As for me, he criticizes the smallest incident. Two years ago, I wrote him a letter, and had him sign it, stating I will not tolerate his bad behavior and swearing any longer. It said that he needed to calm his anger and to not use abusive language. If he did not stop, our relationship would end by a separation. It went well until about six months ago when the quick anger started again and the rude behavior with people returned. I believe he is bipolar. He can be very thoughtful and caring to the nth degree, until something sparks his anger, and the niceness is dropped. I strive to be happy. I need my world to be as pleasant and peaceful as possible. I try to make other people's day better, not worse. Believe it or not, I still love him, but I do not like him. What should I do now, please?
— Bette R., Ypsilanti, Michigan
As your litany unfolded, I could hear readers muttering, "Walk out on the grouchy S.O.B." But this is a case where you cannot leave until you make some basic decisions. The first is the most important: Is this a situation you can fix? To answer yes, the following must be true:
- Your husband recognizes and acknowledges the problem.
- He regrets losing his temper.
- He asks for help.
- He wants to include you in the healing process.
- You see signs of improvement when you take action.
I'd also like to mention a bit more about his anger. At his age, I assume he's retired. Men who leave a job that meant everything to them wind up, through no fault of their own, feeling bitter and wronged. It's this internal bitterness that causes the outbursts. He feels better by making others feel worse. His sense of loss is compensated for by showing others that he is in distress. But since he doesn't want to admit that he is in distress, he displays his hidden feelings as anger.
There are other ingredients that come to mind, such as his need to be right. This is a symptom of control issues. Perhaps at his work he had authority and could tell others how to do their job. Perhaps he was always a finicky perfectionist or someone who never could be pleased. Age may have exacerbated those tendencies. This happens because older people often let down their social boundaries. Their excuse for turning boorish is "I'm too old to care what other people think." That's sad but quite common.
I hope I've given you enough information to make the right decision. You don't need to live with an insufferable grouch who won't admit that he's the one who needs to get right, not the waiter who tips a coffee cup or a clerk who hasn't memorized a store's entire inventory. I think you are well equipped to make some hard choices.
Next question: I'm so in love that I'm afraid to screw things up. How do I stop myself?
Every week, Deepak will be answering questions from readers just like you—ask your question now!
Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
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