Ask Anne for May, 2003
A Very Bad Temper
I have been dating the same guy for 2 1/2 years off and on since October. That's when we discovered a problem. He had a very bad temper. It seemed he would get extremely angry about little things. He would get so angry that he would break things and punch holes in his walls when I was standing there crying. In one instance, he even threatened to kill himself. This scares me and I don't know how to handle this. I find that I am afraid of telling him almost anything that might slightly anger him. He doesn't exhibit this behavior very often. This only happens about once or twice every 3 months. In every day circumstances he is very kind and understanding, it just seems that sometimes he blows up. In my opinion, I think he holds in his emotions and they eventually blow up. I have told him I think he needs help and just recently, after one big anger blow up, he agreed and is willingly pursuing it. We are planning to discuss this all with his parents and seek their advice on what actions we should take. I really love him and I care about his health and I want to help him as much as possible. What actions should we take to help this anger problem (if that's what it really is)? Should we see a psychologist? I'm stuck!
Your boyfriend's anger problem is a very real problem for your relationship, and for your personal safety and sense of self-worth and the safety and self-esteem of any children you might one day having with him. From your description, he has acted his rage out on you in increasingly violent ways such that you have become afraid of him. It is unequivocally FOOLISH to remain in a relationship with a person who you are afraid of. No amount of love you may have for this man will change the fact that it is foolish to remain in a violent relationship. You would be well advised to break off the relationship with him no matter how much you love him.
This being said, and this being true, It is possible that he could change. Just about anything is possible. You have to judge how likely it is that he could actually make the changes required so that you were no longer in any way afraid of him. As the minimal evidence you should see from him if he is serious about changing his violence, he should tell you that he has been wrong and then show you that he believes it and is doing something to change it by voluntarily participating in an anger management class with a licensed psychologist. You both would be well advised also to participate in relationship counseling with the goals of discussing how his violence has affected the relationship and reducing the violence to zero. If he isn't willing to do these things; if he minimizes how his violence affects you or shows you any further violence you should just plain and simple leave him. If you stay at that point you are just being foolish.
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Anne, I have been married to a wonderful man for 5 years, but I have found myself no longer physically attracted to him because he is, in short, a slob: He showers only once or twice a week and then complains to me that his cloths are never clean and that the house smells, etc. He constantly picks his nose in front of me and in public. Just last night, for example, while picking his nose so deeply I thought his face was going to cave in, he asked me if I was "in the mood," and as I responded "NO", he studied the contents of his nose and said, "why not." ? He then complains that I'm a prude and that our sex life is non-existent. I'm sorry, but I not attracted to a man who picks his nose and smells like a horse.
My best friend says I'm over-reacting; that he is just acting like a man. My husband is a wonderful man in almost every other way, and I would like to change him if I could. Am I over-reacting? How do I get a 33-year-man to stop picking his nose and shower a little more often?
It's sad to think that your husband is as clueless as you describe, but I can believe that he is. I've seen enough guys out there with more hair coming out of their ears and nose than on their heads to know that some guys just don't understand hygiene at all.
I don't think you are over-reacting; I think you have a legitimate complaint. We all have limits within which we can accept things and outside of which we cannot. Your husband is outside the limits of what you can accept. Given the situation, you have a few options, but only a few. I'd start by providing him with a clear statement of what you cannot accept in his behavior - what he must stop doing and what he must start doing before you will feel okay with him. Be sure and tell him that you understand that his behavior is separate from him - that you love him, but cannot accept his behavior. It is vital to communicate this as people (motivated people anyway) are able to change how they act, but they are never able to change who they are as people. Spell out for him in detail the actions you need to see him take so that you've got both an instruction set and a contract. This is an ultimatum too - he either makes these changes or you do take action yourself (Are you willing to leave him over this if he can't comply?). See what his reaction is to this. You can expect initial defensiveness and hurt from him, but hopefully he can get past that. See if you can get him to sign on (literally) to your contract, then see if he can make these changes. Be willing to compromise in non-essential ways yourself. Perhaps you can match his compliance with your demands by doing something for him that he'd like like being more affectionate towards him. This is serious business but it doesn't need to be deathly or hostile. I'll bet that if he can make changes in the direction of what you *need* from him, that you'd be more willing to give him affection that you've previously withheld. In fact, your willingness and desire to be affectionate with a cleaned-up version of this man might be the very reward that will keep him compliant. If he can't get past himself, then you will probably need to take non-trivial action to get out of the relationship as you won't be able to live with yourself for tolerating this man.
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I Rarely Want To Have Sex
I have had bad relationships in the past that were centered around sex that sometimes ended in abuse both mental and physical. I am in a great relationship now but I rarely want to have sex. My current lover is VERY understanding but we are both frustrated. What can I do or where can I go to get past these bad feeling associated with sex?
The situation you find yourself in is not an uncommon one, unfortunately. There are all too many women and men whose sexuality has been poisoned by association with violence and abuse. It is possible to heal from this sort of circumstance in most cases, however, so take heart and be strong. What needs to occur is a gradual deepening of trust and emotional intimacy between you and your current (and non-abusive!) partner, and a graduated and non-competitive approach towards deepening sexual intimacy. There is no need for speed and there is no need for performance demands. You will need to be in control of the pace of sexual expression even as you strive to 'move things along' so that your partners needs are addressed as well. Any shame or 'feeling forced' feelings should be addressed as they are bound to come up as you progress. And progress need not be a straight line towards intercourse, but rather can be a step forward and step back affair as you require it. Seeking out a sex therapist and/or relationship therapist who is familiar with abuse issues as they play out in intimate relationships and who is willing to address your sexuality would be a good idea too, as would reading books on abuse-survivor's sexuality. Good luck.
Anne will try her best to answer your relationship questions. Anne has been helping the confused and heartbroken for over 10 years. She's here ready and willing to listen and share the wisdom gained from years of personal experience. Anne is not a professional psychologist or therapist and offers her opinion as a mentor or friend only. What you choose to do with Anne's advice is entirely up to you.