Like any other craft, the art of anger management requires dedication and practice. But like any other art form, the more you work on anger management, the easier it becomes. That goes double for couples! Let’s start with some basics:
- The emotion of anger itself is not automatically good nor bad. That value judgement arises in how we express it.
- Anger is a secondary emotion, conveying a message that some other need is going unexplored and therefore unmet.
- Remember, it’s called “anger management,” not “anger suppression.”
- Anger is a major challenge within the context of relationships.
So many of the factors that make relationships healthy and loving can potentially threaten them. Here are just a few examples:
- Living in close quarters
- Spending lots of time together
- Knowing each other’s behavior, habits, and quirks extremely well
- Making important decisions together
Thanks to these and other factors, each and every day presents multiple opportunities for anger to arise. If not dealt with in a timely and mutually agreeable manner, such anger can grow out of control and endanger not only the integrity of a relationship, but also our physical and mental health.
How to Stop Anger Before Things Get Worse
Contrary to fairy tales and pop culture, there’s no such thing as a relationship without differences and disagreements. Until we accept that perfection is a fantasy and that relationships require daily and diligent work, we run the risk of hiding issues, suppressing resentments, perceiving every dispute as a potentially deal-breaking catastrophe, or feeling unsafe to be angry and/or express it.
Call a Time Out.
Quite often, the longer an argument ensues, the more your partner begins to look like the enemy. In advance, come up with an agreed upon signal to take a mutual break. Then, create some distance from each other and the issues at hand.
Contemplate and Understand Power Dynamics.
Every single couple carries a unique set of power dynamics. These could involve an age gap, financial earning discrepancies, and even size and strength differences. Perhaps the most important power dynamic to address in our patriarchal-dominant culture is male/female. The point is to recognize that even playing fields rarely, if ever, exist. This reality can play a major role when you’re both angry.
Write it Down.
Here’s a way to address some of those aforementioned dynamics. Perhaps one partner has a harder time with verbal communication than the other. Maybe one of you is simply louder. Much louder. Opting to communicate your feelings with an old fashioned pen and paper may allow for a deeper understanding, without interruptions. And it also changes the goal from winning to sharing!
Seize the Opportunity.
Since it’s virtually impossible to remember in the moment, contemplate this in times of peace: every time anger begins to bubble to the surface, it’s an opportunity to develop patience instead. Imagine turning argumentative episodes into teaching moments, a time to observe oneself and one’s partner in action. There is so much that can be learned when patience reigns.
Reach Out for Professional Help.
If you’ve tried the above five—and many other—anger management techniques but can’t seem to stop the argument-anger cycle, why not ask for help? If your anger is causing you problems and has perhaps led to physical violence, it’s not weakness to seek professional counsel. It’s wisdom. Research has shown therapy to be a powerful catalyst for change in the realm of anger and anger management. Reach out.
By CounselingWise on July 11, 2016