Dear Readers,

This week’s Ask Carolyn concerns (1) hero instinct and (2) dealing with angry spouses.



Dear Carolyn,

I was in the most amazing relationship for four months and then something just happened. I thought I had finally found the man of my dreams. We were smitten and in love. We talked every night after work. He had lunch delivered to me at work. I had not dated after my divorce for over six years. Then I met this guy who I thought was the love of my life. Now he is not calling, and he is mostly ignoring my texts. Should I keep trying? How could he love me one minute and now ignore me? I still feel we are right for each other. Any ideas?


Carolyn Answers …

These matters of the heart are difficult to analyze, and I have seen thousands of break-ups “up close” as a divorce attorney. It is good that you have waited a substantial period of time after your last divorce to consider a new serious relationship. I suggest that you wait a year for every five years you were married to give yourself time to heal and grieve the loss of a spouse.

It takes two to tango. But what makes that tango work? In the long run, it is not the primal urges of the sparks of sex. Also, I do not think it is his analysis of whether you are meeting his needs. I think at the guts of relationship for men is this question: Does he feel he is meeting your needs and receiving adoration for meeting your needs? Is he your hero? Do you reveal your needs to him so that he can act on those needs? Some refer to this concept as “stroking his hero instinct.”

I am learning to fly a twin-engine airplane in a Beechcraft Duchess 76 airplane at Elon Aviation. I am an instrument-rated single engine pilot. The Duchess airplane as most trainer airplanes is older, and I am a petite woman. The airplane has cross-feed fuel knobs, and I was having trouble with the left side feed, which is positioned close to the pilot’s right side. I just could not get enough leverage to manipulate the knob. My brilliant husband (and a seasoned pilot) and I had lunch at Bravo Saturday just before I was going out to fly. He brought me a pair of vice grip pliers and showed me how to operate these and suggested that these vice grip pliers would give me leverage over this fuel knob. Yes, it worked, and he is my hero.

I would suggest you tap into your guy’s hero instinct. It is primal. Was he your hero when he sent lunch to your office? I think so. He needs to think you need him.



Dear Carolyn,

My spouse is an angry man. He is angry at everyone and everything. He takes anger out on me. I work full-time. He waits in the morning until I am getting ready to go to work to request for the first time several things he wants me to do, and then he gets angry when I cannot possibly accomplish all these things and meet my work schedule. He works out of our home, so he can relax in pajamas until noon and still get all of this work done. He picks fights at odd times. I love him immensely, but his explosiveness gets to me. I did not see this side of him until after we were married, although I had heard that there were incidents such as I am experiencing in his first marriage. This marriage is the second marriage for both of us. What can I do? I don’t like this anger pattern.


Carolyn Answers …

You have a tough, tough problem. Further, unless your spouse recognizes his anger and seeks to correct it, you are left with trying to defuse it time and time again. There are some tips for defusing angry outbursts. One or more of them might work in your situation. Note that these tips cannot be cures unless your spouse also recognizes the problem. Anger may be a habit, and habits, as we all know, can be very hard to break. It is like he is addicted to anger as a response. Now for some tips.

Humor may be the most likely to create de-escalation of an outburst of anger. Turn the situation to a light one if possible. I will warn that this could be perceived as making fun of the situation and make him angrier.

Walk away with a smile. “Honey, I have to be at work by 8 a.m. Can I do this for you tonight when I get home? Will that work?” Then leave.

Have compassion for this man. Something deep inside him troubles him. Compassion is critical.

Reflect on your actions that may be triggers for his anger. I don’t mean you need to walk on eggshells, but could you preempt the morning outbursts of anger if you arranged your schedule a little differently to accommodate his needs as you are leaving for work. Perhaps he needs some reassurance that he is more important than your job.

Whatever you do, do not retaliate in kind. Do not retreat from the relationship. Do not try to get back at him. This is only going to make matters worse.


Send questions on family law and divorce to, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro 27427 or at Ask Carolyn’s comment section at


Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.