I am looking for a way to stop abusing my girlfriend when I'm angry.
I know I cause her a lot of pain. If you have any information that can
help me in this matter I would appreciate it. I love my girlfriend
very much and if I don't get some help I'll lose her. Thank you for
Because you are aware that your anger causes your girlfriend pain, you
realize its destructive potential. To have admitted your need of help
is a real mark of progress. Love is very close to hate on the
emotional scale. As our emotional life matures, we seek to gain
control of these high energy feelings, harnessing their energy,
stopping them from getting out of control by exerting self-control.
But some men, possibly as the result of experiences earlier in life,
can find that those closest to them, those they value most, trigger
the most powerful releases of uncontrolled outbursts of this energy.
This results in acts of violence, hurtful to those he loves, and
making the individual feel unworthy, fearful of the consequences of
his lack of self-control.
Unchecked, these can become habitual responses, revealing a cycle of
cause and effect where strong feelings he cannot channel more
acceptably are vented through violence. Some men seem naturally more
likely to respond to emotional pressure with aggression than others.
This is thought to be a mainly learned response (nurture), but there
is an element of personal make-up here (nature). The aim is to help
you to recognize the causes of this anger, to detect when violent
behavior is likely to occur, and to control and manage that emotional
I believe this is an inward thing. While the frustration of confinement,
physical or emotional, can lead to violence, the history of sports stars
involved in partner abuse suggests that physical exercise alone doesn't
avert the aggressive
response. I suggest three lines of action, self help, seeking help to
manage your anger and seeking advice and help together with your
partner about your relationship.
Anger management groups have a lot to offer men faced with the problem
of partner abuse. This question holds within it the seeds of hope; you
have acknowledged your need of help, and that's progress. In self help
terms, it may help to avoid discussion of important issues with your
partner in the house; your dwelling contains memories of past clashes,
and the environment can cause you both to "defend your territory."
When you feel the tell-tale sensations of mounting anger, the
tell-tale build up of tension, the descent of the "black cloud":
1. Step back - don't invade your partner's
personal space, but keep a respectful distance.
2. State as calmly and cooly as you can
how you feel right now, if it helps, but DON'T argue, WINNING here is
avoiding violence, NOT scoring points.
3. Firmly hold your right wrist with your left
hand... this reminds you of your physicality, and your potential
to hurt. Plus, it restrains you from converting your feelings into violent
action. It lessens the feeling of threat your partner feels, while signalling,
4. If you feel like you want to cry, DON'T
fight this feeling. Let go, machismo is OUT here! Crying is nothing
to be ashamed of, and is preferable in every way to converting your
frustration and anger into abuse.
5. Intentionally, breathe deeply and slowly,
aim to control your inner urge to strike out. Say the words, I'm angry
but I love you! if it helps ... but don't approach her if the anger
is still there.
6. Go for a walk.... NOT a drive!
I hope you will build on the answer here by seeking professional help.
Your local men's center or clinic may have useful experience of this
your doctor or social worker can help you obtain a source of help.
Many anger management workers operate within the prison system, so an
enquiry there might be fruitful, if you felt comfortable to make it.
Or ask at your local library; they often have notices advertising
men's groups and similar resources.
Your behavior is likely to indicate that there is work to be done in
the whole area of you relationship. Have you considered relationship
counselling? As a way of showing your partner how much you value both
her and yourself, this would be a positive step, and the counselling
service can also refer you to anger management resources. I wish you
every success as you work to master your feelings, regain your
girlfriend's trust and renew your relationship. It's worth the effort,
so go for it!
Trevor Harvey, M.Ed combines lecturing in the
School of Health at the University of East Anglia, with writing and counselling,
and is based in Norwich, England. After a 12 year naval career, including the
Falklands War, he became editorial board member/series advisor with The British
Journal of Health Care Management and founder of the men's group AMICUS. He
focused on health-related men's issues, particularly the way men negotiate personal
transition through relationship crises, and is currently studying the management
of information overload. Whenever possible, he combines his passion for photography
with hill walking, and piloting his boat on the local lakes and rivers of eastern