Having a spouse with anger issues can be unsettling. Many compare it to living with an active volcano – you never quite know when it will next erupt and what the damage will be.
Finding the balance between being supportive and understanding of their anger problem while protecting yourself emotionally (and sometimes physically) can be tough. One of the biggest challenges is trying to avoid becoming angry yourself.
Here are some tips on how to live with an angry partner in a way that is healthy for both of you.
When dealing with anyone with anger issues it is important to realise that this more than just ‘attitude problem’ or ‘lack of respect for others’ – it can actually be a medical issue. It may be due to traumatic life events, stress and other mental disorders or simply a lack of skill in expressing emotion healthily. Anger can have a lot of non-obvious, physical effects on the body – one study suggests that chronic anger can even deplete the immune system – so before lamenting an angry person because their behavior seems unreasonable, ensure that you’re clued up and sympathetic about what you are dealing with. This may help you to be more understanding and supportive. There are also many different types of anger which are projected through different behaviors so it is worth seeing a doctor or counsellor as a couple for clear diagnosis and support.
Learn to communicate effectively
Communication is essential but knowing the right ways to talk to someone who is angry is even more important. Try to understand that anger often stems from feeling insecure, unappreciated or threatened so rather than critisising, try to be kind and sincere even if they are not being kind to you. They need to feel emotionally stable in order to calm down so work hard on modifying your tone and timing so as not to sound aggressive or accusatory. Listen, reassure and try to discuss their anger and it’s triggers once they have calmed down and are able to think objectively.
Pick your battles
However understanding you try to be, there may well be occasions where a partner needs to be pulled up on their behaviour. Aggression, personal insults or any other derogatory behaviour towards you isn’t acceptable. You don’t need confrontation at every touch and turn so it is important to recognise which things you should let go and which things really need addressing. Of course when confrontation is needed it should be done in a calm, controlled manner but hopefully it will pack a punch and mean that the issues important to you are taken on board and worked upon.
Leading a healthy, active lifestyle can be a great way to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and anger. Exercise is renowned for having positive effects on mental health and being a natural mood enhancer in the way that it gets feel-good endorphins pumping around the body. Encourage your partner to exercise and maybe take up a hobby together. For example, gardening is thought to be good for mental health because it not only includes physical exertion but the repetitive act of gardening whilst being close to nature is thought to be a meditative, calming process too. It will also give you the chance to interact with one another and bond over a mutual interest. Your partner needs to feel loved, appreciated and supported in order to battle their anger and little things like spending quality time doing things you enjoy together can really help to unite you.
One key anger management technique is to set boundaries. Ultimately you have to protect yourself (and any children in the relationship) both emotionally and physically. Decide withing yourself what levels of behavior you are willing to tolerate and if your partner goes beyond them make it clear that you won’t put up with it again. Don’t make empty threats and ensure you have a back-up plan should you need to act on it. Not only will this protect you but it will give your partner boundaries to work within and may aid them in the process of controlling their anger. Remember your safety has to come first and if at any stage your partner becomes physical then you need to seek help from the authorities. This may be the police or in non-emergency situations a domestic violence shelter may also be able to help.
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