Are You Dating A Hothead?
If you are pursuing a romance with someone who turns out to have anger-management issues, learn how to handle this dicey situation.
“Be careful what you wish for,” says Washingtonian Diane, 34. “I wanted to date Jeannie, 38, who lives in my condo complex. We went out twice, but there was no spark for me. Very gently, I told her I just wanted to be friends. Well, you would have thought I poured hot oil on her! She got furious at me and huffed off before I could respond.”
Diane’s story is an all-too familiar one. How do you handle things when your date (or someone you were
dating…) has anger-management issues? Tiptoe-ing around just won’t cut it. Here are a few sane approaches to handling a date whose anger switch gets flipped.
|“I wasn’t going to sit there while she yelled at me in public.”|
Pick up on clues…
It’s one thing to deal with an angry partner—someone you know and hopefully trust. At least you have some history and understanding of each other. When a relatively new date explodes, it’s premature at best and, at worst, a serious red flag to avoid future contact. In some cases, explosive anger early on can be a warning sign for something more serious.
“I wish I had paid better attention early on,” says Virginian Jane, 42. “The woman I ended up seeing for a year had anger-management issues that eventually drove us apart. Those tendencies were there at the outset, I just didn’t want to acknowledge them. I liked her too much. I wanted her to be what I wanted, so I defended her anger problem as ‘passion.’ That was my mistake.” So the lesson here? Don’t be too quick to rationalize away a date’s white-hot temper.
Look at where the anger is directed
“If a woman is intense, that’s attractive. Maybe she’s passionate about something, like politics, and it comes off as angry,” says Chicago native Marty, 46. “But if we’re dating and she gets insecure or bitter and then directs anger at me, I don’t put up with that. Sometimes you meet a woman and she just has a chip on her shoulder. That’s happened to me a lot, and I avoid dates like that now.” So take a look at the scope and focus of your date’s anger. If we’re talking about a staunch Democrat who’s neither too happy with — nor very quiet about — the current administration, that’s one thing. If this is a person who is angry at you or wants to rope you into her angry mood to somehow dissipate it, that’s another (and not a good one, at that).
Manage expectations and pacing
When a romance moves quickly and then stalls, anger and frustration can result. So no matter how head-over-heels you feel, don’t totally throw caution to the wind. Says Cindy, 45, who lives in Maryland, “For some women, there’s a little truth is that old stereotypical joke, ‘What do Lesbians bring on a second date? A U-haul.’ With some lesbians, I think that being crystal clear about expectations is important in order to avoid conflict down the road.
Kelli, 33, a New York agrees. “After a few dates, I told Mary that I just assumed we were both dating other people at this early stage. She got very mad and said, ‘You are just a player, and you can’t
commit!’ Now, we had only been out a few times, and once we’d made out. That was the extent of our physical relationship, so I didn’t get understand why she was so mad. But in my experience the truth is that a lot of lesbians are like Mary; they just don’t approve of dating more than one woman at a time. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but I wish I had told her upfront that I wanted to go slow.”
|I wish I had told her upfront that I wanted to go slow.|
Avoid confrontations—for real!
Diane (the woman who did the dumping as gently as she could) decided to let her date cool off before responding to her anger. “Since she’s my neighbor and I have to see her all the time, I contacted her after a few days to hopefully minimize future drama we might experience in the parking lot. I clarified that, after my seven-year relationship ended, I was in an exploratory phase, and it was nothing personal against her. Getting my feelings out to her in a non-confrontational way was the best approach. It seemed to diffuse her anger.” Expressing your viewpoint and taking responsibility for anything you may have done to stoke the flames can help calm a fiery situation down.
When all else fails, walk away
Kim, 36, who lives in Virginia, faced public humiliation when her date exploded at her in public. After dating Sonya, 38, for about four weeks, she met another woman at a basketball-game party. “It was like a moth to a flame when I met my new girlfriend Lisa, 38, and I needed to be with her. A few days later, I told Sonya, and she got livid. In the restaurant, she started cursing at me. At one point, the manager came over to ask us to be quiet. It was so embarrassing. I tried to let her down easy, but she wasn’t having it. I asked her several times to calm down. She wanted to know if I’d met someone else, and I said I had. That made her even angrier. Finally, I told her I was sorry things didn’t work out, but I wasn’t going to sit there while she yelled at me in public. Then I left. I learned that you can’t always reason with an angry person. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away.” While walking away is sometimes necessary, there’s another lesson to be learned—when delivering bad news of the “I need to end things” ilk, doing so in a very public setting probably isn’t your best bet.
Ask yourself if the anger has a foundation
Just because someone gets angry, it doesn’t mean that their sentiments are automatically in the wrong. According to Beth, 28, from Pennsylvania, sometimes anger can be a wake-up call. “My date Jenny, 34, got mad at me, but she had a good reason. I text-messaged a friend of mine all during dinner. Jenny was trying to be patient, but finally lost it and said loudly and firmly, ‘Could you put that thing away? I didn’t come out tonight to watch you type.’ I apologized, she got over it, and we’re still together. I am glad she got mad at me, rather than just blow me off.” So remember that sometimes words spoken in the heat of the moment represent some valuable thoughts—ones that you can learn from once you get past the bluster.
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.