Why getting mad at your partner is normal and how to successfully navigate anger.
“I can’t believe you did that!”
“I can’t believe you SAID that!”
“I can’t stand the sight of you right now!”
“I don’t want to talk to you anymore!”
Feeling angry is normal, and getting angry in your relationship is VERY normal. We all get upset at our boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, and husbands. Don’t they just have that certain WAY of getting under our skin sometimes and knowing just exactly what to do or say to make us SO MAD?
Yes. They do.
But it sure feels awful when your husband is mad at you or you are mad at him. When your wife yells at you and then storms out of the house. I know I hate it. It can be SO HARD to navigate your way through those feelings!!
There are concrete reasons why it feels so bad. Our anger comes from the “simpler” part of our brains that, when threatened, responds with a “fight or flight” response. We’re trying to protect ourselves. In the context of relationships, we feel “threatened” with a FEELING of loss or abandonment and then react with fighting or retreating to protect ourselves from this loss. The key here is that this is typically only a feeling of abandonment – not reality. Our anger feels badly to us because we feel we have had a type of “break” with our partner that was likely only worsened by the fight or flight reaction.
So anger is normal and WILL happen, but when strong enough can leave us in a state of loss and rejection. And we definitely know it has the potential to cause all sorts of serious problems. So what gives? What do we do so that it doesn’t end up seriously harming our relationships?
As a way to understand alternative approaches to anger, let’s look at how those of you in successful relationships manage anger:
- You know and accept that problems CANNOT be solved while you are in the heat of anger
- You know that behaviors such as being physically abusive, verbally abusive (calling names), or destruction of physical property is NEVER justifiable in the name of anger
- You recognize that you each express and react to anger differently
- You take responsibility for anything you do while angry
- You recognize that anger is a normal feeling and work to support and validate each other’s feelings, even if directed at you
- If you have difficulty managing how you express anger, you take steps to get help (i.e., counseling)
1. You therefore have prior agreed-upon plans to take short breaks until you calm down enough to talk more rationally
1. You work to understand and make allowances for your differences
1. This is VERY HARD, and takes strong communication!
1. How we express anger is a LEARNED behavior and therefore can be unlearned
Phew! That’s a lot! Clearly this is a bit topic. And I know from talking to MANY people that even the best communicators struggle with anger at times. You know what it feels like – some little demon takes root and before you know it, you’re doing things that are COMPLETELY self-destructive!
The steps above are a good start to give you some ideas on how to better address anger in your relationship, but if you are needing more guidance and support, please contact us or schedule an appointment here at the Salt Lake Relationship Center. We’d love to help!