I can’t stop my emotional outbursts towards my partner. I need help.
Let me offer you a warm welcome to the forum. This is a good place to come and talk about those thoughts and emotions which trouble you. It is a safe place for everyone to unburden themselves.
May I ask, have you always behaved in this manner towards your partner or is it something that has developed during the past year? I ask because I think there is a difference between this distressful way of managing as a new behaviour and one that has always been there. Either way I can see it is troubling you a great deal.
I see you have been to a psychologist but it was not helpful. Was there anything that was helpful, even if only for a short time? New ways of thinking and/or behaving take a while to become a more permanent part of you. It may be useful to concentrate on a process that has worked to some extent but which you have stopped using. My GP who looks after my mental health always reminds me that we can accept a new thought or action, understand and agree with it intellectually but still continue to revert to the old patterns of thinking and acting. We need to make a concerted effort to practice what we have accepted in our minds knowing it will take at least six months for the heart to catch up.
I must admit I found this a little hard to believe because the rational part of me was saying "Yes, that's the way to go" just before I fell into the old way of acting. So frustrating. I think this GP has been the only person to point this out to me. Not sure if psychologists etc really know this and why they do not tell their patients. I found it such a relief to understand that I was not beyond hope.
So think of it like learning to drive a car. I know I was terrified when I had my first lesson. Help I'm in charge of this car but it feels more like the car is in charge of me. Yes the driving instructor was sitting next to me but I was still very nervous. And it's normal to feel nervous in that situation, just as it normal to try something different, manage the first time and fall down on the second try.
We need to practice new skills, looking at situations in a different light and understanding there is no overnight cure. I will stop here to give you time to think about what I have tried to describe and see how it sits with you. I would love to continue a conversation with you on this topic if it's OK with you.
Thanks very much for your reply. I greatly appreciate it.
To answer your question, I have been with my current partner for almost two years, and have behaved in this way on and off for all of this time. She has her own mental health battles, and when she is more withdrawn, or we see less of each other, or talk to each other less on the phone, I start to feel very insecure, and that is when I tend to have these outbursts, so the outbursts tend to depend on our level of interaction at the time. Prior to this, I was married for 10 years to someone I didn’t really love, and so these issues did not arise. I think this was primarily because I didn’t actually love my wife, and so the thought of her leaving me didn’t make me feel insecure, as weird as that sounds. So this is an issue that has surfaced more recently, but perhaps it has been something I was always capable of, deep down.
Your advice about persisting with a new behaviour, and it taking time for the heart to truly catch up with the mind is a great one. I guess I struggle with controlling myself when I feel anxious and insecure. I really wish I could just not have these outbursts towards my partner. She even gives me advice as to what to do, such as to take time out, to not message her when I am feeling this way and wait until I calm down etc, and as much as I understand them intellectually, once my anxiety kicks in it is as if all of it goes out the window. It is as if I am convinced I will never have another outbursts again, until I actually have another outburst. I find when I try to take time out and not message my partner when I am anxious, the anxiety just piles up and seems so unbearable and I cannot go to sleep or do anything else but think about it. But then when I have an outburst, I feel so much worse, and I know I am causing harm to my partner. It is having an impact on her mental health, so I must stop this behaviour. I just don’t know how to handle those moments when I feel insecure and anxious, I start to have these thoughts that she is hiding things from me, or cheating on me, or treating me poorly by not responding to my messages immediately, and at the time these thoughts seem so real and certain that I feel obliged to stand up for myself and point out how she is ‘hurting’ me. But then after I calm down, which is long after an outburst, I think about things completely differently. I just don’t know how to stop myself from seeing these damaging thoughts as so certain.
Thanks for your reply DrLukey. You sound much like me several years ago.
One of the ways I found helpful was to write down how I felt. Sometimes I would write in a journal and other times I would write an email being very careful not to enter the address. Print it off and add to it if you wish. It's all delaying tactics until I was far more calm and thinking straight.
I used to remind myself that I had been here before and it was not the end of the world. I did find this very useful as I could be in this horrible place for several days. Self talk went something like this. "You've been here before and felt the same. It passed and you felt better even if it took a couple of days. This will go away as well."
It was part of the transference from head to heart I eventually realised though my lovely GP was always reminding me. When I realised I was not taking so long to feel better it was an amazing light bulb moment.Truly I felt so good that I was learning control. The stupid part was the things that upset me were often small but assumed huge proportions in my mind. In retrospect I can only shake my head about it.
Do you think it would help if you talked about it at the time you experience one of these episodes? I was thinking about you phoning Life Line on 13 11 14. They are available 24/7 as is beyondblue on 1300 22 4636. Getting an outlet for your feelings can help to stop you worrying your GF. Just ask Life Line or beyondblue if you can talk to them. It may well well give you some time and distance to get perspective.
The good news is that it worked for me. When I realised how quickly I could become calm I felt amazing. It takes time and you must be prepared for the need or pressure to immediately text your GF. Can you get rid of your phone for a while?
Hope this is helping.
Thanks so very much for taking the time to write to me. I sincerely appreciate it.
The advice you have given me is excellent. Knowing that you have been through something similar and have come out the other side, able to control your emotions, is extremely encouraging to me. I am going to hold on to the words you have written and implement the techniques that worked for you. I am going to keep a diary of my thoughts that I can write in whenever I begin to feel anxious in relation to my partner. I have heard that Abraham Lincoln used to write letter to people he felt frustrated or angry with, and then he would just keep them without sending them. I suppose it is a similar concept; to get the thoughts out without them causing harm to those they are directed to.
If I find the journal does not work, I will call lifeline. I did call them once many years ago. I probably don’t have a lot of people who I can talk to about these things. My partner tends to be the one I share my deepest thoughts with, but in this scenario I can’t exactly share these thoughts with her!
I probably cannot get rid of my phone completely, as it is my main mode of communication with my partner, who lives interstate. Even so, I hope, with time, I can reach a similar outcome as you were able to. It will not always be easy, and no doubt there will be some very challenging times ahead, but to know that this process has worked for you has given me a lot of encouragement to try it.
The things I get upset about are very trivial things as well, in hindsight. I have been reading about the difference between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and I believe, when I get stuck in a thought loop that tells me my partner is mistreating me and I have every right to be angry at her, I am in left hemisphere mode, which basically only sees what we already know or have already learnt, and cannot see a new way of thinking about things. Finding a way to engage my right hemisphere, such as playing some music, may also help.
Once again, thank you so much for your kind words and advice. It means more to me than I can express in words.