You began the conversation with altruistic intentions. The intensity and staccato of your voices signal that you and your partner are approaching a full-blown argument. You don’t want to fling insults and accusations. You just need a time out.
What can you do?
The next time your conversation enters the danger zone—the point where an argument is near—request a time out. For added levity, assign a playful codeword to this break like, “hamburger.” Whatever you do, don’t storm out or abandon your conversation. Requesting a time out is a cue that you love your partner enough to cool down so your anger does not irreparably damage the relationship.
In moments of anger, ask yourself, “Who am I really angry at?” You may carry pent-up, unresolved anger from one source to another. Sometimes you may experience and express more anger than is warranted, given the trigger.
The most common triggers of anger are:
- Someone attacking your self-esteem through verbal or even physical abuse.
- Someone or something preventing you from reaching a desired goal. This triggers more anger if you feel you’re entitled to that goal or if the goal is something you’re strongly committed to.
- Someone violating your basic moral principles of fairness, equity, honesty and responsibility. The more strongly committed you are to these values, the angrier you become.
- A situation where you feel helpless or unable to correct something that has gone wrong.
The key is not to let your anger control you, but to stay centered and be in control of your anger.
Unfortunately, anger rears its ugly head in every relationship. It is one of those flaws in human nature, borne out of frustration, defensiveness and guilt. But it can be controlled. This discipline, like any form of discipline, requires work on the part of both partners; and, by using anger control strategies, couples can develop healthy confrontation skills creating a healthy relationship. Difficult and confrontational conversations will always exist in a relationship, but yelling and resentment can be eradicated. And if couples need a bit of assistance in controlling anger in their relationships, a bit of guidance in the form of relationship counseling does wonders.
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