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Ask Amy

Abuse survivor reacts to outbursts

Q. I was married to an abuser for 23 years. The marriage ended when he died. I felt relief and freedom for the first time in my adult life.

In the seven years since his death, I have dated nine guys. I have been with my current guy for almost two years. We love each other, but he has a temper.

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He gets irritated very easily and will blow up verbally about whatever is bothering him. His outbursts are short-lived and involve cursing.

His anger has never been directed at me, and he has never shown any signs of being abusive.

He is wonderful in every other aspect, but when he is cursing out whatever the issue is, his yelling scares me. My fear is deep-seated, and I can’t seem to get rid of it.

He knows he scares me and is profoundly sorry after an outburst. During an outburst, he will even walk away so that we are at opposite ends of wherever we are, but it doesn’t help.

I don’t know if there is anything to do to help, short of getting a 60-year-old man to change a behavior that he has had his whole life. Do you have suggestions?

A. You imply that a 60-year-old man isn’t capable of changing a behavior he has had his whole life.

And yet, you also say that your guy will walk away from you when he is having an outburst, out of sensitivity to you. That indicates an awareness of what he is doing. Is it also a change in his behavior? If so, give him credit for this.

Talk about this during a time when he is calm. Thank him for working on his lifetime habit, and ask him if he can realistically do more to modulate his outbursts.

You also have work to do. You have to sincerely ask yourself if it is healthy for you to be in a serious relationship with someone who has a hair-trigger temper.

Q. I’m in my late 20s and live in a large urban area.

My parents live around 40 miles away; they are baby boomers in good health.

I try to visit them for a weekend once every month (or every six weeks), and we talk on the phone at least once a week and occasionally text or e-mail in addition to that.

I am happy with our level of communication, but my parents think I should visit more often, even though it takes one to two hours to get to their house from mine (depending on traffic).

I work full time, am pursuing a graduate degree, volunteer six hours a week, and have an active social life.

I feel that my parents are demanding too much to want me to spend more than one weekend a month with them, given my current commitments.

Amy, how much time is normal to spend visiting parents at my age?

Am I an ingrate, or are they helicoptering? They only recently became empty nesters when my sibling moved out. I would appreciate your advice.

A. Your contact with your parents seems normal to me — although there is a very wide range of what families consider normal.

The important thing is what you want to do. Your folks are communicating what they want, and if you want less, you are going to have to tolerate their disappointment.

You should assume that their nest feels extra-empty now and that they will adjust to this over time. Invite them to trek into the city to visit you, and also encourage them to develop activities on their own.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com.

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