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Anger In A Relationship. Is It A Red Flag To Have Anger In Your Relationship?

Emotional & Mental Wellness

By Cody Mitts, Licensed Professional Counselor

 

 

Anger in a relationship

Anger in your relationship

If you’ve experienced anger in your relationship you’re not alone. Difficulty with anger, resentment, and communication are some of the most common problems many couples face in their relationship.

While it can be alarming to experience anger in your relationship, you don’t have to worry just yet. We will explore when anger is normal (and perhaps healthy) and when it’s desctructive and unhealthy for your relationship.

We will answer some of the most common questions about anger in a relationship such as:

  • Is it bad to be angry in a relationship?
  • Is anger a red flag for a relationship?
  • Why does my partner make me so angry?
  • Does my partner have an anger problem?
  • How do I stop anger from ruining my relationship?
  • What are healthy ways to express anger in a relationship
  • How do you respond to an angry partner or spouse?

Anger in your relationship is bound to happen. If you and your partner work towards becoming an emotionally intelligent couple it won’t feel like a problem.

 

Is it bad to be angry in a relationship?

No it isn’t wrong to feel anger in your relationship. In fact it’s very normal to experience some level of anger towards your partner. No one can meet all of your needs and wants perfectly.

The key is to learn the difference between feeling anger, and expressing anger and this is where most couples struggle.

As an anger management counselor in Denver, Colorado I often tell my clients that anger isn’t a bad emotion. It can feel like a destructive emotion when you’re struggling to control it, but it’s normal to feel the emotion of anger sometimes.

When you experience anger towards your partner, this emotion is simply trying to get you to pay attention to something in your relationship.

If you’re feeling angry towards your partner, a good question to ask yourself is “what is my anger trying to tell me right now?”

Anger can become a problem in your relationship if you and your partner don’t know how to express this feeling in a healthy way to each other. There are both helpful and unhelpful ways you can express your anger.

When you’re having a conflict a general rule that can help you practice healthy expressions of anger is to remember to attack the problem, don’t attack your partner.

Learning how to feel anger and express it in healthy ways is the key to not letting it harm your relationship.

 

Is anger a red flag for a relationship?

Feeling anger in your relationship isn’t necessarily a red flag. But it’s important to know the difference between healthy anger versus unhealthy or destructive anger.

Healthy anger is when you can feel anger at an appropriate level and still treat your partner in a way that is respectful.

Unhealthy anger is when your behavior is destructive or harmful towards your partner.

Perhaps you’ve heard the advice “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That’s a good way to think about destructive anger. 

It’s better not to say anything than to say something harmful that will damage your relationship.

Anger is a red flag if it’s being expressed in ways that are aggressive or abusive.

Abusive or aggressive anger can be verbal, emotional, or physical and it’s never okay for anger to be expressed in harmful ways.

So what does healthy anger look like?

Healthy expressions of anger are when you can express yourself by being both kind and firm. This is referred to as assertive communication.

Often times the hard part is remembering to be kind. It’s not difficult to be firm when you’re angry. But you also have to be kind and respectful towards your partner when you’re upset.

Our counseling center provides couples counseling in Denver, Colorado and we often help couples practice assertive communication by learning how to use “I feel statements.”

A good example of assertive communication would be telling your partner “I’m really frustrated right now because I feel we agreed to keep the kitchen clean and I feel like that’s not happening.”

Notice that this statement tells your partner how you’re feeling without attacking them.

With this relationship skill you can express the anger you’re feeling in a way that is respectful but firm. 

talk about in couples counseling

 

Why does my partner make me so angry?

In anger management counseling I often hear people say “my partner makes me so angry!” When I hear this I ask, “why do you allow them to have so much power over your emotions?

My purpose for asking this question is to help them begin to realize that as an adult other people can’t make you feel a certain way.

Your partner probably does things you don’t like, but how you feel is something internal that you can control.

You may not realize you’re allowing your partner to have this kind of power over your emotions.

Remember that your anger is trying to get you to pay attention to something. You’ll need to evaluate what it wants you to pay attention too.

Often times this feeling is trying to tell you there’s an emotional need or a want that isn’t being met by your partner.

Sometimes it feels like you’re mad at your partner because they forgot to do something, but really you might be feeling hurt because it makes you feel like they don’t care enough about you.

Many times people tell me that they had a stupid fight about something silly like taking out the trash, but there’s usually some deeper needs and emotions behind the silly fight.

The challenge is understanding what the real need is so that you can approach it in a healthy way.

 

Often times anger is trying to tell you that there’s an important want or need in your life that isn’t being met by your partner

Does my partner have an anger problem?

When you recognize that anger can be a normal part of a relationship, it’s important to know when anger might be a problem.

The most important thing to remember is that you and your partner always have the right to feel safe in your relationship. You’re both allowed to feel anger at times, but it’s never okay to express that anger in a way that’s harmful to the other person.

Harmful anger can be expressed physically, emotionally, or mentally.

Physical expressions of anger are anything that makes you or your partner feel unsafe. This includes behaviors such as grabbing, pushing, hitting, using physical intimidation, or restraining in any way.

Emotional abuse can be expressed in a number of different ways including yelling, calling you names or degrading you, or shutting down and withholding from you when they’re angry.

In couples counseling shutting down when you’re angry is often referred to as Stonewalling, and it can be particularly damaging to your relationship.

If you begin to feel unsafe or uncomfortable with your partner’s anger, it’s okay to tell them you feel unsafe and remove yourself from the situation if necessary. 

It might be important for you and your partner to learn effective ways to take a break when anger and conflict become unhelpful or harmful.

Anger in a relationship

 

How do I stop anger from ruining my relationship?

There are 2 important things you and your partner both need to do in order to stop anger from ruining your relationship.

1) Learn how to regulate your anger effectively

2) Learn how to express your anger in healthy ways to your partner

The first skill is learning how to regulate anger. You have to work on controlling your own emotions if you want to express those feelings to your partner in a healthy way.

You can spend a lot of time working on important relationship skills, but if you can’t control your own emotions, those relationship skills will be difficult to put into action.

Regulating your own anger includes recognizing when you feel anger, and knowing how to calm yourself when you’re upset.

If you or your partner struggle with regulating your own anger, this is where anger management counseling can be helpful.

The second skill is learning how to express your anger in helpful or healthy ways when you or your partner feels angry.

One of the ways to communicate your anger in a helpful way is using assertive communication. Earlier we described assertive communication as being both kind and firm at the same time.

An important note here is knowing the difference between aggressive communication and assertive communication. It can be easy to confuse aggressive behavior as assertive behavior.

Aggressive communication is when you attack your partner when you’re angry. This can be obvious things like yelling, name calling, and making accusations. It can also be expressed as passive anger such as shutting down or withholding (sometimes called passive aggression.)

Assertive communication is when you express how you’re feeling to your partner without attacking them. Remember to be both kind and firm.

An important thing to remember about anger is that you can’t control how your partner feels, and your partner can’t control how you feel.

Once you’ve learned how to better regulate the emotion of anger you’ll want to practice how to use assertive communication to express your feelings appropriately.

How do you respond to an angry partner in a relationship?

Have you ever told your partner they were too angry, or that they needed to calm down?

Did that actually help them calm down? Often times this can actually trigger them to feel even more anger.

A more effective strategy to respond to an angry partner is to tell them when you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

This feels difficult for some people because it requires you to be a little vulnerable. But vulnerability is an important part of a healthy relationship.

A common pattern for couples who struggle with anger is that when one person escalates with anger, the other person escalates as well.

This pattern occurs because anger is a protective emotion. If you feel threatened by your partner’s anger, your own anger kicks in to keep you feeling safe.

Learning to use vulnerability is part an emotionally intelligent relationship.

It’s helpful to remind yourself that the goal is to deescalate rather then escalate when there’s conflict.

Being vulnerable with your partner has a better chance of de-escalating the situation.

This can be as simple as saying to your partner, “I feel uncomfortable right now, I need to take a break.”

This skill can be very effective because it reduces that chances that your partner will feel attacked and can help deescalte when strong emotions like anger are involved.

 

Become An Emotionally Intelligent Couple To Manage Anger In Your Relationship

 

Successful and healthy couples work towards being emotionally intelligent couples. Emotional intelligence allows you to understand your emotions and the impact they have on your relationship.

There’s no shortcut to having a healthy relationship. It will take some time and practice to develop these skills with your partner.

The good news is that these relationship skills can be learned. Just like any skill it requires some practice, but the more you practice the easier it becomes. 

Relationships that fail are the ones that don’t continually learn and grow together. 

You don’t have to be great when you begin trying these new relationship skills and it’s normal to struggle with them at first. 

If you want to have a fulfilling relationship both you and your partner will have to commit to the work required to become an emotionally intelligent couple.

 

Cody Mitts, MA, LPC

Cody Mitts, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

Cody is a counselor in Colorado and specializes in helping people who are struggling with anger in their life and relationships.

 

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