Dear Tell All: Everybody thinks of my boyfriend as the nicest guy in the world. He has a mild voice and a gentle manner. He’s kind to people he meets and caring toward his friends. He volunteers for good causes. He’s sweet to me almost all the time.
Notice the “almost.” Every once in a while he loses it, spectacularly. His face turns red, his fists clench, and he looks like a monster. He takes a threatening step toward me, and I cower. Whatever it is we’re disagreeing about, I immediately give in.
At first I was baffled about what sets off such behavior, since we normally resolve our fights in a civil manner. But I think I’m beginning to understand the pattern. He can’t stand it when I suggest that he’s unable to recognize negative qualities in himself. He prides himself on being open to change. When I make the case that sometimes he isn’t, it must threaten his self-image.
These blow-ups have always happened behind closed doors, but last week we were with people at Union South when I made a teasing joke about him he didn’t like. He just about exploded, and our friends were alarmed.
I don’t fear my boyfriend physically because I don’t really think he’d ever hurt me. But the public incident made me worry about his temper and wonder if I should do something about it.
Dear Target: Whenever you find yourself using the word “cower” in reference to a partner — even one who seems like Mr. Nice Guy 99 percent of the time — you should do something about it.
One option is therapy. If your boyfriend prides himself on being open to change, it’s the least he can do. Monitor his progress and pack your bags if you don’t see signs of change.
Another option is to pack your bags right now. Given his fragile ego, he might go ballistic when you suggest a visit to a therapist. I don’t like the idea of testing your assumption that this sometime “monster” would never hurt you.
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