Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: 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. 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?

-- Startled

DEAR STARTLED: You imply that a 60-year-old man isn't capable of changing a behavior he has had his whole life.

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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 involved in a serious relationship with someone who has a hair-trigger temper.