Anger in Relationships

Inappropriate expression of anger and aggressive language is probably the most destructive
behavior present in most intimate relationships. What causes us to lash out at our spouse
or those close to us? For some, it is a habit established early in life. Perhaps you grew up in
a home that modeled this kind of communication and you came to believe it was appropriate
or acceptable. Think back to how your parents and others in your family expressed anger.
Chances are that if your parents yelled and slammed doors, you probably do the same. Some
of you had parents that pouted, went to other parts of the house, evoked the silence
treatment, or generally avoided conflict. Not surprisingly, you now find yourself avoiding or
ignoring a person you are angry with instead of working toward resolution. This is called
suppression of anger and it is just as unhealthy and unproductive as becoming aggressive.
Fortunately, there are constructive and positive ways to express anger and these skills need
to be utilized more often in relationships.

Anger is a real feeling and emotion, and it is your human right to experience it. Rather than
feeling guilty about getting angry or feeling the need to justify it, focus on accepting and
validating your anger.  This helps to prevent you from “stuffing,” or denying any angry
feelings. Research shows that the effects of anger can lead to cardiovascular disease,
obesity, low self esteem, migraine headaches, ulcers, poor interpersonal relationships,
spousal abuse, child abuse, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, lowered job productivity,
chronic distress, and broken hearts, just to name a few.  Clearly, the costs of suppressing or
not dealing with our anger appropriately is high.

How often have we said “You make me so mad!” to our spouse?
If we are honest with ourselves we recognize that even if we haven’t verbalized these
thoughts, we certainly have felt anger in our relationships and possibly have said things we
regret that cause emotional hurt and pain What is it about saying these words that incites
our partner to become even more angry and not hear what we are trying to express? One
possibility is that we are blaming our significant other for whatever it is that is causing us to
not get our way. Often we project our anger onto others and are not willing to look within
ourselves to see the root feeling of our anger. In almost 100% of cases, there is another
hidden feeling below the surface of our anger. The feeling of anger camouflages our hurt,
sadness, powerlessness, fear, disappointment, and frustration. It is wise to investigate these
other emotions to determine what you are really feeling.

The next step is to verbalize the emotion below the anger in a non-accusing manner.  For
example, when hubby comes home from work late and has not called, instead of
aggressively and accusingly saying, “Where have you been!” try getting in touch with the
real feelings for your anger and say something like, “I felt anxious and worried when I didn’t
hear from you. Please remember to call me the next time you are running late.”

Our feelings are never wrong, you feel what you feel, but how we express them makes the
difference in effectively communicating them to your spouse or other loved one. Seeking to
see which of the emotions we are really feeling; disappointment, sadness, hurt, fear, or
frustration is the key to avoiding destructive and aggressive communication in
relationships. An important goal in having healthy relationships is to strive for good positive
communication.  It is essential in forming caring relationships that are built on mutual
understanding and respect.

Kay Wardrip LLC
Licensed Professional Counselor
Canton, Georgia
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