Expressing Anger in a Relationship
Anger is a valid emotion that we all feel from time to time. How we express that anger can determine if it is healthy and if we get what we want from it. Many people express their anger in such a negative way, that it damages friendships, relationships and careers. In order to have a healthy relationship, it is important to recognise how you express your anger and make sure it is not damaging your relationship.
Underneath anger is hurt, frustration or fear. This is the real emotion and anger is a way of expressing this emotion. Learning to identify the emotion underlying the anger and then expressing it in an appropriate way, helps you to get what you need from that emotion rather than having people running for cover or returning fire.
It is important to realise that most people learn how to manage and express their anger when they are children and they learn their various coping mechanisms from their family. Many people then rely on those same techniques throughout their lives even if it doesn’t get them the result they want. Reflect on your past experiences and see if you can see how they are affecting your behaviour and natural coping mechanisms now.
Before you decide to express your angry feelings, decide if it is worth being angry about. One common reason people get angry often is because of their expectations. We all have a life code that we tend to live by and expect everyone else to behave accordingly and by the same rules. Any time you use the word “should” or “ought” stop and think about whether it is your expectation that you are placing on someone else or the situation or is in fact a valid requirement.
This is something that I see frequently when people talk to me about managing their ‘road rage’. Common phrases they will use are “the person cut in and should have waited their turn”, “they should be driving faster in the right lane”, “they should be letting people merge”. These are all probably valid statements, but they are based on your expectations and wants. They may actually hold little meaning to some other road users even though in your eyes this is inappropriate behaviour.
Sure it would be great if everyone thought the same way as we did when driving, but the reality is they don’t. If you react to the ‘should’ statement, then chances are the other driver is gone and enjoying their day while you are stewing and ruining yours. I’m not suggesting you need to ignore everyone that upsets you, just decide if it is worth reacting to.
Another good test to put your anger through before you give it full reign is to determine if it will be a problem next week or next month. Will it still be bothering you then? If the likelihood is it will, then take the time to work out how to express your anger in a valid way and do so. If though, as in many cases, it is unlikely you will even remember it in the near future, perhaps it is worth assigning to the ‘no point in taking it on board’ folder.
If you do need to express your anger, then there are a few ways that people tend to do so which are not going to get you a good result in the long run.
Stop and think about how you express your anger. Perhaps you yell and scream, go completely silent and withdraw, become passive aggressive or sarcastic? While using these methods may work for you initially as other people try to manage it, eventually these tactics will ruin the relationships you have in your life.
You may notice that if you yell, then the other person either withdraws, goes silent and appeases you or yells back. None of these are effective responses and this situation will ultimately damage the relationship. If this is you, look at ways of changing it today.
A few ways to manage this habit of expressing anger are to take timeout initially to calm yourself down and collect your thoughts. It is important if it is a close relationship to state that you are taking timeout and will return to the issue when you are calm. During this time, think about what made you angry and what you are really feeling underneath that. Were your feelings hurt, did you feel unvalued, did you feel you were being attacked in some way?
Once you know what you are feeling and are calm, return to the person you were directing this anger towards and tell them what you were feeling and what you would like different. Speak calmly and then listen to the response. Make sure the other person understands what you are trying to say and how it made you feel rather than assuming they should just know.
Yelling never works long term in a relationship. If you allow your anger to rule, then eventually you will find yourself in a bad relationship that doesn’t meet your needs, or with no relationship.
Silent and withdrawing
Some people don’t react outwardly to things that upset them but will swallow that anger and usually go silent or try and appease the other person. While this seems like a good response on the surface, what it means it that you are never getting issues that bother you resolved and perhaps without realising it, are keeping a tally going on in your head. The result of this is calm for the initial period, but as the resentment grows, then eventually small things start to irritate you.
People who do this often find themselves listing a lot of past faults with their partner after a small problem and as they are rarely getting their needs met, they eventually move away from the relationship, leaving the other person completely dumbfounded as to how it got so bad.
If this is you, then it is important to voice calmly to your partner whatever bothers you as it comes up. Make sure you discuss issues until you feel you have a resolution and feel validated so that it is not building inside you. Unresolved anger damages relationships until there is not a lot left to salvage.
Passive Aggressive or Sarcastic
People who do this find it difficult to state clearly what is bothering them and resort to other behaviours or comments to get the person back to make themselves feel equal again.
Often they will no address the issue but will fire back with some comment designed to bring hurt to the other person or will simply wait for an opportunity to ‘get their own back’.
People who use this form of expressing anger rarely get their needs met as the real issue is never resolved and instead the partner is left feeling hurt and they don’t want to help meet your needs.
If you are feeling that you are always trying to get even with your partner but rarely feeling validated, this may be your ‘go to’ way of expressing hurt or anger.
- anger is valid but it is not the underlying emotion.
- how you express your anger will determine if you get what you want from it.
- figure out what you are feeling and express it in a calm way
- take timeout if you need to calm or collect your thoughts before you let them loose and do damage.
- yelling, silence and retreat never work long term.
I see anger damage lives of individuals and relationships and really all people are trying to do usually is express their hurt. Learning how to express anger in a good way can determine if you get what you need from those around you, or continually get let down.
If you can’t get hold of your anger yourself, then get some professional help because it is so incredibly worth it to be able to get what you want from your relationships without damaging everyone around you. Please call me on 0468 950 420 for a FREE 10-minute consultation to discuss your needs and find out how I can help you or press BOOK NOW button to find my available appointment and schedule an online booking.