Helping My Angry Boyfriend

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I’m not sure how to deal with my boyfriends anger outbursts. I’m 24 and he’s 25 and I’ve been with him for 5 months. Over this time, I have learnt a lot about him including his many hurts and issues within his family since childhood, his violent upbringing and his criminal past and violent tendencies, to name a few. His last relationship (where he had a daughter who is now 6 years old) was not a good one, with both of them having domestic violence orders over each other. My boyfriend has since dealt with his anger issues by seeking counseling and anger management and feels now he knows how to handle things better.

Him and I are opposite in personality; he’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert. I’m calm, have a positive outlook on life and am non judgmental, whereas my boyfriend is the opposite when feeling angry. His main issue seems to be his family, the labels that they have on him (that he’s lazy, a failure and so on), and once things don’t work out as they should, or when someone upsets or gets angry at him, he will blow up! Sometimes at them, other times it’ll be while he’s with me, which will include a lot of swearing, going over and over how his family treats him and how it’s so unfair, and he says things like he wants to move out and his family can never visit him, or that he wishes he could kill them so that they wouldn’t be around. I know he wouldn’t do this but it’s a pretty harsh wish and shows me that his anger towards them is pretty deep. When times are good, he gets along pretty well with his family, but at the same time his relationship with his parents has never been a close one.

As for me, being so calm and positive, I feel as though this level of anger will never be directed at me (which it never has been) and when he’s in a bad mood he constantly reminds me that it’s NOT because of me. He also tells me he feels calm around me, and is always completely open and honest about everything. But he can stay in this mood for days, and I don’t understand his thoughts or for holding onto resentment for so long. I’d love some sort of insight into this, so that I can support him a little better and help to channel his anger in the right way, rather than him thinking so horribly towards other people, but making changes instead. Overall I just want to understand him better so that I can help him.

A: I believe you are asking a very important question. Normally with someone who has the kind of background your boyfriend has — with the kind of anger and volatility he’s expressing — I would not encourage continuing the relationship. But he sounds very willing to make changes, has put himself in an ongoing counseling program, and seems to honor you and the relationship. These are good signs.

I would highly recommend couples therapy. It seems clear that he has chosen to be with you because of your calming presence. However. you want to make sure that he continues on his path and you are able to continue feeling love and support for him.

A couples therapist should be able to help with the ongoing development of your relationship.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Dec 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Helping My Angry Boyfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/12/17/helping-my-angry-boyfriend/

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