Everyone knows what it’s like to be wronged in some way, be it by a person or situation. Anger is the natural response because this emotion pushes us into “fight mode” when we’re faced with threats.
To a certain extent, anger is actually a helpful defense mechanism that keeps us safe. However, poorly managed anger can endanger your health, relationships and the quality of your life in general.
If you’re having trouble getting your anger under control because of issues in your marriage (or due to other factors), here are some ways you can start dealing with it today:
#1: Anger Is Not The Only Solution
In fact, anger at its rawest (i.e. most destructive and hateful) is NOT a solution at all.
In reality, there are OTHER ways to act on your emotions. During a heated argument with your spouse, you could jump the gun and say, “I’m so sick of putting up with your crap!”
Or, you can say, “You know what? I’m pissed that we’re not on the same page, so I think I need a break.”
Both of these address your anger, but which is a better path to take?
Lashing out won’t help you calm down. On the contrary, studies have shown that anger actually grows exponentially the longer you go down that path.
Your blood pressure will spike, your heart feels like a freight train, and you’ll be at greater risk of coronary heart disease.
Worse, you’ll alienate other people around you. Do you really want leave others feeling terrible, lose respect for you and avoid being around you?
The benefits of releasing anger destructively are only temporary. Though it may feel good for a little while to get it off your chest, but once the dust settles, the long-lasting effects are hardly worth it.
Dr. John Gottman, the author of “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, tells couples that venting anger has no cathartic effect. The more you destructively express your anger, the more you MAGNIFY it.
#2: Turn your anger Into Something Positive
So if you have to get mad, do it for a good reason. Be angry because you want resolve the issue concerning your spouse, and not to hurt him or her.
Author and TV show host Dr. Phil says that the one way he can tell if a couple is going to stay together or not is by the way they handle their conflicts. If a couple argues not to get their points across and simply to hurt each other, then this attitude will only lead to divorce.
However, if you choose to have something good to come out of your anger, then you will not have wasted all that energy for nothing.
If anything, let the expression of your anger be a constructive experience for both of you.
But how do you go about doing that?
#3: Attack The Issues and NOT Your Spouse
Like we discussed, hurting your spouse out of anger is not a constructive approach. Instead, take out your frustration on the problems arising from what your spouse said or did.
A good way to deal with your anger is by framing your statements in a way that addresses the situation as a whole. Obviously, your spouse's actions have a lot to do with the situation in the first place.
Mindy, a client of ours, shared with us her way of expressing her anger. She says, "When my husband forgot yet again to pick up the groceries every Wednesday like we agreed upon, I resisted the temptation to accuse him of being insensitive."
To address the issue, she told her husband:
“You know, I find it frustrating when you forget to pick the groceries because I sent you an email and text message at lunch time and you still forgot. I know you have a lot to think about, but it stresses me out when we don't have the stuff we need for me to make dinner. Then we'll both be affected because we have to spend for take-out when you know that our budget is tight right now. It would really take a load off my mind if you made an effort to remember to pick up the groceries like talked about before."
This was an excellent way for Mindy to frame her anger because:
- She talked about the problem from the "big picture" perspective to avoid belittling her husband.
- She made it clear that this was THEIR problem and didn't attribute it to something that was wrong with HIM (i.e. a character defect).
- She ended her constructive rant by offering a solution to the problem ("I would love it if you...").
#4: Keep It Clean
When you get upset, have you ever wanted to use colorful language? If so, then welcome to the human race.
Although it's perfectly natural to want to swear at someone who's provoked you, it doesn't mean that you actually should. Curse words don't serve any other purpose than to hurt someone or (a big no-no, see #3) provoke an aggressive response.
The next time you feel like using foul language, keep in mind that it’s TOXIC to the soul and brings nothing good to the table. At best, it will only perpetuate a cycle of attacking and retaliation.
Rather than label the other person (e.g. "You're stupid!"), label your feelings. Here are a few examples:
"I'm angry because..."
"It really ticks me off that..."
"I'm bothered when you..."
You wouldn't want the other person to hurl four-letter words at you. You don't have to use obscenities for the other person to acknowledge your anger.
#5: Take a Break!
Who says you have to stay in a stressful situation? Everybody has their limits, and you don’t have to force yourself to carry on even when you’re already at your wit’s end.
Office workers need breaks in between the day because being productive doesn’t keep going at it until you snap. Your patience works the same way.
Give yourself a breather - go for a walk, meditate for a while, or put on some soothing music if you feel overwhelmed. Some people like to sit in a quiet spot, close their eyes and think of something pleasant.
For instance, imagine you’re at a concert featuring your favorite band. Imagine the sights, sounds and emotions of being in a happy place.
Whatever your preference is, detach yourself from the situation for a little while to gain some peace of mind. It may feel a bit weird at first, but getting into this habit will help disrupt the cycle of anger and keep your emotions from escalating.
By nature, emotions are hard to control. But there’s nothing wrong with having feelings of anger because we wouldn’t be human otherwise.
With the right habits however, you can teach yourself how to avoid hurting others and end up picking up the pieces from the damage that anger can cause.