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Dear Debra
Dear Debra, Advice Columnist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1852
Experience:  I have been an Advice columnist for 14 years. My column is published weekly in local newpapers.
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Not sure I can make this just one question, but here goes...I

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Not sure I can make this just one question, but here goes...I have been in a 6 year relationship with a man who has not yet committed. Not for lack of wanting, but out of fear, I think. Same usual sob story...divorced parents, basically raised by mom and grandparents, pretty spoiled as a child, etc. etc. ...we have lived together for 5 and 1/2 years of our relationship (have been friends for 9 years) and function very much like a married couple. WIthin the first year of our relationship starting, he became very ill and was told that he may not live. I stood by him through 6 grueling months of illness without batting an eye. Luckily, it was a misdiagnosis. Lately, everyone has been putting the pressure on him pretty heavily to commit. About once a year he has a tyrannical blow up fit (generally nov-jan) where his behavior is totally erratic. For example, this last once occurred over Valentine weekend. We went out of town (appx. 2 and 1/2 hours away) to see my brother. Well, things evidently weren't going the way he wanted them to; so he decided he wanted to go sit in the car...seeing that as rude and selfish, I asked him not to do so..He pitched an enormous fit and wound up taking a cab to the airport (appx. 20 min away) and stating that he was going to catch a flight mind you..we were leaving the next morning. I wound up hysterical and chasing him around the city for hours...we get home the next day and he says he thinks that I am too selfish to make him happy, that maybe we should just not prolong the inevitable, and he thinks we might need to split up. Again, selfish??? I'm a whole lot of things, and I know I have my selfish moments, but I am not a selfish person. Now, we share an income...I am part time and in school full time...which we agreed on agreement. So, I can't possibly just jump out and find other living arrangements right now...but, anyway...after the huge blowup we put it on the back burner, I guess?? For the last 3 weeks, we have slowly gotten back into the swing of things, but I haven't had the nerve to talk to him about any of this b/c he acts like nothing happened at all!?! Now, 6 years we've been in this relationship! It's crazy! I have been doing a lot of reading myself about spiritual healing and meditation and introspective learning...trying to fix myself. But, I am totally confused by all of this and don't know what to do now. How do you make someone communicate with you? How do you make someone see that you don't throw things away out of the result of a temper tantrum??? Help! Help! Help!
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.

Understanding him is what we need to look at first. You said you traveled to your brothers and he wanted to go home. I would like to ask you a few questions because it will help me understand him a little better. Did something happened at your brothers that he wanted to go home? Is he the type of person that gets jealous if you are around certain people? Do you think that he is a type because he was spoiled growing up that the attention has to always be on him, so he takes tantrums in order to get your attention? It is a negative way to get attention, but he is still getting the attention he wants. You have been together for 6 years and lived together for most of those years. He is very comfortable in the relationship the way it is. You are looking for more of a commitment. You have been together a long time and it seems like the next step is marriage. He grew up with his parents not being together, so he could have issues about getting married. Has he every expressed these issues too you?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Nothing happened in particular that would have set him off except that the bar we were at was in an area of the city that is not his favorite place...spoiled, yes. The previous episodes were also in circumstances where he had to share attention with someone else, so..potentially, yes, it is attention seeking behavior? Bizarre be set off by something so minor? The marriage thing...his response has always been to not screw up a good thing. That he doesn't want things to change...but it seems as of late, he is pinpointing things that simply aren't issues or major deals in order to say, "see that's why I don't want to marry you." Or, "why would I want to marry a crazy person?" I, for the record, am not crazy. Co-dependant...maybe..but not crazy. I feel like I have really bent over backwards for someone I love deeply for them to turn around and say I am "selfish" and things are "all about me." I am currently in grad school and am very busy, so I don't know if this upheaval is a way to get my attention or what...but I am not sure what to do..he is very walled off about things, and acts like he just wants to pretend it never happened. Of course, now, he's involved my family b/c he made this huge scene in front of my brother. What do I do now? Soooo confused.

Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
This attention seeking behavior is he does what he does. If he feels that he is not getting your attention, he would accuse you of doing something wrong even if you didn't. He turns his behavior on you be saying yourself. He calls you crazy to change or avoid a subject. It makes you feel bad that he calls you that and you start to question what is going on in the relationship. It quickly takes the attention off the commitment. You have said he doesn't want to screw up a good thing, he feel marriage would ruin your relationship. I find that the smallest things bother a person when they are not getting the right amount of attention. What helps is when things get to this point of misunderstanding. It always need to be talked about calmly. Even if he is yelling, you need to explain that he needs to low his voice so that you can talk things out. Usually these outburst are something that bothered him but he doesn't know how to express himself correctly so he acts out in a negative, selfish way. You have to see what causes these actions by really looking at these situations. Is he a sensitive person that doesn't like to hear anything bad, does he have trouble handle certain situations? It is also common for people to act like nothing happened, like the outburst never even happened. This is because they know they are wrong and they just want you to forgive. They want to pretend that it never happened, but the issue never gets solved. What I want you to try is once the outburst happens and he calms down. Ask him why he acted that way. Once he is calm you might be able to get him to start talking about things. He needs to open up and talk about his feelings.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
So do you address the outburst or do you automatically move into, "I feel like you act this way because you are upset about something else?" It really blindsided the point that I thought, "wow..maybe he's mentally ill...or sick again?" So, good point...even though he is acting like nothing is wrong, I should still bring it up? Do you think there is a link to the timing of these outbursts? There's been about 4 in the last 6 years...all within the winter? Could it be a depressive issue?
Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
You need to address the outburst when he has calm down even if you wait until the next day to talk about why they happen and what gets him to that point. He seems to have these outburst in the winter. winter does affect people in certain ways. But is there things in your life that changes in the winter? There is something people get and it is called seasonal affective disorder. It happens when the seasons change. Otherwise know as SAD. These outbursts have only happened 4 times out of six years. It seems like it might be times where he is having trouble with something that is bothering him and he needs to learn how to express himself in a new way. If he talks things out instead of his outburst, he can learn how to solve the problem before it gets that far again. It's hard for some people to open up about how they feel, so be patient and listen when he does open up.
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