Q&A: Taking our anger out on each other


My husband and I both seem to be angry all the time. We end up taking it out on each other, even though neither of us want to live this way. How do we break this cycle?

Answer: It helps to acknowledge that anger is a secondary emotion, not a primary feeling. It generally disguises other emotions and often occurs after we’ve felt fear, frustration, hurt, or some combination of these three emotions. And sometimes anger is triggered by an unfulfilled expectation that causes us to feel disappointed.

So when you experience anger, or you encounter someone who is angry, try to remember that there is likely more to the picture. Sometimes it’s easier to feel compassion for ourselves or others when we realise that fear, frustration, or hurt is hidden underneath smouldering anger.

This certainly doesn’t give us, or anyone else, the right to explode in rage at someone. But recognising that anger is often a secondary reaction to inner fear or hurt can help us respond to angry people, including our spouses, with understanding and compassion.

In every scenario, we have a choice: We can recognise that our emotions are normal responses to everyday occurrences, or we can ignore our emotions and stuff them. When we mismanage our anger, we risk destroying relationships – especially with those we love the most.

Again, that’s the key thing about anger: how we handle it. When we handle it poorly, we push away those we love the most, leaving a trail of damaged relationships in our wake. Ultimately, unhealthy ways of dealing with anger can be passed from one generation to the next, causing even more destruction. But when we deal with anger in healthy ways, it can lead to greater understanding and intimacy in our marriages.

If you could use some help breaking the cycle, you can call our Family Support Services at 03-3310 0792 or write to support@family.org.my.

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