Choosing to love your partner through the anger

Do you love an angry person?

Are you committed to your relationship but tired of sifting through all the emotional triggers and accusations that are too often hurled at you?

Have you ever wondered whether there’s anything you can do to ease the tension and let your partner know you’re on his or her side?

An angry partner can be a challenge to live with, and the struggle to cope may test your love. To help manage anger, temper frustration, and stop misunderstandings, answer your partner’s anger with the 5 strategies below:

1. Do: Remove yourself from the situation if you find that your partner’s anger is compromising your safety. Seek immediate assistance and strongly consider the relational assistance of a counselor. It is important to protect yourself, your marriage, and your family from irreparable harm.

Don’t: Participate in the rage-give your partner time and space to cool off.

2. Do: Acknowledge your partner’s anger immediately. Talk to your partner as soon as you sense a problem. Ask questions if he or she is not forthcoming. Share that you care about how your partner feels and make it clear that you care about restoring harmony.

Don’t: Ignore, avoid, or put off dealing with the situation. During an angry outburst is not always the best time to address the issue; taking a break to calm down may be the most important immediate strategy, but as soon as you are both calm, don’t put off dealing with the situation. It will only add to your partner’s perception that he or she is not feeling respected or considered by you and will add more frustration to their already hurt feelings.

3. Do: Pay attention to what may lie beneath the anger. Hurt, resentment, and unaddressed needs can build and explode into verbal attacks that seem irrational or overblown. Try to understand what your partner perceives to be happening between you. Is there a recurring theme to his or her complaints? Ask questions, calmly attempt to focus the conversation, share with your partner how his or her approach makes it difficult to focus on the problem. Remember, though your partner’s approach is not ideal, he or she simply wants to be heard and understood. We all do.

Don’t: Patronize or generalize. Anger can often be a symptom of relationship problems– problems that your partner may feel have been ignored or minimized. It’s generally not a good idea to tell your spouse to “calm down” or write off his or her feelings without seriously considering them. Your partner could end up feeling devalued, which would create more anger.

4. Do: Empathize with your partner. Allow his or her anger to teach you and inform you. Your partner’s anger is likely rooted in unmet needs, which can trigger feelings of vulnerability, and lead to inner confusion.

Don’t: React impulsively. It can feel like you are being dumped on, blamed, or criticized. See if you can connect with what is going on for you in the moment and then try to see your partner’s point beyond the raised voice and hostility. There’s probably something there worth hearing. A deep breath and calmer response may help facilitate a deeper conversation.

5. Do: Call in a relationship translator. Sometimes you simply cannot get to the bottom of your partner’s anger. It’s possible he or she is depressed or suffering from an emotional problem. Maybe there is too much unresolved conflict or resentment between you. Perhaps your partner simply doesn’t know what emotional healthy communication looks like. Ask someone who has the tools and expertise to help you hear and understand each other again.

Don’t: Give up. Your relationship is worth the effort. A therapist can teach you communication tools for mutual understanding and dealing with anger, while encouraging you to keep fighting for your marriage instead of with each other.

by Laura Olsen and Rachel McDavid