everything, maybe leave a social event, to take care of her.

The upshot was that while she was not at all mean or abusive, I could still check off a number of items on "are you in an abusive relationship" checklists: I was isolated from friends, my whereabouts were monitored, I never had time to myself, I changed my behavior significantly in order to avoid triggering her anxiety and having to deal with her excessive feelings of insecurity.

It can be helpful to remember that some behaviors are not OK no matter what their underlying cause, and no matter how sympathetic you might be to the person's struggles--my first partner, with her anxiety, and my friend, also with mental illness. If you get into a situation where you're saying, "It's not OK how he's treating me but what can we do, it's because of past trauma, or how he was treated by past girlfriends," then you have made yourself too vulnerable. We all deserve to be with peope who are capable of having healthy relationships. That can include people who aren't able to be in a healthy relationship now but are taking responsibility for their behavior and working to improve it. It's simply not going to be sustainable if someone is framing things to themselves in a way that lets them off the hook, and if you (or I) are also letting them off the hook (as I did with my friend for quite a long time, really, because of our long history and my sympathy with her mental health issues). In my experience, that will lead to a dynamic so unbalanced and unhealthy that it can't be fixed.

Better to figure out your bottom line and make sure it's clear to both of you now.
posted by not that girl at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Take it down to brass tacks for yourself:

- What is acceptable fighting behavior? Where are your fight boundaries? Healthy fighting usually involves no name-calling, hitting, or other behaviors that might ever be called abusive.
- Communicate with him about that. You like him, of course you like him, and you want to stay with him. And in order to do that AND feel loved and safe, you need to agree on fair fighting behaviors.
posted by ldthomps at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2013

One thing; you wrote, "He's mentioned he has a temper and can get very angry," and that wasn't followed by, "but he's working hard to overcome that through counseling, reading good books, etc."

Assuming he's not doing those things, it's damned worrisome.
posted by ambient2 at 12:10 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

I have a temper and can get very angry, thanks to some PTSD. Here's what I do about it: I work very, very hard to not go there, ever. If I feel myself getting there during a fight with a partner, I explain that I'm getting really upset and I need to take a break, I leave the room, I wait for about five-ten minutes, and then I come back and apologize for getting that worked up. Because I've lost my temper before, and I've said some really cruel and hurtful things, and it was absolutely awful. It would never be enough for me to say "Oh, I get angry sometimes, whatever", because it's not ok, ever. I'm supposed to be a safe place for my partner, even during a fight -- *especially* during a fight. My PTSD explains where my anger comes from; it doesn't excuse it, at all, because there isn't an excuse.

Your boyfriend needs to work on himself. Maybe his last relationship was in fact really bad and he's got some trauma; he's got to get help for that. Maybe he's always excused his temper; he's got to stop doing that. If his reaction to saying those things to you isn't, basically immediately, "that was super fucked up and I am incredibly sorry, you do not and did not deserve that, I'm ashamed of myself, and it won't ever happen again", that is not a good sign. You have to understand, there is absolutely nothing you could say to him that would deserve that response. I'll be charitable and assume that maybe he did get triggered into a panic reaction, but even then that's not a reaction to what you said so much as what he heard, and he needs to get help for that.

I'm a man in my 30s with a legitimately abusive ex-girlfriend. There are issues of mine that put me in that spot and kept me there, which I continue to work on in therapy. I do not call her crazy, or a bitch, or whatever. I did not call her names even when we were screaming at each other for hours. I want her to get better and get the help that she needs, albeit far away from me. I'm hardly a role model, but it seems to me that that is the healthiest way to deal with a bad relationship. (All my other ex-girlfriends are awesome, by the way.) Transferring his old feelings to you and acting out on them is really, really not ok. If the best case scenario is "oh, he thought I was acting like his ex", what that is also saying is, "he hates his ex, and now he thinks I act like her". The not-goodness of that is hopefully obvious. If he's looking at you and seeing her, or some other her, that sucks.

He said "I try really hard to be a good boyfriend to you." You asked him "how do you try?" And his response was to stop trying. Not good. The expectation of reward for acting like a decent human being is very scary and sets off my "boundary-transgressor" alarm. I would be extremely concerned, I would require him to seek help yesterday before even considering continuing the relationship, and I would be out the door the moment I saw him getting so much as flushed with anger, assuming you stay at all. Because the best case scenario here is that he has a lot, a lot, of work to do, and you have to decide if you can feel safe while he tries and fails a few times to get it right.
posted by Errant at 1:20 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

I have to jump on the "usually this doesn't get better" train. I understand wanting to give it another shot, and I am not going to tell you not to, but what I am going to suggest is that you come up with a list of never-agains and a plan of how you will leave / break up if they happen again. That plan can be as simple as "If I am at his house, I will leave and go home and break up the next day, no matter how much I think it is my fault."

When I was with the guy who is now my ex, he had this kind of temper issue, too. I believe I was called an "immature asshole" for not wanting to take laundry downstairs once. But because things were awesome except when they weren't, I never wanted to leave him. I wanted to believe he could fix this thing and I never wanted to actually buckle down and be sad and lonely and broken up. And it was so easy to think of all the ways this was my fault. Even typing this out, I begin to think, "well I *can* be kinda immature, so maybe he was right ..." and that sucks. Don't do that to yourself. Don't stay and slowly be convinced that you are entirely at fault with your problems and your losing it. Because trust me, no matter how imperfect you are, you don't deserve that.
posted by dame at 1:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yikes. I'm afraid for you, OP.

Here's the thing: these were not random words pulled out of the ether. People cannot speak aloud concepts that never occur to them. There is a link in his mind between your behavior and this concept of "crybaby bitchness".

So, let's examine this idea. What is a crybaby bitch? A crybaby is a person who complains frequently with little cause, especially about minor or unimportant topics. To bitch is to whine or complain, or as an adjective, women who whine or complain excessively. A bitch is a woman who does not deserve to be listened to because she complains excessively. It applies only to women, in the derogatory sense of woman as "weak or useless". It's a term of dismissal and disrespect.

So when he called you a crybaby bitch, he was saying that you were a weak or useless person who didn't deserve to be listened to or respected because you complain excessively about minor or unimportant topics. That's a very ugly concept.

When you consider those words in the larger context of the fight, he was saying that women who question his behavior and effort are crybaby bitches, their feelings are minor and unimportant, they're weak or useless, and they complain excessively over minor topics.

Please listen to what he's telling you. He's only willing to grant you respect and to agree that your feelings are important if you never question him.

It's textbook emotional abuse and possibly grooming for worse.
posted by zug at 1:55 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Nobody's "reading tea leaves" here. You were accused of being manipulative when you were unaware of having any such motive, but you accepted blame on the assumption that you may have faults you are unaware of.

Meanwhile, your BF is aware of this fault in himself, and his way of dealing with it is... To accuse you, call you names, and get you to accept blame for doing so?

Yeah, he's only done it once, but there seems to be nothing here to suggest that he won't do it again. Twice is a pattern, a pattern makes abuse. I would probably be giving him a second chance in your position, too (it's only later in life that I wouldn't feel motivated to put up with this more than once) but I would advise you in the strongest possible terms not to give him a third chance at treating you this way.

People who say this has high potential to become an abusive situation aren't "lying in wait", they're recognizing very very obvious warnings, based on their own personal experience of what happened to them after they failed to recognize those warnings.

Of course we're alarmist and over the top! Of course we are! He definitely is a great guy, and you should watch what you say, and stop being upset, and try to behave better so he won't have to do this again. You're going to do that anyway, let's face it.

But while you're doing that, also get a copy of Patricia Evans' "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" (hiding it from him physically, and also hiding any electronic trail to it such as through your Amazon account or whatever) and learn a few scripts. For example, if he ever calls you names again, say "Stop that! don't ever, ever call me names!" As the book suggests you do. You'll very quickly learn if he is abusive or if he is a great guy who just has a few bad habits. After all, this is a society where nobody recognizes abuse - not those receiving it, but not those dishing it out either.

I must personally say, I have never known anyone who said "yeah, I have a temper" that ever meant anything other than "yeah, I will sometimes take my anger out on you and that's how it's going to be." Apparently you've been told, and I would assume this is the Ghost of Christmas Future.

How do you know he only does this once or twice a year, when you've only been dating five months? Did he tell you? Maybe you'll turn out to be *so* annoying and *such* an unusually manipulative little bitch that he has no choice but to break his pattern and yell at you a whole lot more often, because even though in theory nobody deserves to be spoken to like this, in practice you will turn out to be just *such* a test of his patience and *so* full of unconscious manipulative patterns that you never saw in yourself before, and you maybe will have to learn to change and be better for him than that bitch who traumatized him into his present condition. I mean, that's what you think is happening now, just rinse and repeat a few more times and it will have become part of your identity, though of course he still won't be doing anything so villainous as "abusing" you. Just like the rest of us weren't really "abused".
posted by tel3path at 1:55 PM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

Oh, and. Let's say it's not abusive, and not much to get upset about.

It looks like it'll probably happen again - maybe in the next seven months, according to the schedule.

How much are you going to enjoy experiencing this again? How much are you going to enjoy anticipating experiencing this again, until it finally happens and he's fulfilled his annual quota? What if he has his two tantrums a month apart - will that mean you're done for another eleven months, or will that just be a bumper tantrum year? Is the tantrum year coincident with the tax year, the fiscal year, or the academic year? If he doesn't fulfil his quota one year, does his tantrum entitlement carry over to the next?

See how it doesn't exactly make sense to say "he only does it once or twice a year?" If you're upset enough to ask this question, you're upset enough to be anticipating it for the entire time it isn't happening, and then after it does happen you're still not going to have any assurance that it's over and done with for the next little while.

So instead of asking how upset you should be by some measurable standard (and I'm not knocking that, a reality check is often necessary) or getting a bunch of alarmed, seemingly alarmist responses from those of us who've experienced abuse, ask yourself - genuinely, this is not a rhetorical question - if the relationship is exactly as you have described it to us, how happy are you going to be, continuing to anticipate incidents like this into the future?
posted by tel3path at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This jumps out at me: ...he said something like, "Do you know that I really try hard to be a good boyfriend to you?" And I said, "what do you mean?" And he said, "I try hard to be the best boyfriend I can be to you." And I said, "Well, how do you try, I don't try with you"


His statement makes me think he is "acting" at being the good boyfriend. I wouldn't want to be with someone who acted like a good boyfriend. I would want to be with someone who was a good boyfriend by nature. I think your response was what I would say given the situation. It speaks to you being a good/kind person by nature and not trying to trick him into thinking you're someone else. Hearing that someone is "trying" to be a good boyfriend to me would set off all kinds of red flags.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:22 PM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]

Please be aware of the cycle of violence and how it works. Being charming and wonderful can be part of the abusive dynamic; often an abuser puts his partner up on a pedestal, worshiping her at the beginning and then feeling justified in punishing her when she turns out to be human rather than a perfect goddess.

If it were me, I'd dump this guy immediately. At the very very very least, please realize that if you do not indicate to this guy in the absolutely strongest terms possible that this behavior is unacceptable -- and be prepared to back that up by walking away if it happens again -- then you're teaching him that you're ok with this behavior, and actually will take part of the blame for it, and he absolutely will do it again.
posted by jaguar at 2:30 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

If your boyfriend thinks so little of you that he's willing to call you a cry-baby bitch to your face, imagine how he talks about you with his friends. Imagine how easy it will be for him to cheat on you. Imagine how easy it will be for him to leave you one day. You are going to get hurt by this guy some day. Physically or emotionally. He has already hurt you. Whatever the reason he has for breaking up with you, it isn't because he loves you. No one who loved you could call you that. If he loved you, he wouldn't even think that about you. So you have to really think-- if he doesn't love me, why is he with me?

I'm going to assume that your parents were abusive, and that he isn't the first abusive boyfriend you have had. Maybe you think all relationships are like this. I can assure you, they aren't. Don't waste a year of your life on this guy. Get out while you are still young.
posted by empath at 4:04 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you take one thing away from this thread, I hope it's that you make sure to give your own feelings, triggers, background and reactions at least the same weight and importance that you're giving his.

Whether or not you or anyone else calls his behavior abusive*, it's not healthy because he's got you second guessing your own motivation while accepting his unconditionally.

Next time you want to have a discussion with him about your feelings, will you be able to approach it as a problem solving conversation between adults, or will you be more concerned with not upsetting him? Who benefits from that?

The next time he wants to have sex, how are you going to block out the words 'cry baby little bitch' and the sound of your door slamming? (Hint: This is why you don't say shit you can't unsay. I'm looking at my ex-husband, here.)

This is a lousy situation and whether you stay together or not, I hope he gets help with his anger issues and I hope you recognize his problems are not of your making. Good luck.

(*I do.)
posted by Space Kitty at 4:39 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

...he said something like, "Do you know that I really try hard to be a good boyfriend to you?" And I said, "what do you mean?" And he said, "I try hard to be the best boyfriend I can be to you." And I said, "Well, how do you try, I don't try with you"

I agree with parakeetdog, this sounds like he's faking being a good boyfriend. All the wonderful behaviour you've witnessed over the last 5 months is an act. He has to really work at it. Your behaviour? That's just who you are.

People can't keep up pretending to be someone they're not. This episode could be one of the first cracks in his carefully manufactured façade. His blow-out could be a reaction to fearing you saw through it, or were about to.

(I've had boyfriends where the good behaviour turned out to be an act. It never got abusive, but when the effort to maintain the "wonderful partner" character they wanted to project became too much, everything fell apart.)
posted by Dynex at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Usually he calms down relatively quickly.

Until he doesn't. And then what? He will change? LOL!!! No, sister, he won't change, and he's told you as much, and now he's demonstrated it for you.

Look, I get crankypants a lot myself, but when I do, I say stuff like, "ergh, I am cranky, this frustrates me when you do this, I need to walk outside to cool off," or whatever. But I'm not calling my partner names and stuff. I'm like, "dude! You smashed a jar of peanut butter on top of the eggs!" and he is like, "oh, I did? Sorry about that." And then I'm like, "well, it's just eggs, but next time I'm in charge of the eggs because that's my thing: No Eggs Being Smashed." So I own the eggs. I own it. I admit that I am hypervigilant about eggs being smashed. Because my Guy really doesn't know or see anything in a store except piling stuff on top of things until we leave the store. So I am now the Egg Master.

What really strikes me is that you were in a funky mood and he was all not like, "hey, honey, can I make you an omelet? Do you want to watch a chick flick?" Like that. Because my man would be all over that shit. Rubbing feet or leaving me alone or whatever.

In my many years of relationships, I have found that, in general, men want women to be happy, and in general, they want to be told how to make the woman happy if she is not. No guessing. And yeah, you might be insecure about his past relationships and it's normal to want to know about that... but I've found that guys who are "my ex was a witch!" are not all that over it and don't tend to view women in a good light. Because you are a woman and you happen to be there and he hasn't gotten over his issues, whatever they may be.

So then you get a guy who has issues. He's great in all other respects, bed, taking you to dinner, telling you you're beautiful, etc. And then he just flips and turns on you all of a sudden, and you go, wtf? Did I do that? Maybe I said something wrong or it was my fault because I talked about his ex or whatever and I know he is sensitive about that...

And this guy turned your bad mood into some weird thing that you did to him. But it is his eggs to watch over, not yours. You should never be watching over someone else's eggs, only your own, see? And if someone bitches about how you did this or that, that's their problem, their issue, something they picked up along the way. It's never to do with you, maybe his ex did something, his mother, who cares? That is not your problem, you can't fix it. People are not like stock investments, you don't hang onto them, hoping they will mature if they are obviously not going anywhere.

Be the master of your own eggs, not someone else's.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

Also, the age gap thing. He's older then me, and you are younger. You'll notice that there are tons of people in this thread saying that this one episode would be the end of the relationship for them. They talk about how they've seen what happens next and nothing is worth going through that again. We learn a lot through our bad experiences.

When I was much younger I would probably have talked it out with this guy and thought I could bring him around to reason. Now? I'd have packed my bags so fast I'd already have forgotten his number.

There are a lot of different reasons why older men date younger women, not all of them are bad. Sometimes you love who you love, but sometimes the only people who will stick around are those who aren't aware where the road is taking them.

I really wish I could have learned some hard lessons without having to have been knocked around. Everyone telling you to watch out and run probably wishes it too. We're warning you because you shouldn't have to learn these things the hard way.

And I've never had a boyfriend yell at me. Never. He's thirty-freaking-six years old. His behaviour was completely out of whack. I'm concerned you didn't instantly recognize that.
posted by Dynex at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [17 favorites]

it would be interesting to hear how he thought about the incident. if he was like "uhg, i'm so embarrassed and sorry, i never should have done that" i think it would be a good sign. if he thinks it was fine to say that, that would be a bad sign.

it doesn't sound like you think it's too big of a problem. maybe you can get him to change, or maybe it's just a "price of admission" as dan savage would say.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:18 PM on August 26, 2013

I left a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship three months ago and am so glad I did. Mine started out a lot like yours. That's what grooming is: they escalate to test you and see how much you'll put up with. Your guy is more full of red flags than a game of Minesweeper. If you stay, you will experience more of this sort of behavior. It will grow more frequent and more severe with time. I hope you will leave before it gets so bad that it makes you feel as horrible about yourself as I did after a couple of years with my abuser.
posted by Rainflower at 6:04 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was in an abusive relationship years ago (I am 39, I was 26 when it began, and 31 when it ended), and coming to Ask Metafilter anonymously helped me get out of the situation.

How you describe your situation? That is exactly, precisely how my abusive relationship began.

I was dating the sweetest, warmest, kindest, most understanding boy ever. I loved him so deeply. And one day, he just...exploded at me. It did not make any sense at all. It did not compute. It was so at odds to the way he had been before, and he was so apologetic afterward, that I was able to discount it, to say, well, I triggered an issue he had with a previous girlfriend, and that is why it happened.

And then it didn't happen again. For six months.

And then it happened again, and it really freaked me out. But he was SO sorry. And I swore to myself, that if it happened ONE more time, I was out.

And it didn't happen again. For four months. Just long enough for me to get comfortable, to believe that it wouldn't happen again.

Six years passed, in a really predictable pattern. He was very skilled in waiting just long enough for me to become comfortable, for me to think that just maybe this time it wouldn't happen again, or that I could convince him somehow to stop blowing up at me.

He never hit me. It was three years before he threw something (his cell phone, away from me.) Then he started throwing things sort of perpendicular to me. Then he broke his hand punching the refrigerator while we were talking (just talking! Not even arguing!) about who should clean what in the house (me, everything). And I was OUT! I went for the door. Until I heard him behind me, saying, "I think I broke my hand." So I took him to the ER, and we were together for another three years.

The six years I was with him harmed me so much. They damaged my self-esteem, my creativity, my sense of who I was, my relationships, my joy. I want those years back. I still sometimes subtract those years from my age, because I wish so much that they had never happened.

At a certain point in our relationship, I posted on Ask Metafilter anonymously, saying, essentially, "my boyfriend is WONDERFUL 95% of the time. What do I do with the other 5%, when he's really mean to me?" And I wound up with a thread much like yours. And it still took me two more years to leave him. Two years that I would very, very much like back. I walked on eggshells for so long, that I thought it was normal. It is not normal.

A lot of the people here who are speaking to you, are speaking from our lived experience. We would very much like to keep you from having to go through what we went through.

You don't have to leave him now, honey. You don't. This is your life, and your choice. But just hear what we're saying here, and be careful. Protect yourself like you would protect a friend or a sister or a daughter in your situation. Notice if you start to walk on eggshells, for fear of pissing him off. Refer back to this thread periodically. Don't let him cut you off from your loved ones.

Above all, know that you are worthy of being with someone who would never, ever in a million years DREAM of calling you a crybaby bitch.
posted by jennyjenny at 7:03 PM on August 26, 2013 [54 favorites]

I could have written jennyjenny's post. To the point where while reading it, I thought maybe I had dissociated and written it without remembering it. My ex was sooooo sweet and sooooo kind and soooo thoughtful and sooooo complimentary in the beginning. And then he blew up out of nowhere. And I'm a caretaker, and I assume that love can conquer all, and I thought that if I stated reasonable boundaries and showed myself to be a respectful partner, it would be ok. And it probably would have been, with a non-abusive partner. But he was abusive, so it wasn't ok. And the toll it took on me over the years was devastating. I went from a strong, assertive, confident woman to an empty, suicidal shell. And that transition was because my being strong threatened him, so I stopped being strong because it triggered him. And my being assertive threatened him, so I stopped being assertive because it triggered him. And my being confident threatened him, so I stopped being confident because it triggered him. And I did all of those things because I thought that's what love was, doing whatever it took to make your partner happy.

But he was never happy. And after I stopped doing anything that could possibly trigger him... he dumped me because I was boring. There's no way I could have made him happy, because that was not my job. It was my job to be as awesome and fulfilled as I could be, and it was his job to figure out how to be as awesome and fulfilled as he could be, and to be excited -- not threatened -- by my own awesomeness and fulfillment.

And by the way, one major trigger for his abuse was any time I was sad or distracted. He could never deal with me not paying 100% attention to him and his moods and his whims and his ideas. Him him him. Notice how your boyfriend turned your bad mood into a discussion about him and his past. Pay attention if he does that sort of thing a lot.
posted by jaguar at 9:19 PM on August 26, 2013 [32 favorites]

Just a late comment.

cupcake1337 said: maybe you can get him to change

Symptom of immature, high school dating expectations. Also completely, psychologically false.

People do not change other people, ever.

People choose to change themselves. By their own sheer willpower. Or do not change. Likewise, people are always only responsible for their own happiness, because that is all you can truly affect.

Abusive relationship aside, I think the whole "you can't change someone else" bit is the most fundamental truth in human relationships that could save so much pain for so many people. The problem is that genuinely changing oneself (one's personality, beliefs, attitude, habits) is also the most humanly difficult thing to accomplish. The majority of people in hard situations never seek professional help, and even fewer stick with it long-term. Then those who don't seek help but still climb out of the holes they were digging are even rarer, it's practically newsworthy.

In the context of the abusive relationship, waiting for the vanishingly microscopic chance for someone else to genuinely change is courting death of a different sort. And as others have said, abusers are pros at faking self-change as well.
posted by Ky at 9:24 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

I could also have written jennyjenny's post, and jaguar's, and gcolmes, your posts about your boyfriend are so, so similar to how I tried to justify my ex-husband's abusive behavior. He was so nice and caring and loving when we met! He said and did all the right things to convince me that he was the perfect guy, in all the ways you describe... until one day he blew up at me over something so stupid, and so trivial. (It was, in fact, because I wanted to go to the local library for a book, and he didn't.) He screamed at me, called me names, slammed doors and stomped around... and then was tearfully apologetic later, promising that it would never happen again. And it didn't! Until a few weeks later when he got angry because he thought I sounded snappish toward him, and decided that I was deliberately trying to mess with him. More screaming, throwing things, threatening to throw me out of our apartment, etc., followed by the tears and apologizing, and the promises that it wouldn't happen again.

I kept thinking "hey, I can change him! If I try hard enough to be the perfect girlfriend, then he'll be happy!" And I was positive, absolutely CERTAIN, that he would never hurt me physically. And he didn't! Until the day he did. Shoving me into walls, slapping my arms hard enough to leave handprints, throwing things at me, and always, always telling me it was my fault. The insidious thing about abusive people is, they never start out that way. If they did, who in their right mind would get into relationships with them? No, it starts off great, and wonderful, and the tiny red flags are easy to ignore.

You asked if you should be worried about his outburst. The answer you're getting here is a resounding YES. I know it's a tough thing to hear. And if you want to talk, please feel free to Mefi-mail me any time.
posted by sarcasticah at 10:35 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

I was in a relationship that started sweet and perfect, and turned into over-the-top anger over small things. But his was the quiet seething anger. When he spitefully called me a bitch, that was the dealbreaker that caused me to leave. I wish it were your dealbreaker, too.
posted by salvia at 11:06 PM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Something troubled me in the the anon post the OP chose as the "answer" (does that mean OP is staying in the relationship and maybe hoping it will end up being a long-term marriage with lots of screaming but no hitting? Ehhh).

I realize everyone has a different idea as to what constitutes a "normal" family/marriage, but drawing the line at mere physical abuse is to me, a very sad thing. Avoidance of physical assault is the absolute MINIMUM requirement for regular civil interactions, as also determined by law. I'm talking about discussing politics with coworkers or a stranger at the bus stop. You do not hit people if you're a decent person.

Thus, a "loving long-term monogamous" relationship to me means something of a higher order. That means no verbal abuse and no screaming at all. In terms of what's normal in a marriage, I remember the reaction of a friend's very young child when she and her husband were having a "loud" (by their standards) argument: The very young child became upset and alarmed. Clearly that's not a normal behavior according to someone not fully socialized into cultural norms yet. My parents have been married about the same as the anon answer, 40 years; I remember only one yelling match ever in my life. Arguments are fine, but I wish people would remember that having a long marriage is absolutely not the same thing as a "happy" marriage in the modern Western sense. There are arranged marriages. There are spouses who choose (or are forced) to stay in an abusive marriage... until death. Successful marriage? I don't even know what that means--having kids? Not killing your spouse? Or are you really happy?

There are only many second chances you can and should give when it's your own mental and bodily health you're gambling.

There are only so many situations where verbal apologies are meaningful to close a bad event; the cycle of abuse is not one of them. Apologies there are worthless here without genuine change.

And it's definitely best to figure all of that out long before getting pregnant.
posted by Ky at 11:37 AM on August 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

((( Dear lawd, that should be "There are only SO many second chances..." I think most people automatically fill in the blank, but that's terrible! And "Apologies are worthless--" strike out the "there." Stupid grammar... )))
posted by Ky at 2:25 PM on August 27, 2013

I just read your post and your updates all in one swoop - reading none of the other comments (I read through them first and then did this) and I noticed something interesting.

You initially say that you did not know why you were upset.

Then, you say that you were talking about what was bothering you, and you say "nothing I was saying was making sense" and for some reason you are talking about his ex-girlfriend.

Now, that's funny. I am not a jealous person. But with my abuser, for some reason, I had questions about his ex-wife.

I had questions about his ex-wife because the way he spoke about her and behaved indicated that something... abnormal was happening. I don't mean an affair. I mean, I knew that there were ways that she was better than me, because he had let me know this to be true.

It's interesting to me that you seem to have similar questions to the ones I had.

(Also, in healthy relationships, these kinds of feelings don't really happen. I have never otherwise "acted jealous" in any relationship. And I was not even jealous of his ex-wife - I was sorry that I could not be more like her, and confused about why I felt this way. I believe that I never would have been confused if I hadn't been set up. He called this confusion jealousy and made me out to be a jealous, horrible girlfriend many times throughout our three years together.)

You also said: It takes me a while to understand why I'm upset about anything and usually I rationalize whatever it is that's bothering me and I realize I'm not even really upset.

Interesting. I was - and still am to some extent - like this too.

It's not necessarily a bad trait - it's very good at work, for example, where I need to just ignore the drama and get my job done - but sometimes it has gotten me into trouble.

I found that this rationalization can be pretty dangerous when dealing with an abusive person. At least it was for me. You might want to keep an eye on that so that it does not get out of hand in this relationship, whether or not it is abusive.

Finally, one thing I try to do is sit with my feelings and feel them. Not rationalize about them, not think about them, just feel them wash over me. I would like to gently suggest you do the same from time to time, because it can be a very good way to check-in with myself and see if everything is going ok. If things are more not-ok than ok on a regular basis, then I can try to figure out why that is. But only after I have felt what I feel about it.

This practice would have gotten me out of my abusive relationship much faster, for whatever that is worth. It certainly can't hurt. Feelings are signposts - they can alert us when things are wrong, and help us celebrate when they are right. Part of the reason I say this is that it sounds like you are second-guessing yourself a bit, and this might help.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 9:09 PM on August 27, 2013

a late comment here, since the comment quoting mine out of context seems to be standing:

cupcake1337 said: maybe you can get him to change

Symptom of immature, high school dating expectations. Also completely, psychologically false.

People do not change other people, ever.

People choose to change themselves. By their own sheer willpower. Or do not change. Likewise, people are always only responsible for their own happiness, because that is all you can truly affect.

presumably, this boy friend of yours likes you, and to keep you in his life he may be willing to make sacrifices and alter his behavior. it depends on each individual situation. many human relations askme's ultimately come down to thinks that people on the internet can't answer, and i think this is one of those cases.

whether or not some people can change the behavior of other people will be left as an exercise to the reader, but here's a hint: did you go to work today?
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:07 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

How serious is this?

It sounds like you are trying really hard to somehow justify his behaviour, because your gut is clearly not letting you off on this one, and you need people here to validate and somehow justify what he said, some version of- "yes gcolmes, he said some amazingly misogynistic and contempt-filled name, but its okay because you are so in love and he is the best guy ever that you can possibly hope for"...."yes gcolmes, you both love each other; this is a one time thing and we assure you it will NEVER happen again"

Doesn't work that way in reality.

The best decisions are the ones where your mind, your gut and your heart are all on the same page. I dont think your gut and your mind/heart are in this case.

I just wanted to say, I am definitely not in an abuye may have a temper that comes out once or twice a year,

Have you been with him this long? Or did he tell you that? And, you believed it without questioning it in your mind?

...and this episode was inexcusable, but I can say that he 100% is not abusive.

Classic "yes...but". You don't have to convince us. Apparently some of us have lived through it and learnt the lesson. Some others have come really close and dodged the bullet.

This has been the only evidence in 5 months that he is even capable of being mean to me. He is generally incredibly kind and extremely considerate.

People are fallible. If someone is "incredibly" kind, "extremely" considerate, I'd want to know how they came to be that way in life. They'd better have some significant life experience to account for it, else I'd be wary of it. I'd much rather believe someone who gets mad more often, on a more normal scale and have no verbal filter.

And there is no way, in million years he would ever physically abuse me.

This is what people who have known terrorists and wife batterers and wife murderers also say- "Oh, they couldn't hurt a fly" (Reference- The Gift of Fear)

If I was even remotely concerned about that I would be gone already. I'm not worried about this developing into something worse.I'm just concerned that the way he dealt with this disagreement is an ingrained behavior and that, even in a less disturbing, non name calling form, this is the way he may continue to react when really mad.

Seriously? That is your real concern??

Show this post to a brother or father or a wise male figure/friend in your life who you trust and please share with us what they say.
posted by xm at 10:40 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Show this post to a brother or father or a wise male figure/friend in your life who you trust and please share with us what they say.

Oh, such good advice. When I realized that I was hiding my partner's behavior from my father and brother because I knew they would be furious at him and quite possibly fly out to physically assault him, is when I knew my relationship was fucked up.
posted by jaguar at 11:03 PM on August 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

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