Help! My stress level is off the charts. My boyfriend’s mood swings are making my life a living hell. He can be unbelievably sweet for about a week but inevitably his temper blows no matter what I do. I’ve tried every approach, from super accommodating to yelling back at him to curb his temper, but nothing works. When I stand up to him, he just gets angrier and threatens to break up with me until I back down. I walk on eggshells, worrying when he’ll explode next. I know he’s had a hard life, but my nerves are fried. What should I do?
Signed, Walking on Eggshells
Your boyfriend sounds like a textbook example of a bully, and as my self-defense instructor used to say the best defense against a bully is to not be there. Bullies are power trippers who use anger and intimidation as their primary tools to keep their targets under control. Attempts at reasoning with a bully are pointless because bullies are not rational. Therefore, the only course of action when confronted by a bully is to exit stage left as soon as possible. Verbal confrontation occasionally thwarts a bully, but know that this is only a temporary Band-Aid since bullying is a deep-seated behavioral problem that will eventually resurface. It’s not a matter of whether a bully will bully you again, it’s a matter of when. Since bullies don’t respect boundaries, the only solution to dealing with a bully is a policy of zero tolerance and no contact.
There is no excuse for bullying. It doesn’t matter how hard someone’s life has been in the past, it’s up to every adult to take responsibility for his or her behavior in the present. Likewise, it’s your responsibility to practice self-love and self-preservation by removing yourself from the presence of anyone who refuses to treat you with the respect you deserve.
Once someone has shown signs of bullying, whether aimed directly at you or someone else, consider it a serious red flag and sever all ties with them immediately. A bully may attempt to threaten you or lure you back with gifts or promises of good behavior, but no amount of reward is worth the mental/emotional abuse of tolerating bullying behavior. Bullies don’t change. Don’t expect them to change, don’t wait for them to change — just keep as much distance between you and them as possible. As you said yourself, no approach curbs your boyfriend’s temper, so the surefire way to avoid his controlling behavior is to extricate yourself from this relationship ASAP.
I’m single and looking for love and everyone from my friends to my mom says I should join an online dating service and get out there. However, the thought of online dating services doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not the kind of person who has to have a boyfriend just for the sake of having a boyfriend — I want the right one. The problem is I work from home so I’m by myself a lot. Also, I don’t drink so bars are out of the question. Am I kidding myself to think that the right guy will come to me eventually? Do I really need to get out there like everyone says?
Signed, Waiting for Love
If you truly want a relationship, I suggest getting out there in one way or another, but how you get out there is up to you. While online dating services work for some people, that approach may not be right for you. However, since dating does involve someone other than you, interaction with others is an essential element to facilitate the dating process. As I used to tell my former roommate, “You’re great! The only reason you’re still single is because there aren’t a lot of eligible bachelors hanging around between our kitchen and our living room.” It doesn’t matter how fabulous you are, you need to have access to other life forms in order to meet someone to date, especially if you have a solitary job. There are many ways to meet new people, so if dating services and bars aren’t your thing, look into other social activities such as church services, classes or a local gym. The point is to get exposure to people while doing something you enjoy. You’ll increase your chances of meeting someone who shares your interests and you’ll be enjoying yourself in the process. There’s a parable about a man who prayed to God every day to win the lottery, then one day God replied, “Buy a lottery ticket!” So I suggest buying a lottery ticket by getting yourself out there in a way that feels comfortable to you.
Rachel Iverson is a freelance writer, dating coach and author, who lives with her husband in Venice. Her book, “Don’t Help A Man Be A Man: How To Avoid 12 Dating Time Bombs,” has been endorsed by Dr. John Gray, author of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” For more information on Rachel or her book, visit www.rebelgirlpublishing.com. For dating advice, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.