Looking for tips on how to deal with an angry person in a relationship? It’s so not easy to love a hot-headed partner. You never know what to say or do; you are always walking on eggshells in order to avoid a volcanic explosion. Raised voices, clenched fists…living with someone with anger issues is not at all a pretty sight.
This is why we reached out to emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada, certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney. She specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief and loss, to name a few. Here’s your detailed guide on dealing with someone with anger issues.
What Causes Partners To Be Angry?
As Pooja points out, “Any person can get angry. Some people might have a tendency to lose their temper quickly. Some might have specific triggers. Others might have just a phase when their anger is off the mark. Anger in a relationship often comes from frustration and angst. When people feel they are losing control of anything or feel offended, they enter the anger cycle.”
But what is the root cause of rage issues in a relationship or marriage? Research points out that the evolutionary roots of anger and resentment can be traced back to animals preparing for an attack to ward off opponents. Anger is a response to survival threats and it serves to suppress fear, pain, and shame. Here are some of the possible causes for anger issues in relationships:
- Upbringing in a household wherein being angry was normalized
- Unresolved feelings about past trauma/abuse
- Unexpressed grief from losing someone special
- Consequence of alcoholism
- Suffering from anxiety/depression
- Symptom of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Bipolar Disorder
- Response to unfair treatment/feeling invalidated
- Feeling frustrated/powerless/threatened/attacked
How Do You Calm An Angry Partner?
Pooja emphasizes, “An angry partner is often impatient and shows an unwillingness to listen to any contrary opinion. They don’t even realize the magnitude of their behavior during fits of rage.” Dealing with someone with anger issues can hence be tricky. Here’s your guide on how to deal with an angry partner in a relationship:
1. Don’t shout back
When dealing with someone with anger issues, these are the big no-nos, according to Pooja:
- Don’t shout back
- Don’t blame them
- Don’t bring up old issues
- Don’t try to shut them down
2. Use anger management techniques to deal with an angry person in a relationship
Pooja articulates, “It is healthy to vent, but do it in a non-violent and sensitive way. One can write or express anger in some form of performance art too. Anger can be expressed creatively.”
A variety of techniques can be used to defuse anger in a relationship. Calmly tell your partner about the various ways in which they can combat their anger. Here are some effective anger management techniques, according to research:
- Counting (letting the first impulse to react pass)
- Breathing slowly (yoga/meditation calms the mind)
- Taking a time-out and stepping back from the situation
- Brisk walking/running/swimming
3. Let them express their reasons for anger
Still figuring out how to deal with an angry person in a relationship? Pooja articulates, “Let them vent. As long as they are not violent or abusive, let them express themselves. Try to be empathetic with them.” So, instead of targeting them back by saying things like “You always shout at me when you are angry”, say something on the lines of “Can you tell me what’s bothering you?”
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Your partner should not feel attacked by anything you say. It will trigger them to lash out even more. If you are looking for tips on how to deal with an angry boyfriend/partner, the most important one is trying to find out the underlying reason behind their anger. Have a serious conversation about how they treated you, but don’t have it during their outburst.
4. Validate their feelings
My boyfriend has a temper problem. I’ve realized that all he needs is to feel heard. Anger management in relationships is incomplete without empathy. Loving someone with anger issues has taught me to use the following phrases more:
- “I completely understand where you’re coming from”
- “If I were you, I would have also been devastated”
- “I know it’s not easy for you”
- “I’m so sorry that it happened to you”
- “I get it. It’s not easy to go through what you are going through”
5. Distract them
An effective tip on how to deal with an angry partner in a relationship is focusing their attention on something else, in a subtle way. You can say something on the lines of “Hey, let’s go for a walk”. In fact, a study found that rumination increases the feelings of anger, while distraction helps in decreasing them.
You can use a funny video or crack a joke to defuse their anger. However, do this only if your partner is moderately angry. If a person has intense anger issues, this can irritate them even more.
How To Deal With An Angry Partner In A Relationship – Expert Strategies
The guide on how to deal with an angry partner in a relationship must first include the cycles of anger. Pooja explains, “The arousal cycle of anger has five phases: trigger, escalation, crisis, recovery, and depression. Understanding the cycle helps us to understand our own reactions and those of others.” Here are the 5 phases of anger:
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- Phase 1 of anger: The trigger phase is when an event gets the anger cycle started
- Phase 2: The escalation phase is when our body prepares for a crisis with increased respiration and heart rate and a raised blood pressure. Muscles tense up, voice may become louder or acquire an altered pitch, our eyes change shape, pupils enlarge, and brow falls
- Phase 3: The crisis phase is when our survival instinct steps in (the fight or flight response). The decisions we take during this phase lack quality judgment
- Phase 4: The recovery phase takes place after some action has resulted during the crisis phase. Reasoning starts to replace the survival response
- Phase 5: The post-crisis depression phase is when the heart rate slips below normal so the body can regain its balance. We experience guilt, regret, or emotional depression
So, giving your partner tips to calm down in the escalation phase or the crisis phase is just futile. They are not in the right frame of mind at that time. Their anger is messing with their minds and yours too. After all, living with someone with anger issues can affect your mental health. So here are some expert-backed tips on how to deal with an angry boyfriend or girlfriend:
1. Make a note of your partner’s triggers
How can you identify triggers to defuse anger in a relationship? Pooja answers, “The first step is to observe and introspect but sometimes it isn’t easy to identify them on their own. So one must seek professional help. Dealing with triggers can be done with the help of counseling and therapy too.” Our panel of experts is always here for you. These licensed professionals can help you through various methods.
Here are some common examples of anger triggers. See if one of these leads to outbursts from your partner:
- Being disrespected/invalidated/not heard
- Insulting language
- Breach of personal space
- Traffic jam
- Heavy workload
- Financial problems
- Lack of appreciation/fair treatment
2. Suggest behavioral techniques
Research points out that behavioral and cognitive restructuring techniques are pretty effective in case of rage issues in a marriage or relationship. Here are some of the psychologists-approved behavioral techniques that your partner can use:
- Repeating calm words to themselves like “Relax” or “Take it easy”
- Saying “I would like” instead of “I demand” or “I must have”
- Slowing down and thinking before answering
- Using humor as a coping mechanism
3. Tell your partner about grounding techniques
I ask Pooja, “My boyfriend has a temper. What are some of the tips that you can suggest for my partner, because my boyfriend’s anger is ruining our relationship?”
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Pooja answers, “Remember the escalation phase of anger? In it, our body prepares for a crisis with rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and raised blood pressure. The muscles tense for action, the voice may become louder, and pupils enlarge. Tell him to take note of these things next time he feels angry. His body stance may change as well.”
The strategy that Pooja has suggested is called ‘grounding’. As research points out, this technique is common among dance movement therapists and body psychotherapists. It expresses a stable physical and emotional presence – “supported by the ground”. Other grounding techniques that your partner can use to calm their anger are:
- Listening to music
- Listing things that bring them joy
- Touching something comforting (and feeling the fabric on their skin)
- Sitting with a pet
- Watching funny videos
4. How to deal with an angry partner in a relationship? Be patient and kind
“When you’re living with an angry person, know that their anger is adversely affecting their mental health too. It can dent their self-confidence and self-respect,” says Pooja. It is killing them from the inside. So, always be compassionate toward your angry partner, instead of pointing fingers at them.
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Pooja adds, “Don’t respond immediately. Let the immediate reaction pass and then respond. Take the issue up with the person when both of you are calmer.” So, an expert tip on how to deal with an angry person in a relationship would be to allow the negative energy to pass first. Then, have a rational discussion. They will be more open to understanding your point of view when they are calm.
5. Put yourself first
When dealing with someone with anger issues, here are some tips for you:
- Take care of yourself through yoga/meditation or even a cup of tea or going for a swim (you can only be a safe space for someone else if you’re grounded enough)
- Set boundaries by saying, “I am not willing to be yelled at. I really want to understand where you’re coming from. But now is not the right time”
- You can also say, “I get that you are upset. But my attention is all over the place at this moment. Can we reconnect at a better time?”
- Say this if you’re feeling overwhelmed, “I love you. But it’s difficult to listen when you are shouting at the top of your lungs. Let me know when you can talk without pointing fingers. I am always here for you”
- Do NOT (even for a second) believe that something is wrong with you or that you need to change for them to be less angry/abusive
- Your safety should be your topmost priority. Make a detailed safety plan – who you can call or where you can go in dangerous situations
Related Reading: 11 Things To Do When Someone Treats You Badly In A Relationship
Finally, if you try all this and it still doesn’t work out, don’t feel guilty for leaving your partner. Protecting your own mental health is a sign of self-love. Anger issues could be your deal breakers, after all. Make sure you break up in a public place to ensure your safety, and express everything to them with sincerity and honesty.
- Don’t shout back or bring up old issues when your partner is angry
- Persuade your partner to try their hand at brisk walking or deep breathing
- Also make sure that you validate their feelings and distract them
- Suggest a good therapist to them and also tell them about grounding techniques
- Be patient, kind, and empathetic; your job is not to “fix” them
- If your relationship is becoming physically/mentally abusive, walk away
Also, remember that your job is not to change your partner or “fix” them. All you can do is influence them, and enable an environment of cooperation, instead of control. At the same time, you don’t have to be submissive and fearful of your partner. Treat your partner with respect but also be assertive so that you can get the respect that you deserve.
Yes, loving someone with anger issues can get really exhausting sometimes. If you’re unable to understand how to deal with an angry person in a relationship after repeated attempts and if they are not open to seeking help, the relationship/marriage can even become toxic and abusive.
Anger issues can cause permanent scars in a relationship. They affect the physical and mental health of both the people involved. If your partner has explosive anger issues, it prevents you from being honest or comfortable with them.
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