How do you manage your anger in a relationship? Are you one of those people who, when angry, cannot contain themselves? Do you stomp off, slam doors, scream, maybe even throw things? When upset, do you go from zero to sixty faster than a Ferrari? Does your lack of anger management mean that you say things you later regret? If any of this sounds familiar, your inability to manage your anger in a relationship may very well be putting that relationship at risk.
Let us look at some ways you can better express your anger. Because if you want to keep your relationship, you need to manage your anger in a productive and not in a destructive way.
First of all, know that anger is a normal, natural human emotion. Everyone gets angry sometimes, from toddlers to the elderly. It isn’t necessarily a “bad emotion” so there is no need to suppress it. Anger conveys a message. It lets you know that a situation is upsetting, or unjust, or threatening. But there is a need to learn to express and manage your anger in a relationship in a controlled way, a way that doesn’t hurt your partner and cause damage in your relationship.
Managing your anger in a relationship and managing how you might respond to an angry partner is one of the most useful life skills you can learn. It will help to enhance your intimacy and connection.
Identifying non-productive ways of expressing anger in a relationship.
- Leaving the room so you don’t have to deal with your partner
- Shutting down, or the “silent treatment”
- Not directly addressing the person we are angry with, but telling all our friends how mad we are with that person.
- Subversion, or keeping the anger inside but being negative or difficult with the person we are angry with. Not telling them what is really bothering us
- Yelling and screaming, out of control with our emotions
What happens when we spiral out of control with our anger?
1. Our physical health is impacted
Blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, we have trouble breathing, even our sleep is disturbed. Have you ever experienced insomnia because you are just too angry to sleep?
2. Our mental health is impacted
If you cannot manage your anger in a relationship, it can consume your thoughts, making you not present to those around you and unable to enjoy life.
3. Our relationships are affected
If you are a chronically angry parent, your children might alter their behavior in unhealthy ways so that they don’t set you off. They become fearful and worried.
Better techniques to manage your anger in a relationship
1. Take a break
If you have a tendency to exit the room once you sense your anger escalating, instead of storming off, try telling your partner that you are really feeling angry at the moment, and think it would be best to take a break, have some time to yourself to calm down. Tell them that you are not trying to avoid the issue, that it is important to talk about what is upsetting you both, but you feel a “time out” would be useful. Then use the time away from your partner to organize what you want to say so that when you return, you can express your emotions in a clear and less-heated way.
If your partner uses the silent treatment on you when they are angry, tell them you respect their choice to not talk about the problem, but you are there and ready to address the issue when they feel they are ready. Don’t try and “make” them talk to you (that will only serve to have them shut down even more), but let them know you will welcome a discussion after they’ve had time to themselves.
2. Count to ten
It’s a simple technique that we teach our own children, but it really works: “Count to ten.” Take a few moments to breathe deeply, calm your heart rate, and center your emotions. Focus on calming yourself. Anger is not something you have to “let out” in an aggressive way. In fact, outbursts and tirades only fuel the fire and make you even angrier.
Do you find yourself complaining to your friends about how angry you are, rather than dealing with the person who is making you upset? We might think this a better way to get the anger out but in fact, it does not help us with our own personal growth.
What you should be doing is learning how to manage conflict with the person concerned so that resolution can be reached. Talking with your friends does nothing to help heal the hurt between you and your partner.
If you feel your anger increasing, take a break and walk around the block. Still angry? Do it again. It’s amazing how a brisk walk or a workout can help reduce your angry feelings and get you to a place where you can have a reasonable discussion with your partner.
Remember: your relationship is your priority. Before getting into a fight with your partner, ask yourself:
- How important is this issue in the grand scheme of things?
- Is it really worth getting angry about it?
- Is it worth ruining the rest of my day?
- Is my response appropriate to the situation?
- Is there anything I can do about it?
- Is taking action worth my time?
To manage your anger in a relationship means self-management. If you and your partner find yourselves in frequent conflict, remember, you are half-responsible for that conflict. Approach it with calm and good communication techniques, and you will help incorporate a sense of calmness and better communication into the relationship as a whole and manage your anger in a relationship in a better way.