I'm engaged to a wonderful man I truly want to spend the rest of my life with. However, there is the one problem of our mutual anger management issues.
I grew up with alcoholic parents. My mother told me that people who grow up with alcoholic parents (she had 'em too), often feel unsettled when things are too calm and when my relationship seemed on too even a keel, I'd pick a fight.
He was working full time and was very tired (I was still finishing up college at the time and only got a job as a substitute teacher toward the end of our living together (we've lived together on and off for the 4, going on 5 years we've been together, due to having to move for jobs, etc). His sex drive dropped. As our relationship was very new at that point, I was frustrated and I'd allow things to snowball until I was threatening to leave.
His reaction was as over the top as my actions. He'd threaten to commit suicide, etc. It was very alarming. Usually by that point, I'd capitulate and stay. (I don't think I ever really intended to leave him...it was just a very unhealthy way of trying to make it clear I was having problems with our relationship and the lack of intimacy). We'd have huge blow-out fights, with me threatening to leave and him threatening suicide until we both stopped and apologized and made up.
Then he had to move to another town for his job, so we were seeing each other on the weekends (as we had when we first met). Things were fairly smooth, but that summer, I went to Europe to visit friends, alone. Bad idea. The last night of my stay in Europe, I went on a "pub crawl" and got very, very, very trashed. I had a one night stand I will regret to the day I die. I don't remember it almost at all. I do remember my garbled thinking was, "At least somebody wants me". Keep in mind I was 24 at the time. Upshot: I was infected with chlamydia and herpes (I didn't find out about the herpes for another two years, but that's a different story all together). I infected him, of course which necessitated telling him I cheated on him. It was predictably awful, but he's still with me, bless him. I am sure people will say it was morally wrong for me to cheat on him and to not want to tell him (until a f**king disease forced my hand), but I really didn't want to hurt him. My thinking was that it would have been better for me to deal with the guilt on my own. You can rest assured I'm NEVER doing that again (it was the first time I'd ever done that to a boyfriend). I HATE the way it made me feel. Anyway, after much apologizing, we got through it. He loves me, I love him. It seemed to have made us stronger.
Flash forward another year and we're living together. This time, though, I am the breadwinner and he's living with me, out of a job. He was looking for a job, but it was a very difficult time for someone in his industry looking for a job. Like many men, he puts a lot of his self-worth into his job. Not having a job was very stressful for him, I know. I was likewise stressed, supporting the two of us on a teacher's salary. I was incredibly unhappy with my job (again, another story unto itself). This mix of things had us fighting again...huge, horrible fights (about 3 in the 9 months we lived together). I'd get upset with him about something or he'd already be in a bad mood and it would start. Our fights were terrible. When I recall them, I'm horrified. Once, he got so angry, he stormed out of the apartment. I waited and finally broke down in a panic and called his Cell Phone . He was still very angry and threatening to kill himself by throwing himself under the railroad tracks. I was terrified that he was really unhinged enough (he throws things around when he's angry or hits walls or punches tables) to go through with it. Thoroughly cowed, I started sobbing on the phone, apologizing. Finally, after an hour or two, he came home. There was another one, similar to it, with him being the one threatening to leave and me begging him not to. He grabbed my arms at some point so tight that I had fingermarks on my arms the next few days. The last one, he stormed out of the house, and I didn't call or beg him to stay. I just let him leave. He called me 3 hours later, having walked 12 miles to a library and asked me to pick him up. I did and he apologized and reconciled.
After that, he finally got a job and moved again to another city. I finished up the school year and then went to Europe for a graduate program (don't worry, I didn't cheat...didn't even want to) and then after that, took a job at a school in a foreign country for 5 months. I just got back a few months ago and we are now living in the town where is job is. When I got back from Europe this past summer and before I left for the foreign country, he proposed.
Our relationships seems to cycle back and forth. We haven't had any major blowout since, but I'm always wondering when/if there will be any more. I really hope not. Oh, I forgot that we had another big blowout over the phone while I was in Europe. Our conversation ended with him saying that he didn't know if he wanted to be together anymore. At any rate, I couldn't and didn't call him back after he slammed the phone down in my face (he's done that too, on numerous occasions). He called back three hours later and apologized and we reconciled.
I guess we are both passionate people with anger problems. I get mine from being the child of folks who fought all the time ("F**k you, a**hole!" and "Shut up, you fat b***h!"). I've always been a bit high strung and insecure (who wouldn't be having grown up with that?) I get very irritable. For the record, I realize that there are certain things I do that set him off: getting pissy, threatening him, making him feel like he's backed into a corner with no way out. I've worked really, really hard to try and change how I react. I'm much calmer now. Part of that is maturity, I guess and part of it is practice. I also admit what I'm doing wrong.
My fiance, on the other hand, has never swerved from the belief that his methods of expressing anger (the yelling, hanging up phones in my face, punching things, throwing things) are normal. He has agree to go with me to anger management counseling (which we haven't been able to do for a variety of reasons).
Is there any way I can make him see that his reactions to things are over-the-top?
Any other comments? I do want to say that obviously we both have many other qualities that compensate for these problems. And despite my parents' fighting, they are still together, as are his parents. I think we both know that life isn't perfect. We are both very loyal people (and yes, even though I did cheat the one time, I'm not going to beat myself up for it after he said he's forgiven me).
I do think the cheating was related to our blowouts. I think the anger he didn't really manifest at the time of my confession was coming out in those times. But it isn't just that. He was inappropriately expressing anger, you will recall, before that even happened. A lot of it stems from his childhood. He's Asian-American (I'm white) and he was picked on a lot in school by mostly white and black kids. He got beaten up frequently and I think he hasn't really come to terms with it. Also, his older brother (who is 5 years older) sexually molested him a few times when he was 10. He and his brother don't enjoy a close relationship at all, even though he tries to contact his brother once in a while (his brother doens't have contact with his family). All these things I think, have thrown shadows onto his psyche.
There's a lot more to everything, of course, but this is long enough. Any comments or advice would be appreciated. Thanks.