Anger Management: The Truth About Anger

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.

Anger is Always the Result of Fear or Pain

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.

To learn more about understanding your spouse, gaining peace and feeling the love again check out our StrongMarriageNow System.

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,

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jane 10 years ago

Would you please help me with the following: Although he initiated the contact, I felt very strongly that we were soul-mates or at least had a strong soul connection. He made me feel very special and that we had a very special unique connection. We seemed to be getting closer through a number of synchronistic happenings that were very delightful and wonderful. However, I have now found that he is also "wooing" and pursuing another woman, while still doing the same thing with me. This has thrown me rather because I thought we had a special connection and I don't need to build 2 relationships so why does he? This has made me doubt and has alienated me from him and has made me think how could he be my soul-mate if this is happening, therefore it isn't mutual - that he can't be feeling I'm his soul-mate if he's going for someone else as well. What he is doing does not fit with my idea of a soul-mate, and anyway is hurtful and seems unnecessarily hurtful. Why can't he be satisfied with me, what we have, because it all seems or seemed so perfect? We are not at that stage socially where we are close enough that I can tell him that it is hurting me. I thought I could tell his friend who is very sensitive and would pass the message on obliquely but I don't know what words to use - any I think of don't quite encapsulate the necessary in an appropriate way. Is there any phrase you can think of? e.g. saying "Are you with (her name) now?". I'm beginning to feel redundant and that he is killing our love by introducing this other woman into the picture, and it is alienating me from him, and killing the intimacy and nice intimate feelings we had. What would the best thing be to say to him or to his friend as a message to him? Can you think of the right words? It is hard to find a tactful way of putting it. Thank you for any suggestions and help on this. Jane

Don Robinson 10 years ago

Jane....You're wanting something from a person who doesn't have it to give - Commitment. The reason he is not committed is because he hasn't made a commitment to you, therefore he does not feel obligated to fill a commitment he hasn't made. You have heard the saying..."A man will give love to get sex and a woman will give sex to get love." Women, in general, are much more relational than men. Most women will not have sex with a man unless there is an intimate relationship established. Not so with men. A man does not necessarily feel obligated to have a relationship in order to have sex. Frankly, you are correct....he is doing the same thing with his new fling as he has done with you and will do what's necessary to have sex with her, then he will move on. That's the beautiful thing about the teaching of not having sex before marriage. Sex was always meant to be in the realm of marriage. Once a man has met his goal of having sex with a woman, he loses respect for her and there is no longer a challenge, so he moves on to the next woman. Not all men are like that, but more than I would like to admit. In reference as to what to do next.....tell him it's over...and that he has made it obvious that he is not interested in a serious relationship with a woman that deserves commitment and integrity. Next time, keep yourself until you find one that is willing to say "I DO". Don R.

Sera 10 years ago

I like learning more about anger, as it has been an issue for years and I believe it has made me bitter and feeling helpless. Our marriage has come to an end over this, and I want things to change and for us to have hope and healing. I've also understood that there was a righteous and true anger, and not just anger out of fear or pain. I wonder where my husband fits with this, as it seems like he must be carrying around anger that he's held for years, from a rough upgrowing and so on. I think he is reading so much into the things I've said in the past and I feel accused of something beyond what I've said or done, like I'm just lighting off the fireworks and am an excuse to blame others and take out his past on me. I admit of course that I really am being thoughtless and saying angry things at times, and I regret it later. How do I recognize what is my fault, or his anger from another time. Or does he really think I've done things to hurt him and I need to talk about that more? It's interesting somewhat though, that he is the one who wants a divorce as he feels so hurt and tired of our ongoing difficulties. I'm trying to come to terms with this.......... I am feeling so lightened by this program, even though he doesn't seem to want to stay in our marriage. It still helps me to see there is strength and understanding and I'm not alone.

TY 10 years ago

I just had a question in regards to my marriage, ive been having alot of back and forth arguing that makes him want out. I guess to give u a brief history of our problems, weve been together for about 18years and been married for 4 and in the last year weve been having alot of arguments and really bad ones . he has mentioned that hes not happy and want out, ive tried to bite my tongue alot, he say to communicate to him and i do ,been really open in telling him how i feel and when i do it turns out into a huge argument , he gets very defensive. ive notice him always on his phone and does it to the point to where i get suspicious... he tells me that he doesnt give me a reason to think otherwise ?? also i did cheat with on him about 8 years ago and he mentions that its the reason for him to act out this way . im so frustrated and dont know what to do please help

Ed 10 years ago

I gave this female co-worker rides home from work.She gets off 3 hrs after me, so i had to go back to pick her up. Her house was being reposed and her car was broke down. She does not have a lot of money. She paid me for gas. My wife was very angry and did not trust me to do the right thing. I was only trying to be a good samaritan. What is your take on this situation. Our marriage has suffered deeply because of it.

Darlene Dowdy 10 years ago

I would love to get your tapes but I think it is to late. My mother died who I was really close to, my husband was not there for me. I was angry and told him everything he has done to me for 25yrs. He was unhappy and wanted me to leave, I was thinking if I told him he would stop or get help as I love him very much. But that was not the case. I told him to take our camper get away for a while figure out what is the problem. But he just totally left, leaving me with nothing and so angry you could not even talk to him as he felt rejected but not understandable to me because he kicked me out 3 times before I asked him to leave. He had been doing things like riding with a women to work, taking women out to work, and when I would talk to him about it he would just say these are people I work with get over it. So he was gone 3 months the whole time fighting and hurting each other back and forth. Than he told me to get a divorce or he was going to. He moved in with another women saying he just rented the basement. He had got Cialas while he was gone, and would not do that for us. What was I suppose to think. He swears he got it for us when we went back together. He swears nothing has ever happened. She finally told him to leave because of trouble my daughter and I caused, and he came back here. I was out of town at the time and he called to say we need to make a go of it. I tried so hard but he would not try. So he bought me a house about 450 miles away and I am leaving tomorrow. What is so crazy about all this is he does not want a divorce he says he wants time alone. He thinks us being apart is going to make it better. I do not believe that. But about every week he says something to me to hurt me and I go off the deep end. Oh and I found lubricate in his clothes his and hers and he does not know how it got there. Plus he is drinking real bad again. He has a drinking problem and I threatened to leave him and he quit for 8 years. But started again. We have great sex. He just feels he does nothing wrong. And he is the problem we are in this mess. Not only him because I too live in a fairy tail world. Oh he said I needed counciling so I went but he would not. I have watched several of your tapes and I have learned a lot that I did not know already. We need a councilor bad to save this marriage. Or your program. But how can we now 450 miles away. I know what I have done wrong in therapy. But how is he going to get it. He says he is a mess and needs to get himself straightened out, I feel he wants to keep me on a string, until something better comes along. Oh when he left he would not tell me where he was for 2 days, I was so worried. Than when he moved to this ranch would not tell me where. Than he moved to town into this womens house, and would not tell me. It was her ranch too. But he said it was to far to drive. When I finally found out who she was oh I knew all the time but did not know her name, I talked to her and she said she was trying to help a fellow worker and nothing was going on. But when we said how do you know he does not want something she kicked him out but she covered for him all the time. See this is my fault to because I am an old fashion women who does everything for a man. But when it came to a time it was not about him and it was about my mother he could not take it. I guess I felt he was being selfish after all it was my dieing mother, and when she died and I needed him he would not come until everyone gave him a hard time. He is a controlling, selfish, angry person who has to have everything his way, he does not say a nice thing to me and when I am happy and out going he acts like I have committed the ultimate sin, he is very unhappy with himself and puts us in debt all the time to try to make himself happy but it only lasts a short time. I am the one who does all finances but he will never listen to me when I tell him we cant afford something he gets it anyway. I know I should walk away and never look back. But he understands me, and we think alike a lot, he never misses an occasion, and he has a work eithic that I have never seen before, he use to make me laugh, and we use to love to go places together, we can go on a trip, stop along the road at places, talk for hours, or be totally quite, are morals are a lot alike. There is a lot of good thing, he has a ego problem and does not want to do a thing for me as he might be women licked and I think this all stems from a controlling mother, he has no respect for women. He just has a lot of hang ups he has never let me go up to him and kiss him he hides everything has to be his idea he pushed me away so long I never went to him and than he complained that I did not. He is jellous of every man that looks at me but that stems I think from a prior affair because I never have cheated on him. He has done things to me that I should of left him a long time ago. But I was raised to stay with the person I am married to. My first husband cheated on me too. They both said I think I am perfect but I am far from it but I do strive to do everything right..He makes me feel unimportant to him, he never appreciates everything I do, he once said I wanted him for his money and that hurt a lot. He thinks that he works and that should be enough and I should do everything else and I pretty much do job or no job. He works and cuts wood thats it I do everything else I try to tell him there is some things I just cant do. I would like some appreciation but I like being busy my house, my yard my garden, the bills ect. Maybe cause I have always had to do it and work out.

John 10 years ago

The advice here only works if both spouses are willing to save the marriage and keep the family together. I one spouse has made up her mind, there is very little you can do to change it. I thought we were in a stable marriage and often bragged about how my wife and I had the same goals, and how we were friends. We would go out and observe how other couples seemed so unhappy with each other. Our daughter is the joy of our lives. Our home is nice and as a retired vet, my pension helped ut so that we never had to worry about our mortgage. But my job gave me very limited income. My wife had a good income. We had our finance under control but the blood sucking credit card industry, the high interest rate car payments, everyday living expenses, all put us under financial stress. We were never able to save more than a few hundred dollars for emergeny expenses because whenever we did it, an emergency would wipe it out. After 16 yrs together my wife surprised me with her desire to separate and be free because she needed to "find herself". She is just not happy with me anymore and after trying to talk, understand, give her space, etc. I realized she has her mind made up. She knows our daughter is the most important thing to me and has agreed to stay nearby and let me keep the house so that she has a place to come to and also be with dad whenever she wants to. Sadly I honestly feel that there is no hope to restore her love for me nor my trust in her again.

frank 10 years ago

My wife keeps say she wants a divorce I don,t want it I think we can work though this she say that she like being alone but at the same time she let a male friend of her dead husband come over but I can,t come over to the house Im a otr I would be gone for 2or3 months at a timewe got married in sept 12 and in dec12 she told me it was over that she loves me but she not in love with me so what do I do please please help me she my world

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