by Dr Cheryl Dusty
inward becomes depression. We turn anger inward when the anger is
hidden and unresolved. Anger also causes stress, manifests itself
into disease and health issues, illnesses, and has a close tie to
relationship can cause depression and unless you end the
relationship, it's a never ending cycle. Are you dealing with an
angry partner? There are things you can do to help the situation!
One word of warning: you can only fix yourself and how you react to
the situation. Anger issues have destroyed many relationships, and
the angry party will ultimately need to deal with the anger issues
with the help of a professional counselor.
relationships provide a framework for partners to calmly discuss
disagreements, conflicts, and small irritations. These issues are
discussed without casting blame and negativity. However, even in the
best of relationships, disagreements occur which become emotionally
charged. I'm not aware of any relationship that never has arguments,
and these disagreements can provide a platform to clear the air
before the issue becomes chronic, destroys trust and intimacy, or
results in lies by omission (I didn't lie to you, I just didn't
bring it up because I knew you'd get mad).
sharing feelings, not just facts,
provides an atmosphere of being able to share and receive
acknowledgement and acceptance, helping to build intimacy and trust.
Schedule Regular Meetings
With Your Partner
A meeting with my partner, you
ask? You bet! We take the time to have meetings at work, or call
companies that we use in our lives, so is it any less important to
make sure you and your partner are on the same page? For some
couples, it may be a once a month meeting, or bi-weekly may be
required. With experimentation, you will discover what works for
you! When you make agreements, share important facts or schedules,
write them down to avoid misunderstandings at a later time.
If you are unable to resolve a
particular issue, you can always create written agreements that
offer concessions from both parties, similar to "if I do this,
you'll do that" or "if I don't do such and such again, I'll agree to
do that". It can and may be a negotiation.
Emotions can and
do come to the surface when couples discuss issues. Set the ground
rules which include:
Not interrupting your
Really listen and make notes
if it is an emotional issue which tends to rob us of clear
Agree to no name calling or
deliberate put downs.
Stick to one
subject or issue at a time.
If after your partner has
spoken you find that it has been a simple recitation of facts,
ask "how did that make you feel?" or "how
did you feel when I did that?" or "how were you feeling while
that was going on?" To really solve non-business issues, you
need to know where you partner's head was at during the
Shut up. Nothing from your
mouth while your partner has time to think
and respond. And don't move on until you've heard their answer.
There is an old rule of thumb that really good salesmen use: he
who speaks 1st (after asking a question) looses. It's true here
Now most importantly,
you need to verify that you understood the communication. Many
of us, especially when emotions are running high, tend to add
our own mental reaction or defensiveness to the mix. To avoid
this ask your partner "if I'm hearing you correctly, you feel or
said such and such" and recap what they've told you.
You only speak initially to
verify your partners story or position. You are making no
Now you have your opportunity
to comment on the situation and your partner will also verify
your communication. Believe me when I tell you that this
technique (called a mirroring technique) will avoid
misunderstandings and help you come to a solution or compromise.
dig down and discover what happened before the issue occurred.
This will help you identify what may have triggered the
situation in the first place instead of getting tied up in how
things are after if reached a breaking or boiling point.
To be able to resolve issues,
there are rules of engagement that need to be followed. No
yelling, no name calling, no generalizations like "you always",
interrupting your partner, getting off subject and bringing in
other issues, bringing up previous issues that you thought were
resolved, living in the past (because if you follow these
suggestions as you go along, there is no reason to bring up the
past), manipulating your partner with pouting, withdrawal
(physically or emotionally), giving ultimatums (don't make me
choose because you will loose), ect. These are all
non-productive behaviors which will simply escalate any issue.
After you have discussed an
issue, remember that this meeting is not a never ending discussion.
Unless a number of different issues have occurred since the last
meeting, try to limit the issues that you will resolve right now.
Everybody has a limit about how much emotional upheaval they can
deal with in one sitting.
End you meeting on a positive
note. Make a list of things you might do to make things better or
behaviors you can change that are detrimental to your own life and
to the relationship. The goal is to make your partner feel more
loved, more secure and to remove the stress.
Recognizing Anger Triggers
There are signs that you can
learn to recognize before anger becomes out of control. You may
notice someone becoming tense, breathing more rapidly, getting red
in the face, verbally snapping, becoming sarcastic, withdrawing from
you physically or conversationally, blowing up over little things
like dropping something, or ignoring requests that a chore or action
be done. Many of these are passive aggressive behaviors used by
people to manipulate others. They use it to gain attention or to
make you pay for a real or imagined slight to them. They use it
because they are insecure enough that they will not tell you
outright what problem exists. They use it because of emotionally
immaturity. They use it because at some point in their life, their
feelings were invalidated and it does not feel safe to openly
discuss problems. This is a highly destructive behavior that needs
to be addressed in counseling if the behavior continues.
Angry people need to find
constructive ways to express emotions short of yelling, accusing, or
making ultimatums. This is something that may have to be done
numerous time a day until they learn more positive behaviors. One
diffusing response is "when you do (whatever) or say (whatever) it
makes me feel (whatever emotion you feel). It is very difficult to
be angry with a person because of their feelings. The quickest way
to escalate anger is to respond off the cuff with something like
"now you've really pissed me off" or "quit being a jerk". It can
lead to a never ending diatribe.
Word of caution: there is
NEVER any excuse for physical violence from either party. Research
has shown that violence only escalates in severity. If you are a
victim of violence, LEAVE NOW and go to a safe place including
battered women's shelters, the police station, or a friends house as
long as you are not putting them in danger. Next, call the police
and file charges against the perpetrator. Unfortunately, many people
hesitate to help victims of abuse because there many, many times the
women drop the charges and go back into the abusive situation after
believing that the perpetrator is sorry for their actions and won't
do it again, or falsely believe that the victim themselves caused
the violence. Abusers do not change their behaviors until they have
had extensive counseling and/or rehabilitation.
There is also a condition
referred to as emotional abuse. Emotional abuse occurs when a
partner continues a hurtful behavior. It is no less damaging than
physical abuse. It simply lacks the physical marks. This is most
common form is infidelity, addiction/alcoholism, constantly
putting down their partner, demanding in one form or another that
the partner do things they are not comfortable with, requiring
constant attention, ordering, living in constant chaos, and more. I
will add an article on emotional abuse
If your partner seems to be
angry, try a direct, gentle request to stop the behavior.
If this approach is not successful, express your own anger and
insist on solving the problem, making a compromise or negotiate the
situation. Remember that you must appear calm to the angry person.
Take a deep breath and begin counting until you feel you are more in
control. If you don't feel, after first making an effort to calm
down, remove yourself from the situation. You can leave, take a bike
ride, go do something else, take a warm shower, whatever helps you
be calm and centered. If you've left the situation, returned, and
still don't feel calm, leave the situation again. It takes practice
to learn to control our own anger. Remember that driving recklessly,
using drugs, or drinking are not helping you control your angry
reaction. You want to leave for short periods of time so that you
are not consciously "punishing" the angry person. The goal is to
lessen the length of time it takes you to respond rationally and
eventually be able to work out the differences or calmly discuss the
Causing the Anger?
Feelings of anger are a direct result of another issue. So the next
time you feel angry (and please share this with the angry person
AFTER they are again rational), ask yourself why do I feel angry?
What is this in response to? Do I feel unloved, threatened,
powerless, guilty, manipulated, hurt, betrayed?
Look at the situation and ask
yourself if there is another way that the situation could be
interpreted? Do I actually have proof? Did I ask the person if I
correctly understood what they said? How much difference will this
situation make in my life in another day, week, month, or year? Is
it an important enough issue to take a stand on? (in other words,
pick your battles...life is not always smooth and may not always go
our way) Am I being selfish and forgetting about how I am making the
other person feel? Am I using the anger because I'm angry about
something that really didn't involve the person that I'm now angry
with? What would someone say about this who was trying to help me?
You will want help in dealing
with someone's anger issues. Ask for the help of family and friends,
asking them to point out the anger in someone who might not even
realize they are feeling that way. Bringing it to someone's
attention increases the odds of realizing there is indeed a problem
that needs help. Is there anyone who would be willing to talk you
through it when you feel angry? This needs to be someone with their
feet firmly on the ground instead of someone who will just take your
side and validate the anger. You might also suggest, when you are
calmly discussing the anger problem, a reward for a certain period
of time without angry outbursts, providing that in the beginning the
"good" period is fairly short. This can be re-negotiated after some
progress has been made.
Anger issues did not come about
overnight and they won't be improved overnight. When your partner is
angry, make eye contact and responses like "uh-huh" to show that you
are listening. Don't forget how to reframe what you hear them saying
to make sure you understand the issue. Showing that you really do
understand goes a long way in diffusing anger.
You begin with the smallest
issues first, which will give you a better shot a negotiating a
settlement of the issue. It makes it a win-win situation. But
remember that although you can give in on small things, you must
have healthy boundaries so that angry people don't think you won't
stand up for yourself or that you wants and needs are secondary to
If someone has a habit of anger,
you will need to reassert yourself many times to get your wants
and/or needs met. The goal is to have your partner either back down
or compromise with you. You must not appear scared or weak. You are
also a person with needs, priorities, and a right to be treated with
respect. Eye contact is more assertive than avoidance.
Remember, a good marriage or
family therapist can help you negotiate anger in a safe environment.
for Help for Yourself