By Thomas Whitfield
My boyfriend loves to pick fights with people—literally everyone, AND me. It’s so common that I get anxious just going places with him because I’m constantly waiting for him to fly off about something. This isn’t something new, but it’s become more and more frustrating, a huge turn off. He gets in arguments with bartenders, people in line at the movies and lashes out at me all the time over stupid stuff. I tried talking to him about it, and he even turned that into a fight, saying it was all my fault for pissing him off. How can I get him to calm down and stop this? It’s so embarrassing! -Male, Gay, 28
What you’re describing seems like a very distinct personality that loves conflict. Unfortunately, personalities are difficult to change and require the person with the maladaptive behaviors to want to change. One of the big issues with adjusting personalities is that often these individuals don’t acknowledge they have any shortcomings and rarely want to change. I think you should let him know that if he doesn’t change this behavior you’re leaving, and then if he doesn’t seek help, leave. You don’t have to put up with someone else’s terrible behavior just because you care about them. Relationships are work, but they should also be fun, and if you can’t go out in public without anxiety about how he’s going to act, it can’t be that much fun.
One of the things I love about my boyfriend is that he’s such a flirt. He flirts with everyone, and it usually works out in our favor, because he’s so cute. For example, he flirts with waiters and we get free food, or with a bartender and we get free drinks. Yet, he sometimes doesn’t know when to stop. He plays around with our friends too, but now more than one couple has tried to initiate a four-some with us, and we’re monogamous. He just laughs it off, but I’m worried it’s going to negatively affect some of our friendships, because then they feel self-conscious or led on by him. I really do like that he flirts, but he doesn’t always seem to know where the line is. What can I do? -Male, Gay, 31
This does not sound at all like a relationship-extinguishing trait. First, talk to him about where the line is and how he can navigate it better. It’s possible that he really doesn’t know where it is and isn’t aware when he’s crossing it. Second, set up signals you can send each other as a sign for when he should cool it. Last, when you notice that he’s coming on too strong to your friends, interject with a joke so they know he’s kidding around. Perhaps follow it up with, “He’s such a flirt, he does this with everyone.” That way you’re at least laying the groundwork for them to be let down later if they try to take you guys home.