Adapted from an online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My spouse manages anger poorly, often lashing out (verbally) in unkind ways, retreating into sullen withdrawal or making sharp passive-aggressive digs at me. I have tried to explain to him that these behaviors erode my sense of emotional safety and make emotional and sexual intimacy feel impossible. His retort is that, the vast majority of the time, he is an amazing partner: loving, attentive, thoughtful and loyal. He points to his generosity with gifts and the constant favors he does for me.
This response confuses me, because it’s absolutely true; he is usually awesome. So … why does my heart feel so bad? I’m left calculating how much hurt is worth enduring for a partner who can be pretty great, and somehow 90 percent amazing, 10 percent terrible doesn’t feel like love. He says the very fact that I make such a calculation reflects a lack of appreciation for the thoughtful, loving person he usually is. In fact, he says it leaves him feeling angry, resentful and taken advantage of. How do I untangle these knots? — Tangled