DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Delia," is normally a very caring person, but she has a volatile temper. When she loses it, she shouts, curses, slams doors, etc. Even as a child, Delia had a reputation for being a hothead. But she's no longer a little girl. We're both over 50. Recently her temper has escalated to hitting in addition to verbal outbursts.
While I was driving during our vacation, I made the mistake of laughing at something Delia considered serious. In full view of our children in the backseat, she hauled off and hit me across the face. This was no love tap; my jaw was stiff the entire next day. Even more troubling, now that the vacation is over and she has cooled down, she sees no need to apologize. She claims I deserved it.
I have my faults, but violent behavior is not one of them. I've suggested anger management to Delia -– she even went for a few sessions -– but now this. How can we help her to change? -- NEVER BEEN HIT BEFORE IN TINSELTOWN
DEAR NEVER BEEN HIT BEFORE: Violence, whether verbal or physical, cannot be tolerated. Your wife's out-of-control anger must be harnessed before she inflicts serious injury on someone.
Everyone feels angry at some point. It can be triggered by many things, including feeling fearful and helpless. Many people have never learned to express that anger in acceptable ways.
Suppressing her anger until it erupts is one cause of the violent outbursts. Venting is like releasing steam from a pressure cooker. Explain to Delia that the challenge is not to deny her anger, but to understand what is making her angry and to express it in ways that will be more effective and constructive. Rather than flaring up, a few well-chosen words that make the point are more likely to achieve the desired results.
There are more proven methods for coping with anger without lashing out or hurting those around us. I have incorporated some of them in my booklet, "The Anger in All of Us, and How to Deal With It." To order a copy of this booklet, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby –- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)