Thanks for your question. I think part the answer to this lies in what you already said. Your husband needs to learn to control his temper whilst he is calm and how to anticipate when he is going to feel angry so that he can recognise it and start to move away before he is in full blown temper. This can be learned through anger management courses, which you may be able to locate on the Internet. Your husband would be encouraged to identify what are called risky situation ( things that happen to which he responds angrily), risky thoughts (what are frequent thoughts that he has when getting angry and when angry) and risky behaviours (what are his pattens of behaviour when he is getting angry, what does he say, do, what does his body do (eg clenched fists, sweating
, etc. Etc.). Our behaviours happen in patterns and learning to manage these behaviours means learning what the patterns are and breaking them down. Your husband needs to learn how to Avoid these situations, to Control the situations he cannot avoid and how to Exit them safely without losing it. It takes hard work and courage to learn how to do this, but as your husband has shown that he can control his behaviours. By controlling his drinking, then I feel sure he could learn to control his temper also. As with all habits, you can expect downfalls, so be prepared pad to help him when he loses it, as long as he is willing to learn from his mistakes, pick himself up with the appropriate apologies and start again. Sometimes the best response is to say firmly "I am not getting into conversations with you when you are in this temper, I will talk to you when you have calmed down"and walk away, so that the message is clear and you don't get drawn into an argument with him. This type of therapy is called cognitive behavioural therapy (cbt) and draws on the cognitive (thoughts) and behavioural aspects of our life.
You could also have a look at the theory of Transactional Analysis, which suggests that we all have modes of behaving within us, the adult, the child and the parent. The adult is rational and calm, the child is selfish and needy, with less control, and the parent is authoritative. The theory has it that if a couple can interact whilst both in adult mode, then all is well. If one person flips into child mode, they become more selfish and childish, unable to control temper, as a child isn't; the impact is that the other person flips into parent mode and tells the child off, making them feel small and more like a child - the argument ensues between the parent and the child, both people firing up the response of the other. The best way to get out of this is if one person (in the role of child or parent) stands back and takes the adult role, allowing the other person to drop back into adult mode too. For example, let's say one person hoards loads of stuff - the other person talks to that person as if they are a child, for example, 'I don't know what you've got to keep all that stuff for, it just gets in the way, we don't need it and i'm sick of it.' The other person takes the child mode and says. 'well I'm keeping it, it's mine, and you can get stuffed.'. The argument and the anger takes over and becomes larger than the point itself, which is the amount of clutter. If the first person takes more of an adult mode, and says something like 'I know this stuff has taken you a long time to collect and some of it at least is very important to you, but I feel that we could do some extra stuff if we were to turn some of it into cash, so I was wondering if you would like me to help you to sell some of it - we could put it on eBay together, do a sale, etc.' then the heat is taken out of the situation and the person will remain in adult mode and respond accordingly. If they take a childish mode, then it's important to respond as an adult, and say something like, 'it impacts upon both of us and I would like to talk about it again sometime, so maybe you could have a think about it.'. I have chosen a topic you can relate to here, but it works with any topic at all. It's not really to put blame on anyone, it just shows how two people can interact and bounce off each other, allowing things to escalate without intention. It reduces the. 'you always' and 'you never's, -try and use the word 'i' rather than 'you' because it gives less for the person to fight against. So 'i feel sad
when you ...' rather than 'you always... '
As you will already know from counseling, we cannot make another person change, we are only responsible for our own behaviour. So your husband would need to want to do the cbt therapy if it was to be successful. However, you can have an input using the transactional analysis, as you can change how to interact and respond to him without him even knowing why and the dynamics of the relationship can start to change.
Another thought to consider is that this stuff that your husband hoards could be a comfort blanket for him, perhaps hiding him from something (not literally) and to let it all go may be more painful for him than you can ever imagine. So tackling it little bit by bit might be useful. If you husband has strong memories of being hit by his father when he was young, he may want to find an emdr therapist (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) which encourages clients to process away old emotional memories, that can actually have a very powerful effect on our lives without us knowing it consciously. You can find an emdr therapist local to you at www.emdr.com and more info about it. You will see that it is a trauma therapy - the trauma (having an alcoholic father and all that that entails for a child) would be revisited in his own mind for the last time and the relevant anger and sadness processed away. It could be that the anger your husband displays is actually anger he is holding inside for his dad, even though it is many years ago. It could get stronger and stronger until released. It might be worth your husband talking to an emdr therapist to discuss it with them.
So there are some ways forward for you and for your husband, but your hubby needs to be on board with you and honest with himself and want to put the efforts in to make it work with you. Unfortunately, if he is unwilling to do this, it might be time for you to suggest (in an adult mode) that you are unhappy enough to leave, that this is not what you want to do because you love him, but that you cannot therefore stand by and see him destroy what happiness you could have together with his anger. This might be what it takes to realise that therapy could be a good option compared to losing you. I do hope some of this is useful to you and wish you all the best, Sarah
Edited by Sarah on 8/9/2010 at 7:55 PM EST