The angry relationship
How many of our relationships are spoiled by anger? How often is that true of our home life and our nearest and dearest. Anger is a powerful, common, natural emotion which is possibly the most poorly handled in today’s society. When added to the stress of family life unresolved anger can cause emotional, physical and mental health to suffer as well as impact the relationship with our partner and the wider family.
In many relationships in deciding how best to deal with the angry relationship, it is not the anger we need look at but rather how the partner’s deal with anger itself. This means understanding how to manage their own anger and understanding their partner’s.
Anger is often a mask for other emotions, like fear or hurt or vulnerability. But because it is easier to push the person away when we are frightened we hide behind our anger as a defence. We feel ashamed at our weakness. Can you see past this?
If it is your partner’s anger, listening to their point of view and not jumping in with criticism helps. Ask questions to show you are both listening. Really check you understand you know where they are coming from before you come in with your viewpoint.
If you are angry, it is worth taking as much time as you possibly can, before you react. That might be the old adage of counting to 10 or it might be walking around the block. The more time you give yourself between the event that angered you and choosing your reaction, gives you the best chance to choose something that will be positive in your relationship.
It can be useful if you and your partner can agree ways of talking to each other so that you argue in a productive way. Take a time out if it gets too heated, no one is listening (except the neighbours) when you scream at each other. No hitting below the belt or bringing up old fights etc. All of these things help you to express your anger while maintaining respect for your relationship.
Of course not all anger is about shouting and screaming. Some people find their partner’s sulk and are silent. Again, it is important to recognise that they may be angry and try to understand and respect their point of view. However, it is reasonable to look after yourself so ask “Are you angry at me?” or “Would it help to talk about how you are feeling?” It can help to use the person’s name and speak in a low, slow tone and be on the same eye level.
Dealing with anger in relationships is possible and although many are frightened of the emotion it is perfectly practical to communicate and deal with the issues. It may help to talk it through with a relationship counsellor.
It perhaps goes without saying that if you find yourself in a violent or abusive relationship (man or woman) you should seek help immediately.