Anger and Couples in San Francisco Bay Area:
The other day, someone asked me what I would advise couples who find themselves getting stuck in the same old argument.
You are not unusual! Really!
So many couples have difficulty dealing with anger effectively. In fact, if most people are open and honest about it, they would tell you that they have upsetting arguments with their partner.
One of the main reasons that couples get stuck is because they forget, or don’t realize at all, that their partner could be scared. Most people are uncomfortable when someone is angry at them, and that feeling it is worse when it’s someone you love. This makes sense. Research tells us that relationship difficulties are some of the most stressful events that can occur in a person’s life. Though sometimes we think that our loved one should be able to handle our anger, it really makes sense that someone close to us would find that difficult. When a couple is angry a lot, it often is because someone’s fear is being overlooked.
Slam on the brakes and avoid a train wreck!
Catching your anger when you still have time to do something constructive about it will help prevent further damage from occurring in the bond between the two of you. The best way to de-escalate most conflict is by taking “time out”. Corporations, workplaces, judges, labor unions, lawyers and diplomats all call for a cooling off period when negotiations are failing.
Once your body and brain cool down, you can think about what you really want from the other person. Couples can plan out in advance for how long they will take time outs and what exactly they will do to calm themselves during the break. It’s always best to separate for at least half an hour so that you are completely calm by the time you reengage.
Put on the kid gloves! Put away the boxing gloves!
Care for yourself and your partner. Remember, we all have vulnerabilities and we all feel threatened. Speak as softly and gently as you can, or leave the situation until you have better control over yourself. If you notice that your partner is upset, try talking to them in the same way that you would talk to a scared child. Speak softly and use comforting tones.
Realize when you are stuck and get the assistance you need to get unstuck. Often couples can’t move forward because no one is listening. This is especially true when you are upset and anxious. The presence of a skilled, trained, neutral third party can help enormously. It takes courage and strength to learn new skills and a caring couple’s counselor can help you identify what is in the way of having a great relationship.