A lot has been written about angry men, but what about angry women? I’m not prone to get angry, but I often feel provoked by my wife. I know that doesn’t excuse anger on my part, but I’m wondering what I can do to help me reduce my anger when my wife gets angry?
First of all, I’m impressed that you take responsibility for your anger. While your wife may indeed provoke you, the bottom line is, you alone are responsible for your anger and your responses toward her. That must be your focus.
Let me explain a bit more about emotions, which may help both you and her. Anger is considered to be a secondary emotion. Many believe that anger, in fact, is a reaction that covers the deeper emotions of hurt, sadness, fear, and threat. We react with anger when we feel unheard and inadequate. When we don’t voice those feelings, or do so and then still feel unheard, we react with anger.
Scripture has so much to say the topic of anger. We are admonished to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). We are told, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Back to your question: What can you do to lessen your anger when your wife is angry? This counsel pertains to angry women and men alike. Consider these solutions.
Learn to be more mindful of the feelings boiling up in you. When we look back on an angry eruption, we often find provocative words that erupted out of feelings of hurt, sadness, inadequacy, and powerlessness. You must become introspective to discover the painful feelings you carry inside and talk about them.
Learn to label these new feelings. As you become more mindful, practice sharing feelings of hurt, sadness, fear, and inadequacy with your wife. Create an environment with her where you routinely share these painful feelings. But share them in a non accusatory manner, owning them as yours and not created by her.
Learn to listen to her painful feelings. You need to do your part to create a soft place for her feelings to land. Ask her to share her hurt with you—and be less defensive in listening. Ask gentle, probing questions that invite her to share more and more of her inner self with you. Create an ongoing dialogue with her of problems that are brewing in your relationship.
Learn to slow things down. Angry eruptions occur when couples move too fast. They are reacting instead of responding. They speak impulsively instead of take time to give thoughtful responses. Ask your wife to slow down so you have time to process what’s happening inside you. If necessary, ask for a time out to consider what you’re feeling, assuring her that you will come back and talk about the issue as soon as you’re able.
Learn to offer each other grace. Developing this new language – where you both share deeper parts of yourself – will take courage. Be prepared to feel awkward and perhaps even threatened. Give each other grace and permission to stumble and sputter as you try out new ways of sharing with each other.
In summary, be sure you do everything in your power to manage your emotions. Pay attention to what’s going on inside you, slow things down when necessary, and watch carefully what is happening.