Dear Carolyn: I'm in an almost one-year relationship. There are many wonderful aspects of our relationship and of him, but I wonder about the long term. It took me a little while to put my finger on it, but it seems to center on impatience. He can be a very impatient driver (aggressive and tailgating), gets extremely frustrated easily when things don't work out the way he wants (a slow-loading app, a Word document not formatting correctly). This carries over into many aspects of our relationship.
Is this something that can be changed or eased? I find myself either withdrawing or trying to be the peacemaker or calming influence. — On the Fence
Answer: Sure, it can ease, if he ever grows up.
Until then, you have to worry about winding up in somebody's bumper. Aggressive driving is not a hmm-can-I-adapt-to-this? personality quirk; it's often illegal and always a crash risk. The sooner you let him know you won't be his passenger until he learns to manage his "impatience" — better known by its real name, anger — the sooner your neighborhood roads become safer.
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As for your future together, all I can think of is the anguish people feel when an unbearable trait emerges in a partner after you've fused your lives ... and how that's nothing compared with the searing regret and self-flagellation that follow the realization that you knew the problem all along and married it anyway.
You're struggling already with the burden of managing his emotions when he fails to — flat-out not your job — or hiding from them. That has a real name, too: "Walking on eggshells." He's controlling you through his volatility, whether he means to or not.
How much fun do you think that'll be after you've done this for a decade or three? How about through the rigors of raising children or owning property or just filing joint tax returns year after year after year? Waiting for the next outburst and for the outbursts to finally stop?
You're dating. You're doing this so you and he can get to know each other. It's what people do.
But sometimes we get lulled into doing what people do without reminding ourselves why we do it. People date not just to see if they can create something that lasts, but also to see whether they should.
Your dating data are coming in. Please heed them.
Email Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at Washingtonpost.com.
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