Q: The second man in my 40-year life (my first and last cyber-lover) told me that my anger and blaming drove him away. I admit I do have a short temper, but I do not hate anyone; I am basically kind, generous, and spontaneous. I simply let people know how I feel. I am a successful career woman; even my employees and customers like me (although not some of my colleagues), despite my temper tantrums which flare up because of work pressures. How do you distinguish real anger and a temper fit? Besides, isn’t real love supposed to be unconditional?
Dr. Klein: There is no such thing as a “temper.” We have feelings, and we make choices about how to express them. We say people have a “bad temper” when they are frequently angry and typically express it in a hostile way. When people talk about their anger in a calm, cooperative way, we don’t say they have a bad temper, we say they are remarkable grownups.
The only unconditional love exists between some parents and their infants. Love between adults is, and should be conditional–it is a function of how people treat each other. If one person mistreats another, of course they will be loved less. If one person continues to mistreat another, that person should leave. I encourage you to get professional counseling to explore the roots of your anger. Good therapy can reduce the amount of anger you feel each day, and it can teach you how to express your anger in ways that enhance intimacy rather than destroying it.