Psychotherapist Reveals Why Men Get Angry With Women Over 'Nothing'

Why men take their anger out on women.

Last updated on Jun 10, 2024

Man angry with woman over 'nothing' dikushin | Canva

Anger has been a problem my whole life. It contributed to the ending of my two marriages and nearly brought about the demise of my third. When my anger problem was pointed out to me, usually by my wife, I immediately became defensive and insisted loudly, "I’m not angry!" Inside I felt confused, out-of-control, and righteous. In my mind, I would say to myself, "Well, who wouldn't get angry, when someone is attacking you like she is?" When I tried to explain my feelings to my wife, she was mystified. Nothing she did seemed to her like an attack and I couldn't articulate what it was about what she said that triggered my defensive anger. My anger wasn’t over "nothing" but what was triggering my anger remained hidden for a long time.


I had never stopped to ask myself, "Why do I get angry so easily?" because that anger felt justified. Even if it wasn't, it took me years to begin to understand why my wife was afraid of me. My anger was never physical. So, I told myself, "She’s just being overly sensitive." I dismissed my angry outbursts and wasn’t aware of the looks I was giving her. "When you get angry, even when you’re trying to keep it in," my wife told me. "You get that beady-eyed look that chills my soul." My wife, Carlin, and I have been married now for 38 years. It’s the third marriage for both of us and we’ve learned a lot about why we are the way we are and how to deal with my anger.


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Here are a few highlights that I’ve come to understand over the years on why guys get mad so easily:

1. Men are dependent on women but frightened and ambivalent about their dependence

In his book, Misogyny: The Male Malady, anthropologist David Gilmore describes the near universal dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women that is built into the male psyche. He says it stems from unresolved conflicts between men’s intense need for and dependence upon women and their equally intense fear of that dependence, and the underlying reason for our anger is almost subconscious Here are the subconscious needs that are usually so uncomfortable to acknowledge that men block them out:

  • Unconscious wishes to return to infancy
  • Longings to suckle at the breast
  • To return to the womb
  • The powerful temptation to surrender one’s masculine autonomy to the omnipotent mother of childhood fantasy.

"All these secret desires," says Gilmore, "spark unconscious opposition, internal conflict, and consequently psychic turmoil in men." Men’s ambivalence toward women creates an uncomfortable and endless tension at every psychic level which leads to an effort to diminish the source of the turmoil by attacking its source: women. Men can be overt in their anger or they can be covert. Their anger can be aggressive and explosive or it can be passive and "nice." Mostly, I was the nice guy, but my anger would come out in subtle ways. I’d forget an anniversary. I’d flirt with my wife’s best friend. I’d listen to her, but not fully. I’d forget something she’d ask me to get for her. Sound familiar?

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2. Men feel an unconscious bondage to women

In his book, Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, Sam Keen offers a perspective that resonates deeply with me. "It was slow in dawning on me that woman had an overwhelming influence on my life and on the lives of all the men I knew," says Keen. He goes on to say, "I am not talking about women, the actual flesh-and-blood creatures, but about 'women', those larger-than-life shadowy female figures who inhabit our imaginations, inform our emotions and indirectly give shape to many of our actions."

Keen says, "One of the major tasks of manhood is to explore the unconscious feelings that surround our various images of 'woman', to dispel false mystification, to dissolve the vague sense of threat and fear, and finally to learn to respect and love the strangeness of womankind." In sum, he says, "It may be useful to think about maturation — the journey to manhood — as a process of changing 'woman' into women, into Jane (or one certain woman), of learning to see members of the opposite gender not as archetypes or members of a class but as individuals." "It is the 'woman' in our heads, more than the women in our beds or boardrooms, who cause most of our problems," Keen concludes. "And these archetypical creatures — goddesses, angels, Madonnas, castrators, witches, Gypsy maidens, earth mothers — must be exorcised from our minds and hearts before we can learn to love women."

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3. Men’s greatest fear is being ridiculed 

I still remember being in a room with my mother and several neighbor friends. They were talking about their husbands amid derisive laughter about the various shortcomings of the men. I was six years old. I can’t remember the details of their complaints, but the feelings of pity, contempt, and disrespect remain burned into my psyche nearly seventy years later. I felt deeply ashamed of my father for not living up to my mother’s expectations.


James Gilligan, M.D., one of the world’s experts on male violence and author of the book, Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Cause says, "I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed." Most often men turn the shame inwards, become depressed, and suicidal, but the anger that comes out at women is often shame-based and related to feeling overwhelmed by feminine power.

@ughmensuck Humiliation is a man’s greatest fear. @Drew Afualo ♬ original sound - Ugh, Men Suck

4. Some men have a hole in their soul as a result of a father wound

When I was five years old, my mid-life father became increasingly angry and depressed because he couldn't make a living to support his family. Unable to meet the demands of being the sole breadwinner in the family, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to the state mental hospital. If a boy doesn’t grow up with a father who is present physically and emotionally, he clings more closely to his mother, which increases his fear and anger. This was true for me and for many men I know. With my father gone, I needed my mother even more. I was angry that my father had left and angry at my mother because I felt even more engulfed by her energy. Richard Rohr founded the international movement known as Men As Learners & Elders (M.A.L.E.s), which focuses on rituals and rites of passage to encourage men to greater spiritual consciousness.

He says, "In the heart of every man is a hunger for his father. It’s one of those inevitable things. It happens in both boys and girls actually, but the essence of this hunger is vitally different. There is something about the connection between the child and the same-sex parent that, when unmet, creates a gaping hole in their souls." At its core, the reason why men are so angry at women and so wounded by their laughter is that we feel unmanned and ashamed. So many of us have a hole in our soul, that a little laughter feels like a massive attack. To truly love ourselves and the women in our lives, we have to heal the father wound.


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Jed Diamond is a licensed psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in International Health and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He is the author of The Whole Man Program: Reinvigorating Your Body, Mind, and Spirit.