Love, Heartbreak

How To Talk To A Man Who Has Serious Anger Issues (And Keep Yourself Safe)

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anger issues

What is the solution for dealing with a loved one — a lover, a spouse or even a child — whose anger issues get you down? Most folks in this situation have tried everything from reasoning with the angry person to agreeing with him just to settle him down.

Usually, nothing works... except leaving. You heard me right. As soon as you hear evidence of even low-level anger, exit the topic by changing the subject. Exit the room. Exit the house if need be. Or, in extreme cases, exit the relationship.

I call it the "one-hand clapping" principle. What happens if one hand tries to clap and the other refuses to join in? No clapping will occur. If, when your partner speaks in an irritated tone, you leave for a few minutes, the conversation, the room or even the apartment/house will remain quiet and no fighting will ensue.

RELATED: How To Know If You're Angry Or If Your Feelings Are Just Hurt

Before your first exit, pick a quiet time when you're both in a good mood to sit down for a heart-to-heart talk. Explain that you can see that you inadvertently have been feeding his anger by staying in conversations with him when he's shown signs of rising irritation.

Anger-prone people hate to feel that their anger is their own fault. Their classic response is, "I'm only mad because of XYZ." Your loved one, therefore, will be more likely to listen to your new plan if you begin by saying that you have played a key role in the fighting.

Talking with someone when they're angry almost never leads to more understanding or clearer solutions.

Anger freezes the brain. Logical thinking is about as likely to occur as when your computer overheats and then subsequently freezes — i.e., is no longer able to process information. Anger also closes off ears. There's no absorption of new data, no matter how potentially helpful it can be.

All that remains open for action when someone is really mad is their mouth, which spews ammunition aimed to prove that he's right and you're wrong, and is thus likely to hurt you. Why stick around if you're only going to be shot at? Anger makes people very unattractive. Exits enable you to remove yourself from situations that would otherwise corrode your love. 

How do early exits prevent angry arguments? First and foremost, there's the one-hand-clapping principle. If you are not there to hear your partner's anger, there'll be no arguments.

RELATED: Actually, You're Not Really Angry. What You Feel Is 'Helpless'

In addition, people who get mad think that anger will get them what they want. Your exits may teach your loved one that quiet conversations do this much better. In any case, exits will keep you both safe from the damage anger can cause. 

When you explain your new exit plan to your partner, don't expect him to like it. He's likely to say something like, "Don't you turn your back on me!" Fine. If he doesn't like seeing your back, he's welcome to simultaneously turn his back on you as he walks to his pre-arranged quiet place. Explain also that if he follows you into another room, you will go outside for a walk.

Always have your purse and jacket readily available. If he continues to follow you in such a manner, you will go in your car. Staying away for half an hour hopefully gives you both time to calm down. If he's still mad after this, then repeat the departure, this time staying away longer.

Your partner may ask, "How will I calm down?" With your new plan of action, you'll surely wonder, "Who has the power?"

The angry person has been in control up to this point. But with your exits, you gain the upper hand. You can't control him, but you can control what you do.

One further suggestion: be sure your exit starts with your legs, not your mouth. Talking about whether or not to exit is a mistake. Skip the words, and skip any door-slamming. Just quietly stand up and leave the room. If you feel you need to say something, say only, "I need to get a drink of water."

Making sure that both of you know how to communicate in a relationship is also essential. The first step, however, is to end your willingness to listen or argue with him altogether once he's beginning to get mad. The goal is for all your time together to be safe and peaceful.

In an atmosphere of calmness, love thrives.

RELATED: 5 Best Ways To Deal With Your Anger (So You Can Find Peace Without Medication)

Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a Denver clinical psychologist, helps couples build strong loving marriages. Her book, The Power of Two sets out the skills for sustaining loving relationships, and is the basis for her relationship skills program at

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