In this article I will explain how to deal with anger in a relationship, what anger can tell you about yourself and your relationship and how to use it as a tool for personal growth.
Anger is a message that you are being hurt, that your needs are not met or that something is not right in your relationship. Anger is a signal that your needs, desires or values are compromised in the relationship.
Anger is a psychological signal warning you that you need to heal. Anger exists for a reason. You need to pay attention to your anger and ask yourself what is the actual reason for it.
“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”- Ambrose Bierce
The way most people communicate anger is either being defensive or attacking. The most important thing when it comes to anger is to learn how to express it in a different way, a constructive way.
It is clear that anger is not working for anyone. Letting the anger out is as harmful as keeping the anger inside. Feelings of anger in relationship occur when you are focusing on the relationship and forget about yourself.
The more you repress your emotions in order to keep your relationship peaceful, the more anger builds up.
On the other hand, when you vent your anger ineffectively, the actual reasons for it remain unidentified. You go in circles, reacting in predictable ways that only escalate the problems you are trying to solve.
Your emotions take over and you don’t weight your options to behave differently or you are not even aware that other options are possible.
How to use anger
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”- Aristotle
You should not fear anger or deny it. Anger can be used as a tool to grow and strengthen yourself in your relationship.
By getting a deeper understanding about how relationships work, you could use anger as a tool to improve your relationship by learning how to change patterns and how to stop blaming your partner.
Finding your real source of anger and clarifying your own thoughts and feelings will help you avoid the endless cycle of fighting and blaming.
Taking a clear position in your relationship and behaving in ways that are according to your values and beliefs is very important if you want to break the blaming cycle.
Keeping the balance
”You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”- Buddha
It is hard to maintain a healthy long term relationship as it requires finding a balance between keeping your identity, values and beliefs and compromising for the relationship.
People get stuck between wanting to be strong, independent individuals with clear sense of self and wanting to be connected and intimate with another person.
When there is a lack of balance on either direction, conflict arises in the relationship. If there is not enough connection and togetherness in a relationship, partners become isolated and emotionally detached.
On the other hand, if their own identity is sacrificed in the relationship, partners become emotionally reactive and angry and begin to argue and blame each other.
In order to make a relationship function, both elements need to be present in the relationship. Most arguments occur when one partner is emotionally involved, whilst the other emotionally detached. The emotionally involved partner is trying to make the emotionally detached partner to be more like them.
Pushing your partner to feel more or be more involved in the relationship, makes them to distance even more. There is no room for the other person to express their own emotions and feelings as you are already expressing them in their place.
The more nagging and needy you become, the less your partner wants to offer you. The paradox is that by pushing your partner to be more emotionally involved, they will actually become less emotionally involved.
Why are couples fighting?
”Anger is a feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mind.”- Unknown
Fighting is a way in which people protect their relationship. When they are not ready to make a move in any direction because they fear either separateness or change, they choose to fight.
There is more than one reality in any relationship and each partner has a right to think and feel the way they do.
Your job is to state your thoughts and feelings clearly, so your partner understand your perspective. It is not your job to make them feel and think the way you do.
People are afraid to change and sometimes choose to revert to old fighting patterns in order to protect themselves from changing.
Getting angry is getting nowhere or making things even worse than they were in the first place. When you realise that getting angry won’t change anything, it seems obvious to seek for other ways to address the problem.
People recognise that repeating the same behaviour does not achieve anything, but continue to engage in it when they are stressed or anxious.
This is a result of their fear to change themselves. When you get angry with your partner, you tend to focus solely on their behaviour and forgot that you also have a part in this interaction.
Stopping the blaming cycle
”Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”- Mark Twain
In order to change the cycle of blaming, you need to become self-aware and self-observant of your own actions.
The way others behave with you has something to do with the way you behave with them. By changing the way you behave towards your partner, the old pattern cannot continue.
In a relationship, the behaviour of a partner maintains the behaviour of the other. The anger needs to be moved to something new and different.
When people are angry and have difficulties in their relationships, they can only see their partner’s fault. Wishing to change the situation and balance the relationship, both partners come up with solutions that involve changing their partner.
In order to stop the blaming game, it is important to recognise what part you have in maintaining the cycle. Even when you are convinced that your partner holds the majority of fault, you still need to look for what you can change.
In order to change the blaming game, you need to accept that you don’t have the power to change another person if they do not want to change.
When couples are stuck in the blaming game, they are both asking their partner to change but they resist changing.
Both partners believe that a change in their partner is what is going to make them happy. By focusing on blaming your partner, you avoid being clear on your choices.
The more you try to put all your energy in changing your partner, the more things will stay the same. Your partner will put the energy in resisting change and defending against your criticism and this will leave no room for them confronting their own problem.
However, you should not stop being clear about your wishes or requests as this builds resentment that leads to more anger.
”Don’t be afraid of telling the truth. It’s better to hurt someone by truth than to make them happy by lies.”- Khaled Hosseini
Separation anxiety might be the cause of choosing to fight instead of being clear on your wishes and requests. When you make your differences known and encourage others to do the same, you fear loneliness.
The anxiety is based on realistic fear that if you stand a clear position, you risk losing the relationship; that if you take full responsibility and express your wishes and desires, you will not be accepted or you will hurt the other person.
Using anger to grow
”When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”- Unknown
Anger signals that you are not clear about what you really want and that you need to grow in order to understand what you truly desire.
People need to use their anger to become more knowledgeable about themselves. When you demand change from your partner without knowing clearly why you really want the change, you begin the blaming game.
Anger should be used to clarify requests based on your own personal wants, not to express an unjustified change in character of your partner. It is important to state clearly why you feel the way you feel.
Anger is a tool for change and it helps you understand yourself. It is there to challenge your own thoughts and feelings, not others.
In order to use anger positively, you need to learn to let go of your desire to change other people. This does not mean accepting or going along with their behaviour, but stating clearly what you wish from the relationship.
Instead of asking the other person to change, implying they are wrong in the first place, let them know how you feel about the situation and how the situation is affecting you.
This will give them another perspective on your request. The problem is not their behaviour, but how you feel about it. Use anger to make statements about yourself, not your partner.
I hope this article helped you understand how to deal with anger in your relationship and how anger can be used as a tool for personal growth.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to answer them.
All the best,
(Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists)
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