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How to Manage Anger in Your Relationship

Anger is an emotion that although not classified as either good or bad can damage a relationship if it is not understood or dealt with in an appropriate manner. It is only human to get angry now and then at issues that are important to us. However if your fuse is ignited by every small thing and you have only limited ability to control your anger, you may slowly be destroying your relationship. It may be too much to ask your partner to be a willing recipient of such emotions.

If left unaddressed anger can become abusive and may be just one more symptom of a dysfunctional relationship.

In this article we are not entering the realms of abusive anger but are exploring how to control anger so it does not escalate and impede the flow of an otherwise healthy relationship.

Why Do You Get Angry?

Anger is not an emotion that inflicts everybody. Some people due to their inherited predispositions and their life experience may be more prone to anger responses than others. Major causes can be:

  1. Modelling Influences
  2. Personality Predisposition
  3. Limiting Attitudes and Beliefs
  4. Wrong Doings by Others
  5. Communication Mishaps

Modelling Influences

If as a child you have witnessed either of your parents or other significant people in your life regularly acting out in anger without any negative repercussions you may have learned that it is acceptable to show anger. You may have also concluded that it is okay to be the recipient of anger.

These learned behaviours may now be practiced in your present day relationships, but the consequences may be different from what you observed in the past.

Personality Predispositions

Although there are mixed views as to whether or not we can inherit personality traits such as shyness, depression and anger, there is some evidence to support the fact that predispositions to certain behaviours are transferred from one family member to another.

This does not mean that you are doomed to be an angry man or woman just because your father and great grandmother showed anger, but it is best to be aware that there might be a tendency for anger in your inherited make up.

Whether this predisposition will result in angry behaviour is very much determined by different factors such as the influence of any other personality traits and environmental determinants.

Such information on ‘who you are’ can be helpful when creating strategies to deal with your anger in your relationship.

Limited Attitudes and Beliefs

Anger is not necessarily generated by the events in your relationship but by the thoughts and beliefs you hold. Often these beliefs stem from cognitive distortions, assumptions, judgements and expectations. When your partner by an action or lack of action triggers one of these beliefs your response is that of anger. Some common thoughts you may hold about your relationship are:

  • You must always treat me nicely
  • I’m always right so do not argue with me
  • I should have all my expectations and needs met by you
  • You should do what I say
  • If I don’t agree with you, you’ll be mad at me so I say nothing
  • Why can’t you do things right?
  • The world isn’t fair and you can’t see this
  • Things must run smoothly in our relationship and they don’t

When ever these thoughts or similar ones are stirred by incidents both relevant and external to your relationship your fuse is lit, you lose control and act out in anger.

Wrong Doings By Others And Your Partner

It is almost impossible to go through life without experiencing inappropriate behaviours from others, including your partner. These wrongdoings can result in resentments and may sit with you and unexpectedly may pop up as anger responses.

Unless these wrongdoings are addressed anger may hover over your relationship indefinitely.

Communication Mishaps

If there is a communication breakdown in your relationship as you or your partner fail to listen to each other’s feelings and acknowledge each other’s point of view angry outbursts may be the result. Once you add assumptions and judgements to the communication mix anger may dominate the relationship style of both partners.

When making assumptions you are sending a message to your partner that you know better than them what they are ‘really’ feeling and thinking. Your partner may feel that you do not respect them and with time resentments may accumulate, emotions may fester and anger will rise to the surface.

Just as important as the words you communicate are the non verbal cues you may be transmitting. Your partner can easily pick up on any hidden judgements and criticisms from your tone of voice and body manner, and may respond to you in anger.

Having a general understanding about the ‘why’ of anger may give you a head start in devising ways to manage anger in your relationship.

Strategies You Can Implement To Control Anger In Your Relationship

Recognize Your Anger Cues

If you were aware of the situational and physical aspects that triggered your angry responses you could take steps to avoid them or at least find ways to minimise their impact. If for example your temper is provoked every time you ask your partner for help on a project and they do a bad job, you could just stop asking them. Perhaps your partner has friends or relatives that rub you the wrong way. Unless it is imperative that you spend time with them and therefore may need some additional strategies, avoid stress and anger by steering clear of these sources of irritation.

Change Your Angry Thinking

As the thoughts you hold about your relationship surface and you become annoyed that your partner is not living up to your expectations a burst of anger is just around the corner. Listen to how you talk to yourself when you are angry as your thinking can get very exaggerated and quite dramatic as you fall victim to distorted thinking.

What can you do? Distorted thinking can be countered with rational comebacks such as checking out the situation and the validity of your thoughts; regaining perspective; changing your thoughts to more reasonable ones; and generally being more flexible in your thinking.

Once you have control of your thoughts you have control of your anger and your relationship is safe from the repercussions of inappropriate anger.

Improve Your Communication

As anger is an emotion it is important for you to become familiar with it and any other emotions that contribute to anger. The best way to do this is by beginning to talk about your feelings on a daily basis. Use “I feel…” statements as often as you feel an emotion emerging, and don’t be afraid to express negative feelings to your partner, as well as any positive ones. It may be helpful to keep a Feelings Journal in which you can record your emotions, and then review the ones that are positive and the ones that contribute to your anger.

The more familiar you are with your emotions the better you will be able to control the negative ones and express yourself in a more positive manner.

Probably the best piece of advise on offer is: “Keep Cool”. The first thing to do when in midst of a heated discussion is to slow down, keep your cool, and think of your response. While doing this also listen carefully to what the other person is saying. With a clear head you can then express your feelings and your views.

To avoid triggering anger in your partner eliminate the use of assumptions, accusations and judgements in your language. Try and use assertive talk and avoid any aggressive statements. You can also consider adding some Problem Solving skills to your communication tool box.

Communication is always a big topic but even one change to your communication style may significantly influence your use of anger in your relationship.

Taking Time Out

When you are immersed in a fiery discussion in which your fuse has already been ignited consider taking time out from the situation for at least 30 minutes so that you can physically calm down and mentally rethink your position.

While cooling down you can work out what you could have done to deal more constructively with the situation by reviewing your self talk and the flow of the discussion. If necessary a quick walk can release some tension and allow you to think more clearly.

At the end of time out you may be able to resume your discussion but if anger feelings still loom and you cannot as yet address them it may be necessary to reschedule the discussion for when you and your partner are feeling calmer.

Stress Management

Although we have not mentioned it as yet stress is a major contributor to angry outbursts. When you are stressed your tolerance to deal with your anger triggers is minimal, strategies fall by the wayside and you can easily explode in an angry rage.

It therefore makes sense to practice some form of stress management in addition to anger management. Simple relaxation tools such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery implemented on a regular basis can help minimise anger episodes as well as calm down angry feelings when they arise.

Yoga and meditation have also proved beneficial in calming mind and body. Your diet and the amount of sleep you get all contribute to your level of stress. By making any necessary changes you can improve both your ability to temper your anger and your quality of life.

Anger is one of our more dominant emotions. Although we view it as a negative feeling there are times when anger may be a legitimate emotion, and it may just be a matter of learning how to appropriately express it.

In this article we have looked at anger as a disruption to your relationship, and as such you have been provided with some insights into the cause of anger and strategies to deal with it.

I will leave you now with three actions you can take to help you understand your own anger and how to deal with it.

  1. List 2 things that your partner does that triggers your anger. Now write down 2 strategies that you can use the next time you are provoked.
  2. Try to think of 2 thoughts that counteract your anger thoughts and write them down as anger management statements.
  3. When feeling annoyed or frustrated with your partner think of a productive physical activity that you can use during your time out.

Do you want to manage the anger in your relationship?
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#1 pru stubbings on 09.15.10 at 4:55 pm

I Read The page On Anger It Has given me Food For Thought I Need Help Because I Want The Anger To Be Gone Please Help Me Thank You Pru

#2 Zahava on 09.21.10 at 8:57 am

Pru, I think it is great that you are aware of your anger problem and are committed to doing something about it.
Is your anger general or just specific to your relationship? In either case the questions posed at the end of the above article may be a good starting point.
In order to help you move forward it would be useful to explore some of your thought patterns and anger triggers. If you are interested we could talk about these further.
Please do not hesitate to contact me directly on either
3855 9917 or on 0403974521.