Anger is a natural human emotion but can be highly damaging to relationships when not expressed healthily. Understanding how to control anger in a relationship — and what triggers it in the first place — can work wonders for your communication and overall partnership.
Feelings of anger can be triggered by many aspects of day-to-day life that often have nothing to do with your relationship. A stressful work situation, conflict with a family member or friend, or money worries can all trigger anger problems. Triggers may not even be that serious. If someone is prone to feelings of anger, these could be set off by annoyances as simple as traffic or a broken appliance.
Relationship problems or arguments with a loved one can also lead to anger. This may be caused by serious issues with your partner’s behavior, such as cheating or secrecy around money. You may feel that your significant other doesn’t make you a priority, or value your time together. Frustrations related to different needs, expectations, and desires are normal in a relationship, especially in a long-term commitment. What matters is how they’re addressed.
More mundane stressors can also trigger anger, like one partner making less effort to clean or handle other household chores. Feelings of anger may also arise from things your loved one does that they can’t control, like snoring or responsibilities to other family members. The source of anger may not be clear, or it may be a combination of factors, where a stressful day at work makes unwashed dishes even more frustrating.
Anger issues can also stem from childhood. “When you were growing up, you may have been taught to express anger instead of other emotions,” explains Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.
“If you didn't have anyone to show you how to identify your feelings or listen to you, as a result, you learned to express your emotions inwardly by showing anger outwardly, and it seemed to work. While it may have been effective in the past, the push-pull of showing anger to be close to someone may not be getting you what you need. You should ask yourself if you feel understood by your partner when you express your anger, and consider journaling, talking to a close friend, or talking to your partner when you're not arguing.”
Whether anger problems are caused by issues with your partner or not, they can harm romantic relationships when left unchecked.
Healthy relationships thrive on constructive communication. While experiencing negative feelings is an unavoidable part of life, losing control of your emotions and letting arguments get out of hand can ruin relationships. Angry reactions can cause fear, stress, and other insecurities in those around you. At its most extreme, uncontrolled anger may lead to domestic violence. Even if anger doesn’t go as far as abuse, behaviors such as yelling and screaming will impact the other partner’s emotional well-being.
Poorly handled or expressed anger also affects mental health. This may create a vicious circle, where the effects of anger create even more stress and angry feelings. Anger management problems, therefore, threaten our own physical and mental health, our loved ones, and our relationships.
One way in which anger can ruin relationships is by creating an anger cycle. This happens when one partner’s anger causes destructive behavior, leading their significant other to become angry towards them. Couples can then become trapped in a cycle of negative feelings, reinforcing their relationship problems and anger issues.
The anger cycle means each partner sees the other as the enemy, and either feels attacked or is ready to attack their significant other. Engaging with your partner in this way makes healthy communication very difficult. Feeling as if you’re walking on eggshells to prevent the next fight is connected to other dangerous relationship dynamics, such as toxic relationships or controlling behavior.
Breaking the anger cycle takes effort from both partners. It’s important to identify where your feelings are coming from and why you are having difficulty controlling anger. Our emotional responses and behaviors often have deep roots in childhood or previous relationship experiences. Speaking to a counselor or other mental health professional could help unpack anger problems. Once you understand your anger, you can work on controlling it, through anger management tips and exercises such as deep breathing.
Anger cycles are not just about how you manage your anger, but also the habits and dynamics you have built with your partner. Couples therapy could be a useful way to address these behaviors and develop healthier ones. Working on communication is also important. “I feel” statements and practicing active listening are great tools for more constructive interaction.
If your anger is harming your relationships, there are anger management tips that can help.
There are various strategies you can try if your partner’s anger is damaging your relationship. Remain calm and communicate constructively to stop situations from escalating and an anger cycle developing. This doesn’t mean you can’t express your own emotions, but doing so in the moment may not be the best time. Suggesting a timeout, so you can both calm down and return to the issue later could reduce conflict. Different communication methods may also be more effective. If you find your partner’s anger difficult to deal with in person, consider a phone call or writing them a letter or email.
Supporting your partner’s anger management efforts can also benefit your relationship. This may involve helping them research available services. Couples therapy could also help rebuild your relationship. Taking part in relaxation techniques like exercise is another great way to show support.
While showing support is important to a healthy relationship, don’t forget to look after yourself. Reach out to friends and family for help when you need it. You should never stay in a situation where you feel unsafe. If your partner’s anger issues become controlling, violent or abusive, consider leaving the relationship. Domestic violence services in your area can provide advice.