I think the man I'm seeing has an extremely bad problem. He gets so mad and will go on and on screaming at me over the most simple things. He says I don't care about anything, and I do care. We are 62. We were going to start a new life with each other, but he gets too mad about everything and is so controlling, verbally abusive, and exaggerates the situations he gets mad about. What in the world is wrong with him? He has been married 3 times. I've known him for 47 yrs but I never knew he was like this. He's president of a company, he runs, and seems like he has to control all things—but I am rather quiet and don't have any issues with anyone. He will not stay off me, he gets so mad at me over such silly things, and he won't be quiet. I have to put my hands on my ears because he's so loud. What is his problem? -Sick of It
I’m sorry to hear about this very distressing situation. It does sound like the man you’re seeing has a serious problem with anger management. The screaming, verbal abuse, and controlling behavior are familiar problems for those of us who work with men in therapy. Generally speaking, it is also untenable in any close relationship, and it’s often a deal breaker for women in relationships with men who cannot learn to manage their anger effectively. Without knowing more about him, it’s difficult to know what the underlying problems may be. I would be curious about stage of life issues, given his age and the fact that he’s been married three times previously. Most therapists recognize that this kind of anger is generally a type of defense or self protection. In my work with men, I usually identify fears and shame (feeling not good enough as a man) as the underlying emotional struggles that result in excessive anger. Another indication of this is his controlling behavior. Many people, men and women alike, are controlling because they’re afraid. For example, the more a man tries to control other people, the more he tends to be afraid that his needs won’t be met or that the outcome will reflect poorly on him as a person (shame). You indicated in your question that he says you don’t care about anything. Perhaps he believes you don’t care about him. This could be his perception, which he may not even be aware of, and it’s only a perception. He could be unusually needy and too ashamed to even be aware of his needs. He could also have a sense of entitlement—possibly resulting in a “narcissistic injury”—the little boy in him not tolerating his needs being unmet. In any event, you need to take action. Talk to him to see if he is willing to communicate about this. You need to set boundaries so that you don’t get hurt. He’s externalizing an internal emotional struggle and taking it out on you. You have a right to protect yourself—tell him to stop and that you will not accept that kind of behavior. If he won’t stop, you may need to take more definitive action, like separating yourself from him. Counseling or therapy may be helpful; perhaps he will go with you if you tell him it’s for the two of you.