Anger is not restricted to the person it's directed at.

How to Handle Anger in Your Marriage or Relationship

by Autumn McCarthy, LCSW, Personal Life Coach

Anger is one of the most common adverse dynamics in relationships. It is something that is often learned through our family of origin as children. When anger is left unmanaged, it can become a family tradition that grows with each generation.

It is important to find healthy ways to handle anger in your marriage or relationships. Anger not only has negative effects on the individual, but also the couple and the whole family.

Primary vs. Secondary Feelings

Learning how to become aware of your emotional state and assumptions about others can help you reduce your angry interactions within your relationships, writes Joseph Worth in “Family Therapy” magazine. Feeling angry isn’t the problem, it is how that anger is expressed that can create problems for you and your family. Anger tends to be the “safe” emotion to express openly but usually there is a primary feeling that is behind the anger. If you can begin to identify the primary feelings that are masked by the anger, such as fear, sadness, or embarrassment, you will begin to have the words needed to describe what you are truly feeling and your communication will begin to improve.

Clues for Personal Growth

Learning how to express your anger in a healthy way to your spouse or family can lead to changing negative relationship dynamics that tend to hurt the closeness of your marriage, relationships, and family. Harville Hendrix, writes in “Giving the Love That Heals,” that our reactions that tend to be "negative, intense, and repetitive are an almost certain clue that a parent has found a point of potential growth for himself.”

Children learn how to express their emotions and how to interact with others by watching their parents' behavior. As a parent, you may want to protect your children from seeing arguments and other interactions with your partner but it is important for your children to see you interact and communicate healthy feelings within your marriage or relationships.

Expressing Healthy Anger

Verbalize what you are feeling. By giving your behavior a name, this can help you and those around you understand what you are feeling in that moment. Avoid physical interactions when angry. When you physically reach out in anger, sometimes your actions can become out of control and be more aggressive than you intended. Find a way to be honest and even vigorously express your anger without scaring the people around you. Instead of yelling, try whispering. Whispering releases the same type of frantic energy that yelling does, but is less traumatic and may even catch your family by surprise and cause them to listen to what you are saying. Sometimes an inaction is as powerful as an action. Walking away and giving yourself time to calm down and take a breath can be helpful in changing your usual pattern.

Promote Healing

Learning how to express a healthy anger will take time and practice. If slip back into your old ways, realize this is a process and try to do better next time. Apologizing can counteract the harm your anger can perpetuate and helps to promote change and healing.


About the Author

Autumn McCarthy is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and personal life coach. McCarthy received her master's degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley. McCarthy has personal and professional experience with grief work, major life transitions including relationship changes, moving, job changes, financial stress, parenting issues, addiction and how it affects families, and end of life issues.

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