Tell Me About It: Is partner sparking the anger?
Question: I am in a serious relationship, the problems of which have been blamed almost exclusively on my "anger issues." After months of accepting this as fact and working on myself (going to therapy, etc.), I now feel my angry responses never would have occurred if my partner had been even the least bit friendly, loving, kind, or interested in me.
I've been verbally explosive at times, but why should I blame myself for an understandable reaction to someone talking to me like a dog when all I said was "Pass the syrup"?
Answer: Why did you stay with someone who wasn't "the least bit friendly, loving, kind, or interested" and talked to you "like a dog"?
This isn't an exercise in snarkery or victim-blaming. It's an opener to proving the value in being responsible for our emotions.
Were your partner a better person, s/he might have responded to your anger by feeling contrite, working to be kinder. But as is common with people who mistreat others, your partner responded by blaming you.
That outcome does not speak well of the method that got you there.
By comparison, look at what happens when you take responsibility for your feelings. By that I mean, when you respond to anger, frustration, sadness, resentment, boredom, helplessness, deprivation - not by pinning them on Partner, but by examining your own choices.
In this case, the big one is your choice to stay with someone who doesn't treat you well. What if, instead of getting "verbally explosive," you calmed yourself, then spelled out that when s/he did X, you felt Y - with the full, unspoken intention of giving Partner one clear chance to turn things around, and of breaking up if that failed?
Remaining single unless you're treated well solves the anger, too.
Maybe it would help to think of it this way: Enrage me once, shame on you; enrage me often, shame on me. We are always responsible for our reactions, which includes recognizing that getting angry and expecting others to make things right aren't the only choices. There's also, always, the door.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org.