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Author Topic: expressing anger / violence ?
kayajaaa
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Hi !

I’m writing here, hope it fits on that board… maybe someone who had a similar experience will read this, or someone who might react like Partner in this situation will throw a new light on this ?... Thank you [Smile]

So basically, my question is: how to handle the fact that people have different ways to express anger, and different ways to receive its expression?
In my case: Partner sometimes breaks or punches things (his', not mine; or stuff that can be punched like walls or pillows), when he gets angry about stuff between us. He never threatened to hit me, and it never seemed like he was about to. But even though, when he punches things, it makes me feel panicky, in an irrational sort of way, and a bit nauseous… but when I told him to please not do this in front of me, he said that it is unfair of me to take this way of expressing anger away from him.

And I am not even sure what my question is… I feel unsure of how I feel. I don’t want to enter the “who is right” game… so it would be something along the lines of: “how can I feel less stressed, more detached, when he does that?” or maybe: “uh, should I learn to feel less stressed, more detached, when he does that?”
I don’t know… any thoughts?

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Edith_*
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Hi there, kayajaaa! [Smile]

You are right that there are different ways to express anger. And to be honest, anger is a very complex feeling. There is nothing wrong to feel it but there are, of course, healthy ways to express it and to deal with it.

I don't think "learning to detach" is ever healthy. We have feelings for a reason, and sometimes -- maybe most of times -- our feelings are there trying to tell us something. I don't think is healthy to "get used" to eat tofu if you just don't like tofu, know what I mean?

For sure, people has the right to feel anger and right to express it but, when we don't feel comfortable with the way they do it, we also have the right to ask them to NOT do it infront of us. You said he express his anger when something happens between the two of you and I am wondering what exactly you mean with that? Do you think you could explain a little bit more? Maybe say what kind of stuff makes him angry?

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"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it's very important that you do it " (...'cause no one else will) -Gandhi-

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Heather
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I am only just briefly passing through today, but saw this and wanted to make sure to leave yiu a couple brief comments.

For one, it is not irrational to feel twitchy and scared when someone is angry and reacts with ohysical violence, even to objects. That is, rather, a smart survival instinct, because you mind is reading a situation that very well could be, and often becomes, unsafe as unsafe. That is deeply rational and quite sound.

It is, I would say, all the more sound when that person refuses to create any boundaries ariund that with you. Because really, if he is not just as cool going and doing that somehwre you or otgers are not around? Then it probably is not true that this is not about impacting you with that violence in some way. In other words, refusing to not do that arihnd you when you have said you are not cool with it is that person also, in some way, being violent with you.

Personally, I would read all of this as a really nig red flag, especially since his answer to your boundary was not simply, "No problem, I will go take a walk and hit things somewhere else, or save that for when I am alone." I get the sense from your post here you actually know this is a red flag, but are doubting yourself for some reason. I would personally very much trust that instinct that this is not okay.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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Btw, if it helps to know, I am someone who sometimes likes to punch or hit things when angry too, but have found it very easy through my life to find ways and places to do that where I know I would not scare anyone, like boxing classes.

And no one ever had to ask me to do that, it was something of course I did because it is pretty much a given that people are going to feel freaked or scared if you start yelling and punching things when you are angry with them or around them. Because, duh.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kayajaaa
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Thanks a lot for your insights, both of you ! [Smile]

And also, for the reminder that he's always free to express his anger some place else.. But he says he won't because it "takes away from him the opportunity to feel and live his anger". He feels that "just words" are not enough to convey his anger, to sufficiently deflate it..

quote:
You said he express his anger when something happens between the two of you and I am wondering what exactly you mean with that? Do you think you could explain a little bit more? Maybe say what kind of stuff makes him angry?
Generally, he often says that he feels dominated, that I stay “unwavering under all circumstances”… So, to answer your question, he gets upset when those issues are triggered. When something happens that he sees as a proof that I dominate him, that I am careless.

Thus, often it can be “small stuff”, which reminds him of his feelings in the relationship… Like, if I get up in the morning before him and inadvertently make some noise while preparing my breakfast. Or if I move in my sleep on a night where he has insomnia. He interprets those as marks of disrespect and carelessness… It might sound stupid but I think it is a feeling of frustration which has built up over time, which is why “small” stuff bother him now [Frown]

We're trying to work on this together, to make things better, more balanced, but when "small violent" stuff like the upper happens, I just feel anxious. And I feel it builds up, resulting in me feeling spontaneously afraid now for gestures which wouldn't have make me flinch before :/ (like fast non-threatening gestures)

quote:
I get the sense from your post here you actually know this is a red flag, but are doubting yourself for some reason.
..yeah you're right... but I know that, in the way that I know I wouldn't act like this myself, even if I felt angry, I try to own my feelings etc... So in a way, he's right when he says that I impose my own set of values on him..
I don't know, it's all kind of circular :/

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kayajaaa
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also, yeah, I think you're right, Heather. Since showing his anger "in front of me" is his way to feel it "for real", it's that it is somehow aimed at me :/
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September
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Hi kayajaaa, I am going to jump in and agree with Heather when she says that she's seeing red flags here. Especially what you said in your most recent reply is really setting off alarm bells: you describe being afraid to anger your partner because it will trigger violence you are uncomfortable with, and you describe things that will trigger his anger which are basically beyond your control (such as moving in your sleep). Moving in your sleep or preparing yourself breakfast are not signs of disrespect. If these are things that set your partner off, to the point that you are trying to avoid engaging in them, then that's sounding like a very unhealthy dynamic to me.

I know you came here asking how to deal with his anger, but I don't think that this is on you. And I also don't think that asking him not to be violent around you is about you imposing your values on him. His refusal to take your feelings into account is actually a pretty big sign of disrespect coming from him.

I think it might be beneficial for you to take a look at this article: Blinders Off:Getting a Good Look at Abuse and Assault

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-joey
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kayajaaa
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Thanks, September. I just checked the "Blinders off" page. I do recognize myself in some stuff, himself in others, but it’s all confusing, it’s like we suffer from the effects but not from the causes .. and it’s like we are both abusers and abused, because both of us suffer from those effects (but none of us ever told the other s/he was worthless, or anything of that kind).

I think both of us are stressed out, anxious about our relationships, often walking on eggshells when we’re together. But still, the good times that still happen sometimes make us want to try to work it all out…

I am co-responsible… Your answers, and the “Blinders off” page, made me think.. I think I am afraid to look at my co-responsibility in this, sometimes I feel that I present myself as so “strong” in my head and speech, but that I am, in reality, so confused in my heart, that I make it impossible (or very tough, at the very least) for people to keep their place in the relationship when they love me, to stand their ground. I feel guilty for how he feels today, like I made him lose himself. I also feel that stopping the relationship is like escaping my own part in the problem, and that I will just re-create it in another relationship later [Frown]

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Sam W
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Hi kayajaa, I hope you don't mind if I jump in here

I am seeing a huge red flag when you are describing feeling "responsible" for his emotions. It's true that, as partners, people need to be aware of the effect they have on each other. He may have limited control over what makes him angry, but HE, not you, is responsible for how he expresses that anger. And right now, he is choosing to express it in a way that is violent and frightening to you. The fact that he wants you to see and witness just how angry he is indicates, to me anyway, that a main goal in this way of expressing is to make you intimidated so that you won't do certain things anymore. If this were really about him expressing anger in a way that helps him best process it, your presence or absence would not be a primary factor.

When you say you want to try and "work this out" together what steps have you taken?

I also want to address your feeling that leaving this relationship will mean that you never learn from or work on your own short comings or issues. Often, if we have habits or tendencies that we fear might be harming how we form relationships with other people, it's best to work on those with someone like a therapist, rather than subjecting our partner to the entire learning curve. So, you have the option of growing or changing without having to stay in a relationship that seems to be making both parties unhappy (and is making you anxious and scared). Does that make sense?

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Heather
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Seriously, if I could change the color of this whole page to red to express the number of giant red flags waving here per a relationship clearly becoming, if it was not already, controlling and abusive, I would. [Frown]

I do not think leaving something going this way is you continuing an unhealthy pattern. Quite the opposite. As well, your physical and emotional safety matter, and putting them first is totally easy in a healthy relationship, so you gotta know that if and when you are thinking you need to file your safety away, something is very, very wrong.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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zeitvogel
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Hi kayajaa. I also see numerous red flags here. What's more, I see a giant double standard.

You've described how he gets upset when you sleep the way you sleep or make breakfast the way you make breakfast. I would guess that that's just the tip of the iceberg, and there's a very long list of things that you're not allowed to do your way because of how he feels about it.

Then, when he has a habit that actually frightens you, he thinks you should just deal with it because that's just his way and he doesn't think he should have to change because of how you feel about it.

This doesn't add up, and the weight of these things is not equal.

So when you talk about your co-responsibility... well, obviously I wasn't there to see your relationship, but still I would encourage you to take a long look at whether what you did was even in the same scale as what he did.

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kayajaaa
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Sorry, this is going to be long, am I going to much into details ? I'll try to be more synthetic next time. But I feel lost and it's apeasing to talk about this. Thank you all for the space and advices provided here...


quote:
When you say you want to try and "work this out" together what steps have you taken?
Well… we usually talk a lot :/ but now, while trying to answer your question, I’m wondering if we did much more, recently at least :/

In general I *try to* understand the other’s point of view. In this case, I always listened to him when he felt bad, and if I felt his feelings were justified, I tried to work on my behavior. For instance: he likes to sleep till noon or more whenever he can, while I like to get up early in the morning. I used to interpret this as a sign of disinterest and he could feel my irritation, even though I never told him to change his behavior. I think it is good that now I am more tolerant (towards him and other people), as soon as no one prevents me from, in that case, getting up and doing my stuff of course [Smile] He says he noticed these changes in me, and for me it makes sense to have worked on that part of my character, because I believe it makes me a more easy-going person and that’s what I want to be with people in general [Smile]

But he often criticizes the fact that I never “change for him”, that I only “change for myself”, like for instance, here, I worked on getting irritated less easily because I thought I would generally feel better and be a better person, for him AND for other people. I didn’t try to change *only* because it made him suffer. So that goes in the “you’re too strong and too assertive all the time”.

(Now, writing all this here I’m started to feel angry :/ )

On the other hand, he says that he changed a lot “for me” and complains he had to adapt all the time otherwise he knew I would never have made any compromises myself and we would have split.

There is one thing where I know for sure that I “made him change”, it is his attitude in sex and his respect of consent, but now that I think of it, he says that he believes it made him a better person and he doesn’t want to go back on it. So in that case it is a bit like the changes he criticizes in me (it was not a change he made only for me).

For the rest, I don’t know. He says he changed a lot for me but I couldn’t really tell what, only that he doesn’t dare saying NO if I state what I find important for me in the relationship and if he disagrees. But he says that I am blind to those changes he made because I dominate him.

Also, we went once to see a systemic psychologist together. She said she thought it would be unefficient to try to deal with this as a couple therapy, because she thought we were already adapting to much to each other, and that we should work on behaving "in truth to oneself", rather than on the relationship in itself.

quote:
Then, when he has a habit that actually frightens you, he thinks you should just deal with it because that's just his way and he doesn't think he should have to change because of how you feel about it.
Thanks for putting that in a nutshell :/

About my co-responsability:
there is one big issue between us: polyamory [Frown]
When we started dating, we both said it was ok to have sex with other people. But I wanted more, I wanted to develop more intimate relationships than just sex (and btw sex is not the most important for me in a loving relationship), while he didn't want this. So I didn't do it, and more or less consciously only had sex with people I knew I wouldn't meet twice. Then for like a year we almost never had sex outside of the relationship, and didn't feel the will to, and so we became sort of a "monogamous in practice" couple. Then I met a guy whom I liked, and I told my partner about it because I felt I was becoming "poly-in my heart" again, and I thought he should know... He was very afraid, and I told him I wouldn't act according to those feelings, and I didn't. But then after a months, I told him that I would really like to date other people, that I felt I was restraining myself. And he said again, "I know if I oppose this, you'll leave, so you don't leave me any choice. Do it but don't tell me". Then he would ask a lot of questions to know what was going on.. But I did start another relationship... And now that's why I say, I was abusive too in all this [Frown]

quote:
I also want to address your feeling that leaving this relationship will mean that you never learn from or work on your own short comings or issues. (...) So, you have the option of growing or changing without having to stay in a relationship that seems to be making both parties unhappy (and is making you anxious and scared). Does that make sense?
Yes, it does [Smile] thank you.
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Sam W
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I'm glad what I said made sense [Smile]

So, from what you're describing, this really sounds like a relationship that is in a bad place. First off: "making" him be more respectful of consent? That is not some horrible change to force your partner into. You are not denying him his autonomy or happiness by asking that he have consent before doing sexual stuff. That is basic, bare minimum behavior for a partner.

I also notice that for him, any changes that you make to your behavior should be about HIM primarily, even though (as you pointed out) you working on being less irritated was good for both you personally and your interactions with him. It strikes me that, in this relationship, he is very focused on his needs taking priority (e.g the need to punch things in your presence trumps your need to feel safe).

Lastly, with the polyamory issues. If what he is OK with in terms of poly-ness does not match with what you want and you can't agree to an arrangement that makes you both comfortable and happy? Then this relationship is probably not going to work. Being poly requires partners to be very open and honest about what kind of relationship structure they want. And, importantly, they have to do that free of coercion or of fear. It looks like you were trying to do that, but that he was giving some mixed signals (e.g "do it but don't tell me" coupled with asking lots of questions). Which made the whole thing unpleasant for everyone. If he really doesn't want a poly relationship and you do? Then the two of you will have to end this relationship

I think it might be helpful for you to envision what your ideal relationship would look like. How is it structured? How does your partner(s) treat you? How do you treat them? How do you feel within the relationship? Then, I want you to ask yourself if this is something you can ever, realistically,have with your current partner.

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Heather
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I want to also add just a teeny bit to what Sam said here:

"So, from what you're describing, this really sounds like a relationship that is in a bad place. First off: "making" him be more respectful of consent? That is not some horrible change to force your partner into. You are not denying him his autonomy or happiness by asking that he have consent before doing sexual stuff. That is basic, bare minimum behavior for a partner."

I'd add that consent should be something people really WANT. In healthy relationships and interactions, we don't want people to be sexual with us when they don't want to be: we want them to be excited and happy and comfortable, to be totally into what we are doing.

If and when someone does not feel that way, that is yet one more thing that can give us a very big clue that they are not really seeing us as equals, or even as whole people, and that a real connection with us obviously is not what they are after, you know?

This guy has, from the sounds of it, pretty constantly been saying things, and behaving in ways, that make clear that he sees this relationship as a power struggle he wants to "win," -- and feels very angry at times he sees you "winning" the power, as he is voicing when he talks about you dominating him -- rather than a relationship of equals. Even if you work to understand him, understanding him is not likely to change the way he is thinking and behaving, nor will that make what sounds like, at best, a pretty crummy relationship,. and at worst, an abusive one, something good. You'd just understand better why it sucks so much.

[ 03-26-2014, 01:09 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kayajaaa
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quote:
I think it might be helpful for you to envision what your ideal relationship would look like...
Well, for now, I feel lost and I *think* that I don't even want to be "in a relationship" at all. Not mono, not poly. I'm so exhausted, my emotions are like a chaos, I feel super emotional and super empty at the same time. I do like my other partner (the poly one) a lot as a person, but I think I started with polyamory at a moment where I'm just too tired to be in any "loving relationship". If I listen to myself, I think most of all I need my friends, openness, and being alone.

quote:
This guy has, from the sounds of it, pretty constantly been saying things, and behaving in ways, that make clear that he sees this relationship as a power struggle he wants to "win,"...
Oh, you're very right, thanks for voicing it so clearly... It makes me feel better... yeah I think it has always been like that. I used to feel very dominated with him in the beginning, but I tried to explain and stay and then I feel things started to change, and for him it's like he "lost", as you say. Maybe we never managed to have something very equal [Frown]
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Heather
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I think listening to yourself is the best idea of ever. It continues to sound like your instincts are really right on.

If you know, and it sounds like you do, that being in any romantic relationship right now is not what you want, I would say that that would certainly make getting out of one that is a real stinker a serious priority. Personally, this sounds like something to get out of and get far away from, period, but if you know a romantic relationship, even a healthy, happy one, is not what you want, then staying in this one strikes me as being particularly counter to your needs, you know?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kayajaaa
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Yes, Heather, that sounds right [Smile] thinking about it, I find it difficult to take this step because :

1) I still enjoy spending time with my first partner when it's a "friendly time". I think we still have a lot to share, and we laugh a lot, when we feel and act like friends to each other. Sometimes, it happens when we're the two of us and we're just having fun without thinking too much. Sometimes it's when we hang out with other friends and are not in *couple mode*. So it's hard for me to accept all this will stop.

2) it's a bit stupid but I don't know why, thinking I won't be able to have *hugs* and *rest on shoulders* and *spooning*, all the sensual-but-not-sexual side in fact, makes me cry instantly :/

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Sam W
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Hi kayjaaa,

So, to be clear, when you two are acting more like friends than partners, do the toxic dynamics go away?

I don't think you will necessarily have to never speak to your current partner again if you break up. Although the degree to which you may or may not be able to would depend a lot on how the break-up goes. What do you think would happen if you said you wanted to scale back to being friends rather than romantic partners? If that transition looks like it would just be awkward and painful, you will likely need a period after you end things where you don't have any contact with him, to give you some time to process your feelings and evaluate how you find your life to be without being around this person in any capacity. But, after some time has passed, you two may find that you can re-establish a friendship that is healthy and happy.

As to your second point, leaving this particular relationship doesn't have to mean the end of getting to be hugged or having a shoulder to rest your head on. Do you have people in your friend group who you feel comfortable hugging or having non-sexual physical intimacy with?

[ 03-27-2014, 11:42 AM: Message edited by: Sam W ]

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Heather
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I would also add that to get that physical affection, you do not have to be with an abusive or controlling partner. And that kind of affection is also a lot more likely to feel emotionally good when it is not coming from someone who behaves like this person does.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kayajaaa
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Yeah, Sam W, the toxic dynamics do get away when we're together as friends.
Also, yes, I have a few friends who could lend me some hugs'n shoulders [Smile]

..so... thanks a lot to all of you again for your help. I'll meet with my current partner in a few days, and I'll see how it goes, if I have enough will to break up.. It seems easier when I reflect about all this by myself than when I see him :/ (not because I'm afraid of him, but because, right now, I'm mostly listening to the "pro-individual" part of myself, if that makes sense, while it'll be more of a mix if I'm talking with him..)

Anyway... Have a good day/night, you all [Smile] and thanks, you're awsome [Smile]

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Heather
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One thing to know is that it is pretty typical for people to find it very hard to leave relationships with someone abusive and controlling in-person. They also will usually tend to make us even doing that exceptionally hard: if and when someone has the mindset that relationships are about who is on top and who is on the bottom, they will tend to read someone breaking up with them as a demonstration of that person's power over them, and perhaps obviously, don't tend to react very well to that.

(I don't say any of that to put you off or scare you, only to fill you in and give you some things to think about how you can prepare yourself best for, should they happen.)

There is always, too, the issue of how safe that even is. I know you say that to date, he has only hit or punched objects, but I do think it is sound to think about how safe it is for you to split with him in person should he escalate.

You do have other options for splitting up safely and soundly, be that by not doing so in person, or, if in person, by doing so in a public place with a friend or family member with you. We can also help you make a safety plan, which is always a good idea anytime someone is leaving an abusive or controlling relationship of any kind.

I do want to add that I think the "pro-individual" parts of ourselves should never need to be any less so when we are with someone else. If and when we find that isn't so, or that it kind of gets sucked up by a relationship or another person (and I'm not talking about when, say, our partner is trapped under a car on the highway or other emergency situations)? Then, again, we have to know something is very much wrong with that relationship or situation.

[ 03-27-2014, 07:50 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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