DEAR ABBY: I am becoming more and more irritated with people. My fuse is short and I’m prone to bursts of anger. Today I watched another driver run a red light, and I proceeded to honk my horn, lower my window and give the guy my middle finger. (Yeah, I know it was risky, but I couldn’t resist the impulse.)
I am sick of people! They are, in my opinion, self-centered, inconsiderate jerks who need to be smacked. Stupid questions also set me off. I have been snapping at my wife and kids, which is not something I intend. What can I do to get a grip on my temper and not act out the way I have been doing? Is something wrong with me? — REALLY A NICE GUY IN MICHIGAN
DEAR NICE GUY: The “Season to be Jolly” has always been stressful, as is its aftermath, when it’s time to pay the bills. This last holiday season has been more stressful than most for any number of reasons.
Anger is a normal emotion. Everyone experiences it from time to time. But lowering one’s car window, playing the horn like a musical instrument and giving other drivers the finger is not only unwise, but dangerous. These days it could get you killed. For the record, a bad mood is not a valid excuse for taking it out on someone you think has asked a stupid question. If a query is sincere, no question is “stupid.”
Your loss of self-control — if recent — could be related to frustration or misdirected anger at something out of your control. Does experiencing these feelings mean there is something “wrong” with you? Not necessarily, as long as you find ways to manage your emotions before exploding. We are all human. We all make mistakes.
My booklet, “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It,” offers suggestions for directing angry feelings in a healthy way. It contains suggestions for managing and constructively channeling anger in various situations. It can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus a check or money order for $8 to Dear Abby Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.
It takes self-control and maturity to react calmly instead of striking out in anger. Recognizing what is causing these negative emotions can go a long way to help you avoid taking them out on others. I sometimes wonder whether anger management should be added to school curriculums to help the next generation learn to communicate in a healthy manner, rather than simply reacting.
DEAR ABBY: My dear friend “Francine” loves male attention and flirts with men, married or unmarried, at parties and on other occasions. I don’t think flirting with married men is proper because it sends the wrong message. I also don’t think their wives appreciate her behavior. Am I off base? I would appreciate your input. — OLD-FASHIONED IN ARIZONA
DEAR OLD-FASHIONED: Your dear friend may do this not because she’s trying to break up a marriage, but because she needs validation and wants to reassure herself that she is attractive. If the wives find her behavior a threat, they can tell her that themselves, or exclude her from their gatherings.
P.S. Is it “proper”? No. Does it happen? Quite often.
DEAR ABBY: For the past three years I’ve been with a man I believe is the love of my life. Early on, he admitted to a porn addiction that has plagued him his entire life and sabotaged past relationships. With my support, he began his first real attempt at recovery, which included a team of mental health practitioners.
His progress over the past three years, while not linear, has been tremendous. He’s an entirely different person. I would describe our relationship as 90% joyful, 10% agony (he has had four brief relapses, during which he has said incredibly hurtful things to me). I agree the cycle must be broken, and only he can do it.
A week ago, he had a difficult relapse and ended our relationship. His therapist feels he needs to be on his own to focus on recovery. While I am devastated, I agree. But I can’t understand why he’s giving up on us forever and making big decisions like getting off the mortgage on the house we bought less than two years ago. He swears it has nothing to do with me, and that if it weren’t for this addiction, he would spend the rest of his life with me.
If his plan is to live alone, be single or celibate, and focus on recovery, why wouldn’t he also pause on major financial decisions? Why is he so completely done when there is clearly hope for recovery and reconciliation? — BROKEN-HEARTED IN OREGON
DEAR BROKEN-HEARTED: You have involved yourself with someone who has a terrible track record when it comes to relationships. Whatever his plans for the future may be, he does not want a committed relationship with you, nor does he want the financial responsibility and the tie to you that the house represents, which is why he wants off the mortgage. It is now time for you to start looking after your own needs and goals. If you stay busy and don’t isolate yourself, it will lessen the pain you are feeling.
DEAR ABBY: My brother divorced his first wife 10 years ago. Since then, he has married a wonderful woman my family adores. The problem is, my ex-sister-in-law insists on showing up for family events, which makes these celebrations extremely awkward. Even her children recognize how uncomfortable her presence makes everyone.
I don’t mind being the “bad guy” and telling her that she’s no longer welcome at family events, but I don’t want to cause an ugly scene. How can I diplomatically (but firmly) tell her to stay away? Any suggestions would be appreciated. — FLUMMOXED IN PHILADELPHIA
DEAR FLUMMOXED: What a sad situation. Your BROTHER, not you, should deliver the message to his ex, well before she shows up at your next family event. He should inform her that when she shows up uninvited, her presence makes everyone uncomfortable, and it would be best that she not impose again. You could lessen the hurt by occasionally seeing her separately, depending upon the circumstances of the divorce.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www. DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.