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Doc@DrIrene.com

My Short Fuse

 Interactive Board:  Your ALT-Text here My Short Fuse

June 08, 2004
 

Hi, Hi!

I am a male with an anger problem of the extremely short fuse syndrome. I try not to be abusive (not 100% - anger wins over logic and reasoning many times), am aware of it after the fact (and most times apologetic), but it is still a problem. Anger management training can help you very, very much!

Met my current wife and 5 weeks after being together and getting the words "I need my own space" (absolute quote), I immediately became angry because I thought I was getting dumped. Wow! See how you jumped to a conclusion? Without even checking it out with her! Anger management addresses this issue. I very immediately got angry and told her to "Get the ____ out" and she did. When I saw her a few days later, she was actually terrified of me (big miscommunication). I finally got over that one but there have been many since (sometimes because of simple miscommunication - Don’t worry, I’m not pushing this all off, just putting it into perspective!). I understand.

But now one last anger incident has put us in the following position: She says that unless I go get counseling, it’s over. I can handle that and am totally willing to go (in fact I welcome it - it is time). Excellent! But when I said to her that I thought she also needs to go because of her own anger (some of it I think looks like victim anger), she responded "No, YOU need to go to counseling" because her rationale is that I am the only one who makes her angry. Well, nobody "makes" anybody else angry, but that's besides the point. But why the need to not be the only one with "the problem?" 

When I have brought up incidents of her past (not to use them against her but to point out that the other incidents have had absolutely nothing to do with me, that her anger was also there before me), I get nothing but anger.

I attempted to talk to her the other day without anger (I succeeded - she didn’t), and she ended up getting angry, mostly because she now has this fixation that unless I admit that everything is my fault, that this will not work. Well, I don't know about "fault," but I do know that you have to take responsibility for your short fuse. No matter what she did to engage you, it was your fuse that blew. Her anger is less "impressive." Her attitude doesn't surprise me given what you're describing. Keep in mind it is your poor control of your "short fuse" anger that sparked the issues you guys are having. Her anger is reactive to yours, and your issue is more immediate.

I also tried to point out to her that there are two of us and to immediately make an all encompassing remark like that isn’t going to solve anything (the ship sinks and she will still be arguing about who’s fault it was instead of trying to solve the problem). That's her problem; I bet she's trying to be "heard." I also tried to explain to her calmly that if indeed my anger is causing hers, then why is she angry now when I’m not at all? Just because you are not exploding now, why wouldn't you expect her to be angry over your past together? Nobody said it was right, I'd be surprised if she wasn't angry.

I tried to point out that she has been extremely angry with others (she was sexually abused as a child and has not spoken to or seen her Mother or Father and probably will never again - she says because of their anger - 2 former husbands - one eviction after she punched her roommate (a gay guy), and she vandalized her bosses’ car when she was angry). She defends each of the actions that I’ve pointed out with arguments that are compelling but doesn’t ever admit any responsibility. You're trying to tell me that her rage is as "bad" as yours: After all, you're not the only one! All her anger is the result of someone else. That makes it difficult to get anywhere. Because of my own anger, am I now up a creek without a paddle? Yes, because of your own anger, you are up a creek without a paddle. But you don't have to be. Keep reading. Yes, I’m aware that this sounds like the abuser turning the tables, but it’s not. I’m honestly looking for help. I know you are. Thanks, Ted

Dear Ted, I'm not suggesting that your wife has no issues, clearly she does, and the expression of her anger could use some help. But, I am frankly much more concerned with your tendency to - yes - turn the tables. Even though I know you're not intentionally doing any of this, and I know you have good reasons, I promise you, the onus is on you!  By insisting she get help with her anger, you're telling her, "I'm not the only problem here!" And, of course you're not! But the way you are going about handling your marital problems by insisting she needs help with her anger as well is not conducive to dealing with your own issues!  Besides, her issues have not been the explosive ones in this relationship. Yes, your anger is reminding her of all she's been through, and yes it does make her feel both angry and frustrated, but fix your problem first. Let's see where she goes once you're well under way. In helping yourSelf, you not only help you, you help her.

So, while you are not "wrong" in suggesting she get help, regardless of what her issues are, you need to care about your own issues more. Much more. Stop trying to level the playing field. Take care of your anger, then see where hers goes. My guess is that while she will be less angry, she will still probably need some help.

So, go for help and simply accept (yes, accept) that this is about you. Get her out of the equation because putting her in it only distracts you from what you need to do. Stop avoiding responsibility by saying, "Yes, I'll get help, but this is your problem too, and here's why..." Taking her out of the equation and dealing with the emotional fallout you are certain to experience in doing so is a big part of your own recovery!

So, good for you for agreeing that you need help. Do what you have to do and don't worry about your wife. Try to find a therapist who understands "anger management issues." There are specialized techniques that work very well in problems like yours, that would take much longer to deal with in ordinary "talk therapy."

Just in case you want to browse some titles:

bullet The Anger Control Workbook by McKay & Rogers et al, also authors of...
bullet When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within, by McKay and Rogers.
bullet :60 Second Anger Management : Quick tips to handle explosive feelings by Michael Hershorn.
bullet How to Control Your Anger Before it Controls You by Ellis et al.  
bulletEllis and Lange's How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons,
bulletDr. Albert Ellis' How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable

I'll check in with you next week, so please feel free to post. Go for it! Dr. Irene

Gang, Any comments for Ted? Even if this one hits too close to home, please be constructive. Also, in posting, please press "Submit" just once - and wait! Or, press here to read the posts without posting. Thanks.