I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself saying something like this (either in my head or out loud), “Ooooo, that makes me so mad. I hate it when he does that!” I must admit, anger gets the best of me sometimes. It impacts my relationship in a negative way and there are times when I truly wish I could take back something I’ve said (or thought).
Anger can be very destructive in a relationship. It is what we call a secondary emotion. That means it is covering the true emotion we are feeling. Under anger are emotions like fear, sadness, guilt, shame, inferiority, hurt, disappointment and a number of others. The tricky part about anger is taking some time to identify what we are really feeling. This can be done by simply taking a brief time out to ask ourselves the following questions: What just happened to create this feeling? What is the root of my anger??
Most of the time, we express anger easily because it is an emotion that is allowed in our society. We see it everywhere; on the news, in television shows, at our jobs, and most of all in our relationships. We hear people frequently say things like, “That makes me so mad” or “I’m so upset.” Rarely do we hear people identify what is under the anger and talk about that. When is the last time you heard someone say, “I feel fear over that” or “That makes me feel sad?” Probably very rarely if never at all. You see, no one can “make” you feel a certain way; you choose that feeling. So the minute we tell our spouse “you make me angry,” they are able to argue with us because they did not force anger on us. If we say what we are truly feeling, then we identify the emotion that led to our anger.
What would our relationships be like if we began to talk about what was under the anger and gave our spouse a chance to hear why we really became upset? Instead of saying something like, “You make me so mad,” we could say, “When that happened, I felt really hurt” or “I am disappointed that we aren’t going.” These assertive statements let our partners see the true reason behind our frustration and these statements become the basis for a productive conversation. Now we can gain understanding in the situation instead of arguing about the anger and who caused it. Once we begin talking like this, we reduce the escalating emotions and we are more likely to hear each other.
Does anger get the best of you? Do you find yourself frequently getting frustrated in your relationship? The next time you get angry, take a short time out and try to identify the emotion under the anger (guilt, shame, inferiority, fear, hurt, disappointment, sadness). When you can express what you are really feeling to your spouse, you have a better chance of resolving the situation.