For far too long certain men have got away with uncontrolled expressions of anger and frustration. “I’ve got a bad temper,” Mister will say with pride. And, yes, it’s a warning too – to let him have his own way, or else. If you’re his girlfriend or wife you’d better watch out, because he’s likely to unleash the worst of his ‘bad temper’ on you, say psychologists. And don’t expect Mister to change so long as the people around him let him get away with it.
Men with bad tempers display narcissistic personality traits, says clinical psychologist Seth Meyers. It’s there in the way Mister will admit to having a ‘bad temper’. It’s partly pride, as noted, but also an invitation to cut him some slack, because this is a burden he has to bear, not other people. And that’s just it: Mister is more focused on his own feelings than yours. “At root,” says Meyers, “A grown man who acts out on his bad temper is selfish. If he weren’t, he would get the help he needs.”
Sadly, many women on the receiving end are also saddled with the responsibility of working and caring for children, adds Meyers. As a result, the woman might feel trapped. But dealing with the problem – getting Mister to stop his outbursts – doesn’t have to involve ending the relationship.
The first step is to acknowledge that his temper outbursts are abusive. No one wants to admit that to themselves, but it’s the only way for you to start healing yourself, and maybe the relationship, says Meyers.
Next, work on changing how you react to Mister’s tantrums. Consider what usually happens – he blows up; you try to soothe him and make him happier, or you move away from him physically, as if to hide.
The next time Mister loses his temper, tell him how you feel, keeping your tone neutral. Say something like: “You need to take your bad temper and go away, because your temper makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.” If he refuses to leave, you go out for a while.
But, and here’s the rub, says Meyers: when you return, don’t feel pressure to emotionally reunite with him. “The greatest mistake couples make in a situation like this is to attempt to reconnect through sex. Instead, detach a bit from him for a day or two.”
Like A Virus
This is an issue you have to confront because it can become a virus that eats into your self worth. “No matter how extreme or subtle the bullying is,” says The Angry Therapist at Medium.com, “You’re now wired to be at a lower frequency.”
A woman in this situation ‘will have more trouble expressing herself, drawing boundaries, building herself a safe container’, continues The Angry Therapist. “She will have trouble with trust, low self esteem, body issues, eating disorders, depression, and so on.”
And so you start to isolate yourself from friends and family, because you’re wary about telling people close to you the truth – that you’re in a relationship with an emotional bully. Besides, you know what they’ll tell you – to leave him – and that will just add to the stress of your situation.
But you need to talk to someone, says therapist VL Brescholl, or else your isolation will deepen. Find two or three people to confide in. If you’re worried about getting a lot of unsolicited advice, tell them: “I just need to vent for a few minutes, but I don’t think I’m ready yet for actual advice.”
Give Him Time
The next step is deciding how much time you’ll give your partner to change after warning him you won’t tolerate his behaviour. Don’t expect anything major overnight.
“But it can happen in a matter of weeks or months if you’re consistent and vigilant in how you respond to his temper outbursts,” says Meyers.
“Giving him a month or two to work seriously on his issues is a good amount of time,” he continues. “You don’t have to tell him the amount of time you decided to let him have to change; that information you can keep to yourself.”
If a few months come and go and he’s still losing his temper with depressing regularity, you may want to consider ending the relationship.
A man with a bad temper can change – but only if he’s willing to do the work. He needs to understand what causes his outbursts and choose new ways of coping. In other words, he needs help – but it’s not up to you to play therapist.
“If you’re dealing with a man like this, tell him you think he should talk to a counsellor, join an anger management group, or read a book on the subject,” says Meyers. “And tell him that you hope – for the sake of your future relationship – that he cares enough to change his nasty behaviour.”