Question for Betty.
My girlfriend and I have been dating for a year.  Every so often I get a bit irritated around her, and I end up snapping at her sometimes.  She gets so upset and will barely talk to me.  I care about her a lot, and I hate it when I hurt her, whether intentionally or not.  I keep telling her that I'm sorry and I'll change, but I'm starting to think that she's not wanting to be with me anymore.  I need advice on what to do?  I really wanna change for her, and I don't wanna lose her.  Any advice?
Betty's Answer.

Congratulations on seeking help for an ongoing problem.  You have invested time in this relationship, care for your girlfriend and do not want the relationship to end.  It is important to communicate to her how you feel about your relationship. If your behavior continues, she may chose not to be in the relationship, and that is understandable.  However, you can change your behavior.  You can get help with dealing with your frustrations so that you do not lash out at others. 

About anger:

  1. It is okay to get angry, it is how we deal with an insult, pain, rejection or frustration.  Anger can help you stand up for yourself in an unfair situation.
  2. Take time to cool off.  Take a deep breath or take a walk, or exercise to help you calm down. 
  3. Think about why you are angry.  Can you talk to the person you're angry with, or talk it over with someone else?
  4. Talk to the person directly, listen to the other person's feelings.
  5. You may be angry at something (like financial problems, or school problems). Talk about your feelings with a friend or write your feelings down.
  6. Don't express anger with violence, or use alcohol or other drugs to deal with anger.

There are times in every relationship when there is conflict.  It is important to communicate fairly in dealing with the issues.  Tips for "fair fighting" include:

  •  Timing is important - take a time-out when you feel your emotions are speaking for you.  
  •  Limit your fight to 30 minutes, if you are unable to come up with a solution in 30 minutes, schedule another session to discuss the issue.
  •  Choose a neutral location, that is comfortable to both.
  •  Focus on solving one problem; think of solutions; brainstorm; be willing to compromise.  Stay focused in the present; how is the situation affecting you now; how is the other person affected; take turns speaking and listening; be aware of your non-verbal expressions.
  •  Choose the best solution for everyone.
  •  Some phrases to keep in mind.  How can we work this out together?  This is what I am willing to do.  What would you be willing to do? 

You may want to discuss dealing with these issues with a Mental Health Provider.

If you are an eligible UAA student, you may call the Student Health & Counseling Center to set up an intake appointment with one of the Mental Health Providers.  You may also refer to our website for further on-campus counseling options.