When my business partner of 10 years gets in a bad mood, he verbally abuses everyone. His tirades are frequent, extreme and difficult. I’ve listened, and often agreed [with him], but it’s exhausting. If I change the subject, fail to comment or listen fully, he gets mad. His tirades are also causing problems with clients, vendors and his personal relationships. When he’s not nasty, he’s an excellent team player. But if I address the problem, he escalates or apologizes and says not to take it personally. He has been a true friend, so it doesn’t feel right to walk away. He gets defensive if I mention counseling. Ideas?
Mother Teresa said it best: “People are difficult. Love them anyway.” Your business partner’s behavior is frustrating. But wanting him to be someone other than himself is hopeless. His personality is to be a team player who is also negative, angry and verbally abusive at times. He isn’t going to change. He knows who he is. He even has the presence of mind to remind you not to take his antics personally because his public venting has nothing to do with you. But it’s your business to decide whether you can work with him as he is right now.
Of course, you have colluded for years in his effort to be the angry man you disapprove of. After all, you were a willing audience, even agreeing with his insights and opinions. Perhaps you wish you could just let loose and go off on the world, too? But, gee, someone needs to be mature here, right? And that’s the role you take in these scenarios, playing friend to the negative guy while smoothing out the mini-quakes that his eruptions cause. When people tell you they don’t know how you can take it, or that you’re such a great guy to put up with it, you can adopt the small smile, faraway look and slight nod that signals the self-sacrificing martyr, while below the surface your ego gorges on the attention.
There is another way: Talk to your partner and let him know that you will no longer listen to his stories of what is wrong with the world. Tell him you understand that his behavior has nothing to do with you, yet it’s affecting you considerably and so you may end the partnership, but are not choosing to do that yet. Then, adopt a practice (like Hatha yoga or meditation) to help you to become more balanced and honorable when facing conflict. In time, it will be apparent who really needs to change: you or your partner. (Or both.)
When I try to be intimate with my wife, she pushes me away. This bothers me, so lately I have refrained from making any attempts. When I ask questions, she gets defensive. Do you think a nice, long vacation is in order?
After you unpack the crisis in your marriage. It’s normal for sexual intimacy to ebb and flow, but when it stops without agreement from both partners, the marriage is deeply troubled. Health issues can inhibit libido, but if the problem isn’t medical, your wife may just need something different from you. Take gradual steps to renew intimacy by courting your wife through unexpected compliments (not sexually related) and short but tender kisses. At other times, take her hand or put your arm around her like she was your elementary-school sweetheart. Above all, be willing to look at yourself. Couch everything in “I” statements, such as “I miss your body. I want to make love to you again and I am willing to listen to anything you have to say about that.” If all goes well, invite her to sleep naked. There’s nothing more sensuous than skin on skin.