Anger: Understand it, before it wrecks your relationship

There is no doubt about it, anger, especially when expressed aggressively towards a partner, can be scary. This article will explore the reasons why people express anger within their relationships and how this affects the partnership.


When tensions are running high in our lives romantic relationships can be tested to the max. High-stress periods can bring out emotions which were either muted or lying dormant waiting for an experience to bring them further to the surface. We’ve all heard the term ‘anger management’ but no emotion should be ‘managed’ since there are often logical reasons why a person becomes angry. As an emotion anger has a bad rep, It’s perceived as unacceptable because it can feel threatening to the person on the receiving end of an outburst. This naturally leads the frightened partner to try and fix the aggressive person, mainly because they fear for their own safety. However, It’s much more effective to understand what puts a person into an angry state.

Why do we express anger?

Let’s put it into perspective. Couple’s get angry with one another from time to time, especially in periods of uncertainty. As with anything, it’s impossible to correct something we don’t understand, so the following five insights detail a variety of reasons as to why you may be expressing anger towards your partner:

1. Frustration: Many couples struggle to be understood by each other. Men and Women speak different languages and often become extremely frustrated at not feeling heard by one another. Couples lacking knowledge in the differences between each other's communication patterns often build anger and resentment. This can be all the more frustrating if most aspects of the relationship are fantastic. Frustration can either seep out frequently or gradually build over time until a person explodes into an angry/aggressive outburst. If you’re ‘missing each other’ or your partner ‘doesn’t understand you’ it’s very likely you have an argumentative relationship. Eventually, this creates a wedge between you both until distance feels like the only solution. A relationship therapist can help you to understand gender differences before an impending break up occurs.

2. Feeling out of control: The wish for certainty is hardwired into all of us. Feeling safe and secure is a basic human survival mechanism. So when a person doesn’t understand something or feels helpless or insecure they typically turn to anger to gain a sense of control. If you find yourself acting in this way towards your partner it’s likely a sign you feel out of control. Dominating a loved one might temporarily make you feel empowered but the long term implications are extremely damaging to a relationship.

3. Lacking life purpose: If you’re unhappy with where you are in life and feel lost or uncertain about what’s around the corner, anger can thrive. Not having a goal or life meaning can lead to pent up frustration, and it’s common for a person feeling lost to take it out on their partner. Lacking purpose is toxic to a relationship because it leads to putting unrealistic expectations on your partner to provide the certainty you lack. Learning to provide that stability within your self helps to build a strong foundation for yourself and your partner. A professional counsellor can help you build emotional strength. 

4. Unexplored experiences: Life is tough. We think we know our partners but we can’t possibly know everything about them, nor should we. Everyone brings a certain amount of baggage to the next relationship, some of which may be incredibly painful. It’s no shock that past experiences can have an enormous impact on how we relate to others. If you’re carrying past hurt be open to the idea that you may be projecting that onto your partner in ways neither of you understands. Equally, you may have both experienced trauma together such as the death of a loved one, abortion, or miscarriage. Such experiences can lead to tense feelings. Whatever it is, bottling stuff up can lead to either passive or outward aggression towards your partner, and potential collapse of the relationship. 

5. Learnt traits from upbringing: If you are bought up in an overtly expressive way by one or both parents it’s easy to replicate that pattern of relating within future relationships. How our parents relate to each other can greatly impact what we view as ‘normal’ communication. Therefore, if an aggressive parent was normal you may be playing out the aggressor role with your partner. This may feel familiar, but it’s extremely unhealthy in the long run for your relationship.

If you’re struggling with the impact of asserting anger within a relationship and would like to vent your frustrations, a counsellor can help you to understand your feelings and transform how you communicate with your partner.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Romford RM3 & London W6
Written by Adam Day, Counsellor/Psychotherapist/Coach
Romford RM3 & London W6

Adam Day is trained in various approaches as an integrative therapist; these include humanistic (person centred/existential), cognitive behavioural, transpersonal and psychodynamic. He is available for therapy throughout the week from 10am to 8pm.

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