Anger is often what ruins intimate relationships. Whether it’s between a step-parent and a stepchild or a bio-parent toward their ex-spouse. What one person feels is a normal way to handle being upset can be terrifying for another person if their family of origin didn’t handle anger the same way. Angry outbursts, exploding over “small items” can lead to spouses and family members feeling like they’re walking on eggshells and this leads to avoidance and feeling disconnected.
Many things affect our emotional regulation: work stress, inner issues, transitions or poor relational habits can all result in anger that deeply damages an intimate relationship and chips away at a spouses’ safety and trust.
The good news is that anger can be tamed, new habits can be learned and people can learn to separate the emotion from the behavior. Acting out anger and showing everyone around them how upset they are, can be transformed through recognizing unrealistic expectations for how partners (or stepchildren and step-parents) “should” or “shouldn’t be” behaving.
We get these expectations from our families of origin and that makes people feel there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to handle issues – based on what they remember as children. Once partners realize they’re building a new family culture and need to do what works for the current family and not the family they grew-up in, then they can become more objective and less judgmental based on their childhoods. This opens the pathway for owning their automatic expectations of their spouse and children. Once there is a realization of being able to change behavior and still hold onto their values but learning to express their displeasure in a more socially acceptable way – then the anger can be tamed.
Understanding dysfunctional patterns of relating, and acknowledging idealistic expectations allow for personal growth and childhood narrative of anger to be broken. The new patterns of behavior will feel foreign at first, but the results of having a more peaceful household and happier family members will be worth the hard work it takes to look inward and accept negative aspects of ourselves that might need changing.
Sometimes, the anger is out of control that Anger Management needs to be the first focus before continuing in couples counseling.
IS ANGER YOUR ISSUE?
Generally, something isn’t a problem until it is a problem. Is the anger affecting your personal relationships? Does your partner say it’s a problem? If it is a problem. for your partner than it’s a problem period. Accepting that anger is negatively impacting your life and relationships (despite you being okay with your anger) is the first step to gaining some control over it. It’s about noticing you’re angry and learning to handle your emotion on your own without the need to show everyone else how angry you are – it’s about not acting out on your angry feelings. Changing your emotional responses to your anger and learning to respond in a more socially acceptable way will only have positive impacts on all of your relationships. This is learning to react in a relational way – it builds relationships, rather than tears them down.
SEPARATE EMOTIONS FROM BEHAVIOR:
- Recognizing positive and negative consequences of your anger and how it affects your life and relationships.
- Identifying “What Works” – times in the past when you’ve been able to manage your own angry feelings.
- Learn to accept all “parts of yourself.”
- Learn to recognize your physical cues (gritted teeth, tight throat, cheeks feel hot), mental cues (negative thoughts, confusion), and how you behave (huffing, rolling eyes, swearing, yelling, big movements with hands, fast walking etc.) – these are all cues to others around you to get away or to protect themselves which is where your partner can become defensive of themselves or children – in a blended family situation.
- Learn about ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts that affect your behavior choices.
- Learn to challenge ANTs and re-train your brain.
- Learn a set of new coping strategies: mindfulness, breath techniques, DBT techniques, listing alternative activities to take your mind off what made you angry.
- Learning to verbally express hurt feelings instead of acting out in anger.
Once the anger is under control, we can address the core attachment themes that often trigger anger: feeling alone, betrayals, fear of abandonment. You will feel tremendous relief and a sense of accomplishment once you gain positive control over your anger. I would love to help you and your partner achieve a more peaceful home and feel closer together.
- The Cognitive Behavioral Control Workbook for Anger,
- I Don’t Want to Talk About it – Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression,
- Mindfullness for Anger Management