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Boyfriend’s Disproportional Rage

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My 18-year marriage ended nearly five years ago. With counseling, I learned that my ex likely has some level of NPD. It is important to me to not repeat this situation, so I evaluate new relationships carefully and proceed slowly.

For eight months, I have dated a 47-year-old man whom I will call Charlie here. We each have two children. For the most part, things have been great. We have much in common and we get along well with recreation and getting things done alike.

Unfortunately, clashes have become frequent and seemingly without a reasonable cause. When Charlie gets upset, he combusts. He gets loud, harsh and relentless. My attempts to stay calm tend to fire him up further.

Later, he apologizes for saying mean things, but sometimes he doesn’t remember what he said. When calm, he can discuss with me what happened, and we strategize for making positive changes. At times, we are able to implement those changes, but not consistently enough to gain trust and confidence. When Charlie is angry, he tends to revert back to his ballistic communications.

Recently, we both had to travel for work. Charlie also has several stressful areas occurring in his life with family, friends, recreational groups and work. I listen and offer support, but I am growing concerned about why so many areas of his life are in conflict.

Recent clashes have mostly stemmed from Charlie being insecure about a normal function of my job — attending events and networking on behalf of my employer.

However, our latest was about a remark I made that Charlie found insensitive. I swapped staying over at his house from Saturday night to Friday night for logistics for plans with my 16-year-old daughter. While attending a sporting event together on Saturday, Charlie expressed his disappointment that I wasn’t staying that night also and began to question my plans with my daughter (the details were still somewhat tentative). I remarked that I felt he was being critical of my spending time with my daughter.

Charlie stewed throughout the event and then blew up, finally explaining that my comment offended him. Despite a lengthy conversation and my apologizing about my wording, he raged throughout the next day via text; he eventually issued an ugly break-up threat last night. He claims that I am responsible for creating a dynamic that causes him to become ballistic.

Boyfriend’s Disproportional Rage

Answered by on -

A.

 I admire the cautious approach and the fact that you don’t want to end up with another man with narcissistic traits. However, the anger, jealousy, and verbal abuse create a similar dynamic for you. Your emotional well-being is in orbit around him. Rather than see these problems coming his own insecurities and inability to self-regulate his emotions, he is pointing at your actions as a cause.

The fact that these conflicts are emerging regularly with others is important. It sounds more like a characterlogical issue with him than something you keep doing wrong. Also- the blackouts from his anger would suggest he gets overwhelmed by his emotions. When you put these issues together it sounds clear that he has an anger management issue.

Typically, this isn’t something you’ll want to treat in couple therapy. This is an issue he will have to deal with on his own. I’d recommend a support group for you (there are many in your area) to help you set limits with him. There are a number of anger management groups as well as individuals in your area who specialize in helping men control their abuse.

I’d look for a support group for yourself first — most likely through a woman’s center. Then I would use that support to help you explain to him that his behavior has become unacceptable and that he needs to work on it in therapy if the relationship is going to continue. My concern is that these issues are not likely to get better on their own — and over time may continue to get worse.

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

Boyfriend’s Disproportional Rage

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

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Boyfriend’s Disproportional Rage. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/10/28/boyfriends-disproportional-rage/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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