A marriage is at the best of times a delicate balancing act between differing personalities and priorities. However things become more complicated if one of the spouses is prone to fly into a rage as a way of dealing with problems. Here are a few tips on how to keep your own cool and stay safe when your spouse has anger management issues.
By itself, the emotion of anger is neither good nor bad. While on one hand, anger can provoke acts of violence, on the other hand, it can also motivate people to stand up for what they believe in and defend themselves when they have been wronged. It is perfectly healthy and normal for a person to feel angry when he/she has been mistreated or wronged. Thus the feeling isn't the problem but it's what the person does with the anger that makes a difference. Anger becomes a problem when it harms you or others or leads to violence and if you feel that your spouse is veering dangerously close to that, it may be time to sit up and do something about it.
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One of the best ways of coping with a spouse who has anger management issues is to minimize the chances of arguments. Learn to recognize when an argument is coming on so that you don’t waste energy engaging in one. Very often a person with a short fuse will jump from railing at minor irritants to bigger issues. it could be his/her way of masking deeper feelings of insecurity, embarrassment or sadness with that of anger. And if it is your partner who is behaving like this, sooner or later you know that he/she will drag you and even your relationship into the argument. If your partner happens to receive a phone call from his/her boss at an odd hour demanding a presentation ready by next morning, you can be not only be sure of your partner flying into a rage but also somehow making all this your fault. This is a case of misdirected anger and at such times, it is easy to get into an argument and only fair to defend yourself. But remember this is a person who is already has anger management issues. No amount of reasoning can make your partner see your perspective and any argument from your side will only make him/her only angrier. Here your best bet is to switch off completely after explaining that though you are willing to understand your partner’s concerns, you both need to be in a calmer frame of mind to be able to do that. If lucky, even your partner will be better able to calm down if you simply walk away.
Talk about it
However if your spouse has a chronic anger management issue, it might not be practical to ignore it in the long run; after all, there are only so many times that you can leave the room or take the dog for a walk. Sooner or later you need to talk about the problem with your spouse showing him/her how it is not only negatively affecting your marriage but also his/her emotional and physical health. However it will be no use bringing up the matter when he/she is already angry; instead wait for a time when you are both calm to talk to your spouse about the anger problem. Communication is key to solving issues in any relationship. Let your partner know that is it is not OK to yell at you because he/she had a rough time at the traffic. This will help your spouse understand the damage his/her anger does to you and your relationship. At the same time pay attention to how you couch your concern. Statements such as "you never" and "you always" are accusatory and will only make your spouse more defensive and angrier. Instead of saying something like "you always take your bad day out on me" try, "I feel hurt when you are angry with me because you had a bad day". This will convey your feelings without raising his/her hackles. Above all, keep your cool during a discussion since if you get angry, your spouse feed off of your temper and things will get far worse.
Do not enable your partner’s angry behavior
While it is important to act with restraint in dealing with an angry partner, if you find such outbursts increasing in frequency and degree, you also need to draw the line somewhere. Repeated episodes of your partner shouting at you, breaking things or even threatening violence may leave you feeling confused and unsafe. Even after he/she has apologized and is behaving normally, you may be perpetually on tenterhooks not knowing what will trigger the next outburst. In fact if you keep excusing your partner’s temper tantrums, they will use this trick time and again knowing full well that they can worm their way into your affections simply by saying sorry. The only way to stop this from happening is to set some boundaries of what is acceptable in terms of words and actions and what is not. Let your partner know that while you understand that they have a problem and are even willing to try and make things work, at the same time he/she is responsible for keeping their tongues and actions under control.
Encourage your partner to look at self-help steps
Once you, with your own restraint, are able to make your partner aware of the dangers of uncontrolled anger, you can encourage him/her to take various self-improvement measures. Deep-breathing exercises and meditation have been proven to help a person in exercising greater control over emotions like anger. The inability to manage anger in fact not only has the potential to ruin a person’s relationships but even damage his/her health in the long run. A tendency to get into a rage has been associated in several studies with greater levels of hypertension and cardiac problems. Likewise someone who is prone to anger stands at a greater risk of suffering from mental ill-health and depression. Make your partner aware of all these dangers of an angry temperament and it is likely that they will be ready to take some corrective action on their own.
Finally look for professional help if you feel that your spouse’s anger management issue is threatening your physical and emotional safety. This is especially relevant if you have little children from the relationship. Sometimes an angry disposition may be accompanied by other types of abusive behavior like depriving you of financial resources or subjecting you to physical violence. If this is true of your partner you may require help from a therapist or a law-enforcement agency to ensure your own safety and that of your dependents.