Have you ever wondered why you get so angry at your partner?
Do you ever feel like a selectively angry person? You are cool and easygoing with most people in your life, but you are impatient and angry with your more intimate relationships. So why is it so much harder to keep your cool when it comes to your partner?
Sometimes beginning a romantic relationship feels like getting used to disappointments. We build our hopes up thinking a perfect relationship will deliver us from all misery only to find that it was actually the beginning of our misery. In modern society, we are expecting our partners to be-all and end-all. We want them to be our best friend, confidant, cleaner, gardener, teacher, soul mate, and sexy lover. We are seeking the support of a whole village from one human being. Of course, we will feel disappointed.
Criticism is a Relationship Killer
When we feel let down by our loved ones, we get emotional. When we feel strong emotions towards someone, we tend to get really judgemental. Imagine the last time you were upset at your loved one. Maybe you planned a nice quiet evening together. Your partner gets caught up at work and comes home late. Or worse, he was catching up with friends at a pub and arrived two hours late. You begin to make judgments about him/her. They are such a jerk. The judgment makes you even more angry. Your partner comes home. S/he actually really missed you. But they are faced with an angry, critical partner who makes them feel judged and rejected. They wanted to come close but they felt too hurt and rejected to draw near. You were wanting your partner close but the way you are behaving pushes them further away. You end up saying the nastiest things to each other and wonder why you are behaving in such a way towards someone you love the most.
What can I do about all the anger?
- Understand what you are really angry about
Often, you may not even remember what the fight was about or why it made you angry. Try to go back and focus on what needs or longing you tried to express and what outcome you were hoping for. Often anger begins when there is an unmet relational longing that is not addressed. Now look at your own behaviour in addressing this problem. Is what you are saying or doing helpful in getting your needs met or is what you’re doing getting you further away from your goal?
- Diversify where you get your needs met
When you feel your partner isn’t meeting your needs, you may be overfocusing on their shortcomings rather than what you appreciate about them. Maybe your partner is not the best person to listen to your rants about work. Perhaps a sister or best friend is better at listening to you. It’s okay if your partner cannot satisfy all your needs. They are human and imperfect just as you are. Try to focus on their strengths and loving and accepting them the way they are.
- Don’t take things personally
It’s very hard to not feel hurt and angry when we feel judged and criticized by our partner. The automatic reaction is to defend and to convince them we haven’t done anything wrong. You might even try to convince them that they are the ones who were wrong. Instead, try and imagine you are a bird and watch the interactions from a distance.
Once you stop needing to defend yourself, you may begin to hear what your partner is really saying. Their aim probably isn’t to make you angry but trying to figure out how not to feel so bad themselves.
- Step away and find strategies to self soothe
The reason why it is so hard to de-escalate from conflict with your partner is that you believe that you NEED them to feel better because you believe they are the cause of your pain.
However, remember all the times you did manage to soothe yourself without help from others. Some good examples of self-soothing techniques are listening to a guided meditation on YouTube, going for a walk, doing some stretches or yoga or anything else you know that works best for you.
- CHOOSE to turn towards your partner
One of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship may be how you repair the relationship. Disappointment is a given, as we are in imperfect relationships with imperfect people. How do we get back on track?
Repair happens when you don’t do what you feel like but CHOOSE to do what is loving, and beneficial to the relationship. It doesn’t even matter who is right. Accuracy does not save relationships. Instead of asking ‘who is right’, ask ‘is this useful, beneficial, and loving for our relationship?’
If you need support with your relationship with your partner or family members, book an appointment today to speak to our couples and family therapist, Kay Chung
The advice here is for people who are in a safe relationship. If you believe you may be in an abusive relationship (not just physical but psychological, emotional abuse as well) please speak to a GP or call 1800 RESPECT and speak to one of the counsellors. If you are in immediate danger, please call 000.