My husband has a terrible temper, and heís always angry. When heís his normal self, I love him so much, but when he gets into one of his moods, I canít even stand to be around him. Heís not violent, never has been, and I donít think he ever would be. But he shouts and swears and and stomps around, and itís just impossible to talk him down. Little things like not being able to find something he needs around the house set him off, but lately, itís money more than anything. He gets furious over every nickel I spend, even though weíre really all right financially. Heís constantly worried about money. Every month when itís time to pay bills, he gets angry at me for them being too high. (And no matter how low they are, theyíre too high, and itís no more my fault than his.) And holidays have become a nightmare.
Maggie, I love my husband. Weíve been together almost twenty years, and I donít want to leave him. And as I said, heís not like this all the time, and when heís not, heís a wonderful man. But itís getting harder and harder to live with his temper. What can I do?
Dear Weary Wife,
Iím going to tell you from the top that this is a form of abuse. And itís one a lot of men tend to dole out. Itís also one you donít have to tolerate. But by letting it go on for twenty years, youíve basically told him that itís okay to make you his whipping post. By tolerating it, youíve helped keep the problem. Sorry, but itís true.
He needs to be told that itís unacceptable, and that youíre not going to live with it any longer. But only if you really mean it. Heís going to try claim that itís just the way he is and that change is impossible for him, but believe me, he can change. All he has to do is want it.
For your part, hereís what I would suggest. And before you set this plan into motion, you need to sit him down and explain it to him. Tell him exactly how itís going to be. ďI can not stand to be around you when youíre angry. Itís hurting me and itís hurting our marriage. And I donít want to lose you. So from now on, Iíve decided, I just wonít be around you when you get that way. I canít, and I wonít. So you need to know that up front. Thatís the way itís going to be from now on.Ē
Then, every single time he begins to shout or yell or swear, with the very first line he utters, turn yourself around and walk out. No matter whatís going on, no matter how desperately he needs your help, just turn around and walk out. Get in your car, go for a drive. Go for a long walk. Just leave. Donít answer the phone when he calls you, and donít return for at least and hour. If heís still raging, turn right around and leave again. Do this every single time.
At the same time, when heís being the man you love, the one you want to be around, make sure youíre noticing that, and letting him know youíre noticing it. Tell him how much it means to you to be with him when heís the kind and loving man you fell in love with. Love him even more when heís being that man. But set a zero tolerance policy for that other guy he can become. Be around the man you love, refuse to be around the one you canít stand, and when he tells you he canít stand it, tell him itís either this or a divorce.
He might need help getting over his temper, (therapy or medication) but if he loses his audience (you) then thereís not much point in throwing a tantrum. It only works if someone is watching. Otherwise, whatís the point? Believe me, heíll curb it. But youíll have to be consistent and itís liable to get worse before it gets better.
The thing to remember and to make sure heís aware of is that itís not just his marriage he might lose if this continues. Itís his health and possibly even his life. This behavior is a red flag for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke just waiting to happen. Angry men have far shorter life spans than their more laid back pals. Itís been proven. Youíll be doing him the biggest favor of his life if you can help him to overcome this.