Recently, I invited him to a close friend’s boyfriend’s party, at which the boyfriend was showing some of his film/art work. I really had no idea what to expect as I’d only met him a handful of times since they’ve been together, and never had seen any of his work. Turns out that this presentation went on for an hour, and was really out there – loud music, flashing images, etc. I didn’t understand it, but I appreciated the hard work that was put into it and was happy to be there to support my friend’s boyfriend and their relationship.
Unfortunately, I could see Ben progressively getting irritated throughout the presentation and at the end was fully in a rage. He was saying really rude things about the work (that I feel is fine to think, but keep in until after we left), that fortunately my friends (sitting around us) did not overhear. I politely asked him to save it until after we left. He then walked out of the party without saying goodbye to anyone (this was the first time he met these friends), and he didn’t speak to me on the way back to his place.
I apologized for putting him in the situation, sharing that I didn’t know what to expect. 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. I stayed because I hate leaving things in a bad place, and hoped that he would mellow out once he was at home.
The next morning, he acted like nothing happened and went back to his normal affectionate self. I took the opportunity then to share that even if he is angry or exhausted, I’d like him to remember that I’m there (even if it’s just saying ‘good night’ in this type of situation), especially when I didn’t do anything to intentionally hurt him. He apologized and things have since been fine. But I’m concerned about how he’ll behave/treat me when there is something substantial (in my opinion) to be angry about. I mentioned this to him and he said that he doesn’t know how to answer that.
I care about him a lot and don’t want to write him off, however I want to conscious of the things I am looking for in a partner. Am I being overly concerned about this? — Rager’s Girlfriend
Playing devil’s advocate for a minute, I’m imagining a scenario where I might feel similarly uncomfortable at a friend of a friend’s party or performance or art exhibit. Say, if Drew brought me to a co-worker’s art show and it was filled with sexist, racist, or homophobic works, I’d definitely want to leave as soon as possible. I’d probably even leave without saying good-bye to the host. But would I treat Drew the way your boyfriend treated you? Hell, no. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. I’d assume he had no idea what the content of the exhibit would be because if he had, he never would have dragged me to it. I’d feel sympathetic for him that he had to work with such an apparent bigot and I’d let him decide what kind of excuse to give the bigot for our quick departure. And then I’d let it be known I didn’t want to socialize or be friends with that bigot — a declaration I’d think would be expected — and drop it.
What I wouldn’t do is become inappropriately enraged and take out my anger on Drew. I wouldn’t try to make a scene at the exhibit or in any way embarrass Drew or myself. I wouldn’t act like a complete asshole back at home or “punish” Drew for something that was out of his control. And if I did do any of those things, I sure as shit wouldn’t wake up the next morning acting as if everything were honky-dory, as your boyfriend did.
But it isn’t even your boyfriend’s peculiar behavior that’s the most alarming here. It’s what he said when you expressed your concern about how he might treat you in the future if he had something substantial to be angry at you with. The correct answer to such a question would be to calm your fears and assure you that although he can’t promise to never be angry at you, he can promise to always treat you with respect and talk to you about what’s bothering him in a rational way. Instead he said, “I don’t know how to answer that.” What the hell kind of BS response that? It makes me think that he knows exactly what his answer is and he knows if he were to tell you the truth that he’d scare you away.
This man has definitely waved some bright red flags in your face. Proceed with caution. Don’t let this subject die. Talk to him again about the night of the party and how unsettling his behavior was. Tell him you saw a side of him you weren’t previously aware of and that it deeply concerned you. Let him know that you weren’t satisfied with his answer about how he may potentially handle his anger toward you in the future, and ask him to be honest about whether he has experienced an issue in the past with managing his anger.
Pay attention to his answer and his reaction. If he replies with anger, that’s obviously a bad sign. If he opens up about issues he might have exhibited in the past or in previous relationships, then at least he’s aware he has a problem and that’s positive sign. If he’s aware of the problem, then maybe he’ll be open to seeking help for it (in the form of therapy). If he isn’t, then I would highly encourage you to reconsider this relationship and decide whether you really want to risk essentially being with a ticking time bomb. He came close to swinging a door in your face the last time he was pissed. What might he do the next time?
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