Anger isn’t all that you’re feeling

photo credit: edenpictures Mad Look via photopin (license)

Have you ever found that your marital arguments go nowhere…well, nowhere that’s useful or constructive? Do you ever find that your anger intensifies to the point of character attacks toward you partner or “hitting them where it hurts?” Well, welcome to a common malady wherein your anger amps up because you feel unheard and largely misunderstood by your spouse.

Let me tell you a story. One beautiful summer evening, Bob and I were at home getting ready to meet some friends for dinner. He pulled out a shirt to wear and decided that its wrinkled condition wasn’t bad enough to warrant not wearing it, so we finished getting ready, he in his wrinkled shirt and me in a perfectly summery outfit, and left the house to meet our friends. When we arrived at the restaurant, one of our friends met us by playfully poking fun at Bob for having a wrinkled shirt. Bob’s sarcastic response was, “Yea, Lori’s great at ironing.” In my case, for whatever reason, my response was steeped in anger because that was the emotion right in front of me; that’s the emotion that was “easy” to access.

Thankfully, this is NOT a true story (I’m so grateful that Bob would NEVER do such a thing!), but the point that follows remains. I think a great many women (at least) would be able to understand that I would feel as though Bob threw me under a very large bus, causing my anger to be salient, BUT, if I want Bob to truly understand me, understand what I really feel, I would have to become vulnerable and tap into the emotion that’s fueling my anger. If this were a true story, perhaps I’d feel woundedness. Perhaps I’d feel guilt because I feel I SHOULD have ironed his shirt. Embarrassment is also a possibility. I may have felt all of the above. In ANY true scenario, once I discover the feeling that’s deeper than my anger, I can then GENTLY expose my raw heart to Bob allowing him to understand the underlying feeling. If I remain on the level of guarded anger, he’ll never know what I feel deep down and we’ll never grow beyond that surface level of intimacy.

Anger is valid and cannot be minimized, but by becoming vulnerable and mining for what’s beneath the anger, we allow ourselves to be heard and understood by our spouse, which grows our intimacy. We are hopefully better understood (and understand ourselves better) after such an encounter and perhaps in the future, we won’t allow our anger to become our first response.

Is there a great deal of anger in your relationship? Do you find that it seems to be the only way you and your spouse communicate? Consider what’s fueling your anger and become vulnerable enough to share it with your spouse.


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About Lori Mitton

Lori Mitton is a licensed clinical psychotherapist (MA, LLP) specializing in marriage and family therapy. She is co-founder of Permanent Passionate Partnership.