How do you deal with anger in relationships?
Anger is one of the biggest causes of relationship breakdowns. During those stormy arguments things can be said in the heat of the moment – and regretted the next day. So how do we stop things from getting out of hand?
Anger can be a scary feeling, can’t it? It’s one of those emotions we’re really not ‘allowed’ to have.
For a lot of us, from the time we’re old enough to express our anger – which we usually do in the middle of the supermarket, having a crying fit, turning red in the face, flailing our arms around in the air and kicking our legs (wait a minute – come to think of it I haven’t changed much) we’re encouraged not to show this emotion.
We’re held and cuddled, offered food, told to shush, bribed, or maybe just ignored.
ANYTHING so we just stop expressing this troublesome emotion.
But anger’s not as bad as you may think.
Anger’s just an emotion that’s got stuck, and that’s trying to get out.
Anger can be a great messenger. It’s a signpost to tell you what you DON’T want.
Communicating with your anger
Next time you get angry with your partner, instead of screaming and throwing stuff, just go somewhere on your own and try to sit with it. Not holding it in, and not screaming or crying; just sitting, feeling it, and noticing where it is in your body.
This might be uncomfortable at first, but just go with it, if you can.
Think about the anger. Think about the reasons you’re angry. Make a list of them. Then list the reasons behind the reasons. And then maybe even the reason behind those reasons.
Imagine that your anger is a person with a very important message for you. You might even get creative and imagine what it looks like, or how it sounds as it conveys that message.
This simple little exercise can be extremely enlightening. Once we stop and really think about what our anger is telling us, it can bring up all kinds of insights about ourselves, our lives, and how we interact with others.
Once you’ve done all that, go and change your energy.
And by this I don’t mean drink a glass of wine or have a cigarette. Those kind of coping mechanisms are just grown-up versions of what our parents used to do to us in the supermarket: muffling the anger; pretending it’s not there; brushing it under the carpet.
Adopt some healthy energy-shift techniques instead.
Take a shower. Go for a run. Jump on a trampoline. Drink a glass of water. Dance to some crazy music. Do some deep breathing. Have a good cry if you need to.
So when is the best time to talk about anger?
The best time is when neither of you are angry. When you’re both calm and reasonable.
Not when you’re exhausted and drained at the end of a busy day. Choose a time when both of you will be as rational and clear-headed as possible.
Schedule some time to check in with each other, maybe just for a few minutes each day, and go through any little things they do that might be annoying to you.
Try and do this without blame; own your part in it all, and explain why it bothers you so much. People are usually far more likely to comply to requests when they’re given an explanation, rather than a demand. Negotiate some changes that you can both make so that your life together can be more harmonious.
You may find that you get to know some important things about each other – and yourselves.
If you’d like some one-to-one support for dealing with anger, either in yourself, or in others, get in touch to schedule an appointment. We can meet face-to-face if you’re in the Glasgow area, or otherwise we can use online (Skype/Zoom) therapy, or telephone counselling.
Lisa Murphy is a counsellor and hypnotherapist based in Glasgow who specialises in anxiety, anger management, and weight loss.