Can I Expect My Devoted But Angry Boyfriend To Grow Into A Good Husband Over Time?

The Importance of Listening

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 10 months. We met online, actually slept together on the first date, and ended up liking each other so much we decided to see it through.

At 2 weeks he finally told me he was a father to a 4 year old. Coming from divorced parents and growing up with a step mom I didn’t get along with, this was the exact situation I never wanted to be in. But I kept going because I liked him so much and later met his daughter and she’s PERFECT. I work with kids and have never met a kid so amazing before.

But soon after finding out the news about her I noticed my boyfriend had a TERRIBLE temper. He’s got a short fuse and he can be aggressive. He would never hurt me but has punched walls and gotten mad at my 3 dogs and even his dog. And has even gone out of his way to show people he means business when they cross him. It got to the point at the beginning I legitimately packed up and left his house in the middle of the night on two separate occasions because he was acting up so badly. Not to mention over the first few months we had so many “are we gonna break up” conversations due to it.

I also wonder how much we have in common. I’m definitely a more introverted, hold things in, care taker, animal lover, chill person. He’s extremely outgoing, if he thinks of something he has to say something (sometimes its things to me that don’t need to be said), can be controlling and selfish (also in bed too), and he doesn’t like my dogs (but has gotten better with them). It’s just hard to find things to do together or be on the same page about at times.

But things have definitely changed and gotten better as time has gone on. We’ve found that we love travelling together, we ride motorcycles together, we love doing every day things together like cleaning, grocery shopping, the dishes, washing the dogs, making playlists, found one TV show we can agree on and watch together, etc. We’ve met each other’s parents. Gone to family events. My parents love him but his parents have just recently started to like me. But the biggest change is that I SEE HIM TRYING. I see him changing. I see him becoming less selfish when he thinks of things for me or us before I even do, I see him becoming less angry when he asks me how to handle things first or he stays calm during rough times, I see him putting his life together because he wants me in it. And so on. He’s grown soooo drastically much all because he loves me. He even told me he loved me and wanted to marry months before I told him anything back.

My boyfriend has made the conscientious decision to be a better human being and boyfriend because he feels that I’m the one.

But where I’m having trouble is the fact that I don’t know if he is. I had trouble saying I love you to him for a long time because of the anger. Once he started to work on it, I saw through it and fell in love. But part of me worries it will never go away. Part of me is afraid that I’m gonna get stuck with someone so upset at the world…. but then again I see how much he’s changed and he never relapses. He gets better every day and is purposely working on it and making an effort.

And then as I said, I adore his daughter but I still have some lingering feelings about my own childhood. When I’m with her I feel like I could be a step mom… but when she’s not around-it’s just not what I want… especially because my boyfriend wants to wait 8-10 years to even have kids with me.

I know I love him. I see the good in him and he has a lot of qualities that I adore and want in my life. I can legitimately say that over time he’s become my best friend. And we know everything about each other. But I worry I love him because of his love for me. I worry that I love just having someone and the fact that he tries so hard for me feels nice. That it’s nice to be loved to the point someone becomes better, not only for me, but for themselves. I worry I’m attracted to the work he puts into us.

It’s just he’s so sure and wants to be husband and wife soon and I keep asking to push it back. I don’t know if the child and the anger are clouding my judgment or if the universe is telling me that it’s not him… and instead it’s just the way he’s there for me. But either way I don’t want to let him go… it’s like I’m stuck in limbo.

So I have a few questions: How do you know if you love someone for the right reasons? And if you found the one? And can the one be a mess at one point and turn into the right man as time goes on? What if loving someone isn’t enough? And do you have any advice or know anything about if your childhood really can screw up your judgment for love (and how to get past it)?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope to hear from you,

I have an adage: you can’t have a relationship dependent upon someone changing for you.

Any time a woman tells me her relationship is pretty good but it’ll be REALLY good once her partner changes, what she’s actually saying is that right now, the relationship is NOT great, so she’s going to keep her fingers crossed that her partner becomes a different person soon.

I printed your whole email without editing, Arianna, to allow you to illustrate — better than I could — the flaws in this thinking.

To your credit, you’re self-aware. You know that you may only be with him because he wants to be with you. You know that someone with anger issues doesn’t just drop them entirely because he’s married. You know that your current situation isn’t sustainable and that waiting 8-10 years to have your own kids is a ridiculous proposition.

But you don’t want to leave him because to leave him would mean to start over, to get back out to dating men who don’t try as hard, to take the risk that you’re not ever going to find a man like this again.

It’s common to think that way but it’s a limiting belief.

If you could cement your relationship EXACTLY the way it is right now and keep it that way for the rest of your life, would you be happy?

So allow me to ask you one question that will determine what you should do next:

If you could cement your relationship EXACTLY the way it is right now and keep it that way for the rest of your life, would you be happy?

Or is your happiness dependent upon him eradicating his anger, stifling his criticism, warming up to your dogs, being a more generous lover, and having more of a connection that doesn’t require you to strain to find things in common?’

Because, at the end of the say, it doesn’t matter what you think “the right reasons” are for getting married, or whether there is “the one” or, in fact, many ones. What matters is that you’re HAPPY and are with a man who organically makes you happy 90+% of the time. You’re right that loving someone isn’t enough; every single divorced couple was once in love.

What determines your fate over the next forty years isn’t him; it’s YOU, Arianna. Choose wisely and you’ll have an amazing life. Stay in a highly flawed relationship because you’re afraid you can’t do any better, and, in fact, you won’t do any better.

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  1. 1


    Evan, please learn more about batterers so you can better advise readers like this one.

    This kind of behavior only gets worse over time, and even if you see him “trying” now,  all the signs are there, loud and clear.  This guy is a nightmare waiting to happen.   Run away, Arianna, run!!

    1. 1.1

      AGREED ELIZABETH! Hving been in this situation myself…they don’t start out abusing you. But, physical acts such as punching walls, mean to defenseless animals..even controlling sexual behavior….over time this will become “normal” to this woman..and then the guy will start using her as a punching bag.


      If this is the honeymoon stage and he is supposed to be on his best behavior, my goodness it only gets worse. Trust me

    2. 1.2

      Amen, Elizabeth and Dawn.

      You cannot love away violence. In the beginning of the relatjonship, it is exhausting being with a person who responds to stress with anger. During the relatjonship, it’s endlessly frustrating. At the end of the relationship, it’s terrifying when you become the scapegoat for everything they perceive to have gone wrong in their lives.

      Please end the relatjonship now, before you’re in any deeper. See a therapist to make sure you don’t fall for the same type of guy again.


    3. 1.3
      Michelle Zirkle

      Oh God. I see verbal abuse escalating to violence red flags. This is a very angry controlling man. He doesn’t  want kids if he’s  waiting 8-10 years that’s  just to keep you hooked. One question that will end it all for you: If you had a son and a  daughter, would you want him to be their father?  This is just the tip of the iceberg. These men see women as possessions and he won’t let you go…domestic violence is increasing. Many women end up dead. If he’s  acting like this before marriage, multiply it by 1000 when he thinks he ‘owns’ you…careful girl. I would run.

    4. 1.4
      Christine Cha

      Completely agree, Elizabeth! I’m taking a course to be an instructor in women’s self defense from our police bureau. These are big red flags!!   Anger, controlling behavior is very serious and dangerous. Run, Ariana and don’t look back.

    5. 1.5

      I second this. OP needs to read Diana Welch’s Love Factually: Your Guide to Identifying Abusers Before They Abuse You* – STAT! This is the one address where Evan’s advice falls flat, IMO. Evan, please learn more about DV so you can advise women better in this regard… This behavior only gets worse. Based on what I now know shared my own DV relationship, what the OP describes is a serious red flag. Run!! *Disclaimer: I am quoted in this book but receive no compensation. It is simply good advice!

  2. 2

    This is a tough one because he is trying.   And in my opinion, he wouldn’t be a good partner for anyone right now, if he were frozen in time.   Sigh.   It’s all about timing.   If he kept up with his trying and never relapsed in a few years he might be in a good place to marry.   Maybe.   But who knows?

    Arianna, you have to go on what he is right now today.   I’m actually sad to say that because, well, we’ve all been there when we aren’t what want to be yet and find the right person.   But too bad because that means we aren’t ready.   And no one deserves, especially you, to wait and be unsure while another gets ready.   His trying is not enough.   He has to be the person you want and need him to be.   Right now. Full stop.

    I write this not only for you, but for myself.   I have someone in my life like this (not about anger but other stuff) and I know for a fact he isn’t going to change enough in this lifetime.   And even if he did, I’m not waiting on it.   It’s also difficult to write because so many men I’ve met don’t even bother trying to change their flaws.   So I respect that effort because I haven’t seen it a lot.   But it still isn’t enough.

    Gosh, I’ve been reading this blog too long! I’ve become more toughlove (on myself) than I ever really wanted to be.   My view now is that our time on earth is short and I’m trying spend the time I have more in joy than in doubt and uncertainty.

  3. 3

    In some ways relationships get better over time, and in some ways they get worse. They get better in the sense that you have greater intimacy. You understand each other better , know how to push each other’s buttons better (hopefully in a good way), form a better – functioning unit.   But worse in the sense that you will never be trying to impress each other as much as you are now. Never be as much on your best behaviour, never be trying to win each other over as much as now.   Over time, you will each return to your baseline selves, and given the increased intimacy you may act WORSE with each other than with strangers.


    Arianna, you seem to have a relationship with a man who has a bad temper and is trying to be in his best behaviour to win you over – to be one way with you that is unlike the way he is with the rest of the world.   Given what I wrote above is this likely to get better with time, or worse? The way he is with people he isn’t trying to impress is the way he’ll be with you.

  4. 4

    As difficult as it seems, please consider ending this relationship. Your boyfriend sounds like he may have Intermittent Explosive Disorder, aptly abbreviated IED. I grew up with a parent who had this, and my passive father didn’t protect me or my little sister from the unpredictable Mommy Dearest tirades. Your boyfriend may be trying, but believe me when I say it will take some intensive, targeted therapy to get his anger under control.

    If you choose to stay, know that you’d likely be signing up for a life walking on eggshells and second guessing your actions (to not trigger his anger), not to mention the impact on your own mental health. It would haunt you-I’m over 50 and speak from personal experience.

    I wish you all the best, Arianna.



  5. 5

    He is a batterer, plain and simple: all the signs are there. He WILL escalate, and then she will be in so deep it may take years to get out and do so much damage… Read “Why Does He Do That – Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft for more info.

    I’ve often thought Evan would get a lot out of this book. Both he and Arianna should read it.

    Arianna, the worst years of your life are about to come unless you get out now. Please, just go while you’re still young and healthy.

    1. 5.1
      Mina Harker

      First of all, Evan hardly advised her to stay with him so I don’t know why you’re lecturing him on the need to understand ‘batterers’. Secondly, while this chap doesn’t seem like an ideal partner at all – and the questioner pretty obviously knows it – you simply do not know that’s he’s physically abhsive to her or anybody else, so please calm down and get offnyour high norse.

    2. 5.2


  6. 6

    This took me four tries to read this letter, it was that hard to read. Punching holes in walls and yelling at pets are VERY much red flags the OP should not ignore. It’s great that he’s getting better, but that’s a job for his therapist, not his partner.

    This is absolutely an example of when love is NOT enough. Loving someone for the right reasons is when you can accept them EXACTLY AS THEY ARE. Full stop. Not when he changes, improves, acts differently, etc.

    This really sounds like the OP wants a relationship and this is the first time she has gotten some of what she wants in a relationship, so she’s tempted to settle.


    Where should you settle? On height, occupation, income and education.

    Where should you NOT settle? Character and/or violence. This man fails here. Selfish and controlling are traits that tend to pop up at the worst possible time.

    The OP would do really well to break up with this guy, date other guys for 3 years, and then check back in. This will give her the experience she needs to make a informed decision. And if he’s not willing to wait for her, well, that’s information that is helpful to have.

    1. 6.1
      Emily, to


      The OP would do really well to break up with this guy, date other guys for 3 years, and then check back in. This will give her the experience she needs to make a informed decision. And if he’s not willing to wait for her, well, that’s information that is helpful to have.

      Three years? He should wait for her for 3 years? Would you wait for someone for 3 years? Unless I misread what you wrote, I don’t think that’s reasonable. Who would do that, in the event the other person may return?

      1. 6.1.1

        Honestly? I would have waited for my first love for three years, no question. The reason it’s reasonable to ask him to wait three years is – he’s the problem. He has violent tendencies and it takes time to work those things out. HE needs that length of time to get himself together and anything shorter really can’t be seen as a permanent change. This is her literal life on the line with this guy.

        The practical point in having her do this is for her to see that either 1) he refuses, giving her permission to move on; 2) he gets angry and insists he’s not the problem, again proving the point; 3) she gets permission to move on with the promise that she might get this guy eventually, which she might need to take action to protect herself by leaving a small amount of hope that it’s not over; 4) when the 3 years have gone by, we can hope she’s moved on to a better relationship, and can see clearly the red flags that are invisible to her right now.

        What does he get? To break his patterns and have a consequence that might motivate him to make real change that means he won’t hurt someone. That has real value. It doesn’t feel good to be the person that hurts others but doesn’t know how to change. That dynamic won’t stop without real change – which might be a gift the OP can give him as she saves herself.

        1. Mina Harker

          She shouls ens things because he soesnt sound like a good partner, but asking anybody to wait three years while you date other people is absolutely ridiculous lol

  7. 7
    Jayne Lakicevic

    Arianna, he’s on his best behaviour right now.

    Trust your instinct, you know deep down he’s not right.   You’re trying to convince yourself he is because you’re afraid of the unknown.   Better to cry now for letting him go than to cry later for having stayed.

    Oprah always said, when they show themselves to you (which he has), believe them.

    And listen to Evan – choose wisely and you’ll have an amazing life.   If you don’t you will so regret it.   Choosing the right partner affects the rest of your entire life, especially once you have children together.

    Be brave.   Good luck Arianna xx


  8. 8
    No Name To Give


  9. 9

    One of the things I love best about this blog is that Evan gives the women he writes for permission to put ourselves first. Thankfully women get that message more often now than I did as a young woman, but still not often enough.

    The angry people I’ve known are all struggling with something that they’re not dealing with. It’s usually a cover for some kind of emotional pain, but without self-awareness it’s not going to ever go away. And even with self-awareness it isn’t going to go away without a lot of hard work on his part.

    Either way, you won’t ever be happy going along for the ride. You’ll either be his emotional, or perhaps physical “punching bag” for years while he works through his shit, or doesn’t, in which case you’ll be stuck in the “punching bag” role. Or, he’ll get through it and leave you behind because he doesn’t need you anymore.

    Take Evan’s advice — put you first, you deserve it.


  10. 10

    I’ve had relationships with two separate men who had bad anger issues, and initially I thought they would  never, never  hurt me physically – they both adored me. However, it did get to that point with both of them, and at that point, I left and never went back. With the one guy, I left at the point where he was physically restraining me from getting in my car to leave, and with the other, it was at the point where he threw hot chocolate in my face. Both would have ended up hitting me – I have no doubt about that.

    Any hint of violence is reason to leave. Punching walls, yelling at dogs, being controlling… these all qualify.

    But I think what was most alarming was where Arianna said she packed up her things and left in the middle of the night on two occasions. This brought up bad memories for me. I have been in this situation. It’s just awful. And she is considering having children with this man? Who wants to live their life like this? No relationship is worth this kind of risk to your safety.

    I do believe people can grow and heal and change destructive behaviours, but this is a very long, hard journey that usually needs professional help. Arianna is not obliged to go through this journey with her boyfriend. She is allowed to put her own happiness first. Honestly, this relationship doesn’t sound that great, even aside from the anger issues. One TV show that they can watch together? Only being tolerated by his family? I’d be out, life is too short.

    I think Arianna’s reluctance to leave is about more than just how much he loves her and how much effort he’s putting in and the fact that she doesn’t want to be alone. I think that, like  many, many women, she feels  obligated  to stay and help him, to reciprocate and repay his love for her, and that is keeping her stuck. But yeah, I don’t see this relationship having a happy ending. A mediocre one at best.

  11. 11

    please leave him! My ex started out like you describe (punching walls etc) and ended physcially abusive towards me.

    That type of man won’t change. Move on. Don’t become a statistic, it takes years to recover.. not worth it.

  12. 12
    Mimi G

    Is this the man you want to parent your children? Is this the man you would want your sweet daughter to marry? While you are dating and thinking about this man, you have no space in your life for beautiful, positive people.

    Life is difficult and only becomes MORE challenging. Do you feel he is up for the challenges? Or, is he only good/great when everything is perfect and simple and easy?

    He’s not kind. He’s not respectful. (Not consistently. Look at who he is when he has stress, not just on the good days) Find someone you can actually be beautiful with. Who you pick to spend your life with is everything. Pick wisely, not from fear of moving on.

    Lots of love


  13. 14
    no one

    I have nothing different to add but I will join the chorus and say   LEAVE NOW!

  14. 15
    Mrs Happy

    I have lived with a man who screamed, yelled and was angry almost every hour – every ten minutes if he interacted with anyone – he was at home.   Basic tasks like driving home would infuriate him.   I loved him leaving and going to work, because I looked forward to being alone, without him.   I recall going to Chicago for work once, and surprisingly finding the weeks there so relaxing, and it was only after some time, I realised that what I liked so much, was the absence of his angst and stress, the break from him.   (It was the first time I slept well for ages.)

    His voice rose over anything – literally over spilled milk.   I found his continual bursts of temper extremely unattractive, very immature, and I lost respect for an adult who behaved with the emotional control of a toddler, with no self control.     Violence is so sudden, and it’s really hard for angry people to control themselves, they are very impulsive, they act first and think later (if at all).

    I just read the most lovely judgement, 500 points of enchantingly written prose by a judge; the court case was an angry Australian man getting impulsively angry (as angry people do) and all of a sudden “unloading” (throwing) his tiny Canadian defacto from a 15th floor apartment (she died).   This was his first act of physical violence towards her.   First.   Arianna – read it.

    Unregulated anger sucks for everyone around the angry person.   Living with a partner like this will see his emotional state define your life.

    Wait until there is stress in your boyfriend’s life – his behaviour will get much worse.   As stated above, wait until he isn’t trying to impress you.   Worse, worse is to come.   Plus, selfish in bed – it’s such an indicator of a crappy future (selfish) partner in general.

    The most important thing to look for in a partner is kindness.   Pardon me being blunt, but you would be idiotic to stay.

    1. 15.1

      This is so awful.   And after the bickering you experienced with your parents growing up.   No wonder you grew to so love living alone.


      I grew up with a father with anger issues.   He was moody and pissy and   although he never (to my knowledge) hurt my mother, we kids grew to fear his anger.   He was so out of control so much of the time, cared so little for the perspectives of others relative to his own….I often wonder whether the reason I came to value emotional control and perspective taking so much was to be the antithesis of how he was.   The OP here should remember that even if she thinks she can control this man, he will be the father of any children they have, and children tend to piss their parents off quite regularly.   Do you want this man to be the father of your children?   Would you want him to be left alone with them, would you trust him with minors when he’s angry at them?   Would you want them to be like him, because there’s a good chance they will be?   This was the best, most effective razor I had when narrowing my search for a spouse.


      I am often asked by other parents how I managed to get my kids to be so (relatively) calm and well-behaved.   I answer that I married someone who is calm and well-behaved.   Doesn’t always work, but has the highest base rate for success.

  15. 16

    People do not change. If this is him on his best behavior, imagine what his worst is like. Run. Away. Fast.

  16. 17

    Can we have an update from Arianna? Did she take the overwhelming advise?

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