During over 30 years as a marriage and family therapist, I seen many clients who are really upset about the “over the top” anger expressions of one they love. Again and again I have heard:
“He screams and curses, even throws things, when angry.”
“She runs screaming from the room, refusing to speak to me if I speak my mind.
”“My husband is so bullying. I am afraid of his fits if he does not have his way.”
“Sometimes I think the guy (or gal) I am planning to marry is a two year old at heart.”
“Her (or his) temper terrifies our children, and makes our home a frightening place to be.”
“If anything goes wrong at work, s/he does all he can to pick a fight with me.”
There is another way those with anger problems express them: They clam up, refusing to discuss a problem, even if expressed in kind and sensitive ways. Here are other descriptions I hear again and again……
“He becomes stone, rather than hear me.”
“If I say how I feel, when I come home he is not there.”
“If I try to talk to him, he storms out, sometimes leaving for hours, but sometimes for days.”
“Our children cannot discuss anything with him that he does not agree with. If such and opinion is brought up, he will give a very angry look, and then leave the room or the house.”
So here is a warning. If you are planning to build a life with one with this kind of problem, think again. Committed relationships are only fulfilling if family members can talk together without fear.
Yes, most of my examples are about men. Women have these difficulties also, and yet most women are more willing to discuss problems than men, and find it a relief to do so.
If you love one with this problem or are married to one who becomes frightening, here are some things you should know:
1. Anger and frustration are experienced by all human beings. Learning how to express these emotions maturely is essential in successful family living as well as in the work environment
2. Please do not turn to drinking or drugs to self medicate your fear.
1. People who cannot discuss problems without rage expression, are very frightened people who need help. If they do not get it, and take the help seriously, they will make family life a living hell. Also, they will pass this horrible way of dealing with conflict on to children.
2. Bullying patterns of behavior are all attempts to control and intimidate family members.
3. The best way to tell one you are angry with something going on in the relationship is to express it clearly and sensitively, in a calm voice: An example: “After we both come home from work after long days, when you leave the table, without offering to at least help me clear (or stand there as I do all of the cleaning, without offering some input), I feel hurt and disappointed.”
4. If a partner ever lifts a hand to hit, punch or strike you, this pattern will only get worse. This is not a safe relationship, and as hard as it is to accept this, change will not happen without professional help. If this is not an option, this is not a relationship that can provide a safe home.
5. If hitting and striking are part of your relationship, see one trained in this area alone, not with your partner. Or call the domestic violence hotline, 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).