Ask the experts: How can I deal with anger in relationships?

Whether you struggle to let go of a grudge or find it hard to break relational patterns, many of us experience anger in relationships. They may be with romantic partners, friends or even co-workers. So how can we manage this anger and move forward in a healthy way?

Two people with arms folded turned way from each other

Here, integrative psychotherapist Lucy Smith answers your questions on anger and resentment in relationships.

How can I deal with anger in relationships?

When someone has upset me, I can struggle to let it go. What are some signs that I’m holding onto a grudge?

Identify if this is a relational pattern you have subconsciously adapted. Struggling to let “something go” could indicate you are not ready to because of the source of pain. Question the source of pain, is it something within you? What is the real trigger here?

Resentment breeds complex feelings that we can project onto someone, which can turn into resentment, which in turn creates a negative relational pattern. Be honest with yourself and ask – how often does this happen in your relationships? How do you choose to sit with conflict? What does letting go look like for you and has this happened yet?

How can I let go of resentment and grudges? 

Take accountability for the role you play in holding onto the grudge – let’s separate logic and emotion. A helpful way to do this is to try and identify the emotions attached to the resentment or grudge. Do you feel hurt or perhaps betrayed? These are difficult feelings to sit with, where do you put them? What do you do with them? More often than not we are left with no choice but to sit in them, and this lingering feeling perpetuates more negativity.

Actively creating spaces for complex feelings is a healthy way to vent and understand why we feel the way we do. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours connect in these instances, write down a thought and then the feeling, and identify how it has impacted your behaviour.

I need to address a grievance at work but I’m nervous. How can I go into the situation calmly?

Recognise you are allowed to be nervous in this setting. Work grievances can be uncomfortable and I imagine for it to get to this point, something has been building for some time. My top tip for managing anything within work is to always make a record of your own notes, specifically here – write down what you want to get out of the situation before going into it. How do you want to leave the meeting feeling? What needs to be resolved?

Take your notes into the meeting if it makes you feel comfortable and use your voice to be as direct as possible. Understand the policies and protocols of the company, in the unlikely instance this does not get resolved, do you know the next point of call? Also, ask a friend or colleague you trust if they have experienced something similar and, if so, how did they address this?

What are your top tips for managing relational anger?

Relational anger, what does this mean? “Relational” implies anything to do with our relational patterns and relationships. We all have a unique relationship with anger that has shaped us based on our experiences. 

My first tip on managing anger is to check in with the here and now. Be active in exploring your anger, and separate yours from someone else’s, whether that be a parent or your partner. Anger mirrors anger, hold a mirror up to your anger and ask yourself what’s behind it – is it sadness? Is it pain? Where does it come from and how does it play a part in your relationships? Have you lost relationships due to anger? Are you masking anger with passive aggressiveness or a sense of perfectionism?

Once you have recognised your relational pattern, you can learn ways to manage it. Exercise in any form is a healthy way to release tension. Arts and crafts, baking, and talking to a friend to vent and feel validated can all help. Recognising what works for you is key to managing any difficult feeling.

This article was originally published in Happiful Magazine (Issue 70 2022). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app

Share this article with a friend
Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Content Producer for Memiah and writer for Counselling Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with Anger management

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals