How is anger expressed and managed in your relationship?

Anger's a normal, healthy emotion. But as many of us who've been at the receiving end of someone else's angry outburst can attest, the way it's expressed can be damaging, even abusive or violent at the extreme. It can be very hard to realize that when I express my anger about the way I feel I'm being treated by my partner, this may cause her/him to feel scared of me and what I might do. It can be even harder to let myself know about how terrifying my anger may appear to my children, even when I'm not getting angry at them. It may be that the things I'm getting so angry are absolutely valid and need to be addressed between me and my partner. S/he may be poor at listening to me and my concerns, I might feel unappreciated for all the loving, caring things I do. The trouble is - when I express my anger about these things by yelling, swearing, throwing things, putting my fist through a wall or even worse - physically hurting my partner - all the real, legitimate issues I need to discuss get lost. It's like the anger becomes the issue - or at least the aggressive or violent expression of anger. For those of us who've grown up in households where anger wasn't expressed in a safe way, where we weren't taught how to name our anger, manage what we do and say when we're feeling angry, talk about the issue that made us angry then either find a solution or find a way to let the issue go - we may lack the skills needed to manage the inevitable feelings of anger that arise in any normal, healthy relationship. My partner may be busy, distracted, grumpy, inattentive to my needs for example. We may also have developed ways of thinking that justify aggressive or violent ways of expressing anger when our needs aren't met - for example "It's OK to yell/scream/break things if you're ignoring me" or even "It's your fault I lashed out". It's important to be prepared to examine the 'taken for granted' beliefs and ways of thinking that may allow us to continue acting in ways that cause our loved ones to feel hurt, intimidated or frightened. If you're struggling to get a hold on managing anger, or dealing with a loved one's difficulty in managing their anger, there are some key steps towards taking control - recognizing that you are becoming angry, getting control of this before it leads to actions that are detrimental to yourself or others, learning different ways to communicate  and negotiate about the issue you're angry about, and of course, developing the capacity to let go of the issue when you're unable to reach the solution that you would have wished for. If you're the one feeling scared about what your partner might do next time s/he gets angry - your steps are very different. Walk away, don't discuss the issue until your partner is calm, and most importantly - don't be persuaded that it's your job to change what you do or say to avoid provoking her/him. Till next post, Vivienne

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