Getting the Low-Down on Anger

Dealing Constructively With Our Emotions

By Tiffany Atkins

Anger can be very destructive in a relationship, and ultimately we are responsible for the way we react to our spouse, regardless of the triggers we may feel are the responsibility of others.

Anger can be expressed in different ways and we need to be honest about the feelings that might lie beneath the surface even if our anger isn’t expressed in a more obvious outburst. Other guises of anger include irritability, bitterness and passive anger (maybe expressed as sarcasm or stonewalling) as well as arguing and violence. If you are on the receiving end of these, you know that it rarely invites or encourages reconciliation and resolution.

So why do we get angry when it is so ineffective? There is just anger, it’s not always wrong. But just anger leads to pro-action and healing, it looks for a solution, it is about dealing with wrong-doing and injustice in a positive way. This is the kind of anger God demonstrates towards wrong-doing. His anger led to self-sacrifice and redemption. How often does our anger, in whatever form it takes, truly fit into this category?

For sure, we can feel injustice, but it’s very easy to feel the victim and justify our anger in light of someone else’s perceived wrongdoing. Anger is seductive and nourishes our feelings of self-righteousness, we can momentarily feel good. It gives us a sense of power which inevitably makes the other person feel fearful. Anger can also blind us, overriding other emotions such as love, tenderness and compassion.

Righteous anger repairs, but self-righteous anger damages.

We might say “I don’t really get angry, I’m quite a calm person.” But examine your feelings beneath the surface. Do you adopt an attitude of disapproval, do you recycle past hurts or harbour resentments? If so then the essentials are anger-related. We need to go deeper still and identify the primary emotions which are eliciting anger. These could be rejection, insecurity, guilt, losing control, fear or jealousy to name a few. If left unaddressed these primary emotions and their causes can damage relationships.

So, some positive steps to take could be to slow-down your anger and search your heart for what is going on deeper within. Be honest about the fears, sadness or hurts you might be feeling rather than burying or camouflaging them. Remember your spouse is not your enemy, what is attacking your relationship is. And grace, love and humility are your best allies.

How are you doing?

If you feel stuck in a bit of a rut when you or your partner argue or disagree then it’s often useful to do a bit of self-auditing. 

Here are some questions to get you started:

1. None of us is perfect in the way we manage our feelings of anger, frustration, irritation and so on. How do I handle negative emotions well? In what ways are my expressions of anger unhealthy? Would my partner agree with my assessment?

 2. What one area of negative behaviour could I change? What positive step could I take towards this? How could I switch a negative behaviour into a positive one? What change would bless my partner?

 3. As I think about the way I deal with the anger of my partner, is there a way I could encourage him / her? 

4. Am I confident that my personal boundaries are healthy? In other words, do I know how to set loving limits on the anger of my partner? Do I tend to blame myself for any anger in the relationship? What could I do to help myself in these areas, if needed? 

If you would like to read more about positive steps to managing anger then click here.

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