Red Responds: She Flies Off the Handle for No Reason

P.C. in Las Vegas writes:

I am currently involved with a woman whom I care about very deeply. Most of the time she is a doll, but sometimes she flies off the handle for what seems like no reason. Am I going to develop a better understanding of her? I would like this relationship to work. Or should I just move on?

Dear P.C.,

Your girlfriend has some quirks, and her hot temper can be a little bit scary. However, this is something that can be worked through. Many of her blow-ups are a direct result of her personal baggage. Because she is quite spirited, she doesn’t always see how her behavior looks to – or affects – people close to her.

In an ideal world, she would recognize that she has some deeply suppressed issues, and willingly enter into therapy to work through them. But, the world isn’t always ideal, so you are going to have to point her in the right direction. Just be careful in how you approach the subject. She’s not at the place where she sees her temper as a problem. To her, it’s just strong opinion, or venting, or blowing off steam. She thinks that you should be able to understand and handle this aspect of her personality.

Getting her to agree to counseling is going to be a process, but it may be less of a challenge if you bring up couples counseling to strengthen your communication skills, in an effort to ensure a long and happy future. You can even express your concerns about your ability to deal with her outbursts, and point out that couples counseling will be an effective tool for you. Because of her short fuse, and ability to hold a grudge, talk to her about this in a manner such that she won’t feel as if you are being critical, or pointing out her flaws. You’ve got to keep it positive and productive, or this conversation isn’t likely to go well.

In the event that the conversation goes badly, ask her to consider the idea for you – and for the sake of the relationship. Explain to her that even though you want things to work out, her outbursts make you hesitant when it comes to the long-term vision of this relationship. Point out that this has been an ongoing issue that hasn’t resolved itself, and the healthy thing to do is get some help.

While in no way am I suggesting you lay an ultimatum at her feet, if it comes down to therapy or losing you, she will begrudgingly go. After a session or two, her anger management issues will begin to be addressed. As you learn to understand her triggers and reactions, you’ll find it easier to navigate an episode, or avoid the eruption. In turn, she will also start to understand that, “it’s just how I am!” is an excuse, and that she is often making a choice. That realization will be her first step in learning greater discipline and self-control. She’ll always have her moments – but with work, these will be fewer… and less intense.

If you don’t tackle this problem within the next three months, her outbursts will continue – and you will throw in the towel. It’s just not how you want to live. But if you decide that this relationship is worth the risk and the effort, counseling is key. With both of you working together for the betterment of each other and this relationship, things will drastically improve.

Good luck!
Ext. 9226

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