Anger is a normal part of daily life. We all get angry every now and then. It’s how you manage this emotion that can make or break your relationship. Consequently, it’s important to know what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to relating to an angry partner. The good news is, anger management is possible.
Carrie Askin, a therapist and co-director at treatment center Menergy, said people who struggle with anger usually have difficulty dealing with emotions that make them feel vulnerable. As a result, these softer emotions are expressed aggressively. “Anger is rarely just anger; it’s usually secondary to vulnerable feelings such as disappointment, shame, anxiety, and sadness. Most of us would much rather feel powerful than helpless or anxious. People who act out in anger can change. The first step is taking responsibility for the behavior,” Askin told The Cheat Sheet.
Are you in a relationship with a partner who has difficulty regulating anger? Here are some reliable strategies for managing a loved one with anger issues.
Allow your partner to vent
If your partner is angry about something that happened at work, for example, don’t immediately jump at the chance to offer advice. Allow him or her to vent these frustrations. You can most effectively show your support by giving your partner the space and freedom to express these emotions.
It’s nice that you want to help, but not every problem needs to be solved by you. Just having an opportunity to talk things out might be all your partner needs. “Sometimes people just need to vent and want someone to hear them out,” said Kimberly Hershenson, a New York City-based therapist who specializes in relationships.
Validate your partner’s feelings
Instead of shaming your partner for being angry, acknowledge how he or she is feeling. Let your partner know that you’re there to help work through whatever is troubling him or her. Remind your significant other that you’re a team.
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a relationship therapist and founder of The Marriage Restoration Project, told us validation is a tool that can help diffuse a tense situation. “When you validate your partner’s feelings by letting your partner know he or she makes sense, you’re on your way to learning how to control anger in a relationship and provide a calm presence for the storm that is the anger. It doesn’t mean you agree with your partner, it just means you’ve decided to be the first person that will create the calm necessary to proceed,” said Slatkin.
Don’t engage in similar behavior
If you and your partner are arguing and he or she becomes noticeably angry, it’s important for you to remain calm. One thing you don’t want to do is escalate an already volatile situation. “Don’t engage. It’s easy to fight back when someone explodes. Use your self-discipline and stay cool. It’s a lot harder for someone with anger issues to stay angry when you’re calm. Meet anger with understanding, not rage,” said relationship expert April Masini.
Talk when you’re both calm
One of the worst times you can address your partner’s anger is during an angry outburst. Wait until you’ve both calmed down and then carve out some time to talk. Take time to gently bring your partner’s anger to his or her attention. Let your significant other know how the behavior makes you feel and seek solutions together.