Feeling angry isn’t bad. However, the choices you make in expressing yourself when you are angry can make a big difference in the health of your marriage. It is important to determine if you are making healthy or unhealthy choices when you feel angry. Learning how to use your anger to make positive change can make a big difference to your marriage and your life.
When people express their anger in a healthy way, they are able to talk about their feelings in calm manner. They also recognize that expressing their feelings may not lead to change. And they can accept that.
For example, saying to your spouse, “I’m mad that I came home to a messy house” may or may not lead to your spouse doing anything about it. When people are able to express their anger in a healthy way, they do not try to manipulate or control their spouse’s behaviors. Instead, they share their feelings, make a request, and are willing to accept the answer.
Time-outs can be another healthy way to manage anger. Time-outs mean physically leaving a room, taking a break, and spending some time away in order to cope. This means that the person is able to recognize when their anger is increasing to the point that they are not able to be logical and rational anymore. As anger rises, usually logic decreases. A time-out can be a great way to cool off for a while until you are able to think clearly again. It can prevent people from saying and doing things that they may later regret.
A time-out isn’t meant to punish the other person. And it doesn’t mean the subject won’t be discussed again. Instead, when the couple is able to think more rationally, they can re-visit the topic and discuss it in a more clear headed manner.
Anger becomes unhealthy when people become controlling, abusive, or try to punish their spouse. It damages the marriage. It can lead to a lot of resentment over time and, sadly, many couples get divorced if they are unable to manage their anger effectively.
Anger becomes controlling when one person uses their anger as a weapon. For example, “If I yell louder than you do, you’ll give in.” Sometimes angry people get their needs met, at least for the moment. However, people often only give in to angry people to make them stop yelling or out of fear. The long-term consequence is that it is very damaging to the relationship.
Anger that leads to abuse can be catastrophic to a marriage. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical either. Verbal abuse, such as calling your spouse names can be extremely detrimental. Intimidation, threats, financial abuse, and restricting your spouse’s interactions with friends and family are also forms of abuse.
Punishing your spouse out of anger is not healthy either. This can include behaviors such as “the silent treatment” or withholding sex to teach your spouse a lesson. Sometimes punishments are more passive-aggressive where one person may secretly sabotage the other person’s efforts. For example, a wife doesn’t admit she doesn’t want to go to dinner with her in-laws, but she purposely makes them late,
A constant state of irritability is another form of anger that can be very damaging to your marriage. If you seem to “snap” at your spouse over little things, find yourself arguing just for the sake of arguing, or feel irritated by your spouse frequently, it is going to harm your relationship. Rude behaviors and a lack of compassion damage intimacy.
Sources of Anger
There are many reasons why people have difficulty managing their anger in a healthy way. Sometimes, it is due to never learning healthy coping skills. For people who grew up with poor role models on how to manage anger, it can be hard to learn new skills or recognize that anger is even a problem.
Sometimes there are underlying causes such as difficulty coping with stress. Mental health issues such as depression or anxiety can also lead to irritability and anger. Stress, lack of sleep, and poor time management skills can cause people to have more difficulty taming their irritability. It is important to address any of these underlying causes.
Sometimes people just aren’t good at being assertive. They may be a “doormat” until they eventually explode. They can only take so much and when they do finally speak their mind, they are so angry that they are not able to do so in a healthy manner.
Other sources of anger may be from past hurts or past abuse. Sometimes a past hurt in the marriage can cause resentment to build if it is not deal with. However, at other times, a person who was abused as a child may take it out on their spouse as well. It is important to address old anger in order to deal with the present.
If you have difficulty managing your anger, consider counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often very effective in teaching people new skills to manage their angry feelings. For people with underlying mental health issues, medication may also be helpful. Marriage counseling can assist couples in learning new skills to manage conflict as well.