Anger is not necessarily a bad emotion and can in fact be a positive and useful emotion if it is used constructively and that is important to remember. The ability to set a boundary to keep yourself safe, to ask for what you want assertively and to resolve conflicts peacefully with respect and empathy all have the power to reduce the potential for violence. The biggest problem with anger is how it is expressed and the frequency of the outbursts. Differences between people are normal and a predictable part of a relationship and when complicated feelings and problems are stirred up as a result of differences between you and your partner, it’s easy to become reactive, raise your voice and even to explode. Unregulated anger can be very destructive to a relationship, often leaving your partner feeling very hurt.
Non constructive anger can impact your health and your relationship
Whether it’s physical, verbal or sexual aggression, it will undoubtedly cause a strain and or damage to your relationship, therefore how an individual and a couple deal with anger will make or break a relationship.
When you’re angry all the time and your stress levels are always high, this may lead to short and long-term health problems. The long-term physical effects of uncontrolled anger include anxiety, insomnia, abdominal pain, increased blood pressure, digestive problems, headaches, stroke, heart attacks and skin conditions.
Strategies for managing anger and protecting your relationship
Long term strategies for anger management include learning relaxation techniques, regular exercise and counselling.
When someone we love is angry with us, the usual reaction is to either attack back, appease, defend, withdraw or stonewall. We can’t control another’s thoughts, feelings or behaviour, however we can control our response or reactions to our partner. Being calm is much more effective than trying to calm someone else and if you can focus on managing your own anxiety and reactions by taking a few deep breaths and slowing your heart rate, this in turn creates space for your partner to do the same.
Avoid the impulse to stonewall or cut-off your partner when we are angry. When our emotions are over-reactive, it is impossible to think straight and be rational, so trying to work things out and find reason just draws out the argument further and you end up going around and around in circles, probably losing sight of what the real problem was in the first place! The best thing you can do is let your partner know that you need to remove yourself from the room to calm down and organise your thoughts and feelings and understand the meaning behind your anger. It’s important to let your partner know your intent is to work out the difference and repair the relationship.
If you are dealing with anger problems and you are worried about how it’s impacting your marriage, do not hesitate to reach out to me. I will be patient and non-judgemental in helping you and your spouse repair after a fight or a regrettable incident, and you will learn new tools to have an effective conversation to change the way you handle conflict.
Let’s talk before it breaks.
Ginny Lindsay is a Sydney based relationship counsellor and psychotherapist who supports individuals and couples moving from pregnancy into parenthood. With 40% of divorces happening during pregnancy or in the first 3 years of a child’s life, Ginny established From 2 to 3 to offer support early before a relationship breaks down.