Anger explosions causing worry
Dear Annie: My son is in his 40s and throws temper tantrums! Any little thing can set him off. It’s so bad that his son asks him if he’s mad, fearing that something has set him off. He is going to marriage counseling and admits he has a temper, but nothing changes.
When he loses it, he becomes like a different person. His eyes glaze over, and he throws things. I’m concerned that it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.
I’m wondering if there could be a chemical imbalance, or some other medical issues, that control his flying off the handle. His relationships are suffering. This has been a problem in his previous relationships, too. Is there anything I can do to help? — Worried-Sick Parent
Dear Worried-Sick Parent: Calling them temper tantrums makes him sound like he is still a little boy. He is an adult. What you describe could be intermittent explosive disorder, which is characterized by sudden angry outbursts.
While marriage counseling is a good thing, it sounds like he also needs his own therapist who specializes in anger management. He could also attend anger management support groups. You sound like a wonderful parent. The best thing you can do is not baby him and encourage him to get professional help.
Dear Annie: I’d like to offer an idea for the man who finds it difficult to express his feelings in therapy. He described my husband perfectly.
One day it hit me that my professional, high-functioning, “normal” husband might have mild Asperger’s syndrome. Although we were both shocked that it was possible nobody had figured out until he was in his 60s, we pushed forward.
We read articles and books on Asperger’s syndrome that perfectly described his emotional unavailability and communication problem. We suddenly became aware that neither of us had really understood the thought process and communication of the other all these years. We have been using new techniques to further our understanding of each other.
Now, rather than arguing, we try to reframe our discussion and guide each other to understanding. It has been an epiphany to realize how often we are actually on the same page. I often ask how he feels about issues, to help both of us realize that genuine, deeply caring feelings are in there.
After years of being unable to communicate well on an emotional level, we understand each other far better and have developed a deeper connection than we have ever had. We move forward together as a work in progress.
Now that we’re recently retired, we do more together, travel more, talk more and love each other more. I encourage others to consider the possibility of Asperger’s syndrome before they give up on a loving relationship. — Still Under Construction
Dear Still Under Construction: I applaud you for taking the initiative to really work on your relationship by better understanding your husband. Your letter highlights the importance of communication, empathy and understanding — three key ingredients for a healthy and joyful relationship.
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