Anger is an Inevitable Part of Romantic Relationships


Many people who go to relationship therapy refer to anger as a negative emotion. Although experiences with anger are terribly painful for many people, what’s negative isn’t the anger, but rather how we deal with it.

Anger itself is neutral. It’s a source of information. It’s a motivation to communicate or change. And if discussed productively (yes, that’s a big if), it almost always leads to more intimacy. So anger is a valuable part of relationships.

There are three basic reasons to communicate that you’re angry:

1. To share information: “When you flirt at parties, it makes me feel left out.”

2. To ask for change: “I want you to agree to be on time from now on.”

3. To hurt someone: “I’d enjoy sex more with someone else anyway.”

How you express your anger should be determined by your goal. If you want to be better understood, or want to change the relationship, you need to express yourself in a cooperative way—which can be difficult when you’re feeling angry.

One of the ways couples get in trouble is with the unspoken agreement that as soon as someone is angry, he can express himself in a rude or hurtful way. Unless your goal is specifically to hurt someone, you never have the right to talk hurtfully. Your own anger is no excuse.

To put it another way, express your anger as if you expect to continue the relationship after your anger has subsided.

This takes discipline. People frequently say things like, “but I have a hot Italian/Irish/African/Danish/fill-in-the-blank/ temper, and when I get angry I just lose it.” Wrong: There is no such thing as a “temper.” A temper is what we call it when people relinquish responsibility for how they express themselves.

Make a promise to express your anger responsibly, as part of the ongoing relationship, rather than a disruption of it or exception to it.

Although anger is not a sign of love, anger is an inevitable part of loving relationships. Discuss your anger with your partner as lovingly and consciously as you discuss joy and pleasure.

Tips:

  • Don’t make important decisions while you’re very angry.
  • If you’re angry, don’t act like an angry person; say, “I’m angry.”

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