Part of a life-partnership is accepting all of the emotions that come with it… yours and your spouse’s. However, in a culture that espouses kindness, empathy, and unfaltering regard, of course, it’s often a reflex to deny any negative feelings.
No, you don’t feel like ripping his head off for losing the keys… again. Why would her propensity for clipping her toenails in bed make you want to throttle her? You definitely don’t have any feelings like that.
Because it would be wrong. After all, you love your partner.
But these feelings – as difficult as they may be to express – are normal and natural. And if you don’t address them with your partner, they tend to ooze into other areas of your relationship — friendship, sex life, intimacy, parenting, and finances.
What does that mean?
If you don’t address your anger head-on, rest assured you’ll find relief in some other — often passive-aggressive — way.
Maybe something important or of personal value to your partner “goes missing.” Or you stop making their morning coffee. Some clients have even revealed making decisions they can’t come back from that they never thought they would have, like cheating as “revenge.”
These indirect acts are your subconscious way of seeking relief from the discomfort of negative emotions brought about by the actions of your mate.
Now, think about your own partnership. Have you ever felt anger toward your partner? Acted in a vindictive or punitive way?
How can you prevent this from happening?
Accept your angry feelings. And let your spouse know about them in a productive way.
Anger vs. Rage
Anger is probably the most misunderstood of all the healthy emotions, along with guilt.
Guilt is the healthy emotion of our conscience. It tells you when you’ve done something against your own core values. And when you’ve made a sincere and acceptable amends to the person (including yourself) you hurt, it’s designed to immediately disappear.
Shame is the toxic emotion (as explained so well by the late, all-time great therapist and author, John Bradshaw of Houston. It is based upon lies we learn about ourselves beginning in early childhood.
Guilt can be summed up as, “I made a mistake.” I need to make amends to restore my wholeness and relaxed Self, and I am still a deserving human. Shame is a large group of old beliefs, most unconscious and result of abuse, that says “I AM a mistake.” Toxic shame depotentiates the purpose of healthy emotions.
Anger’s healthy purpose is to help you recognize that you need to take care of your Self and set and/or maintain healthy boundaries. The emotion burns fast, always leading to underneath emotions (fear, hurt, etc.).
Anger’s gift is strength to stand up for your Self. It’s healthy. And spouses must cultivate the safety for themselves and their partner to express it with connecting language. To voice their complaint (not a criticism!) and ask for a Behavior Change Request.
All healthy emotions except joy are frequently described as ‘negative.’ All that means is that they aren’t joy and carry the potential of some discomfort for the person expressing it or the person receiving it. Nonetheless it’s healthy to express them all appropriately, with some understanding and compassion mixed in — and an absence of blaming and shaming instead of the strength of personal responsibility.
Why is anger so misunderstood and disliked by so many? Because it is wrongly mistaken as the real emotion: RAGE.
Rage is healthy anger that has been contaminated by my personal shame. (“I don’t deserve ______”). Rage is disconnecting, abusive, and totally ineffective in getting your needs met or boundaries set. It harms both the person raging and the recipients, especially young people and the many trauma survivors in the world.
So if you want to express your anger — and support your spouse in expressing theirs, which is equally important — you must first learn the huge difference between healthy anger and abusive rage. Identify sources of your shame. Heal the old false beliefs that motivate it. Learn how to self-soothe with a disciplined focus on your core values while in dialogue during any upset or power struggle.
It’s not easy work in the beginning but so rewarding and important. And it does get easier.
If your partner rages, a central concept of Imago Therapy, ReImaging, will help you self-soothe and help the wounded child who is really present during rage.
How to Effectively Verbalize Your Anger – and Why You Should
This is one of those situations where the answer is a lot simpler than it seems. Quite simply, you need to tell your spouse when something upsets you.
Not just that you’re angry or frustrated, but also why.
“I’m angry that you’re late for our date night again.”
“I’m upset that you quit your job without talking to me first.”
Verbalizing your anger directly and clearly, without attacking or being defensive, offers a huge release of negative energy. Moreover, both you and your partner will understand what’s happening in each others’ heads. And this makes the process of moving on that much easier.
Because it’s honest and intimate. Which means you’ll be building trust and connecting on a deeper level.
From there, you can have a discussion.
If you and your partner are ready to open up about every feeling – even the bad ones – consider consulting with Houston relationship counselor, Damian Duplechain for how to best navigate through those beginning stages.