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Is Relationship with Angry, Defensive, Stonewalling Boyfriend Worth Working on?

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From Canada: I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 2 years. He was sexually abused as a young child and never told anyone. He was bullied as a child as well. At 18 he joined the Marines for 6 years. He has been a corrections officer for 9 years and works in a very toxic environment.

He has a good heart, but gets angry easily and is very defensive and constantly stonewalls me. When he is angry he makes assumptions and when I try talking to him to clarify things, he doesn’t want to listen. We could be talking about something and if it aggravates him, he just wants me to shut up and not talk about the subject. This is hard for me because I end up feeling silenced, invisible, unimportant. Sometimes he perceives my desire to discuss something as me trying to change his mind. He says he’s afraid to tell me what he really thinks because he thinks I will argue my point. He’s even lied to me before, stating that if he tells me what I want to hear I’ll shut up.

I don’t want him to feel like I don’t accept his point of view, but I feel he never accepts mine. I feel if he listened to me without getting angry I’d listen to him. It’s hard for me to want to listen when my point of view and feelings are not being heard and he refuses to listen to me. If I continue trying to talk to him he starts telling me to be quiet or to shut the f up. Then he leaves for hours or for the night. If he comes back he refuses to talk to me until the next day. I’ve tried to stop him from leaving by standing in front of him and begging him not to leave. This makes him more angry and he grabs my wrist or arm and twists it behind my back leaving bruises.

He makes promises or commitments to me and doesn’t keep them. Then I bring it up, he gets defensive and we’re fighting and he is leaving again refusing to talk. He’s lived with me for a year and half and doesn’t pay any bills except the phone bill because he has a house sitting empty that he’s been promising to sell and has just recently taken action. He spends money on games that he plays on his phone. In the last month he spent almost $300.

We saw a counselor for about 6 months together and separately. At first the counselor implied that I should end things because my boyfriend doesn’t respect me. Then he started telling me that I need to ask my boyfriend what’s bothering him when he’s angry.

I feel that I cannot always focus on my boyfriend’s feelings when I feel that my feelings don’t matter and my reality is never validated. When he’s angry he cusses at me, calls me names, says I’m selfish and controlling, that I’m a crybaby, tells me I’m a bad mother, that it’s no wonder certain friends don’t call me. He’s made comments about my ex-husband leaving me. Basically any hurtful situation I’ve gone through that he knows about he uses that information as ammunition to hurt me in the future. He always apologizes days later, saying he was just angry and didn’t meant what he said.

We started online counseling and he agreed to read books about improving your relationship. It just seems like he’s going through the motions and not really applying himself. He wants to put off reading and when I want to talk about why I think it’s important, he’s gets mad. Recently I asked him to move out and told him I want to break up because I’m sick of the constant fighting and I’m so unhappy. But I miss him and he does have a lot of good qualities. He wants to still date and live separately and continue to work on our relationship. He agrees he doesn’t communicate well and needs to get help for his anger. I’m so confused and don’t know how much of this is my fault. How do I know when to call it quits.

Is Relationship with Angry, Defensive, Stonewalling Boyfriend Worth Working on?

Answered by on -


From what you’ve written, it’s well past time to call it quits. You’ve tried. You’ve honestly, honestly tried. But this situation sounds like one hand trying to clap.

For reasons I can’t understand on the basis of just a letter, it’s more important for your boyfriend to stay in control than to be close to you. He needs to deal with his past trauma and the hurtful ways he contains his anxiety. You can’t do that for him. He needs to man up and shoulder his responsibilities — both to himself and to you. That means doing his therapy and willingly taking on doing his share financially and in terms of doing household chores.

I don’t think things will change if you invite him back in. You can’t do all the heavy lifting in this relationship, and he shouldn’t expect you to. If you want to keep him in your life, date him but don’t live with him. And if you do date, insist that he pay his way.

Frankly, I think you deserve far better. You are in your thirties. Only you can decide how much more time you are willing to invest in this. There really are guys out there who can offer you the same positive qualities without the layer of anger and control.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Is Relationship with Angry, Defensive, Stonewalling Boyfriend Worth Working on?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Is Relationship with Angry, Defensive, Stonewalling Boyfriend Worth Working on?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 7 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.