Dear Barb—Temper Troubles

Dear Barb:

My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years, we moved in together last year. We love each other, but he is so short tempered that we are never able to work through any problems. As soon as I bring something up that’s bothering me, he shuts me down and refuses to discuss it. He says I am always criticizing him. I’m not criticizing him, but rather just trying to explain how I feel and how he makes me feel. Most of the time when we get in an argument he walks out and I am left alone to try to deal with an unresolved issue. When he comes back, he doesn’t speak to me for a couple of days then everything goes back to the way it. Of course since the problem was never solved it quickly resurfaces. We have tried counseling but it didn’t do much, only helped for a short time. He has never been violent physically, but the verbal aggression is hard for me to tolerate. I am not ready to end this because when things are good they are really good. Do you have any suggestions that might help us? Thanks Erica.

Hi Erica:

Thanks for your letter. It is very difficult to communicate with someone who won’t listen. You are right nothing gets resolved; it carries forward to be brought up again and again. The ability to communicate is the cornerstone for any relationship to survive, and for both people to be happy. Arguments are a normal part of any relationship and, in many cases, they are the only way to bring things to the forefront that need to be worked out. If one person doesn’t listen, the other person will become frustrated and that doesn’t make for a compatible union.

You said you tried counselling and it didn’t work, maybe you need to go to another counselor. Like everything in life, there are good and bad counselors. The best way to find a counselor is to ask your family doctor for a recommendation. Also it sounds like your boyfriend might need to go for a few anger management classes, to help him learn how to react in a healthier manner. If you find the right counselor and you are both open to change, there is no reason why this relationship cannot work. However, you may both need to change, perhaps your approach triggers something in your boyfriend that causes him to overreact. It’s important that you go to counseling together to learn healthy ways of interacting with each other. Best of luck Erica.