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Sunday, 24 August 2014

Dear Thelma: "I want to marry my girlfriend but she's angry all the time"

Dear Thelma, 

I’m a 21-year-old undergraduate and an Indian guy who’s in love with an Indian girl. She and I started dating when we were in the same class at university. We started as best friends but later, something more developed. We were very serious about the relationship and meant it to last. 

She loves me a lot, but her parents oppose our relationship as they’re very strict and insistent that she marries within their community (Chettiars, Malayalee, Telugu). My family is more agreeable, but they want me to finish my studies first. So I said I would talk to her parents about us getting married. 

She's a very nice and obedient girl, but she gets angry very easily. She hurts me very badly even when she’s at fault. At first I accepted her that way but advised her to control her temper. She listened to me but only for a few days. I think I’m more patient but I’m getting fed up of her anger issues. The situation is causing us problems and we're arguing a lot more. 

Despite that, we have never thought of breaking up because we love each other. We’ve been together for three years, but her parents are already looking for another partner for her. She asked me to talk to them, but frankly, I’m not ready to do that as I’m still studying. 

On the flip side, her temper is getting worse. I’m tired of advising her and told her that if we want to be happy, she has to change her ways. I love her very much, but whenever she makes a mountain out of a molehill, it’s so draining and I feel like ending the relationship.

I'm so confused. It won’t be easy to marry her as I have to fight with her parents to get married to her. But at the same time, my love for her is fading as her behaviour gets from bad to worse.

Tough Call

Dear Touch Call, 

Many people still have ingrained beliefs – how this race is better than that, or this sub-ethnic group isn't as good – it persists even in this modern age. Many who fall in love have to overcome these stereotypes and discriminatory beliefs. We're lucky that in our society, the worst thing that can happen is that people will gossip. In many other countries, families have murdered their own flesh and blood for having fallen in love or married someone “from the other side”.

People will have to realise that gossip is just idle talk for people with little else to do. What really matters is how one lives their own life, and whether or not their actions will hurt others. It may be important to prove yourself to her parents to show you have strength of character. And, of course, what would matter to them most is your ability to provide a good life for their daughter.

You would have to be prepared for the drama from her family. Remember to have a cool and level head, and stay on the side of logic. But there is the question of whether you want to continue with her since she has this anger issue. That is something you have to figure out yourself.

Firstly, you cannot expect a person to change. No matter the situation – anger issues, sloppiness, poor manners – you have to accept the person for who she is. This doesn’t mean you have to meekly take her hurtful behaviour. Let her know how you feel. What is it about her outbursts that hurt you? Is it the things she says, or the anger itself which you find hurtful?

Interestingly, you describe her as obedient. What exactly do you mean? Is she obedient to her parents and figures of authority? Is she obedient to you and do you expect her to always be? Therefore, does it hurt when she becomes angry, thus expressing her wilfulness?

You have to manage your own expectations as well. How do you express your anger? Is it acceptable that you get angry, yet not when she feels it? You can’t expect her to not get angry. It’s how it's expressed that’s often the problem. It may be with aggression, or it may be through saying or doing hurtful things. Often, this results from poor emotion regulation and problem solving skills.

This kind of behaviour is unacceptable, of course. You have to bear in mind not to take the hurtful things she says personally. The common mistake people make when facing an angry person is to react. This doesn’t get anyone anywhere. You have to let her know that she's saying these things out of anger, and that you won't discuss anything with her until she calms down and is willing to listen. You can resume your conversation when she's calmer. You can walk away after that.

She is then responsible for handling her emotions in a positive manner. She also has to learn to effectively communicate what she wants without resorting to accusations, name-calling or other hurtful behaviour. If she finds this difficult to do, it may be good for her to engage in anger management therapy. There are many resources in book stores and on websites on how to deal with anger.

You can only exert control over yourself and your own behaviour. Responsible adults work on themselves while learning to express themselves clearly and effectively. That is the key to developing a healthy relationship with other people.

If you've informed her that her behaviour hurts you and she continues to do so, it may cross over into abusive behaviour. So you have to consider your expectations and where you see this relationship heading. You're both young, and it is advisable not to rush into any decision. The rest of your life could be at stake and you should take as much time as you need to make these important decisions.


Tags / Keywords: Thelma , relationship , strict , Indian


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