Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Real Talk With Rachel: Trying to Get Off the Train

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I have been dating this girl for about a year, and this is my first time being a “real” boyfriend. We care about each other a lot and see things becoming more serious. There is only one big issue and it’s that she sometimes has a big temper. Last weekend, when her SmarTrip didn’t work she started making a scene -- muttering, cursing and she even kicked the machine. It was embarrassing and she looked like a brat, plus she never got her SmarTrip fixed.

Other than this she is really great. When I tell her that she gets too angry, she tells me everyone deals with their emotions differently and I need to respect that this is how she deals with them. I don’t want to break up with her but I hate this aspect of her and it embarrasses me. What can I do?

Not Sure About This Ticket to Ride

Dear Not Sure About This Ticket to Ride,

While I understand your girlfriend’s frustrations about SmarTrip malfunctions, I can see why you’d be humiliated by her inefficient tantrum. After all, in between her muttering, cursing and kicking, did she manage to figure out why her SmarTrip didn’t work? That aspect of rage frustrates me the most -- that it generally prevents people from finding a solution. If people skipped the freak-outs they could find an answer, and therefore peace, more quickly.

You already get this. It’s why your girlfriend’s behavior humiliates you. (It’s interesting how we can get legitimately humiliated when absolute strangers observe certain actions of the people we love, but it seems difficult to curb this emotion. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant with a person being rude to the wait staff? Nothing more embarrassing in the world.)

You could try to be less humiliated when your girlfriend has these tantrums. Separate yourself from her and the SmarTrip machine. She might not make such a scene if she doesn’t have someone to perform for.

If she is ever going to stop being angry, she’ll have to figure that out for herself. You can’t make the change for her, no matter how many thoughtful conversations you two have about ways to handle your emotions. You can tell her how it affects you, but it’s ultimately her decision if she wants to take up yoga or therapy or some other form of anger control. So then, the question is what you’re going to DO about it -- besides zoning out every time your girlfriend has a tantrum in the metro. Do you want to stay with her?

No one person will ever have all of the qualities you seek in a relationship. However, lots of people think they have dealbreakers -- non-negotiable standards for a significant other. But what I’ve found is that dealbreaker is the wrong way to look at this sentiment. The process is far messier than that. It seems more like erosion, when water wears away at rocks. No one wave is particularly strong. Over time, though, the constant motion can carve out huge gaps in boulders.

So will her anger management skills (or lack thereof) wear you down? I don’t know. It’s easy to say that a relationship should make you feel happier more than it makes you sad. It’s more difficult to determine how to calculate which one you’re feeling more.

You say this is your first “real” girlfriend, so I’m guessing that she’s the first person who you’ve ever felt you love romantically. I don’t personally believe there’s “one” person out there for you. You could love other people. It would be different from your current relationship, of course, but it could still be “real,” in your parlance. And part of being “real” is that some eroding will take place. It’s up to you to determine which “realness” you want to live.


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or send an email to advice @

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