Double Take

'When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you – George Harrison


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‘Friends say I am in an abusive relationship…’

Q
All my friends tell me that I am in an “abusive relationship”, but I think they are wrong and they just don’t understand. I love my partner because he is deeply caring towards me, as well as being a wonderful lover and companion. He is also extremely intelligent and creative and generous. His downside is that he is prone to sudden mood swings and has a violent temper. He has never hit me – although, if I am honest, I suppose sometimes I have been frightened that he might do so – but he does shout at me and sometimes uses quite horrible language. As I say, I love him and feel that I understand him, and when things are good between us, they are really good. Is there anything that I can do to avoid provoking him (he often loses his temper because I have said something that he doesn’t agree with) or, more importantly, to help him stop behaving like this?

RJR
My feeling is that even though we all adapt our behavior sometimes within a relationship, to handle each other when we are out of balance, it is useful to really identify what is ours and what are our partner’s issues and whose responsibility it is in any given situation to step back or step up. For you to feel you have to avoid provoking your partner into anger, for me feels like you are taking on too much responsibility. I can understand your compassion, your love and your understanding for your partner, but I am also hearing your fear and your tendency for him to take advantage of your good nature at times. You can’t stop him behaving in any particular way. That will be his choice and is his responsibility. You can examine your role in the relationship, as you are, and ask yourself what advice you would give a friend if this were their scenario.

NS
Do your friends say that you deserve something better than this? I’d be surprised if they don’t. You sound willing to take responsibility for your partner’s lapses into abusive behaviour (yes, that is what this seems to be) and you want to see what you can do to prevent it happening. Shouldn’t your partner be the one looking into stopping this happening? Fear of being assaulted (verbally or physically) should not be part of a loving relationship, and I am sure that you know that. Look at whether you are having to sacrifice too much of yourself in this relationship. And look at whether you are selling yourself short.

RJR/NS
The key really does seem to be to step back and ask what you would say to a friend who was in this position. And also to look at whether you love your partner or whether you love only part of them (or an idea of them that you have). And are you being treated with love and respect? When you are able to answer these questions clearly and honestly, you should see a course of action. When you are able to, try to talk (or write) to your partner to spell out how you see things and how you feel. Your situation does not seem to be a happy one, and so you need it to change in some way. In the end, only you can find that way, through truthful reflection.