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How to deal with an angry spouse especially when you are not the one who is angry? In other words, you are not angry and your spouse is the one who is angry? That, my friend, is the one of the biggest hurdle of marriage.
How do you assist in a process that is outside of you, and of which you have no control, but which intimately affects you?
Dealing with your angry spouse is central to turning around a situation, and often a marriage. Deal well with your spouse’s anger and you will be working toward resolution.
Deal poorly with your spouse’s anger and you may well be working toward dissolution –the ending of the relationship.
There are several important and useful points that can help you to deal with an angry spouse.
#1: Behind all anger is hurt.
It is much easier to attend to hurt than anger, and your spouse will feel more connected if you respond to the hurt.
More importantly, if you know hurt is behind it, you may have an easier time weathering if you have connected with the hurt.
So start by looking for the hurt. What might be threatening your spouse? Don’t make a quick decision based on your perspective. Instead, try to place yourself in your spouse’s shoes.
Even if you do not believe your spouse is correct in what is feeling threatened, that is not what is important. The fact that there is a sense of threat should be enough.
You may even say, after your spouse has expressed anger, “I clearly hurt you. I’m not sure exactly what I did, but I did not want to hurt you. I am sorry you are hurt.
Can you tell me what I did that hurt you, and what I can do to make it better?” That is a powerful shift.
You immediately move away from your own anger, move toward your spouse, and automatically step into Point #2.
#2 Work to avoid meeting anger with anger.
Whenever force is met with force in an intimate relationship, damage is done. And when unnecessary force is meeting misguided force, there is no reason for the damage.
Threat and anger, once understood, can be seen for what they are. Anger is an expression of hurt. Hurt is often a result of a sense of threat that is deeply seated in the biology of the brain.
As such, anger and threat are an opportunity for growth or division, depending on whether the primitive brain or the top brain gets to reign.
My vote is for the neo-cortex. That means you avoid responding to anger with anger.
One of the interesting observations is that we often express anger when we think we are expressing pain or hurt.
And this is true for your spouse. He or she may approach you with an angry attitude, but really be unaware of the fact that this anger is emerging.
When you respond with anger, the other person is caught off-guard, firstly because of the unawareness of his or her own anger, and secondly because of that imaginary conversation that got derailed by your response.
#3: Marriage is about learning and growing.
As your relationship gains more time, there are two possibilities. First, you may each hold the other accountable for damage done in the relationship, and stay hostage to what has already happened.
Second, you may accept the fact that it is a learning process, and keep trying to change. As Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s said, “You are either green and growing or ripe and rotting.”
Offer some space for your spouse. Accept that neither of you have done this perfectly, and try to accept your spouse. You may be asking: “why is this point in this section, not the previous section?”
Well, it belongs in both sections, and I touched on it with the “everyone does the best they can where they are” speech. But
when dealing with an angry person, I have found it best to see that person as doing the best he or she can. This helps me not get caught up in the emotions, allowing me to respond in more helpful ways.
So, accept that neither of you have been perfect, but both of you can grow and develop.
And don’t fall into the trap I see so often. Someone decides to try to make a change, and is met with the “we tried that before, and it didn’t work,” or even worse,
“we’ve tried to change before, and we just can’t.”
That is evidence not of reality, but of being caught in a stuck mindset. Growth is possible, and one of the ways to grow is by moving through difficult emotions, including anger and resentment.
#4: Almost always, the central issue is feeling heard and understood.
The vast majority of skirmishes in a marriage are not about issues that need to be solved. They are about issues without solutions. Well, really one useful solution.
That is about being heard. Remember that conversation that happens in your head that never occurs in real life?
The reason that conversation is so good in your head is because you have someone listening and responding in ways that indicate that you were heard and understood.
Let’s draw and important distinction, though, between someone understanding what I am saying and accepting it.
I can always get to a point where I understand where someone is coming from.
I can understand how they see the world. That does not mean that I accept it, just that I can see it. And fortunately, often what is needed is not acceptance but to be heard and understood.
#5: We all have a history that affects our anger patterns.
Unfortunately, few of us had the opportunity to grow up in completely healthy families. In fact, many grew up in quite dysfunctional families.
This affects how we process anger in our adulthood. What we did not get in our families emotionally, how anger was addressed in our family, and what resources our parents had all impact how we deal with emotions in adulthood. And it affects what feels like a threat in our lives.
I would also love to share with you a little story of a couple name “Sam and Mitchelle. There married life was in trouble until they found the SAVE THE MARRIAGE SYSTEM by Lee. H. Baucom.
Both were frustrated, neither felt the other heard him/her. Both felt the other was trying to force his/her views on her/him.
And that was the big logjam. Neither wanted to move until he or she felt heard. So both waited for the other to make a shift.
But they followed the system and worked together for some time, to fix their marriage and in the end, both realized the other was listening.
But more importantly, they also realized that they were dragging a long history into each argument.
In fact, the history extended all the way back to the families they grew up in.
When each was able to grasp not just what was being said, but where it came from, suddenly the anger evaporated. The hurt quickly dissipated, and they left clear of that “slippery slope.”
Will that be it for them? No. There will be other disagreements and arguments. Anger will emerge again. It always does. But hopefully, they will begin to get out of the habits of anger that have tainted their relationship.
They will be clearer about the core pieces of hurt from each background. And they have some sense that the other person really does “get” them, even if it doesn’t fell like it right then.
Marriage gives us repeated opportunities to work through anger, both for our spouses and ourselves. We can either take advantage of the opportunities to find healing and growth.
Or we can spend our lives butting heads with the person that can and should be our greatest ally. The option is in your court. Once you understand the biological and psychological realities to threat, hurt, and anger, you have the opportunity to change patterns that don’t work.
Anger can be an invitation to move closer. It can become the weapon to push apart. Really, the difference is in what approach you choose.
I hope you will take the opportunity of anger to move toward each other, exploring the hurt and the threat.
When that happens, our brain begins to understand the sense of threat as being incorrect.
In other words, we begin to learn new patterns that help us feel less of a threat in the future. We decelerate the process. And we move toward intimacy.
Don’t let anger inflict damage in your relationship. Choose to understand differently, then choose to act differently.
First comes a new way of understanding, then it is in your court to create new ways of relating based on that new understanding.
Best wishes in your endeavor to create a more connected, more peaceful, and less conflicted relationship.
I hope you found this post on dealing with an angry spouse useful. If you really enjoyed it you’ll also love my recommendation.
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My name is Manish Yadav and I’m the owner of the blog "Love Finds its Way". My advice does away with the manipulations and mind games recommended by magazines and the surface level advice of TV gurus… We’ll dive DEEP into the psychology and biology of desire and give you actionable steps you can use today. Over 900,000 men & women have transformed their relationships as a result, and I've been featured in Lifehack, Return of Kings, Menimprovement, Urban Dater, and so on... ...and no... We're not here to play games so you can manipulate your significant other... ...My only intention is to help you and your partner have a healthy and loving relationship by working on your intimacy with each other. And we’re just getting started!
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