Does your partner get angry all the time when you’re just trying to have a conversation? Why is it so hard to get through? Wondering what it’s all about?
Dr. Dana reveals what’s really going on when you or your partner is angry, and how to gain peace and understanding.
If you’re trying to have a conversation and one of you blows up, understanding this truth can reveal what’s really going on. It is very important to keep in mind, when you are attempting to communicate with your spouse, that anger is a secondary emotion of fear or pain or both.
This is an essential point. Anger is always the result of fear or pain. If you’re angry, you’re actually hurt or scared or both, every time. This is a tough concept for couples, so let me give you a real-life example:
Mary has asked Bob a thousand times to pick up his stuff around the house. Periodically, Mary blows up about this. Understandably, Bob reacts defensively and tells her to “quit nagging him.”
Now it’s on. They engage in the traditional ping-pong match of arguing. When they come to see me, I ask Mary, “What hurts and/or scares you about Bob not picking up his stuff?”
After some thought, Mary figures out that when Bob does not do what she asks, she feels like she’s not important to him. Not only does that hurt her feelings, it scares her about the future of their marriage.
Then I ask Bob, “What hurts and/or scares you about Mary asking you to pick up your stuff?” Typically, Bob responds with, “Nothing, it just pisses me off.” After much resistance, Bob finally discovers that when Mary “nags” him, he feels like a failure because he truly does not remember or care about putting away his stuff and, therefore, feels hurt when he believes she sees him as a failure.
Additionally, Bob also feels scared about the future of their marriage because to do it “her way” makes him feel controlled, “bossed,” and backed into a corner. Once Bob and Mary understood the underlying feelings driving their anger, they were able to access some compassion, and listen to each other without feeling defensive. They were then able to forgive each other and work out a compromise that worked for them both.
Why is it important to know why your partner is hurt or scared?
Well, when someone comes at you in anger, it’s really easy to become defensive and come back at them with anger. However, when someone you love comes to you and says, “That really hurt me,” or “This really scares me,” that should be considerably more difficult to fight, to attack.
So, here’s the critical point of all of this – now you know that when your partner is displaying anger, they are actually hurt or scared about something and that should matter to you. Have compassion for them (and for yourself) and really listen for what is behind the anger.
Anger management: Have you realized when your partner is hurt or scared and really listened? Did it help? Tell us about it! Please comment below.
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com