Anger is a normal emotion to feel, just like sadness, joy, or gratitude. Although it is unpleasant, anger can help us to identify situations that may be dangerous or harmful to us. Anger can also help us to understand situations in which we feel out of control. From time to time, anger is a necessary and justifiable feeling. Anger becomes an issue when we do not know how to express and deal with it. In other words, it becomes a problem when we lack anger management skills.
When we have a partner that struggles with anger management, it may eventually take a toll on the relationship and drain our personal energy. When anger is expressed in an unhealthy way, it can make us feel frustrated and ignored, causing us to question our own value and worth. You may recognize that you love your partner and want to help them for the sake of your relationship, but aren’t sure how to help. With that in mind, there are things you can do to encourage and support your partner while they navigate their anger management.
How to Recognize Signs of Unhealthy Anger Management
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration created an Anger Management handbook that showcases some guidelines involved in dealing with anger management. In the handbook, an aggression cycle is highlighted that separates the behavior into three categories: buildup, explosion, and aftermath. To recognize signs of unhealthy anger management, we will focus on the explosion and aftermath categories:
- Explosion is an outburst of behavior that involves verbal or physical aggression, destructiveness, and violence. Examples of verbal aggression may include name-calling, shouting, accusations, or inflicting emotional pain. Destructive behaviors may look like impulsivity, abusing alcohol or other drugs, self-injury, or threatening. Violence includes emotional, sexual, or verbal assault as well as destructive behavior towards one’s environment.
- Aftermath behaviors include situations that occur as a result of explosion behaviors. They may include being fired from a job, kicked out of treatment, burdened with financial issues, losing the support of friends and family, jail time, and feelings of guilt and shame.
Unhealthy anger management often results in a partner feeling unsafe, whether it be in their home environment or emotionally. Feeling unsafe is subjective, as a partner does not have to have experienced violence to feel unsafe.
Identify Your Level of Safety
You’ve acknowledged that you want to help your partner, but you have to first be sure that you will be safe in the process of doing so. If you are in immediate danger, there are numerous hotlines and other resources available to help you.
If you feel unsafe, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) to get connected with resources that can help.
If you are not in immediate danger, reach out to a mental health professional for support and guidance. They understand that it is difficult for you to take that first step, especially because for you it may feel like you are throwing your partner under the bus. They know that this is not the case and they can help you to make a plan to safely remove yourself from the situation or provide your partner with suitable resources to get the help that they need.
Help Your Partner Discover the Root of Their Anger
There are a variety of circumstances that contribute to unhealthy anger management. These may include:
- Untreated mood disorders
- Untreated personality disorders
- Underlying trauma from childhood
- Substance abuse
- Lack of social skills or other coping skills
If you feel safe to do so, consider having a conversation with your partner about their anger management. If they also recognize it as an issue, they will be more likely to seek help for the sake of your relationship. If they are in denial, you may need additional resources. You will also have to judge for yourself whether or not you think they will recognize their need for help.
By having a conversation with your partner, you may discover the root causes of their anger. Sometimes, angry reactions are conditioned over time and we neglect to realize that we can alter our own reactions to challenging situations.
How to Address Conflict
In any relationship, arguments and conflict are inevitable. If you find that you or your partner is getting worked up over something, try to wait to discuss the situation until you are both calm. When we are emotionally charged, we are more likely to experience brain fog and other cognitive disruptions. Recognize that you can both take some time to calm down, and use the time apart to organize your thoughts.
One thing that many relationships overlook is the need for boundaries. You may set a boundary that your partner cannot throw things in the house, or if they do, it must be to throw a pillow at your bed. Boundaries allow your partner to understand your limits and what you are able to deal with. If your partner tries to push your limits, be assertive and recognize your self-worth. Your partner may need to grow on their own before you exert your effort on fixing the relationship.
Another suggestion would be to avoid conversations entirely when your partner begins to raise their voice or show outward signs of aggression. Give them time and space to calm down so that you are able to navigate a constructive conversation. Practice compassion and patience with your partner so that they understand that they are allowed to be vulnerable. Recognize that your partner has an entirely different perspective on the world, and work together to meet in the middle.
If you find yourself with a partner that struggles with anger management, there are resources available to you that can help. It is important to understand and recognize signs of unhealthy anger management so that you can identify them if they ever become present in your partner. If you find yourself in immediate danger, call a domestic violence hotline or the police. If you are not in immediate danger, seek out guidance from a mental health professional. Try to have empathetic conversations with your partner to help them discover the root causes for their unhealthy anger management. When addressing conflict, practice patience and try to see the world through your partner’s eyes. SoCal Mental Health focuses on helping individuals find peace with their mental distress, including unhealthy symptoms of anger. We want you to experience peace in your relationships and can set you up with the tools to do so. Call us at (714) 328-4760.