My Husband Has Anger Issues
My husband has anger issues to say the least. He is set off by the least little thing when he is tired or angry. He drives recklessly, throws a cussing stomping fit, or uses force to make something fit or to move an object. If he can’t figure it out with his brain then he will break it to control the situation.
Do I walk away? Ignore the problem? What should I do about my husband’s anger issues?
OUR RESPONSE ON CLARAPY:
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HEARTFELT QUESTION!
Keep in mind that my response assumes that your husband is NOT physically hurting or abusing you in any way. (If he is physically hurting you, my answer would be different, and I would advise you to immediately seek assistance from someone you trust!)
First, let me share some thoughts about your husband. Then I’ll share some thoughts about your response to him.
Has your husband been overwhelmed with stress? Have things changed for him in the past weeks or months that have put tremendous pressure on him? Was there a time in your relationship when he WASN’T so explosive? Answers to these questions may lead to some ideas for him to try which may help him reduce the stress in his life (and hence reduce this typical “burn-out” response of explosive anger).
There is another possibility….
The idea of “guilt energy.” It only takes one big episode or experience of guilt to create a kind of energy. It sits inside of the person, waiting for ways to get out (so to speak). So whenever he encounters a normal guilt producing experience, instead of feeling guilt like the rest of us, he gets “guilt PLUS.” The PLUS is the guilt energy from his past guilt experience that gets attached to whatever it can find (kind of like having extra guilt that’s trying to ooze it’s way out).
It’s the same with anger (have your husband check out our anger self assessment test) that appears to be too overblown to a situation. Your husband doesn’t just get bothered, frustrated, or a little upset. It sounds like he gets “anger PLUS.” IF that is the case, then it would suggest that he has had at least one experience (possibly more) where he has been so frustrated, so hurt, so angered, that he has never gotten over it (He should read the post about finding your inner peace and our alpha male post on relationship advice for men). To get a handle on this you could: (1) see a professional counselor to have him explore ways to discover this anger, or (2) try a self-help approach manual for dealing with anger management. The only problem with all of this is that HE MUST WANT TO CHANGE. Have you talked with him about it? Does he see it as a problem? Or does he see your complaining about it as a problem? If you feel that this might help (and he is willing), you can contact myself or another professional and we could direct you to the best resources available to you.
No matter what his decisions, your life must go on. If and while he’s “getting his act together,” what do you do when he acts so? While you have very little control over how he reacts to others or objects, you can make a difference with how he reacts to you. One principle of being humble is that we train people how to treat us. We do so by how we react to their behaviors. If we are passive in the face of certain behaviors they present, then we reinforce those behaviors and they get stronger and become more frequent. On the other hand, if we are properly assertive in the face of certain behaviors, then we can remove or minimize the reinforcement of those behaviors and they will weaken and eventually disappear – at least when the person is dealing with us. This is an important point to understand. You can influence your husband to be less angry towards you, but you will not have much of an influence in helping your husband be less angry towards everything and everyone else. (That requires him to do things to try to change…like I mentioned above).
How can you train your husband to not treat you with such anger? By practicing simple principles of assertion!
1. No matter how angry your husband gets, he deserves (we all do) to be treated by you with respect. However, at the same time SO DO YOU!
2. Find a time when he is NOT angry and calmly tell him:
“Do you remember when you got angry in front of me and DID (FILL IN THE BLANK)? When you do that it makes me feel (FILL IN THE BLANK).” (Tell him how YOU FEEL – Don’t try to tell him WHY you think he is angry. Instead just point out his behavior.)
“I would really like it if you could just DO (FILL IN THE BLANK) when you get angry like that.” (Suggest to him a realistic alternative BEHAVIOR when he feels angry. Telling him to “not feel angry” is simply not something you can realistically ask him to change. Perhaps you could suggest that he leave the room and yell outside, or that he say something to you so that YOU COULD LEAVE the room until he calms down.)
If he resists and tries to argue with you…DON’T LET YOURSELF GET SUCKED INTO IT. You feel the way you feel. You do not have to justify WHY you feel like you feel. Any attempt on his part to argue with you is to simply divert your attention from explaining what you know you need – PERIOD. No matter how he tries to justify why he does what he does, or why you shouldn’t get so upset – just simply say “I realize you feel that way (about me/it/you…whatever), but when you do this, this is how I feel. I would really like it if you could just do (FILL IN THE BLANK) when you get angry like that.” Just keep repeating it, like a broken record, and he’ll finally realize that it won’t matter what he thinks, you just feel the way you feel, and SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT IT.
“Is there anything I can do to help you do (FILL IN THE BLANK) when you get angry like that?” Now you will need to really listen to him. Make sure you let him know that you’re not trying to say that he shouldn’t feel angry, but you cannot stand there and take how he behaves when he is angry.
“Until you can act more calmly, I really will need to stay away from you when you get like that. So I just want you to know that I will be leaving the area (room, etc.), until I feel you are cooled off enough to treat me calmly.” DO NOT PRESENT THIS AS A PUNISHMENT, IT IS SIMPLY A WAY FOR YOU TO GET WHAT YOU NEED…not to snub him, or get back at him. Make sure you say this without anger, resentment or sarcasm. It is simply something YOU NEED to do for YOU.
Finally, thank him for listening. Then, put into action whatever arrangements you both (or perhaps you alone if he was not willing to cooperate) came to. HINT: Reward him for even the SLIGHTEST IMPROVEMENT in his behavior – even if it is not perfect. For example, if he still blows up (badly), but does so without cussing, and cussing was something you wanted him not to do in your presence – FIND SOME TIME AFTER HE’S COOLED OFF to really THANK him for not cussing (yes, even if he threw objects or banged the walls or did everything else that drives you bananas). You must understand that by rewarding him for even the slightest change, it will set up deep inside him a stronger motivation for being more aware of himself next time (and that means he’ll be more likely to do better next time).
Anyway, I hope all this helps. I’m sorry for the long post, but I don’t believe in skimpy platitudes or theoretical psychobabble. People (me included), need practical suggestions that really work. I hope something here will work for you.
I wish the very best for you. Check out relationship advice for women for more information.