I know a lot about anger.
I'm a veteran of a bad marriage. We used to fight. A lot. Just ask the cops. In 2011, I got arrested for felony domestic violence with a deadly weapon.
So suffice it to say, I know a lot about anger.
But ... I thought that if I could take away something invaluable (apart from the realization that we were a terrible match and both tremendous assholes to each other), then it wasn’t a mistake — it was a learning experience.
And you get them without the community service, the restraining order, or the meetings in church basements.
1. Stop saying "F*ck you" and be vulnerable.
When you feel angry, you are either hurt or you feel disrespected. Something seems “unfair”. It’s easy to be mean. It’s easy to attack the other person. What’s harder is to go underneath the anger and really communicate the hurt. That takes … gulp … vulnerability. As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”
Saying some clever version of “fuck you” isn’t brave, and though it might make you feel like one of the Underwoods, it certainly won’t help the situation. But saying, “Hey babe, that really hurt my feelings,” is brave. Your partner will be more motivated to A) listen, and B) apologize, if they feel empathetic toward you. They can’t feel empathetic if they’re feeling defensive.
My first inclination when I feel hurt is to run away or to punish the person. But going off the grid or a poison blow dart to your lover’s neck are not solution-based answers. So despite my discomfort in getting honest and emotionally naked, I do it. It usually results in me just “cry talking” as my boyfriend calls it but you’d be surprised how effective that is. It melts him. He feels bad that I feel bad.
Newsflash: if you’re with somebody who doesn’t feel badly when they hurt you, then dump them immediately or go on Bonanza and buy them a fucking soul.
2. Stop being the Ronda Rousey of abusive arguing.
As somebody who used to be a hothead — i.e., the Ronda Rousey of abusive arguing — I've now learn how to "take a minute." If I get upset, I go to the bathroom, take a long shower, and chill out. My boyfriend says that I ”bottle things up,” but I don’t see it that way. I’m taking a pause to reflect and regain my composure so I won’t stab him in the groin with a sharp object.
Emotions are first responders, with rationality arriving fashionably late. So I pause and ask myself, “Am I overreacting? Do I have a legitimate right to be upset, or am I being a psycho?"
If my beef is legit, then I consider, “How can I present this in a calm, rational way —expletive-filled rant not included? Even if my beef doesn’t seem legit, he can tell I’ve “shut down,” and will ask me what’s wrong. Then I’ll say, “This may not seem totally rational, but when you did this (insert offending circumstances here), I felt…” Anybody who loves you and isn’t a total sociopath will come back with, “I can see that."
The point is for them to get to know the real you with all your ticks and quirks. It’s not a PR campaign.
3. Remember: Apologies are like blow jobs.
There’s that famous saying, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” My old comedy writing partner once improved upon this with, “If I had a dollar for every time my ex-wife apologized, I’d have 32 cents.”
Nothing makes conflict magically fall away like saying “I’m sorry." And I’m not talking about the 99-cent-store, off-brand version: “I’m sorry you feel that way," but the authentically classic, “I’m sorry that I hurt you.” Any investment in who is right and who is wrong is all ego. It’s not a competition. You can be right and be alone. Enjoy that shit. There's no place for ego in a loving relationship.
Apologies are like blow jobs. They cost you nothing and mean the world to the other person. Just do it.
There are plenty of times I’ll say, “I’m sorry I overreacted,“ and my guy will follow with, “No baby, I’m sorry.” Then it becomes a sorry festival! A sorry parade! A sorry fiesta! Arrriba!
4. Listen (so they don't feel crazy).
Emotions may sometimes be irrational, but that doesn’t mean they’re illegitimate. I am extremely sensitive, but my boyfriend says, “There's never a time when you are upset and I don't know the reason why.” That makes for a HUGE difference after experiencing relationships where you are gaslighted and constantly told that you're crazy and just overreacting.
So when your lover takes the time to tell you how they feel, listen to them. Make them feel safe. Put yourself in their shoes and reassure them with something along the lines of, “Yes, I understand why you’d be upset about that.”
You’d be amazed how quickly things de-escalate, and “fuck you” turns into “fuck me."
5. Move the f*ck ON from your old drama.
Once you and your partner have worked through something and it’s been settled, it’s over. You cannot bring it up in a new fight. Sure it might bolster your argument and help build your case, but too fucking bad. If they apologized and you accepted their apology, it’s over. Null and void. The coupon has expired. If you've actually forgiven them, which you should have, then it's time to move on.
Don’t go digging around in the trash — unless you’re a tweaker or a homeless guy collecting cans.
6. Only one of you gets to be crazy at a time.
We all have days when we should probably be shot full of Thorazine, dressed in a special white jacket, and placed in lockdown with people who believe they are Thomas Jefferson.
If you're crazy one day, it’s your partner’s job to be the sane one. Then he gets be crazy another day. It’s like the feelings-stick policy, but for craziness. If one person is reacting to the other person’s reaction, well … put your bail bondsman on speed dial. Your partner may be hormonal or stressed out or hungry or having some weird diva moment. If you know they love you, and you know you love them, cut some slack.
Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s an ACTION. So act lovingly … even when you want to string them up by their scrotum.