On a spectrum of feelings in a relationship, if love and harmony are considered something to aspire to, anger is considered inexpedient. That’s why many couples are constantly in search of an answer to how to control anger in a relationship. Anger is a natural and inevitable part of any romantic partnership. When two people share their lives so intimately, there are bound to be clashes and disagreements.
When such situations arise, the focus should be on dealing with them the right way rather than suppressing your feelings out of the “anger is ruining my relationship” fear. At the same time, it’s of utmost importance to be mindful of your way of expressing this rage. If you can’t control your temper in a relationship, it can spell doom for your future together.
Unresolved anger in a marriage or relationship can have far more damaging consequences than letting it out. That’s why when you work toward controlling anger in a relationship, the endeavor should be to process it correctly and not let it pent up. Let’s figure out how you can do that with insights from counseling psychologist Niki Benjamin (M.Sc Psychology), founder of Papaya Counselling, who specializes in dealing with issues like depression, anxiety, trauma, CSA, and marital/interpersonal conflict.
Is It Normal To Feel Angry In A Relationship?
Before we try to understand the place of anger in a relationship, let’s delve into what anger really is. This emotion is largely misunderstood as a negative feeling that can wreak havoc on romantic relationships. Anger is also often regarded as the opposite of love. The belief that anger damages relationships is typically rooted in the idea that when you express your anger toward someone, you cannot love them.
In reality, all of these notions associated with angry feelings are incorrect. Anger is just another human emotion that cannot be dispensed with completely. It does not necessarily spell doom for your relationship, if it did, no couple in the world would be able to survive. What really matters is how you control anger in a relationship, instead of trying to avoid it altogether.
According to a research article by APA, there are some short-term benefits of anger such as drawing other people’s attention to us, correcting the wrongs in the world, and fighting against injustice. Although the long-term effects can be quite dreadful, anger energizes us to retaliate. APA data says that 25% of anger incidents involve thoughts of revenge. About managing anger in a relationship, another article published by UC Berkley gives two valid suggestions:
- Don’t suppress yourself with statements like “I need to get rid of my anger” to avoid angry feelings
- Take it slow when you get angry. Pause for a second, take deep breaths, and reflect on the situation
Circling back to the question, “Is it normal to feel angry in a relationship?”, Niki says, “Yes, it is normal to feel angry in a relationship but to what extent would depend on a variety of factors. Reasons such as betrayal, loss of trust, lack of clear communication, differential or imbalanced power dynamics could be legitimate reasons for feelings of anger.”
While it’s normal, the reasons largely determine the validity of your anger/response. If you get angry quickly in your relationship and lose your temper over the smallest of things, it isn’t going to be smooth sailing for anyone involved. To maintain harmony and not cause harm, understanding how to control a short temper in a relationship is vital.
Understand the reasons for anger in relationships
That being said, not all reasons for anger in relationships are created equal. Psychotherapist Erin Leonard believes that there are typically two forms of anger in relationships. The first kind is where one partner feels misunderstood, slighted, unheard or invisible in the relationship. The second kind stems from external factors affecting one of the partners.
For instance, Sasha and Martin often found themselves at loggerheads because Sasha felt that her partner didn’t take the things that were important to her seriously. He had a tendency to not show up or be late for her art shows, which meant the world to her. The more often it happened, the more it enraged her. She felt he didn’t value something so important to her. Such fundamental differences can be among the common reasons for anger in relationships.
The issue isn’t that anger arose in the first place. But what matters is how you react to being angry. If Sasha were to act irrationally, it would cause more problems than just Martin not attending her art shows. When you learn how to control anger in a relationship, you can process your emotions better. When love turns to anger due to such couple dynamics, it is possible, as well as crucial, to address the underlying issue swiftly, so that feelings of love and closeness can be restored.
Related Reading: 10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Partner
The second kind of anger does not stem from the relationship itself. In the case of Hannah and Miguel, for instance, her missed promotion at work, coupled with the mounting stress of managing children, home, and professional responsibilities, became the root cause of her rage. This tendency to lash out when things are not going your way is a manifestation of projecting your own angry feelings onto your partner and relationship.
That’s neither valid nor healthy. Since external factors do get the better of us most of the time, all of us could use some tips on how to control anger in a relationship. The key to controlling anger and sadness in a way that doesn’t damage or adversely impact your relationship is to treat it as a symptom that will allow you to get to the bottom of underlying issues that need to be worked out.
Speaking of the root of anger and frustration in a relationship, counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam previously told Bonobology, “Anger issues manifest in many ways. It may not only be screaming fits or verbal abuse. Emotional neglect could also be a way to tell if someone has anger issues. If they never have your back, show no support or care, and don’t make it a point to communicate with you every day, there’s a good chance that there are, at the very least, latent anger issues. The silent treatment is a symptom of anger issues as much as screaming and shouting.”
How To Control Anger In A Relationship – 12 Ways To Tame The Temper
Even if one accepts the fact that it is normal to feel angry in a relationship, there is no denying the fact that it is an exceedingly unpleasant place to be in. Besides, the way most couples channel these emotions is what causes anger issues in a relationship to turn chronic.
The bottom line is that anger in itself is not the problem. It is the inability to control anger and draw the line between fighting fair in a relationship and dealing low blows that’s problematic. That’s when anger damages relationships. Don’t exhibit your frustration in a relationship in such a way that it makes your partner tiptoe around you.
The key is that whatever causes anger in a relationship is not under your control for the most part. However, the same principle does not apply to your actions. You are 100% responsible and accountable for your actions and behavior irrespective of your state of mind. That’s why learning how to control anger in a relationship becomes even more vital.
If you’re wondering, “How do I stop being angry with my SO all the time?”, these 12 tips to tame your tempers will make you better poised to control anger and sadness in your relationship:
1. Don’t direct your rage at your partner
Niki says, “Never act or speak while in the throes of anger. Wait for 20 minutes before reacting. Take deep breaths and sit down in a comfortable spot. Once you feel your breathing normalizing, reimagine the situation that triggered your temper. Then ask yourself, if your emotional response was/is legitimate and reasonable.”
Of course, it takes a great deal of self-control and practice to be able to contain your angry emotions within. Here are a few actionable steps you may follow to get started:
- You could experiment with different ways to diffuse anger such as taking a walk, turning up some music, baking, and stepping out for some fresh air
- Distance yourself from the situation that angered you
- If your partner is demanding an answer from you right that very instant, try to calmly make him/her understand that you need some personal space to better process the situation
- If you get angry quickly, things will go from bad to worse. Indulging in an activity that brings you joy and happiness can help you center your mind and process your feelings more pragmatically
Related Reading: How To Let Go Of Resentment In A Relationship
2. Understand why you feel angry
Niki adds, “If the answer to the above is yes, then make a list (by yourself) about why you felt/feel the way you do. Read it out loud to yourself. Does that make sense?” To fix anger issues in a relationship, first, you have got to identify the triggers which in particular provoke you to lose control over your rational senses and say hurtful things to your partner.
Overreacting when you’re full of rage at your partner is not completely unheard of. We’ve all been in situations where someone’s actions or words triggered us unreasonably because we attached unnecessary meaning to them. Or interpreted them with the baggage of our own prejudices and preconceived notions.
In times like these, journaling your thoughts and reading them aloud can be one of the effective and creative ways to diffuse anger. It allows you to distance yourself from your own emotions, and view them as dispassionately as possible. If the reasons still seem valid to you, it’s time to take them up to your partner and clear the air.
3. Talk it out with your partner
Even if your reasons for feeling angry do not make sense to you after you’ve had a chance to process your emotions, reach out to your partner. There is hardly a problem out there that can’t be solved with the right intent and proper communication, a key to conflict resolution strategy in relationships. But to take that first step and open up about your adverse emotions is the real task.
Niki advises, “Ask your partner when is a good time for you to talk to them about something important that matters to you. Try and mutually agree upon a time that is reasonable to both of you.” Own your part in aggravating a situation or reacting in a less-than-pleasant manner. After all, that’s what fighting fair in a relationship is all about.
4. Communicate effectively
One of the key elements of the “how to control anger in a relationship” puzzle is to communicate effectively. When you’re angry and hurting, communication hurdles can get amplified manifold. Especially, if you’re speaking to prove a point, win an argument, or score over the other. “Once you sit down to discuss, address each of your points with each other and give your partner the opportunity to explain their side of the argument. Let them finish what they have to say,” Niki recommends.
Regardless of the amount of frustration in a relationship that you are dealing with, you can’t ignore that you are still talking to your partner, a person whom you love dearly and who’s a big part of your life. Irrespective of your state of mind, you are supposed to treat them with respect. They deserve every bit of it, plus, a great deal of clarity about what’s bothering you. Active listening and choosing your words carefully is the trick here.
5. Express disagreements calmly
“Express your disagreements, if there are any, only after you have heard each other out for every point you listed,” Niki adds. This allows you to approach your differences in a calm, collected, and matter-of-fact way and diffuse a potentially volatile situation. If you fret over the “anger is ruining my relationship” realization, a simple change in how you approach disagreements can make a huge difference.
Commit to eliminating saying hurtful things, using cuss words, or resorting to verbal abuse during arguments. If you’re trying to control anger in a long-distance relationship, remaining calm is paramount. Once the calmness has been compromised, it may make matters a lot worse. When you look closely at how anger damages relationships, these are the most common culprits. While you allow yourself to feel the full extent of your angry feelings, don’t channel them toward your partner unfiltered.
Related Reading: Crimes Of Passion – When Anger Takes Over The Mind!
6. Explore the other emotions involved
Kate had just discovered that her boyfriend, Ronni, had slept with a coworker when the duo took a business trip after months of working from home during the pandemic. Of course, as she discovered the cheating, she was full of rage toward her partner. It led to screaming, tears, a few things smashed around the house, and his phone flung out of the window. Since the two lived together, breaking up right then and there wasn’t an option.
Even though that was Kate’s first instinct, as tempers cooled down they decided to stay together and work past the cheating episode. Later, during a session, her therapist asked Kate to consider if any other emotions could’ve triggered her reaction that day. Kate, herself, hasn’t stepped out of home in 10 months, except when absolutely necessary.
Her whole world had shrunk to Ronni. Every other relationship – personal or professional – was consigned to the virtual realm. Then, for Ronni to have jumped in bed with someone else at the first opportunity was an unfathomable betrayal for Kate. It was the hurt, loneliness, and the effect of long-drawn isolation that triggered her anger.
Kate’s example applies to all of us too. Anger is always a secondary emotion that emerges as a defense mechanism to shield our primary emotions that may bring forth our vulnerabilities. Of all the tips on how to control anger in a relationship, this one may well be the most important, considering how easily most people might overlook this.
7. Your anger belongs to you
No matter what the reasons for anger in relationships are, you must find a way to own your emotions. Unresolved anger in a marriage or a relationship may be directed at your partner, but since it stems from you, it also says something about your state of mind.
This is not to suggest that your complaints about your partner are not valid or all their actions are justified. They may be in the wrong. Even so, the actions may be theirs but the reaction is yours. That’s why the key to how to control anger in a relationship is to own it.
Once you own your anger, you can focus on yourself rather than your partner. Again, this is not to suggest that your partner is right and you’re wrong or vice versa. The idea is that when both partners focus on their own role in a situation, they are best poised to express themselves more clearly and work together to explore possible solutions.
8. Look for solutions
How to control anger in a relationship? The simple answer is to remember that anger doesn’t solve anything. If anything, it makes situations worse. Now that you’ve taken another step to own and control anger in a relationship, the focus must shift to resolving the issue that triggered this emotion.
This is particularly helpful when there is unresolved anger in a marriage or relationship. Or when you’re caught in the loop of having the same fights over and over. Sophie and Tracy both work long hours, often at different times of the day. Sophie expected that she and her partner would eat at least one meal together. Tracy thought it was unreasonable to place such prerequisites in a relationship. This small, albeit persistent, difference of opinion had become the source of chronic anger issues in the relationship.
ʼMany fights and heated arguments later, they sat down to truly find a middle ground rather than each stubbornly holding on to their stance. Eventually, they decided that they’d eat breakfast together on at least three weekdays. For dinner, Sophie would check in with Tracy, and if the latter was free, they could quickly grab a bite together. If not, the former won’t hold a grudge. You see how shifting focus to finding solutions can help resolve even the most long-standing issues?
Related Reading: 10 Skilful Ways To Deal With An Angry Husband
9. Use ‘I’ statements
This tip on how to control anger in a relationship is essentially an extension of owning your emotions. To convey it to your partner without blame shifting or coming across as critical, it’s imperative to stick to ‘I’ statements. When you are using ‘I’ messages, you are only talking about the way you see the situation at hand. While ‘you’ statements are broadly based on assumptions you are making about your partner’s perspective. Here’s how to use ‘I’ statements to fix anger issues in a relationship:
- Say “I felt bad that you didn’t show up on time” instead of “You are always late. It’s pointless to expect anything from you”
- “I want you to share more about your life with me. Involve me, let me in” instead of “You never tell me anything about your life. I don’t know the first thing about you and it’s been six months of us dating”
The first statement opens channels for communication. The second only makes the other person defensive, leaving you trapped in a vicious cycle of arguments that lead nowhere. An article published by Boston University states that ‘I’ messages are not supposed to force the other person to fix your issue and aren’t concerned about their responses. It’s an expectation-free way of expressing your side of the story.
10. Let go of grudges
Forgiveness in a relationship can be an effective tool for managing anger in a relationship. If you hold grudges for past actions, mistakes, and slip-ups, you will inevitably find yourself consumed by a sense of bitterness and injustice. Once you have resolved a fight and moved on, leave that issue or instance behind.
Don’t rake it up every time you and your partner get into an argument. “What about the time you forgot our anniversary?” “You stood me up in front of my friends six years ago.” “You used to spend hours stalking your ex on social media.” By repeatedly throwing around statements like these, you are essentially not letting old wounds heal.
Every time you bring up past issues, you will experience the anger, hurt, and sadness associated with them all over again. It will only aggravate the anger you’re feeling at the moment. On the other hand, by forgiving your partner and letting go of the past in true earnest, you foster an environment where every fight becomes an opportunity to strengthen your relationship.
11. Cut anger with humor
Any angry situation can seem less towering and more manageable if you can find a way to laugh about it. That’s why lightening up is among the creative ways to diffuse anger and tension. This can be particularly helpful when you’re dealing with a usual flaring of tempers over unmet expectations in a relationship or feeling disappointed in your partner.
Likewise, if your partner tries to use humor to get through to you when you’re angry, play along as long as the issue at hand is not grave. However, in doing so, it’s vital to differentiate between sarcasm and humor. Sarcastic comments only hurt feelings and can make a bad situation even worse.
12. Seek help when necessary
If you just cannot figure out how to control anger in a relationship, and it is damaging your bond with your partner, it may be an indication that you need help. This is especially crucial if you tend to spiral out of control when angry, doing things you regret later, or hurting your SO emotionally or physically.
In such cases, anger issues in a relationship are a symptom of deep underlying issues. It can range anywhere from stress to dysfunctional family dynamics (at present or in the past), financial matters, or even addiction. A trained therapist can help identify them and equip you with the right coping techniques. If you need help controlling your temper in a relationship, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
- Anger is a justifiable emotion in any relationship although the uncontrollable outcome of rage is not
- It’s important to understand what are the trigger points that make you lose control over yourself
- Calm and rational communication is absolutely essential to fix anger issues in a relationship
- Keep a check on the way you are presenting yourself at the hit of the moment
- Using ‘I’ statements and light humor can ease the tension
- Don’t hold on to the grudges or it will further increase complications in your relationship
The secret to how to control anger in a relationship is to not get carried away in the spate of emotions. Process your angry thoughts, filter your words, and approach the situation as calmly as possible. Instead of asking yourself, “How do I stop being angry at me SO?”, work on the feelings, express your emotions calmly, and in no time, you’ll be able to control a short temper in a relationship.
Yes, anger is not only normal in a relationship but also inevitable. When your life is so intimately intertwined with another person, a few disappointments and disagreements along the way are to be expected. These become a source of anger in relationships.
Anger can damage relationships in various ways. First, projecting anger triggered by external sources onto the relationship is unhealthy. Second, not fighting fair in a relationship, resorting to saying hurtful things when angry, or abusing your partner verbally, emotionally, or physically can cause irreparable harm to couple dynamics. And third, not process and letting out anger can cause a pent-up that leads to resentment in the relationship.
To defuse anger in a relationship, remove yourself from the situation for a while, and take the time to process your feelings before channelizing them toward your partner.
Once you’ve had the chance to gather your thoughts, approach your partner for a conversation. Convey your angry emotions, but do so calmly. Refrain from screaming and yelling. During the conversation, state your concerns clearly and give your partner a chance to respond. Use ‘I’ statements when expressing the reasons for your anger and don’t cut off each other mid-sentences.