anger in relationships
Every relationship goes through fights and arguments, ups and downs. Maybe you and your partner have even said a few angry words to each other along the way that you wish you could take back. But when temper outbursts get too frequent and intense, you may have a far more insidious problem at hand. One some level, you know it already. That’s why you are here, looking for signs a man has anger issues.
It could be as subtle as being too quick to react to everything you say or as obvious as isolating you from friends and family. Since there is no defined behavior template for a man with anger issues, ascertaining what you’re dealing with can get confusing. So, how do you assess when your man’s temper qualifies as anger issues? More importantly, how do you learn how to deal with someone with anger issues?
We’ve rounded up short-tempered person psychology, along with expert insights from counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades, to help you figure out how to navigate a relationship when a guy has anger issues.
How do anger issues impact a relationship
Getting angry at your partner once in a blue moon is not unusual. At times, their hurtful words may sound offensive to you or certain actions can go against your needs, leaving you surprised. Till this point, the situation is under control. The negative effects of anger in relationships become apparent when there is a ‘pattern’ to rage cycles and their expression. It can range from stonewalling a partner to something as scary as domestic abuse. If you’re wondering how to know if a man has anger issues, see if these characteristics of a short-tempered person apply to your partner:
- Calling names
- Breaking things
- Constant nitpicking
All of these are problematic because they leave the person at the receiving end of the anger – that is, you – feeling scared and on edge at all times. That’s why anxiety and anger in relationships often go hand in hand – one partner’s anger makes the other anxious. That is not a healthy dynamic, by any measure. The more severe symptoms of anger issues, the greater the damage to the relationship. Here are some ways anger issues impact a relationship:
1. Affects your self-esteem
If you’re in love with a typical, nitpicking self-centered person whose words cut like a dagger, your relationship is highly at stake, my friend. The whole purpose of this person’s life is to:
- Find fault in others
- Criticize their loved ones for insignificant matters
- Humiliate them in front of others
- Belittle their achievements
Expecting a bit of appreciation and gratitude in a relationship is not too much to ask for. However, a partner with a temper will not be able to fulfill these basic needs. Instead, you will find yourself at the receiving end of constant name-calling, which will, in turn, hurt your sense of self-worth and confidence, making you second-guess every little aspect of life.
2. Makes you walk on eggshells around them
“My boyfriend’s anger gives me anxiety,” says Anne, a 21-year-old literature student at NYU, “I just don’t know what little thing will set him off. The other day, I forgot to turn off the heater before leaving for school and he actually called me in the middle of a class to shout at me. As much as I love him, I hate walking on eggshells in my relationship ALL the time.”
Do you see how the unpredictability of a bad temper could be extremely unsettling to the other partner? When one person is constantly trying to watch their words and actions to keep the other calm, they can never show their authentic self and it’s not a sign of healthy relationships.
3. Makes you revengeful
If your husband gets angry easily, over time, his outbursts will start triggering you as well. You will always be on the lookout for opportunities to show him down and prove him wrong. This is a recipe for an unsustainably unhealthy relationship that will leave you feeling stifled. It’s only a matter of time before you realize, “Enough is enough! I can’t do this anymore.”
4. Your partner begins to scare you
My friend Angela shared her bitter marriage story with me, “I am afraid of my husband’s anger. I sometimes can’t believe we started this relationship with so much love, affection, and hope. And here we are today! What to do if your husband hits you? The worst part is, with the baby coming soon, I can’t even pack my bags and just slam the door in his face. I never thought I’d be among the women who feel forced to stay in abusive relationships, yet here I am feeling trapped in my marriage”
Angela’s story terrified me to the core. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I urge you to consider your options and look for a way out. Dating a man with anger issues – or being married to one – has many, many downsides but physical abuse should be a clear deal-breaker. Call the women helpline, get a restraining order, move away if you can, report him for abuse – do whatever it takes to ensure your safety.
21 Signs A Man Has Anger Issues
“My husband gets angry if I disagree with him. His reactions are often disproportionate to the situation,” shares Vern, an engineer from Toronto, “I understand being frustrated, but the way he reacts to every small nuisance is sometimes frightening and concerning. Apart from being obviously impatient, does my husband have anger issues too?”
One of the most defining traits of men with anger issues is that they have trouble controlling their reactions. Even if in his calm, composed state of mind he sees that his anger is becoming a problem in the relationship, he may not be able to hold himself back from lashing out once his temper is triggered. If you find yourself in a similar dynamic, it’s imperative that you protect yourself and possibly work toward finding a solution. The first step in that direction is acknowledging the problem at hand, and that begins with identifying the signs a man has anger issues:
1. He cannot manage his emotions
For Lisa, it was difficult to read her husband Richard. She was constantly haunted by the question, “Does my husband have anger issues?” There were days and weeks when he would shower her with flowers, presents, and compliments. Out of nowhere, he would be shouting her down because she had bought the wrong brand of breakfast cereal.
“When a guy has anger issues, he will swing back and forth between extremities,” says Kavita, adding, “He will show tremendous love and care one day, and then lash out at you furiously the next. There will be no balance, no mid-point.”
If your partner indulges in love-bombing at times but belittles you or screams at you over the smallest things, these are signs he has a temper. Not knowing how he is going to react to a situation is among the most telling indicators of rage issues. As a result, you will find yourself walking on eggshells around him – even in your most peaceful or blissful moments of togetherness.
2. He apologizes but won’t change
As they say, an apology without change is manipulation. If your partner apologizes every time he takes his anger out on you but is unable to change his behavior, it’s one of the signs he has a temper. It becomes a truly toxic relationship where you’re trapped in a vicious cycle of your partner lashing out at you and then trying to undo the damage with apologies.
He may even be genuinely sorry every time, but unless he’s getting help or learning to control his rage urges, his apologies are hollow and meaningless. You know your spouse or boyfriend has temper issues when despite their most emphatic and heartfelt apology, a part of you refuses to believe that things are going to change for the better.
3. He neglects you emotionally
“The right to display anger manifests in many ways,” says Kavita, “It may not only be physical fights or yelling. Emotional neglect could also be a way to tell if a guy has anger issues.” She adds that it’s latent/passive anger if he:
- Never has your back
- Shows no support or care
- Doesn’t make it a point to communicate with you every day
- Gives you the silent treatment
That’s what happened to Martha and Ben. Ben rarely yelled at Martha; his anger was of the cold, sullen type where he simply would stop talking to her at all. It was as though he was punishing her all the time. She was constantly on edge and kept wondering, “What makes a man angry in a relationship?”
If you are being shut out or given the cold shoulder after every disagreement or argument, know that this could very well be among the signs a man has anger issues. The brooding, aloof personality may seem appealing from afar – thanks to pop culture and media feeding us misplaced ideas of masculinity and machismo – but it can get exhausting to put up with rather quickly.
Related Reading: How To Control Anger In A Relationship: 12 Ways To Tame The Temper
4. He’s always quick to judge
How to spot anger issues in a relationship? Take a moment to introspect how you’re made to feel in the relationship:
- Does your partner encourage you, lift you up, and make you feel like he’s truly blessed to have you?
- Or does he find newer, more creative ways to let you know you’re not good enough?
You wear a new outfit, he passes a scathing remark. You decide to watch a movie together, he complains about it and blames you for choosing it. No matter what you do, it’s never good enough for him and he will judge you immediately. If you find yourself nodding, take note: This is one of the warning signs a man has anger issues.
“In abusive relationships, a partner will try and change everything about you. They will continually make you feel unworthy and every choice you make will come under criticism,” Kavita says, “Even when you try to resolve things, they will bombard you with insults and refuse to work things out.”
5. He brings up past mistakes
How do you tell if a guy has anger issues? Ugly fights occur. He will make every attempt to beat you down with past mistakes just to leave you feeling small and helpless. Here’s an example. Maybe right now you’re fighting over something as simple as whether or not to have guests over on the weekend. In this fight, he will:
- Bring up something you said at a party a year ago
- Remind you of that time you brought home flowers he was allergic to
- Blame you for the money you wasted on party food six months ago
6. He isolates you
Among the most telling signs a man has anger issues is his need to control every aspect of your life and curb your independent streak, little by little:
- He doesn’t like you to meet your friends
- He hates you go to see your family members for Sunday brunch
- “Why do you need to work? I earn enough for both of us,” he might tell you
“If your partner/husband has a bad temper, he will isolate you from all your support systems,” warns Kavita, “The idea is to make you entirely dependent on him so that even if he takes out all his anger on you, you have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. He may make it sound like he wants what’s best for you but, in fact, he wants to make you dependent on him.”
7. He manipulates you
Here are some subtle signs of male aggression:
- He will make you think you’re always in the wrong and he is, in fact, the victim
- He will constantly gaslight you or stonewall you
- In case you suggest trying couple’s therapy, he’ll immediately tell you he doesn’t need it because apparently, it’s all in your head
If you try to defend yourself, he might look wounded and accuse you of hurting him, when it’s actually the other way around. Men with anger issues have a manipulative side to them, which you will neither be able to see for what it is nor deal with until you accept the reality of your situation.
8. He makes you feel unworthy
We all know there are some hurtful things we should never say to our partners, except a partner/boyfriend with anger issues. When a rage cycle strikes, he will take a no-holds-barred approach to letting his frustration and anger out. Here are some real-life examples for your reference:
- He will tell you you’re worthless
- He might tell you you’re lucky he’s dating you because no one else would
- He will list out the different ways you have ruined his life
9. He gives you the wrong advice
A man with anger issues will never have your best interest at heart. That’s why, if you ask him for advice, he will recommend you do what’s best for him in the long run. This could be about your career, your family, or other life issues. And if his advice backfires, he will still find a way to put the blame on you and lash out. If you’re wondering how to know if a man has anger issues, this tendency to always paint you in a poor light and use it to vent out his frustration on you in the ugliest way possible is a dead giveaway.
10. He bad mouths you
The damage caused by men with anger issues isn’t limited to their relationships alone. When consumed with rage, your partner won’t hesitate to bad-mouth you, irrespective of how it makes you look in front of your family, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances. He may:
- Tell your family you’re a bad spouse
- Tell your friends you can’t keep a secret
- Tell your boss that you weren’t really sick that day you took a leave
To him, it’s all about tipping the power dynamic in the relationship in his favor, and when the temper strikes, he may not even care at what cost. Anger issues in men can truly impair their judgment and their partners are the ones who have to bear the brunt of it.
Related Reading: 13 Of The Worst Things A Husband Can Say To His Wife
11. He may force you in unsafe situations
If there are anger issues in a relationship, there will be countless screaming matches. In the midst of a heated argument, he may force you out of the house, saying he can’t stand the sight of you, or it would be better for everyone if you just left. Again, it could be daytime or the middle of the night, but he won’t be worried about where you’ll go or if you have enough money for gas in the car. All he cares about, in that moment, is expressing his anger and asserting his power over you by forcing you to leave.
12. He punishes himself
Anger is not always directed outwards but inwards too. This lack of self-love may result in him punishing himself in the following ways:
- He drowns himself in substance abuse to escape his dark/depressing thoughts
- He doesn’t choose activities that are good for him (working out, painting etc)
- He denies himself healthy food and eats junk instead
- He engages his self-harm
13. He threatens to hit you
Still looking for signs a man has anger issues? It’s a major red flag if he charges at you with the intent to hit and then stops himself, or you notice him restraining himself from hitting you, or he threatens you with violence if you don’t comply. The fact that his actions and words make you feel scared is a warning sign you shouldn’t ignore. Love is supposed to make you feel safe and not fearful.
14. Violence is one of the signs a man has anger issues
A relationship with a person struggling with anger issues can turn violent. Your husband/boyfriend clearly doesn’t have a handle on himself and his emotions, if he:
- Breaks things when angry
- Hits you
- Cause you physical injuries
- Makes you fear for your safety
15. He gets into fights
A study shows that avoiding coping with stress and being inept at interpersonal problem-solving often add fuel to the temperament of angry people. As a result, they end up projecting their issues onto people around them. Even if your partner hasn’t directed his anger at you so far, he clearly has a problem if he lashes out at people around him at the slightest affront, real or perceived. So ask yourself,
- Do you see him getting violent at innocent remarks by a close friend?
- Does he get angry at waiters/cab drivers over petty things?
- Does he feel frustrated/provoked by others multiple times a day?
If yes, your partner/spouse clearly doesn’t know how to process and channel his anger.
16. He feels guilty but doesn’t change
My friend Sarah confessed to me recently, “My husband gets angry if I disagree with him. He says mean things and later cries about how guilty he feels. But this vicious cycle repeats itself and the emotional abuse never stops. Is he mad at me or mad at himself?” If your SO (like Sarah’s) feels remorse but doesn’t back it up with concrete behavioral changes, you’re in love with a man who is not in control of his emotions. Perhaps, he struggles with low self-esteem or latent insecurities that make him lash out.
17. He doesn’t know how to vent healthily
Mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada emphasizes, “An angry spouse or 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. While it is healthy to vent, it should be done in a non-violent and sensitive way.” If the concept of healthy venting is alien to your partner, it’s a sign he doesn’t know how to handle unpleasant emotions well.
18. He doesn’t give you space
What causes anger issues, you wonder? Deep insecurities and the feeling of not being enough. And it manifests as extreme jealousy/possessiveness. As a result, your partner may not want to give you any space or independence and may feel enraged when you stand your ground. These warning signs of a controlling husband/partner are the harbingers of an unhealthy/toxic relationship in the making.
Counselor Shazia Saleem says, “There is a very thin line between controlling and caring. Most of the time, people control the other person in the disguise of care, not allowing them to be independent enough.”
19. His body language changes
Behaving in an inappropriate manner or getting angry if things don’t work out the way they want are common characteristics of a short-tempered person. Rising tempers may bring about some physiological changes that leave you feeling scared. A person with anger issues will display the following body language signs:
- He gets red in the face and his pupils get dilated
- His nose and chest puff up and he looks like he wouldn’t hesitate to kill someone
- His heart rate and blood pressure increases
Related Reading: Understanding The Dynamics Of Abuse In A Relationship
20. He destroys items
Is punching walls a sign of anger issues? Yes, the act of destroying items is a major red flag. You need to reconsider being in this relationship if he:
- Smashes plates on the floor
- Knocks things off tables
- Breaks expensive things around the house
21. Self-inflicted harm is one of the signs a man has anger issues
Anger issues can be the epitome of self-sabotaging behavior. To feel anger is human but how we deal with that anger is the contributing factor for our mental health. He’s definitely struggling with temper issues if he:
- Slits his wrists
- Slaps himself
- Pushes people away
- Is overly critical of himself
“For men with anger issues, you’re not really a person, you’re just their punching bag – a dump yard for all their emotional trauma,” says Kavita. The bottom line is when a man raises his voice to a woman, it won’t be easy to put up with him. The more you cower down for the sake of keeping the peace, the bolder he will get. That’s why it’s imperative that you learn to find your lost voice and hold your ground once you’ve started seeing the signs a man has anger issues.
How To Deal With A Man With anger issues
“My husband has rage attacks. But I still have feelings for him and want to work on this relationship,” says Millie, a kindergarten teacher. Like Millie, do you also wish to work on salvaging your relationship despite your partner’s obvious issues? While we admire your patience and resolve, we’d like to reiterate that no amount of love is worth risking your safety and mental health. Given your circumstances, self-preservation should be your top priority. However, if you feel there is hope to turn things around, here are a few ways you can deal with a partner who has anger issues:
1. Help him find out the reasons and triggers
When it comes to anger issues in men, it may not be always under their control to tame their beastly alter ego. Many internal and external factors may have contributed to transforming him into the person that he is today – insensitive, rude, and a bit scary. The first step here should be to understand what causes anger issues in you man.
Once you delve deeper into his triggers, you can find healthy ways to deal with the problem. So explore:
- Was he a victim of bullying/physical abuse as a child?
- Is he trying to cope with relationship anxiety issues?
- Is his anger a defense mechanism to make up for his self-doubt?
2. Be compassionate
Love, patience, support, compassion – there are no better healing forces than these in the world. Seeing you standing by his side might give him the zeal to sincerely work on his shortcomings. Here’s how to deal with someone with anger issues:
- Offer your man a sweet dose of positive affirmation every day
- Try to convince him to engage in deeper conversations and be vulnerable about all his negative emotions
- Acknowledge his concerns no matter how trivial they seem to you
3. Encourage him to practice mindfulness
If you are married to or dating a man with displaced anger childhood trauma, you may want to support him through the journey before you completely give up on him. Do you think he is willing to fix his temper issues? If yes, you both can take part in some mindful activities:
- Begin with journaling to help you keep a track of your emotions
- Taking long walks, hand in hand, might be a great way to reconnect after a big fight
- Soothing meditation sessions and breathing exercises are highly effective in channeling the pent-up rage
4. Walk out when the situation is out of control
“My husband takes anger out on me and it scares me,” says Lily, one of our readers from California, “Sometimes he becomes this whole different person, yelling at the top of his voice, throwing things at me. I feel so numb and helpless at the same time.” Lily, you don’t have to stand there and tolerate his erratic outburst until he calms down. Find a way to leave the house and reach a place where you can feel safe.
If your husband breaks things when angry, here’s what you should do:
- Keep a few domestic violence helpline numbers at hand
- Keep your friends and family informed about your situation
- Remove yourself from the situation before it turns more volatile
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
5. Seek help NOW
If your partner/husband loses temper over little things, you must do your part in helping him acknowledge the problem and seek professional help. In most cases, aggressive behavior has roots in past relationship problems/family problems while growing up. This can be only resolved with the intervention of a mental health professional. If you’re exploring avenues to get your partner the help he needs, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel of experts are always here for you.
- If you’re at the receiving end of name calling, your SO has rage issues
- He may get angry at small things and then blame you for them
- You may also face emotional abuse, owing to his passive anger
It’s not easy to deal with the ebb and flow of overwhelming emotions in a relationship because your partner does not know how to regulate their anger. Remember, you are not a doormat or a rehab center for a man with anger issues. If he keeps refusing to change, prioritize your safety and well-being and leave. You deserve better.
You can tell a man has a temper if he is always belittling you, bringing up past mistakes in every fight you have, and making you feel worthless. These are all glaring signs a man has anger issues. Other more subtle signs include him slowly isolating you from friends and family so that you have no one to rely on but him.
Fights and arguments are signs of a healthy relationship but anger that is cold and hurtful is not a form of love. These are again signs that your man has a temper and doesn’t hesitate to use it in the most toxic possible way. There are healthy ways to express disagreement in a relationship – making your partner constantly feel bad is certainly not one of them.
Yes, with help and therapy, such a man can change, but he has to be willing to seek professional help. Many men don’t accept that they need therapy or any kind of help. He may even play the victim or call you names for saying he needs help. You need not remain with him, hoping he will change. Don’t feel guilty for setting boundaries, and leaving if he doesn’t change.