Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: Rager’s Girlfriend Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Rager’s Girlfriend” whose boyfriend flew into a rage after she brought him to a friend of a friend’s art exhibit he didn’t appreciate. “He swung open the doors at his place, with one almost hitting me in the face. He proceeded to take up most of the bed, not offer me clothes to sleep in and turned on the TV incredibly loud and passed out.” She wondered if she was right to feel concerned about his behavior. After the jump, find out how she handled the situation.

Wendy, thank you and your readers for your much needed input. I am proud to note that I did approach him a few days after I wrote this letter, addressing most, if not all, of the things you suggested. I shared how much his behavior upset me and concerned me for the future of this relationship. I shared that no matter his mood, I won’t tolerate being treated that way and if that’s how I can anticipate him to act when he gets angry or frustrated, then I can’t see myself being part of the relationship. I also expressed concerned that if a new or random opportunity arises, I don’t want to feel that I can’t invite my significant other, or be afraid of his reaction if it doesn’t turn out to be to his liking.

He was really taken a back by all of this; it was clear that he felt awful and was incredibly apologetic. He said that his short answer (or lack of answer) was because he was ashamed of how he acted and deferred back to an old strategy of just shutting down when it comes to conflict. He said the last thing he wants is for me to feel like we can’t do things together because he likes and looks forward to the random/new things that I get involved and can share with him. Regarding the anger, he actually opened up and shared that his household was a very angry place prior to his parents divorce (when he was 14). He participated in some counseling in the few years after, but feels that maybe looking into some additional help now would be a positive thing. I was completely surprised that he brought up this possibility on his own.

Being someone who’s gone through therapy myself to help overcome some things in my past, I really respect the motivation because I think getting yourself through that door can be the most challenging part. So, I’m not sure where this relationship will go, but I’m glad to have stood up for myself and opened up these lines of communication : )

 
Thank you so much for your update and best of luck to you in the future. Please do keep your wits about you, though, and be alert for future red flags. Hopefully, you won’t see any, but caution is your friend.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

43 comments… add one
  • avatar

    don September 15, 2011, 12:16 pm

    I guess the therapy/counselling business will continue to grow and prosper for a long time to come, even through the economic stagnation.

    anybody looking for a job should go to community college and become a therapist.

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    • avatar

      Rachel September 15, 2011, 1:07 pm

      Community college? Right…

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      thyme September 15, 2011, 1:08 pm

      …and then get a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s degree, and then do 3,000 of supervised work before you can take the exam to get licensed. And that’s if you don’t want to be a clinical psychologist bad enough to get a PhD. Becoming a therapist is hard work, it’s not just a few cc classes.

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      • avatar

        Rachel September 15, 2011, 1:11 pm

        Thanks thyme. I was too annoyed to construct an intelligent response. My sister is nearly done with her PsyD, which entails a 5 year graduate program on top of a bachelor’s degree. And she will still have to be supervised for another year after she graduates in order to get a real job.

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      • avatar

        thyme September 15, 2011, 1:14 pm

        Oh yeah, I forgot to mention PsyDs. Yay for your sister! I bet that cost a pretty penny too; PsyD schools are way expensive. I hope she is very successful in her career!

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      • avatar

        don September 15, 2011, 1:20 pm

        eh, do whatever you want to do.

        its all amusing. over-diagnosed and over medicated culture.
        Therapy is good / useful. In this case it just sounds stupid. Therapists could become a crutch if you run to them, every time you have a small problem. Based on some comments on this site, therapists are indeed a crutch for a lot of people.

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        amber September 15, 2011, 1:29 pm

        so having an anger problem, growing up in an angry household and having a tendency to shut down instead of dealing with your feelings are a small problem? or a crutch? i’d say it would be a positive way to help improve the way you communicate with others.

        there are plenty of cases were people are over medicated and over diagnosed but this guy clearly does not deal with his anger in a good way and wants help in fixing this issue.

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      • theattack

        theattack September 15, 2011, 2:07 pm

        Therapists are not people that give you advice and become your crutch. A good therapist is there to guide you in your process of becoming independent and strong.

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster September 15, 2011, 1:31 pm

        Oh feel free to use my comments on this site in your analogy. Scroll through. Because if you think a violent temper is a small problem, the problem of my schizophrenic mother must be microscopic.

        Again. This is the reason people who NEED therapy (like my mother- who also needs medication) don’t get the help they need is because of the stigma.

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      • avatar

        Marcie September 16, 2011, 12:04 pm

        Thank you for saying this! I’m trying to start the long process of being a licensed counselor. In TN, you have to take 3 tests (one being 400 bucks!), then start working on your 3,000 hours, PLUS paying a licensed counselor for supervision. Then you take the exam, and you pretty much get paid the same as when you didn’t have a license. It’s really hard work that doesn’t end after you get your Masters degree.

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    • avatar

      AKchic September 15, 2011, 1:12 pm

      Thanks for denigrating community colleges and therapists all in one sentence.

      It takes years to become a therapist. Classes aren’t enough. You need the hours of practicum experience/training, the state licensing/certifications, etc.

      Therapists don’t always go into clinical work, either. Some end up in administration, helping to ensure that all state/federal guidelines are being met, that the therapists the clients are working with are qualified and well-trained, etc.

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    • avatar

      thyme September 15, 2011, 1:18 pm

      I sort of miss the purple thumbs.

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      phoenix28 September 15, 2011, 1:25 pm

      Meh don’t feed the troll guys. Reading comments like this one makes me miss the purple thumbs.

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        melikeycheesecake September 15, 2011, 2:09 pm

        Yeah my vote is to bring the purple thumbs back.

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      • avatar

        MissDre September 15, 2011, 2:44 pm

        I disagree about the purple thumbs. I’m happy they are gone. Best way to avoid negativity is just ignore the trolls.

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      • avatar

        thyme September 15, 2011, 3:05 pm

        I agree. When there’s a ton of comments on a post, that’s how I decided which comments to read: the ones that had a lot of thumbs, of either or both colors. The controversial stuff is as interesting as the widely supported stuff. I took the purple thumbs literally as “disagree,” not as daggers of hatred. What if we had a 3rd option for the haters, like “agree,” “respectfully disagree,” and “just mean.” Comments with lots of “just mean” clicks would disappear. I dunno. Perhaps that wouldn’t make a difference.

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        ForeverYoung September 15, 2011, 8:19 pm

        I agree, I always took mass quantities of purple thumbs as “disagree” and not “hate everything about you” as well, and really miss them. It’s annoying to have to write a response that just says, I respectfully disagree with your opinion.

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      • avatar

        ForeverYoung September 15, 2011, 8:20 pm

        I would rather the comments that are ridiculously negative and disrespectful in an unhelpful way (we all know them when we see them) were more heavily regulated and the thumbs were brought back.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 15, 2011, 3:28 pm

        Yeah I agree it is better not to have them, then if somebody really disagrees with a comment, then the actually have to say something instead of doing a drive by purple thumbing!

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster September 15, 2011, 1:07 pm

      Comments like this rub me the wrong way. Especially the little quip about community college- because all therapists are crackpots? or because community college doesn’t educate anyone well? How condescending.

      I understand why some people feel therapy is thrown around whenever there’s a problem. It seems like the instant solution to a problem, but good therapy can be very successful. It’s not an easy solution and it takes time and effort and commitment. But it’s up to the person in treatment to make that effort, and it’s a hard thing to do- to face your demons. It’s a brave and healthy and mature thing to do. Some things require therapy to overcome. An anger problem because of an abusive household certainly sounds like a tough thing to overcome. I’ve been in therapy for about a year now, and I only wish I hadn’t let the stigma keep me from doing it sooner. So yes, hopefully therapy will be around for some time. And hopefully, LW’s bf will benefit from it the way that I have.

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  • avatar

    6napkinburger September 15, 2011, 12:36 pm

    But did he ever explain WHY he was angry? Like, what about the art-show set him off? I’m SO curious!

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      katiebird September 15, 2011, 12:40 pm

      He probably did explain to the LW why it upset him (at least I hope he did), but I think the LW purposefully left it out of her letter, along with the exact nature of the art exhibit, because it would be pretty specific and could be used to identify her.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest September 15, 2011, 1:24 pm

        What’s more important here—anonymity or our curiousity? I say our curiousity 🙂

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 15, 2011, 3:31 pm

        You have to becareful, you for go to use ‘amiright’ people might take it wrong haha.

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        lets_be_honest September 15, 2011, 3:40 pm

        You’re so right! Thank god no more purple thumbs.

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 15, 2011, 3:36 pm

        Onslaught of purple thumbs incoming.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 16, 2011, 9:50 am

        forgot ugh, that was my stupid phone! sorry!

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    • avatar

      thyme September 15, 2011, 1:11 pm

      ME too!!! Please tell us something, LW. Feel free to alter identifying information, but tell us something!

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      MsMisery September 15, 2011, 1:17 pm

      It could have been something totally unrelated. How many times has a loved one gone off on us, only to tell us later “Sorry, I’ve just had such a bad day…” We wish we could leave that stuff at the door or resolve it properly, but alas. Unfortunately this guy got out of whack to an alarming degree.

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        6napkinburger September 15, 2011, 2:24 pm

        Totally possible, and then, I would understand the scenario. But as it is, we are left with a guy who, due to deep-seeded, fairly legitimate reasons, didn’t know how to deal with his anger caused by ________________.

        Until told otherwise, I’m sticking with my roving band of dadists.

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      • avatar

        thyme September 15, 2011, 3:07 pm

        I think that’s an excellent idea.

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  • avatar

    Kerrycontrary September 15, 2011, 12:54 pm

    I’m really glad to hear that he explained his behavior but as Wendy said I would proceed with caution. I wouldn’t have the patience to deal with someone like this, but everyone is different and you seem like a more understanding person. Good luck LW and I hope everything works out well 🙂

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    MsMisery September 15, 2011, 1:19 pm

    This was a pleasant update to a really disturbing original letter. That he was open to her concerns is good and that he is willing to further sort out his issues in therapy is better. A crappy home-life/childhood can take forever to sort out. It sounds like both parties here are planning to be proactive in what will make them both better partners and better people. Good luck!

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  • Budj

    budjer September 15, 2011, 12:48 pm

    I’m glad to hear he owned up to his poor behavior…best of luck.

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    danielle September 15, 2011, 5:40 pm

    Hmmm, glad the talk went so well. I think that’s why communication is so important – what became break up land before a serious discussion looks much more managable now. Good luck!

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  • katie

    katie September 15, 2011, 8:44 pm

    i am very glad you stood up for yourself! good job!

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  • avatar

    YouGoGirl September 15, 2011, 9:46 pm

    There is often a cycle to abusive behavior. First the abuser becomes enraged at his victim and directs physical and or emotional abuse towards her (Phase 1). Then he apologizes profusely and promises to never do it again (Phase 2). The victim and abuser enjoy a sort of “honeymoon” while the tension gradually builds (Phase 3) until the abuser again vents his rage at the victim, thus beginning another cycle of abuse. Sometimes during Phase 3 the tension the victim feels is so unbearable that she will provoke the abuser to get the abuse over with so she can enjoy another honeymoon phase.

    The boyfriend may be genuinely sorry for his bad bahavior and sincere in his intention to get therapy. Because of his abusive childhood, he probably regards this kind of behavior as normal and it will be difficult but not impossible for him to change his behavior. The letter writer should be alert to the possibity of future abuse and should be aware that he could revert to this behavior during times of stress.

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    • avatar

      Shadowflash1522 September 16, 2011, 11:57 am

      Ok this has bothered me for a while, so if someone could explain it to me I would much appreciate it:

      There is a discernible pattern to abusive behavior as described above, yes. But what time frame are we talking in here? Phases 1,2,3 all in the space of 3 days? 3 weeks? 3 years? For example, the definition of bipolar disorder is 5 manic/depressive episodes in 5 weeks. Obviously there exist borderline cases, but all relationships fluctuate; where is the line between abuse and an occasional outburst?

      I’m an engineer, I like precision and this confuses me.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow September 16, 2011, 12:07 pm

        It’s a cycle, but it doesn’t follow a set schedule. It can be different for everyone depending on their personalities, relationship dynamics, and circumstances. The “honeymoon” phase often can last for months…

        And as an aside, I’m not sure that’s accurate information regarding the diagnosis of Bipolar… Obviously the severity and duration of symptoms play a factor, but it’s not usally that cut-and-dry as far as the number of episodes within a certain time frame. I’m pretty sure if you even have just ONE manic episode (even without the depression following), you can get a diagnosis.

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      • avatar

        demoiselle September 16, 2011, 3:22 pm

        And the honeymoon part abuse cycles tend to start out long and get progressively shorter, just as the abuse tends to escalate. But not always.

        The LW’s update is one which could suggest a one time event accompanied by remorse. Unfortunately, it also looks very like a typical abuser’s response after an explosion (apologies, shame, and most ominously, pointing the finger at his parents for his own outburst/bad behavior).

        The only way to know what the situation is with this man is to see whether this pattern repeats. I hope it doesn’t.

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