The Problem with Anger in Couple Relationships
This post is from my practice Facebook page, and originally dated August 27, 2022. It is a commentary on the meme on this page.
[View this post on Medium]
From the “yes, this is true, but let’s take it deeper” department: (ok, I admit, this is my only department!!)
There is a difference between hurt and anger, obviously, and as the meme suggests, it’s important to understand the difference.￼
The problem is a lot of people express their hurt as anger.
In a relationship you have to express to your partner whatever you want them to respond to. If I am hurt and want my partner to respond to hurt, I must express/show the hurt. If I want them to respond to anger, then showing the anger will surely make that happen!
The problem is that often one partner feels hurt, but expresses anger, and then is further upset that their partner responded to the anger instead of the hurt.
Don’t get me wrong. Anger itself isn’t the problem. Anger is normal and natural and will be present at times in all people and relationships. The problem is inauthenticity, not expressing to my partner the emotion I’m going to hold them accountable for responding to.
It’s easy to understand why this happens. Anger is much less vulnerable than hurt, and therefore often easier to express. But anger calls a defensive/angry response out of our partner, whereas the expression of hurt calls a compassionate, gentle response.
If you feel you have to express your hurt as anger because your partner will not hear your hurt, you must think about why that is.
- Does your partner lack empathy or maybe at least the ability to show it? Empathy and how to express it can be learned.
- Is your partner frequently on the defensive because of their own past hurts in this relationship and/or other relationships? There may be ways you can approach or say things differently that may be less likely to trigger defensiveness in your partner.
- Could it be that because of trust issues unrelated to your partner you have been unable to put your guard down enough to allow them to see your hurt and so you only tend to show them anger? If that’s the case your own fears may be keeping you from giving your partner a chance to show you they can be empathetic!
A good couples or individual therapist can help you understand what may be happening here and guide you toward whatever might work best to address it.