As you may have experience, anger can be painful, costly and detrimental to your wellbeing and relationships. Facing anger and aggression, particularly when it comes from an intimate partner can drain your energy and create pain and suffering. It may leave you feeling frustrated, unheard, unloved and at times overwhelmed. Negative dynamics and escalation can be very damaging to your relationship. Yet, if you are proactive and motivated, you can develop the skills to deal with your angry partner in a constructive way, and at least de-escalate the situation. The following are some effective strategies for dealing with an angry partner.
- KEEP CALM
Maintaining your calmness and composure is key aspect in dealing with angry partner. Yet, it is not easy to do, especially when facing aggression. Getting angry in response to your partner’s anger is counterproductive. Nothing good will be achieved by responding to fire with fire. If you do that you will burn your partner, burn yourself and burn the relationship.
When your counter respond anger with a sharp contrast of calm, peaceful, and mature attitude, you open the door for your partner to realize how negatively he or she is behaving. Your calmness provides a greater chance for your partner to calm down and then when the partner has calmed down, you will be able to address the relevant issue in a more constructive manner.
- ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
Relationships are fragile living things that change over time. This is why relationships requires healthy boundaries, especially when dealing with anger partner. Realizing how much of your partner’s anger and aggression you are willing to tolerate and what you will not allow is key component of setting constructive boundaries. You must inform your partner appropriately and, be prepared to defend and maintain that boundary line. In this way, you send a clear message to your spouse that you value yourself and at the same time that your relationships require mutual respect in order to prosper.
Remember that boundary violations of any sort, not only tend to cause relationship problems, but also negatively impact your self-worth and confidence. When one partner’s actions cause another to feel belittled, unimportant, neglected, disrespected or abused, then that other partner is required to defend themselves, yet they can do that in an assertive way.
- ACT ASSERTIVLY
When you know it is time to set a boundary, implement it by being assertive. Assertive people communicate honestly and directly. They know what they want and respectfully ask for this while at the same time making sure their needs do not violate the rights of others. If conflict does arise, they work in collaboration with their partner toward reaching an acceptable resolution.
When you act assertively you are able to express your wants directly and respectfully while considering your partner’s feelings and wants as well. When you speak and conduct yourself in an assertive manner, you are confident, sincere and open. At the same time, by being assertive, you empower your partner to do the same and take responsibility for their felling and behavior.
- COMMUNICATE CONSTRUCTIVELY
People often act in an angry way because they think they are not being heard, not being taken seriously, or not being appreciated. They may feel disappointed and ignored. This is why listening and validation is the first important element of healthy communication.
To avoid fueling your partner’s emotional state, it is helpful to actively listen to them until they feel heard and understood. If you are not clear, ask question and clarify their point. Try to understand their deepest needs, validate their feelings and experiences and express your desire to help alleviate their pain. Validation is one way we communicate acceptance of ourselves and others. It is recognizing and considering your partner’s needs and perspective, even though you might think differently. Constructive communication requires you to be fully present and genuinely attempt to comprehend and empathize. Listening mindfully requires you to pay attention to both your partner as well as to your internal experience. This should be done without judgment while being clear, calm, and compassionate.
- CULTIVATE COMPASSION
Beneath anger typically lies deeper and more vulnerable emotions such as fear, sadness, loss or pain, which may be harder for your partner to express. While anger serves as a protective shield and makes your partner feel powerful and in control, it can also be like a wall that prevents your partner to dig in and reveal their pain. This is why it is important to have compassion toward your partner. Compassion is motivated by the desire to elevate the suffering of others and as such drives you away from blame and accusation.
Compassion is much more responsive and responsible than anger. While anger makes us stuck and becomes part of the problem, compassion is part of the solution, allowing us to work constructively toward a positive change. It promotes understanding and acceptance that acknowledge the suffering we all have that that we all do the best we can.
- AVOID BLAMING
No one want to be blamed. It doesn’t feel good to be blamed. Blame makes us feel alone and wrong as if we cannot measure up. It also a serious trouble in relationships. Blame separates people from your values, beliefs, and commitment.
Blame affects people in many ways. Blame creates inaction. When someone blames, it’s as if they’re handing over control of the situation. The path to peace lies in realizing and accepting – without blame, guilt, and shame – that everything that happens in life has value. In any difficulty, there is something for you to learn or create, but first you must assume responsibility.
- DE-ESCALATE EMOTIONAL INTENSITY
Controlling can backfire, especially when you try to control an angry partner. Not only they may not be in their “best” mindset, but they may also become uncooperative, defensive and even aggressive. It is unwise to retaliate in response to a partner’s anger; better to let the other person be angry and realize that they will eventually calm down. The calmer you remain, the quicker their anger may subside.
Even more, you can use de-escalation techniques, such as validation, paraphrasing, listening, showing your care and interest in the other person problems and needs. You can ask how you can help and so on. In this way, you are able to de-escalate the situation, calm the other person or at least not making it worse. The ultimate goal of de-escalation is to lessen emotional intensity and transform hostility toward calmness and increased collaboration.
- THINK LONG-TERM, CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTS
The phrase “pick your battles” doesn’t apply only to military combat; it can easily apply to any relationship, particularly an intimate relationship with angry partners. To be wise, army generals are willing to lose some battles so they can “win the war.” They generally don’t waste energy resources on less important area. They think about the big picture. Similarly, since individuals have different beliefs, preferences, expectations and needs, relationships can be like a battlefield, which requires a well thought strategy.
Yet, in case of relationship, the winning goal is about reaching happiness and fulfilling relationship – In other words both partners are wining. There is no point of creating a situation of a win-lose situation as it weakens your relationship and is a lose-lose battle. So, be selective in your battle, let go of unimportant matters while thinking about building rather than destroying.
- UNDERSTAND THE TRIGGERS
Mindfulness and particularly self-reflection is a powerful instrument for personal responsibility and relationship growth. To be responsible is to be proactive and understand your role in the dynamics. It is realizing what makes you frustrated with an angry partner. To do so, you must know yourself and reflect on what expectations, believe, and needs trigger your anger. At the same time, you must recognize what actions you took that trigger and activated anger within your partner. The more aware you become, the less reactive and more constructive you may become. Your ownership may decrease stress and encourage your partner to do the same – take ownership and be responsible as well. The result may be greater well-being for you, your partner, and your relationship.
- ADDRESS ISSUES WHEN READY
When anyone during conflict is under stress or overwhelmed, it is hard to create a constructive discussion. In particular, when your angry partner’s emotional state is heightened, their rational mind may not be functioning at par, and as such addressing a difficult issue can fire back. Therefore, allow time for the negative energy to settle, take a “time-out” to calm the atmosphere and when you are both ready to talk, establish more rational discussion.
When both of you are relaxed, collected and willing, address the issue that led to your partner’s angry behavior. Remember, anger promotes anger, and calmness promotes calmness. During peaceful times, discussion flow more easily and both of you can be more open, listen and be willing to accept influence.
- THINK INFLUENCE, AVOID CONTROL
While many thinks anger is powerful and portrays control, the reality is that anger with aggression is a manifestation of lack of control. In many situations, individuals focus on trying to change their partner. The reality is that no one in a healthy relationship can control the other person. Yet, you can influence your partner and explain to them the benefits of your view. You can influence your partner by creating a positive environment that is respectful and conducive to cooperation rather than control.
In general, aspire to create an atmosphere of positivity, appreciation and gratitude. These qualities are contagious and bring love, respect and intimacy into the relationship. At the same time, it enhances openness and understanding and ultimately establish a safe space, in which listening and understanding can take place.
If you make the effort, being mindful and compassionate while applying the above strategies, you will see how much the positive energy is created between you and your partner, and it ultimately can transform your relationship.
In summary, when you have solid boundary, act assertively, keep calm, communicate constructively, cultivate compassion, avoid blaming, de-escalate emotional intensity and think long term and influence, you are empowering yourself and your partner to act respectfully and collaboratively and the solution to facing anger and aggression becomes easier.