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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Anxiety About Anger

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Author Topic: Anxiety About Anger
Member # 108867

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Hello there!
Several years ago, I was in an extremely emotionally abusive non-relationship with someone (that I dearly wanted to be in a relationship with) and that has left me very scared and wary of any potential expressions of anger from people I have romantic feelings for.
My boyfriend and I have been together for a bit now, and he's wonderful and I am trying to trust him implicitly. We both have trust issues for a variety of reasons, and with both have fairly severe inferiority complexes.
We are currently in a massive argument that is mostly that inferiority complex and my anxiety about anger.

He is a fairly expressive person, particularly with his anger/irritation, which I knew signing on and which I am okay with. But the problem is how he expresses it. He tends to either go quiet and monosyllabic (which is how my abuser used to be) or explodes. Both have the common denominator that he generally doesn't want to tell me what he's angry about.
He says he will tell me if it's about me, and on the surface I trust him, I really do. But deep deep down, there is a part of me that does not trust him and is always afraid his anger is directed towards me, especially when he goes silent.

We were trying to discuss it (albeit this is a very tumultuous time in our relationship, which might be the whole reason the conversation went so sour) and all that ended up happening was him thinking I was trying to change how he expresses his anger/asking him not to express it how he naturally does.

And I suppose he's not wrong. I want him to express his anger in a way that doesn't scare me.

I tried simply asking him to say "I am angry and I do not want to talk about it" but he didn't understand where I was coming from and simply got angry with me, even though I explained why his reactions are very damaging to me (which he asked me to do in the first place). That in turn makes my feelings feel invalid and that he places more importance on his feelings than mine (which he explains as "I am me; I cannot feel your feelings thus mine seem more real to me").

So I know that's a lot of factors to take in, but ultimately my question is: how do I ask him to express his anger differently without invalidating his feelings?

[ 11-12-2013, 11:20 AM: Message edited by: Haverforth01 ]

Posts: 3 | From: Virginia | Registered: Nov 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sam W
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 108189

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Hi Haverforth01 and welcome to the boards,

It sounds to me like you've already kind of asked him. You explained to him that you find the way he expresses anger damaging, and you've suggested at least one solution where he is able to express it the way he's used to without freaking you out.

You quote about how he views his feelings as more "real" than yours is a little worrying to me. It's true that we can never be inside someone's head and feel what they feel, but we can certainly use empathy and our imaginations to get a sense of it. It can be really difficult to change how we manifest our anger, but if the way we're manifesting it is harmful to the people around us, that should be a cue that maybe we need to try and find a healthier way to express it.

If you don't mind my asking, how do you feel in this relationship when you aren't fighting? And, when you say you're in a tumultuous time, would you mind elaborating?

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Member # 108867

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Thank you!

Yes, exactly. And that hurts, you know, especially since I tend to be a pretty empathetic person. But I didn't want to continue down that conversation with him for fear of making him more agitated.
He has also told me on several occasions that I need to tell him when something isn't right instead of just sitting on it, and that I need to tell him when I feel that something is off or he's done something that's made me upset. But the first time I did that with something major, aka this whole conversation, he got irritated with me. It's sort of a vicious cycle.

I feel really really good. It's an LDR (which I probably should have mentioned in the beginning) which makes things a little difficult, but I adore him, and I know he adores me. He usually makes me feel very safe and incredibly happy.
The tumultuous time might actually be the indirect reason the conversation went sour: he graduated from college in May and has been unable to find a job so will be moving back to Boston (from North Carolina) next weekend. I'm still in undergrad in Virginia, so have no mobility and am also coming up on deadlines for all my major papers. So we're both stressed in our own worlds, and I know he's terrified we're not going to be able to make it work this far apart. He also feels like an idiot because he hasn't found a job yet when so many of his friends have.

So I know there are a LOT of outside factors, most of them uncontrollable, that are probably influencing him (both of us) at the moment. But at the same time, that's not really a good reason to invalidate feelings and pick fights. (not that there's ever a good reason to do either of those things)

Posts: 3 | From: Virginia | Registered: Nov 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 108007

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A way to talk about it that might help, since you say he's concerned about making a LDR work (I'm in one myself), is to point out that in a LDR, communication is a very big deal. In fact, while you're apart, to a large extent the communication IS the relationship. Therefore, it's extra-important that the communication be good for both parties. And yes, this can include people making some concessions. (Silly little example: My boyfriend hates it when people send a lone '?' as a message. I see nothing wrong with this; to me it's just a request for clarification. But to him it feels very rude, so I don't use it.)

Do you think you'll be able to talk about it again, knowing how it went last time?

~Bee o( l l )-

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Sam W
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Member # 108189

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Hi Haverforth,

Glad to hear you feel the relationship is still pretty healthy and that this may just be a stressful time. I feel you on the LDR difficulties.

You're quite right to say that outside factors are not a good reason to pick fights (and I'd add that picking fights is not actually going to make those outside factors less stressful). As to the viscious cycle where he asks you to tell him and then gets irritated, do you think it's worth responding with something along the lines of "Boyfriend, I know I am speaking to stressed you right now, but unstressed you asked me to speak up when something was bothering me."

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