How To Express Your Anger Without Pushing Your Partner Away
At some point in your relationship, you're going to get angry at your partner. But how can you express anger in your relationship without unintentionally pushing your partner away? According to experts, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
"Anger can be absolutely justified, and even necessary sometimes to jostle a relationship into a more powerful place," Bridget Fonger, relationship expert and author of Superhero of Love: Heal Your Broken Heart & Then Go Save the World, tells Bustle. "But before you try to express that anger, you will want to get to a place of power."
According to Fonger, anger can be "disempowering." Just think about it. When someone is coming at you with angry accusations, the natural reaction is to defend yourself. From there, it can escalate into a fight you never wanted to get into.
But if you want to avoid the fight that usually accompanies an expression of anger, there is one very important thing to keep in mind. Expressing your anger is not about placing blame. It has nothing to do with your partner, but everything to do with you and how you're feeling. It's similar to telling your partner that you're feeling sad or happy.
"If we handle anger in our relationships by first taking full responsibility for our reactions, we can come to the other side of conflict with even more intimacy," Fonger says.
You should always feel comfortable expressing how you feel to your partner. But since anger can put the other person on the defense, it's not the easiest emotion to express. So here's the best way to do it without pushing your partner away, according to experts.
1. Look Inward To See If What You're Feeling Is Really Anger
If you're feeling angry with your partner, it's worthwhile to look inwards first to uncover what you're feeling isn't something else. As psychotherapist Rebecca Newman, MSW, LCSW, tells Bustle, "We sometimes perseverate on our anger because we feel compelled to be 'right,' when what we really need is to be heard." But getting angry isn't going to make your partner listen. So if you've looked inward and decided that it's really not anger but a need to be heard, you can push through the initial impulse to lash out. "Instead, you can make it about inviting your partner to join with you about the issue to find a collaborative solution," Newman says.
2. Consider Your Level Of Anger Before Raising The Issue
If you're only a little mad, say that. "Consider saying, 'Part of me is angry,'" licensed marriage and family therapist, Carrie Krawiec, tells Bustle. "It may be easier for them to swallow than just, 'I’m angry.'" Try not to make something small seem like a bigger deal than it is.
3. Let Your Partner Know What You Need From Them In The Moment
Do you want them to just sit and listen to you vent? Do you want them to empathize or give you space after? Always remember that your partner isn't a mind reader. It's important to let your partner know what you need from them in that moment, licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, tells Bustle. In doing so, they can respond in a way that helps you get back to a positive space.
4. Use "I" Statements
Again, expressing your anger is not meant to place blame. So as licensed marriage and family therapist, Carrie Krawiec, tells Bustle, "Stick to 'I' statements. Starting a sentence with “You” signifies blame or criticism and can cause defensiveness, denial, counter arguments and rebuttals." Make this all about you expressing how you're feeling.
5. If You Feel Yourself Getting Really Heated, Take A Short Break
If you're the kind that shuts down when you're angry or needs space to clear your thoughts, consider taking a short break. Krawiec says to try to keep it under 20 minutes. If you don't want to leave the room, consider closing your eyes while touching or holding hands with your partner. According to her, this can help to reduce stress and release oxytocin. "This will also convey that you're still present in the relationship even if you are struggling with feelings of anger," she says.
6. Give Your Partner A Chance To Process Things Without Expecting Anything More Out Of Them
If you know that your partner doesn't react well to confrontation, give them time to process what you say to them. Don't try to push the issue or bait them into giving you a response. "This is not the time to push the issue," licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown, Ph.D., tells Bustle. Instead, ask if you can come back together later to discuss how you're feeling and what you can do to move forward.
7. If Your Partner Has Anything To Say, Listen To Them
"If you want a true resolution to your anger, you'll need both of your hearts to be in the game of communication," Fonger says. Now that you've expressed your anger, give your partner a chance to say what they need to say. Be sure to actually listen to them. "If we can take anger as an opportunity to be curious about each other, your anger will not push them away," she says.
In order to have a healthy relationship, you need to be OK with expressing emotions. It doesn't matter if it makes your partner uncomfortable. Anger, if expressed in a healthy way, can open up communication that will make your relationship stronger. As long you stay away from things like name calling, it's going to be fine.