Counseling Tips on Anger Management in Relationships
As a marriage therapist, I talk with couples about the destructive presence of anger in a relationship. The truth is: anger in and of itself is not bad. However, it can be difficult to manage anger with a partner in a productive way. As we learn to understand and healthily process our anger in therapy, we can use the moments of tension and conflict to create connection and intimacy in relationships. Here are a few tips to make that happen in your unique relationship.
TIP #1: Practice and adopt relaxation techniques in heated moments of anger.
It’s important to remember that anger in a relationship is not a sign of a bad relationship. Many couples struggle with how anger is expressed. Instead of discussing the issue at play, many couples get stuck arguing about how their partner communicates their anger.
By taking time to do a few simple relaxation techniques, you can communicate with your partner more effectively, and that communication can often lead to a deeper connection. It can be helpful to take a few minutes away from the source of conflict to regain your bearings emotionally. A simple relaxation technique is deep breathing. Counting to 10 or practicing a series of box breaths (breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts) can help regulate your body and calm your heart. This can give you the space to communicate more effectively with your partner.
TIP #2: Write down and communicate triggers.
While anger can often feel like it “comes out of nowhere,” anger is actually rather strategic. Anger sparks when we feel that a boundary is crossed, whether physically, emotionally, or financially. By taking time to investigate our triggers we can learn how to communicate with our partner more effectively.
For example, imagine a wife is constantly triggered by her husband leaving his dirty dishes on the counter. The two frequently argue about the dishes on the counter and feel like the conversation goes nowhere. As the wife starts to notice that her anger flares at her husband, triggered by the dirty dishes, she can approach her anger with curiosity. I wonder why I always get angry at this? She can even invite her husband into those moments, turning those moments of curiosity into conversation and connection. Hey babe, I noticed I got upset with you about this. Can we talk a little bit about why this may be happening?
You can identify triggers by reflecting on past moments of anger and journaling about it. Try this: Think of the last five times you got angry. Write them down. Do you notice any similarities about each experience? Those similarities could be a sign of triggers. A licensed professional, like those at SEVN Therapy Co., can also help you and your partner map triggers together.
TIP #3: Explore anger with your partner.
And that conversation can lead to our next tip: Conversation about what’s underneath the anger. In relationships, it can be easy to want to avoid anger. Many couples come into session asking how to eliminate anger from the relationship. I recommend a slightly different approach. Instead of trying to avoid anger, how can we use our anger to make our relationship better? Anger can often be the proverbial “check-engine light,” highlighting opportunities for improvement in the relationship. Instead of forcing ourselves to “stop being angry,” we can ask, “How is this anger highlighting disconnection/dysfunction in our relationship?” This invites more strategic and healthy conversation that actually progresses the relationship forward. As couples practice paying attention to their anger, we’ll realize destructive patterns that can be managed healthily.
Bonus Tips! Here are some healthy conversation tips:
- Schedule a time to talk about anger with your spouse. Do your best to communicate openly about triggers.
- Use a safe word. If you are triggered by a conversation, try using a safe word to let your partner know you’re triggered at the moment and need time to practice relaxation techniques.
- Be curious! Explore what’s underneath your partner’s anger and frustration to create safety and intimacy.
Anger can be a frustrating cycle in a relationship, but it does not have to stay that way. Learning how to regulate our anger, pay attention to triggers, and invite curiosity into our conflict can allow our anger to work for the good of the relationship. Therapy can be an excellent way to learn tools and tricks for your specific and unique relationship. At SEVN Therapy, we take pride in providing the best environment for couples to thrive. If you’re ready to take the next steps in getting your relationship on track, give us a call today at 817-778-0522 or use this link to schedule an intake session with me!
Alicia Williams, LPC-Associate
Supervised by Erin James, LPC-S