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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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Ive been in a committed, loving relationship with my partner for 15 years and have l

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I've been in a committed, loving relationship with my partner for 15 years and have lived with him for 14 years. The past year and a half has been extremely stressful for us both and damaged our relationship. I want to work on the relationship, and he is unwilling to commit to working on it and "needs space." I am unemployed and can't move out immediately, am trying to live with him like a roommate, but find I am angry, anxious, and want very much to fix things and not live in a state of what I think is increasingly damaging stasis--how do I live in the same house with him without further damaging the relationship?

NormanM :

Hello, Im Norman. Are you ready to chat?

NormanM :

I see that you are still offline, so I'm going to switch this to Question and Answer mode and leave a reply for you there

You have already made the first move by arranging to see a counsellor. However, I would strongly advise to to check if he or she uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I think at this stage, you need an active, interventionist approach, not just a sympathetic ear.

CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also causes the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.

These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.

If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,

the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.

Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.

Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.

Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.

Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:

Also, there is a book called ”Feeling good - the new mood therapy” by Dr. David Burns. It has a hand book which gives you practical exercises to work through and further instructions on how to better use CBT. I really do recommend it.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies By Rhena Branch, Rob Willson is also pretty good.

In addition it would be helpful if you could address your anger issues.

Every day, we experience a whole range of emotions, and we can all remember times when we have been annoyed, irritated, angry or downright enraged!

The biological basis for anger can be found in the well known ‘fight or flight’ response, and a common trigger for anger is feeling endangered. This danger does not need to be physical – the threat may well be to our dignity, belief system or self esteem, but the end product is the same.

It used to be thought that venting our anger on an inanimate object was an acceptable way of dealing with it, but while that may be cathartic, and give a temporary sense of satisfaction, it can also lead to broken windows, holes in walls and other unwanted problems! More importantly, it does not help the individual to manage anger effectively in the future.

Anger produces considerable physiological change – our heart rate and blood pressure increase, and there is a sudden release of hormones, particularly

adrenaline and noradrenaline. Triggers for anger can be internal or external – remembering a missed appointment, getting stuck in a traffic jam or a tradesman not turning up.

While anger is our natural response to threat, it in turn triggers very powerful emotions and often, aggressive feelings and behaviour. Anger is to some degree necessary for our survival, but inappropriate or excessive anger can be literally life-threatening, either our own or someone else’s.

Social convention (and indeed the law) usually inhibits us from lashing out at the person or object that enrages us, but sadly, this is not always the case. Some of us are more prone to anger than others. The more obvious ones may scream and shout, but I’m sure we all know others that are chronically grumpy, irritable, withdrawn and sulky.

The goals of anger management are learning to control our reactions to situations and events, to recognize our own particular anger triggers at an early stage and in the end, to minimize the negative emotional responses and physiological arousal that anger engenders.

People who are easily angered often have a low tolerance of frustration of any type. They often feel that they should never be inconvenienced or subjected to experiences that annoy them, and are often incapable of seeing at situation from another viewpoint. There is evidence that some children are born with a low frustration tolerance, so some of us may have a genetic tendency towards anger.

Often children are often taught not to express their anger, and this can become an ingrained habit, with unwanted consequences. When emotions are simply suppressed, we do not learn to deal with them or channel them in a constructive way.

Even something as apparently negative as anger can be put to good use, or at least, managed safely.

Previously, we looked at the some of the problems that arise if we do not manage anger effectively. Poor health, failed relationships and problems in the workplace are all common consequences of anger which has got out of control, so let’s see what we can do about it.

We need to recognize, though, that anger is a perfectly natural feeling. If you experience anger, you are not weak, nor have you failed in some way.

When you recognize this, you are well on the way to learning to manage your anger, or even to turn it to your advantage.

If you are prone to anger, it is useful to examine those angry feelings, to understand what it is that makes you in particular angry. Keeping a note or a diary of times, situations and places which have affected you badly is a good guide.

There are several ways in which anger can be dealt with effectively – by acknowledging it, expressing it appropriately, and by self-calming measures.

By far the best way of dealing with our anger is to express it. This does not mean shouting and screaming, being rude and aggressive. It really means recognising our feelings, acknowledging them, communicating them and perhaps by being assertive.

The essential elements in doing this effectively are respect and communication.

In angry situations, it is a great help to try to be respectful, not just of the other people involved, but especially of ourselves. After all, whose body are we hurting most when we work ourselves up to screaming pitch?

On the communication front, taking the time to clearly express what we are feeling does two thing for us – it explains our needs, and leaves the other party in no doubt about how we feel and expect to be treated.

For this to work, instil a sense of calm in yourself at an early stage. Breathe deeply and use calming imagery, making sure that your internal self talk is calming and not inflaming the situation. Control the pitch, volume and speed of your words. Low and slow are ideal ways to keep your anger under control.

Always, when you feel anger coming on, do a reality check. Try to keep in mind what you really want out of the situation, and direct your efforts towards that end. Remember, if you blow up, you’ll probably lose out!

Next we’ll consider how cognitive restructuring can make all the difference to your experience of life, taking away a lot of the un-necessary stress and yes, anger.

Cognitive restructuring is an excellent way of dealing with anger. It simply means changing your behaviour and feelings by changing your inner thoughts

When you are angry, things can become exaggerated and blown out of proportion. In the heat of the moment, it might seem that ‘Its awful, everything’s ruined, I might as well give up, get a divorce, move back to the UK” and so on.

However, if you take a mental step back and review the situation calmly, you’ll find that it is possible to acknowledge that ‘It’s a setback, but I can deal with it.”

By doing this, you are actively reprogramming your mind to look for solutions rather than dwelling on disaster. This prevents anger from escalating and becoming totally irrational.

It’s very useful to be able to identify and accept when you are getting angry, because doing so can give you a breathing space during which you can begin to put some defences into place.

Angry people tend to demand fairness (as defined by them!), appreciation and agreement, and have a need for things to go their way. The real world, however, does not operate to meet with our desires. When we learn to accept this, we get less angry.

Angry people also tend to indulge in all or nothing thinking, such as “I must do this ‘ or ‘I never get things right’ – this simply fuels anger. Likewise, they are prone to jumping to conclusions – ‘I know what she’s thinking’- without actually looking at the evidence. All of these thought processes are anger generators, and yet, they are completely under our control. Learn to adapt them to serve you rather than to hinder you.

Other common anger generating thought patterns are ‘He must not talk to me like that’, ‘How dare she look away when I’m talking to her’

‘I should tell him where to get off !’ ‘This shouldn’t happen in a fair world.’

‘This is awful –I can’t stand it!’

Any one of these scenarios almost inevitably leads to anger, either expressed explosively at once, or left to simmer internally.

However, let’s pause and look at them for a minute – “He must not talk to me like that!” Is there a universal law which says he must not? Is he not free to express himself that way?

Try to remember that there are few, if any, absolutes.

Humour, of course helps to dispel anger. If some one is really getting to you, imagine them as a cartoon character perhaps, or a baby wearing a nappy. You’ll probably find that you start to smile, and that in itself is a great defence against anger. One of our clients used to imagine his boss sitting in a corner wearing a dunce’s cap. It worked for him!

Try to avoid situations – and people – that you know might start you feeling angry. It’s not always possible, but at worst, you can learn to change the way you think – trying to be more flexible, less demanding and more rational. It’s hardly ever the reality of what is happening to is that pushes us into anger, but rather our responses to them.

Also, I’d like to offer some practical tips you can use to great effect:-

Get to know what situations trigger your anger and avoid them.

In any discussion, stay completely focussed upon the end result you want, and do or say nothing that will get in the way of it.

Use lists - that way tasks don't get forgotten, and that sort of stress is removed from your life.

When you are dealing with people, make a distinct effort to speak more slowly and less loudly than normal. Keep the pitch and temperature down

Avoid generalities like " You are always xxxxxxxxxx" Generalities make people feel abused. Sitck to identifiable facts. Be as objective as possible, always.

Don’t get into the 'blame game'. Try to be solution oriented, rather than blame oriented.

Best wishes, Norman.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hello, Norman,

I see above that "Your Expert needs more information," and I am sorry I missed your chat time. I waited online for 20 mins after sending my question, and I finally went to sleep.

Please let me know what additional information I can provide?

The therapist I am seeing today does engage in CBT (thank you for the leaflet link). I am not normally angry and in most situations can control my anger. But the present situation is making me furious.

My partner says he is unhappy with himself; he loves me, but is no longer in love with me, is unwilling to discuss moving forward in our lives together or restoring our relationship, but wants me to stay with him in this house (he said, "nothing much has to change; this is your home as long as you need it to be, until you can get a job." We sleep separately since he said this a month ago, and before that we slept together, but hadn't been intimate for 8 months.

I am convinced that the extreme hardships/stresses we've endured in the past year and a half--have caused our problems, depleted my usual positive energy and trust in people and left me very depressed, hopeless, afraid. Within the past year, my partner and I both finished and defended our dissertations and earned our PhDs. He started his PhD 30 years ago, and I started in 2006. Reaching this milestone has caused us both to re-evaluate our lives. We are both deeply unhappy with where we live and what we're doing (professionally), frustrated by a bad job market, feeling isolated from working so hard for so long on doctoral research and seeking new employment. However, he has a FT job, and I don't. Also, my faculty advisor physically assaulted me during a discussion in her office as I was nearing finishing my degree, and I had to switch advisors to finish. My "friends" abandonded me, and I have been unable, until just recently, to begin to get past this trauma.

Please let me know what additional information I can provide you. I want to know the best way to live in this house with my partner without pushing him further away, but since he has asked for his space, and I want to respect that, I cannot act upon my instincts to hold him and talk things through further with him.

Gratefully yours,

PS Please tell me that my conversation with you is completely private and cannot be accessed by anyone surfing online?
Melanie - what you and I talk about is totally and completely confidential.

Actually, you have given me all the information I need. Secondly, we DO seem to be having problems with the Chat service, and I know that the JA computer people are trying as hard as they can to get it sorted.

Now then - I'm delighted that your therapist has a CBT orientation, because you will not waste time on comforting chat and what might have happened in your childhood. OK - that might be in some way involved in how you have lived your adult life, but to me, the focus must be on moving forward, not looking back. At least, not yet.

Try to use the anger management solutions I have offerd. They WILL help.

The global recession has hit hard, everywhere. I think especially for those who have invested do much time and effort into getting themselves as well educated and as well informed as they could possibly be. I suppose, that all the potential rewards that you could envisage when you embarked on your studies ( and may I say well, well done!)
have simply faded. No small wonder that it has left you both feeling bitter and disappointed.

He feels bad about himself -probably because his dreams of success seem to be drifting away, and that he feels he needs space. I suspect that that is exactly the case.

If you try to push him hard now, he will just retreat further. At least for a few months ( and this will be much easier even after a couple of CBT sessions) try to afford him that space. It may not be the solution, but it is infinitely better than pushing too hard.

Like you, he needs gentle care, love and time to adjust to the new realities that we all are having to deal with. Above all else, Melanie, keep communication very open, honest
and free from recrimination if you can. He will, intime and with support from you, be willing to talk.

I so wish I could offer you a quick and easy solution, Melanie, but I cannot.

However, I wish you both the very best for your future together.

Norman M. and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dear Norman,


Thank you for your excellent reply. I met with the new therapist yesterday for 90 mins, and it took most of that time just to explain my background and recent events, what brought me to seek therapy. I have another apptmt next week and hope at that time I can do the CBT.


You've been helpful, and I thank you.





Melanie - thanks. You have made my day!

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