The Meaning of Anger
Productive disagreements are good for all relationships, but if you are struggling to get a point across, are often feeling defensive and angry, or cannot seem to communicate well, it may mean that
1) You and your partner have not learned how to de-escalate fights
2) There are unacknowledged power differences in the relationship
3) There is an old hurt that hasn’t healed well
4) You (or your partner) have a basic misconception about how to motivate each other to change.
5) The anger is a projection onto the partner coming from another source
Constant anger does not necessarily mean that you are with the wrong person. It may mean that you have not yet figured out the meaning of the anger, whether it’s your own or your partner’s.
Also, anger is always a stand-in emotion
– one that makes us feel less vulnerable than the true, softer emotions underneath. If you have never expressed or inquired about those more tender feelings, such as sadness, fear, or feelings of insecurity (to name just a few), then you are not sharing the true meaning of the anger with one another.
You cannot expect to be angry all the time and have a good relationship simultaneously. It’s vital that you discover the meaning of the anger in order to solve the core issues and move forward.
It is also important to differentiate between feeling angry
and expressing the anger
in an appropriate way, at the appropriate time, and with the appropriate words. Not every relationship can be improved, but when couples are motivated, they can
learn to deescalate fights, to give structure to their discussions rather than spinning out into chaos, and stop a negative cycle. Many couples who cannot seem to deescalate anger on their own utilize the services of a couples’ counselor. Sometimes couples wait too long to get the help they need to resolve the issues that make them angry at each other, and by the time they do seek help there has been too much damage.
It is possible to have a successful relationship without resulting to anger, violence, bullying, or manipulative strategies, but many of us are making that up as we go along, and we’re not always graceful.
If you are in a relationship today, chances are that you are wrestling with these questions:
How do you influence another person without resorting to bullying or verbal violence?
How do you make decisions jointly when each partner wants something completely different?
What does compromise mean and how does it work?
Is equality possible in all areas of the life of a couple?
It is possible to acknowledge that between two partners, there is a third entity- the relationship
– what is good for the relationship sometimes differs from what an individual perceives as being good for him/her.
Many relationships do succeed, even after periods of difficulty, when partners take the time to figure out the answers to these and related questions. So, think about the meaning of your anger. Perhaps you’ll figure out ways to deal with it that are more constructive.
Sara Schwarzbaum, LCPC, LMFT, Founder
Couples Counselng Associates
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