Managing Anger In Marriage
Is Managing Anger in Your Marriage Really Possible?
Is anger management desirable? Even far back into history people have questioned if managing anger is possible. Still today you can read many different approaches to this question including whether or not managing anger is helpful or harmful to an individual or to a relationship.
Definition of “Anger” or “Losing One’s Temper”
Let’s first think about the meaning of anger. Losing one’s temper is a primitive response that helped early man deal with enemies. It arises from a physiological response to threats.
The American Psychological Association (APA) website on anger says:
The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.
Who Is An Enemy?
The APA definition relates anger as a response to being attacked. An enemy in the primitive sense is someone who attacks you or intends real harm to you, your family, or your possessions.
Within a marriage, there is no legitimate enemy, with a few exceptions. Your body, however, if triggered by bad thoughts, will act as if your spouse were a true enemy. In this case, you might feel as if you have little control over your temper and you might say, or even do, hurtful things you will later regret.
I Believe You Can Manage Your Anger Before You Are Angry
Your spouse is almost never a true enemy and it harms your marriage when you let that primitive part of you trash your spouse. You need solutions, not enemy survival physiology when confronted with something you don’t like in your spouse.
In marriage, certainly, there should be no legitimate enemy.
If there is no “real” enemy in marriage, then how do you avoid getting angry when your spouse doesn’t listen to you, or insults you, or is disrespectful to you?
Change Your Thinking, Avoid The Angry Feeling
First, you have to appreciate that feelings occur based on how you interpret a situation. If you search for “What is anger management?”, you may find anger management techniques that focus on controlling your anger once you are already angry.
It is very difficult to change your feelings once you are mad. Those anger management techniques help you to modulate your anger, not actually rid yourself of the feelings. I believe the more effective time and focus for change is before you get angry.
Keeping Your Temper Tempered
Real management of your anger occurs in your thinking. When you teach yourself to change your thinking and attitude you interpret situations in a way that diffuses bad feelings rather than encouraging them.
You have to begin with training yourself to think of your spouse as your eternal friend. Even when he or she is holding a position you don’t like, you learn to avoid expressing yourself in a way that would send a primitive enemy message. Defensiveness is an example of behavior that could send this kind of enemy message to your spouse.
I have been helping couples avoid getting angry at each other for years by teaching each spouse to manage his or her thinking. Once you have mastered the skill of managing your thinking there may be no need to learn further anger management skills.
I wish you all the best in your efforts to create a marriage that is better than it ever was, and wonderful in all the ways you are willing to work toward.