Anger Management Strategies in Relationships

Clients certainly find that anger not well handled, shoots big holes in their relationship. And even though some have managed to live with the consequences of the way that their partner expresses their anger, it can become one of those final straws in mid life where one in the couple dyad are tired of a life that is like walking on eggshells, where only one voice can be heard and where fear is a daily norm. I am not talking about physical violence in anger which is certainly obvious to both partners, but I am talking about emotional attacks in the midst of an angry outburst.

Each partner has a family culture that handled anger in one way or another. Therefore, partners will often have some pretty strong shoulds around the way anger needs to be handled in their partnership. It ought to be stated here that there is nothing wrong with being angry, it is the way it is expressed that can become problematic. In fact, fighting in marriage is not correlated to divorce. It is the way that a couple fights that leads to divorce (John Gottman’s research). If you are the person who has the most difficulty with emotional management in the relationship, it is important to take responsibility for it and to get some help and accountability for changing this important element in your presentation in your relationship. While you are finding some good help, here is a positive beginning for better communication during the hard times.

  1. When you first feel your anger rising, let your partner know you need a break and will return in 20 minutes, 1/2 hour – whatever works for you. Make sure you do return and YOU initiate the discussion again. If this is late at night, you will want to choose a better time tomorrow. Collaborate with your partner on this.
  2. Then during the break, take the time to self soothe. You cannot manage your emotions well when your biology is not relaxed. You need to take action such as breathing deeply, going for a run, going for a walk or whatever works for you.
  3. You also need to self soothe by managing your self talk. This is not the time to amass new arguments to bring to the table when you return. You need to assure yourself that you will be okay, that you love your partner, that you will get through this. Remember that when your emotions are high, you are not likely to be thinking clearly and most likely are entertaining lots of thought distortions, such as mind reading, black and white thinking etc. You are most likely to consider that your anger is your partner’s fault instead of the truth, that it is up to you and you alone to manage your emotions.

Remember that emotional management takes skills and that is so hopeful – even if this has been a part of your relationship forever. Skills can be learned. It takes commitment, accountability and some good help. Go forth and be wonderful in this area of your life!