How To Control Anger In A Relationship
Updated: Sep 13, 2022
The study of humans has taught us that we have 6 basic or core emotions: sadness, happiness, fear, surprise, disgust and anger.
I’m sure it doesn’t come as a shock to most of you that anger is in the core 6. Anger is a very real and valid emotion, but often gets a bad reputation and here’s why.
Anger is typically used as a shield, hiding your other feelings. It can be difficult to understand what exactly it is you are experiencing, and anger is a quick and easy label. What we are likely feeling in these situations is rage. Rage is a type of uncontrolled anger that gets used as a protector when we are feeling vulnerable.
In relationships, conflict is inevitable. But unless we learn how to properly recognize and control our anger, we will never be able to fight fairly, and resolve conflict in a productive way.
5 Tips On How To Control Your Anger In Conflict
1. Try To Respond Not React
Reacting is that knee jerk, split second reply that often comes from a place of defensiveness. Whereas a response is a thought- out answer that comes from a place of calm and understanding. It’s that old adage, think before you speak!
When we are hurt or angry, it is very easy to lash out at the person who we perceive to be hurting us. Instead try asking for a quick break to collect your thoughts. Take some deep breaths away from the situation to regulate your nervous system and help you move from heavy emotion to awareness and calm.
Taking this step back allows us to have a clear conversation rather than just hurling insults back and forth. Make sure you set a specific timeline for the break, so you don’t just use this as an excuse to ignore the conflict.
“I am feeling very overwhelmed, can we take a quick pause to breathe and resume in 5 minutes?”
2. Name It, Don't Numb It
During your conflict, take a second to properly identify how you are feeling. Before assuming your feeling is anger, ask yourself, am I sad? Betrayed? Frustrated? Lonely? Insecure? Overwhelmed? Or perhaps hurt?
When we can properly put a name to what it is we are feeling we can take away the force or power that rage may carry. This not only helps us to communicate our thoughts more clearly, it helps to articulate your needs to your partner.
“I am feeling insecure in our relationship, I need to hear more reassurance from you.”
3. Listen To Understand
One of the most frustrating things is to go in circles when having a conflict with our partner because we aren’t understanding the other person’s thoughts, feelings or perspective. This is something we see so often in our couples sessions, and what often leaves people feeling angry at their partner.
When your partner is talking to you, try to focus on what they are saying, rather than what you want to respond to them when they are finished. Before you respond, try to paraphrase back to them what you heard. Have your partner repeat this when it is your turn to speak.
Remember, most conflict is actually just perception, so let’s clarify to avoid unnecessary arguments.
“I am hearing you say, you feel annoyed when I leave the toilet seat up. I will do my best to remember to put the seat down when I am finished.”
It can be helpful to use a notebook to help write down your thoughts while you are listening to your partner speak so you don’t forget.
4. Defence Move Vs. Growth Mode
This is a big lesson we teach our clients in sessions. We cannot be in defence mode and growth mode at the same time.
This means we cannot have our guard up and be focused on defending ourselves while listening to understand and heal our conflict.
Putting the first 3 tips in place will help make this shift!
“I am struggling to hear you clearly because I am feeling defensive. Let’s take a pause so I can regroup. Can we meet back here in 10 minutes?”
5. Fair Fighting
Let’s face it, fights are inevitable. Conflict is bound to happen. Arguments are a part of a relationship. I’m not really sure how else to say it! So since we know it’s going to happen, we need to be prepared.
Emotional escalation is one of the main reasons conflict can get out of control. When we attempt to “one up” or if we are not properly checking in with our own emotion, that shield of anger can come out.
When I work with couples, I often help them create a recipe card for disagreements. Just like baking a cake, when followed properly a successful outcome is a sure thing.
It’s important to recognize what your needs and desires are in conflict. How you best communicate, what your triggers may be, and how you give and receive love. This is often best explored in individual or relationship counselling.
But there’s an easy recipe to get you started.
Check in with yourself and your emotions. Why are you upset and what is your goal for this discussion.
Focus on one topic at a time. Try to avoid dragging old arguments into current issues.
Try your best to not use degrading or demeaning language.
Use I statements to express your feelings. “I feel hurt when….”
Take turns and use your reflecting listening skills.
Try to not stonewall or retreat.
Try to refrain from yelling or using a mocking tone of voice.
Take a time out, with a set return time.
Attempt to come to a compromise or understanding.
Effects Of Anger On Relationships
Unchecked or unrecognized anger can be the silent killer of a relationship. If you or your partner struggles with conflict and difficult emotions getting in the way of you communicating effectively try these tips.
Always remember, therapy is a great tool to help you understand and navigate your challenging areas. If you are interested in learning more about relationship therapy, check out our website.