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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Violent outburst in his past? Should I be worried?

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Author Topic: Violent outburst in his past? Should I be worried?
Spanglish
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Hi all, there's another thread with a very similar topic, but I thought I might start my own to avoid de-railing things! [Smile]

Okay:

I've been talking and hanging out with a guy (long-distance) for about 2 months now. He's continually surprised me with how attentive, thoughtful, caring and open he is. Over this short time, we've become very close friends (not sure if it's a relationship yet, but it feels like it): we talk about everything, share and rant, support/encourage one another and we feel like we can just relax and be ourselves around each other. My life feels so much better with him in it.

We have a ton of fun, and I'm just so taken aback because every other time I've been this close to somebody, it's felt really bad and stressful (eg: they would never contact me unless I initiated it, or they'd blow me off, or make me feel unappreciated or just run me down). As a result, I have a very hard time with trust and I tend to push people away whenever they get too close.

Anyway: A few days ago during one of our long heart-to-heart phone conversations, he was telling me the story of how he quit his old job a couple of years back, during a really bad point in his life. He happened to mention that he'd been off his antidepressants at the time and was generally in a bad way. His two bosses had been making his life hell for months. He was working alone in a kitchen one shift and felt rage for the first time in years. He became so enraged that he punched the refrigerator door and dented it slightly.

I'm starting to worry because I've so far found him to be a very gentle, calm, sensitive person and I couldn't even imagine him doing something like that. He told me it was very unusual behaviour for him, but I don't know what to think and to be honest I've lost a bit of trust, and I just feel quite stressed about this.

Is it a really bad sign? I'm aware he's had trouble with depression in his past(he said he wants me to know this early on), and he also has Aspergers, but he's been getting lots of help and counselling over the years and he's generally getting along really well these days. I really love his Asperger's, as well, because we seem to share so many traits and he's just a very different, dependable, honest sort of person.

He's just been such a lovely guy so far, but I'm worried if this is a massive red flag that he will fly off the handle or something. I just have no idea what to do -- I feel like talking to him, because we do communicate very well, but I'm worried that it hasn't been long enough and it's a fragile situation. I also don't want make him feel upset/ashamed or like he can't tell me these things, either.
But again, I'm fretting because I know that everything is usually rosy in the beginning of relationships and that this could be what I'm in for. It's scary to think that he might have another side to him.
(I used to have uncontrolled angry outbursts myself, but I've never been to the point of punching anything. Side note: I've also had pretty terrible OCD in the past, with big aspects of ROCD, too. This may or may not be affecting my view here!)

So, what to do? Is this all ruined? Do I have to stop talking to him? I'm so confused right now. I just want to feel secure again. Maybe I need to find out more?

[ 02-25-2013, 04:14 PM: Message edited by: janison ]

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Molias
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Hi janison,

I can certainly understand why that was a surprising and upsetting thing to hear, but I don't think it's a sign that you need to completely withdraw from this person; it maybe means it's time for you to be a little more aware of his moods and how you see him reacting to things, but I don't think this has to spell the end of your friendship.

It sounds like the incident in which this happened was during a time when he was very stressed and not on his usual medication; it's impossible to know if this is the Ultimate Cause of his behavior (and I think assigning any one cause to most actions is a little too simple, in general) but it certainly sounds like a situation in which it would be a lot harder to push away an angry/violent impulse.
Has he mentioned to you other times that he's gotten extremely angry or upset, and how he dealt with them? Has he ever said "there was one time I really really wanted to punch through a wall but managed not to"? He said it was unusual for him but I think there's a tactful way to initiate a conversation with him about how he manages his anger.

From your post I can't tell if you're hanging out with him in person or just interacting with him online, but either way, going forward I'd keep some things in mind when you're talking with him: is he ever insulting you (or "teasing" in a way that sounds a lot more mean than joking)? Does he ever say something mean and pass it off as him just being angry or frustrated? If you do see him in person, does he ever get angry in a way that makes you feel frightened? I'd personally consider all of those things big red flags that would make me re-thinking continuing the friendship. If you're spending time with him and not noticing any other signs that make you feel uncomfortable, I think it's ok to keep talking to him.

Ultimately, your gut instinct can be really helpful here. You haven't known this person for long so I think it's ok to just take things slow and get to know each other gradually; if more things about him or his past come up that make you uncomfortable and talking to him doesn't ease your mind, you may decide that it isn't best to continue your friendship.

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Spanglish
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Hi, and thanks for your response!

We talk online all the time, and we have met and hung out in person as well. When I've hung out with him in person I just got the sense that he 'couldn't hurt a fly'.

No, this was the first time he'd mentioned anything about getting upset or angry or how he'd dealt with those emotions.

So far, he's never insulted me or even been angry or frustrated in my presence (he did get a little teary when telling me about hard times he's had, and that his depression made him cry a lot. He gets anxious sometimes with social situations but he handles it extremely well and is still very much his friendly self in spite of it).

He's also expressed great concern about saying anything that might upset or trigger me, (he will always ask if I'm comfortable with talking about certain things and will ask if I want to stop. He's been great with boundaries.) to the point where I've had to reassure him that he can relax about it.

I do know that my gut instinct can be a little off sometimes, but I realise that I have a valid concern here (even though this incident was a long time ago). How should I go about talking about this with him, or bringing up this subject?
I think I would like to know a bit more about this side of him and would like to know how I can do it effectively?

[ 02-25-2013, 06:04 PM: Message edited by: janison ]

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Molias
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So, based on what you've said here, I don't think this person sounds super worrying. I'd continue to be aware of how he's treating you and acting around you, but so far it doesn't sound like he's doing anything that sounds suspicious right now.
If you want to talk about this incident some more, maybe you could frame it as a way to learn about him and how he's dealt with stress and not an interrogation about something he might feel upset or ashamed about.

It sounds like he's pretty sensitive about upsetting you; if you bring this up I'd maybe thank him for being honest about this in the first place. He might apologize for telling you, or say he didn't want to upset you, but in that case you could just emphasize that you like that he was honest in sharing something and that you're trying to learn more about him, not punish him by bringing it up.

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Spanglish
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Thanks again for your advice!

Would it be best to do this over the phone, or via a message? (I'm feeling the phone might be better, but I'm not sure if I could perhaps express more in a message and ensure I don't accidentally say something hurtful).

I'm not sure if I should tell him that it stressed me out to hear about that incident, because that would probably make him feel pretty bad. He didn't seem too ashamed when he told me about it (it was rather matter-of-factly stated as just something that happened, which is often his style), but if he knew it upset me he most likely would feel very guilty for having told me. But I have no idea, since we've not really disagreed yet!

I did value his honesty greatly and would really like to be honest back, but of course I don't want to shatter any foundations we might have built.

I also feel bad for losing trust in him, but I suppose it was a natural reaction to hearing something like this.

[ 02-25-2013, 06:54 PM: Message edited by: janison ]

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Molias
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I think the best way to talk to him about this is whatever way sounds most comfortable to you. I tend to like saying important things in an email or letter because I often get really flustered on the phone, but some people prefer to have important conversations in person/on the phone, in real time, because that makes them more comfortable. So I think whatever sounds best to you is fine.
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Tate
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I am a survivor of an abusive relationship, just wanted to put that out there first.

Abusers often are extremely charming and attentive at first, they don't start being horrible until they've got you charmed and loyal to them. They also don't go from wonderful to evil over night.

Personally, I'd be very worried if somebody was super attentive and also felt like they needed to tell me about a violent outburst. I'd want to know what they had done to learn how to deal with feelings of anger. Even if it happens rarely, we all get angry sometimes.

Do you have any friends in common with him? If nothing else, have your friends or family met him? And then listen to what they have to say.

You said you haven't had great relationships in the past so it's entirely possible that him being really attentive is him just being a nice person. It's impossible to know over the internet. Thinking back, can you see any patterns in the behavior of people you've been with before? Did they behave in the beginning like this guy is?

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Tate
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Also always remember that it is your right to feel safe and secure in your relationships, be they with friends, family, or romantic partners. Communication is important and if somebody is offended that you want to have an honest discussion about how you can feel safe, then that's a red flag in itself.
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Redskies
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Seeing Tate's response here, I wanted to contribute a different viewpoint.

First, I should say that I take any violence, past or present, extremely seriously, and would never just blow past it. I think it's very sound to take a bit of time to assess carefully when we find out information like this, and if we have any doubts at all, we don't have to feel bad about backing off. I also agree with what Tate says about what this kind of situation May indicate.

I have a different experience around this, though. Somebody I am deeply close to, and have been for some time, had violent outbursts in their history; yelling and throwing furniture. When he told me, I was disturbed by that, and I still am whenever I think about it. There are a number of good reasons why I have no concerns about him as he is today, though. 1) He has not behaved that way for at least 8 years now (and I know family and long-term friends to verify); 2) he doesn't simply say he's "changed", but can tell me in depth the long, detailed hard work he did on himself To change; 3) from various descriptions, his behaviour was fairly indiscriminate outbursts of frustration, not in private or only with specific people, which strongly suggests it wasn't deliberately abusive/controlling/manipulative/frightening; 4) he displays absolutely no signs of abusive or violent behaviour now, and is very self-reflective about how he treats other people, and holds himself accountable when he makes mistakes; 5) I know his personal history, and while that is Never an excuse for violence, I can understand why he ended up where he was at with it, and I find it forgiveable.

He told me because he wanted to be honest with me (particularly because I've been affected by some abusive people, and he thought I should have the right to make my own decision about his past behaviour), because he didn't want me to hear it from someone else first, and because he wanted me to understand better how and why he got to who he is today.

Just because I find it forgiveable doesn't mean I think anyone else should, in this situation or others, particularly anyone who was actually affected by this behaviour.

I guess I just wanted to say that it's important to be very cautious about this kind of thing, and if it indicates an abusive or violent person; but that sometimes it doesn't. Whatever we decide, whatever we feel we can or can't live with, is up to us, and there isn't really a wrong answer, only what we feel is best for us.

I agree that it's a natural reaction to lose trust in someone when we hear something like this. If we want to give them the opportunity, they can rebuild that trust just by behaving differently. It's also ok if we don't know straight away what we want to do, but just need a bit of time and space to think about things and get our head round it, or to ask them a few things so we can have more context for it.

Also, just generally, things that someone tells us can bother us, and sometimes that's not something that other people can predict. In general, people need to accept that our feelings are our feelings, even if it makes them uncomfortable or unhappy or is different to their own viewpoint.

--------------------
The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Spanglish
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Hi all, thank you for your insightful responses!

It's been a little while and I thought I should write a little update. [Smile]

We ended up having a big chat about this a couple of months ago, and it went very well. I have since learned a lot more about that situation and the extra information has helped me to understand and also answered some of the lingering questions I had.

Also, seeing how he reacted to having such a discussion was in my mind a bit of a litmus test -- he wasn't defensive and didn't want to make excuses for himself, and he was genuinely caring about how I felt. It seems to have strengthened our relationship, since we now incorporate honest talk about our feelings into our conversations (and even have our own little nickname for doing so! [Smile] )

This has been quite a learning experience so far, but of course there's always more to learn about relating!

He will be visiting my city soon for the first time in 5 months, so I am of course very excited to see him again and see where this goes.

Thanks again, Scarleteen, for this amazing site you're able to run.

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Molias
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I'm glad to hear that talking about this incident went well. =) Thanks for the update!
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WesLuck
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All the best! Honest and caring communication is always good.
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