Tammy and Dave were three years into a marriage that could best be described as stormy. “I can’t seem to do anything right and she always seems to be attacking me,” said Dave. “Things could be going fine but the slightest thing goes wrong and her anger level goes from zero to 60. I never know when the hurricane is coming so I walk around on eggshells”.
“I can’t disagree with him,” Tammy answered as tears began to form in her eyes. “It’s not that I want to be that way but it just happens. It was that way growing up. Peaceful moments never seemed to last my home. Everything was resolved with yelling and anger.”
Dealing with a spouse who struggles to regulate their emotions can prove to be challenging and frustrating for the other on the receiving end. In this type of marriage, anxiety is center stage as one spouse maneuvers around the other in an attempt not to set off fireworks. The marriage doesn’t serve as a safe haven, but instead emotionally-drains both individuals.
How does one regulate the out-of-control emotions from damaging the relationship?
Here are a couple of quick ideas:
1. Be mindful
It is important we learn to be mindful when it comes to our emotions. It is not uncommon for our emotional state to change without our being fully cognitive of what has occurred.
I’m sure you can recall a time when your mood was stable and for some reason you suddenly started to feel agitated or perhaps very sad. Our moods can change quickly based on circumstances but we may not be fully aware that it has happened. It could be a harmless event such as getting caught at a red light when we were in a rush; or hearing a song that triggers a subconscious negative memory.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of our mood status and recognize when it shifts; especially when in a discussion with your spouse or partner.
2. Recognize past traumas
Another method to regulate our emotions – especially during conflict – is to recognize if past traumas are influencing our emotions. For example, if you feel your husband is being controlling, are you upset with him based on the current circumstances alone? Or are your emotions running higher because his actions have stirred up negative feelings you have towards your controlling mother?
This dynamic happens more often than we realize. I tell my clients who have past traumas to determine what characters from their past are in the room when their emotional state starts to get out-of-control. It is amazing who will show up to stir-up old emotional pains.
3. Seek guidance
If your emotional state can get out-of-control in warp speed you owe it to yourself and your spouse to seek guidance and input from a licensed counseling professional who can provide you with the tools you need to help you better manage your emotions, therefore allowing you to engage in a more healthy relationship with your spouse.