by: E.B. Johnson
Every relationship runs into hardships and challenges over time, and these setbacks really do a lot to wreck our sense of self and balance in the world. Sometimes we’re riding high with our partners, and sometimes we aren’t. We. can feel the heights of passion and joy with them, and the lows of grief and upset too. The emotion we have to confront the most, though, is anger. Are you angry at your partner? Have you harbored that anger for a long time? Moving on requires processing, building a new vision, and letting go.
Are you angry with one another?
Are you and your partner angry with one another? Are you making threats, giving each other the silent treatment, or otherwise going out of your way to make your displeasure (passive aggressively) known? There are a lot of signs that anger could be ripping your relationship apart, but you need to be honest in order to see it and acknowledge the toxicity for what it is.
People don’t just shut down or avoid one another when they’re angry. For some, injuring others is the technique they like to resolve the pain they’re suffering with inside. You may notice that your partner goes out of their way to hurt your feelings or disrespect you. On a small scale, they may be rude or dismissive. But on the larger scale, the damage can be much, much bigger.
It’s not uncommon to check out when you’re angry. If you’re not someone who can easily discuss their feelings, you may bury them away and then put yourself on autopilot instead. While this may seem like a good coping technique for a while, eventually the chaos adds up and you find yourself dealing with even more complex emotions and thoughts.
Increased conflict is one of the most common side effects of anger harbored in a relationship. Are you and your partner fighting more? Are your conflicts becoming increasingly volatile or painful? The more you invest in conflict over resolution, the worse things will eventually become. Whenever we’re fighting more than we’re (effectively) talking, it’s important to take note and reconfigure.
Is your partner being increasingly disrespectful of you or your needs? Do they cheat on you? Do they ignore you? Do they fail to make time for you in their lives or their social schedules? Constant disrespect can very often stem from a place of anger. Once a partner feels as though they aren’t being valued and seen, they can find themselves less-than-willing to make room for their other halves.
When partners are angry at one another (but unwilling to confront the issues) they often engage in the age-old tradition of giving each other the silent treatment. Rather than talking things through, you ignore one another and shut down emotionally. Nothing is talked about. As a matter of fact, you may avoid one another entirely.
Do you feel like you resent your partner? Resentment is a common side effect of angry wounds left unaddressed. As your needs and desires go unmet, you see your partner as failing your expectations more and more. Positive feelings slip away, and you begin to associate them with a deep anger that drives you apart.
How to handle the anger in a healthy way.
Although we’ve been conditioned to avoid anger, it can be a healthy tool for growth when we acknowledge it and learn how to use it to our advantage. By confronting your anger as a team, you and your partner can address issues and become closer than ever before. Process your anger when it arises, though, and remember to value honest resolution over all our revolutionary warfare.
1. Figure out your feelings
Anger is a potent emotion, and it can move us into strange places. When we’re angry at our partners, we can lash out in ways that don’t even align with our beliefs or our intentions. That’s why it’s so crucial to step back and process our emotions when we’re feeling angry or hurt in especially powerful ways. Before you can effectively approach your partner, you need to communicate what you’re feeling. Doing that requires that we question what’s going on and the source of our anger.
Whenever you get angry or upset with your partner, put your hands up and excuse yourself. Responding in a moment of negative emotion will only lead to more negative emotion. Give yourself time to process what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
Question your emotions and where they’re coming from. Why are you upset with your partner? Have they genuinely offended? Or are you projecting your insecurities and perceptions onto them? Getting these answers are all a part. of figuring out what we want to say to our partner and how we want to say it. Before you charge in and commit to action that you regret, process your feelings and figure out how you want to move forward.
2. Get ready to work as a team
Getting clear on where your anger is coming from is a crucial first step, but it’s meaningless if you don’t also have a commitment to getting things fixed. Many people are blinded by their anger. Even when they take time to process, they still don’t use it to move forward with the right intentions. We have to see our anger as a chance to fix things and then approach our partners only when we’re ready to get our hands dirty and really work.
Once you’ve got a handle on how you’re feeling, you need to re-approach your partner with a renewed work ethic and sense of purpose. Both of you have to want things to be better, and that desire to improve must be stronger than your anger at one another.
After you’ve processed your emotions, refocus on a new vision of your partnership. Create a plan which allows you to get motivated to get your relationship back on track. Before you sit down and have a serious conversation, or confront your partner, you need to be prepared to do the work it takes to get things back on track. Don’t jump into facing the issues until you’re sure you can follow through and work as a team to course correct.
3. Open up a dialogue
Like it or not, there’s no repairing a relationship without talking things out. Dialogue is a must in human interactions. You need to explain your anger to your partner and the events that led to the emotion. You need to give them the opportunity to see things from your perspective. And, really, you owe it to yourself to do the same for them. Having a handle on your feelings and what you want to fix, the next move requires sitting your partner down and having an actual conversation.
This is a chance to express your needs, and what you want to see fixed in your relationship. If you want things to improve, then you and your partner need to talk things out and figure out what went wrong. Together, you can get going in the right direction, but an honest dialogue has to be opened up.
Find a safe time and place in which you can both speak uninterrupted. Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what’s occurred to upset them. Even as you describe these events, though, make sure you’re staying focused on solutions. We have to want to fix things more than we want to be right, or to get revenge. Make space for your partner to express their own feelings, and allow them to express their anger and their upset. Together, be prepared to work in the name of one another’s needs.
Putting it all together…
Is there anger simmering in the corners of your relationship? Whether you’re giving each other the silent treatment, or having all-out brawls, anger is a problem with it’s not confronted honestly in our partnerships. Both of you need to confront your emotions and present the issues openly as they arise. Then, you can work together to overcome them and find the resolve that you need.
Process your feelings first and get to the root of where your anger is really coming from. Familiar with the source, you can then figure out what needs to change and commit to putting in the effort it takes to change things. Sit your partner down. Explain why you’re upset and explain too how you envision things being fixed. Open up a dialogue with one another and find the middle ground as a team. Instead of avoiding your anger (or the conflict it may bring) shift your perspective and see it as a chance to grow together. This changes the way we communicate and see our partnership. Above all else, put your petty temptations to the side and move beyond your need to be “right”. We move past our anger when we learn how to do it honestly and with our hearts open.
- Bodenmann, G., Meuwly, N., Bradbury, T., Gmelch, S., & Ledermann, T. (2010). Stress, anger, and verbal aggression in intimate relationships: Moderating effects of individual and dyadic coping. Journal Of Social And Personal Relationships, 27(3), 408–424. doi: 10.1177/0265407510361616