Today research indicates many millennials are waiting longer than previous generations to get married. In a recent study 43% of millennials endorsed the idea of having a 2-year marriage license that could be renewed like a car lease. One could imagine the new marriage app where both you and your partner can swipe to the right to prolong the marriage or to the left to dissolve the union. No fuss, or legal fees. Pretty romantic. The reality is marriage and relationships are difficult for many reasons. One major barrier to successful relations is conflict and coping with a partner who is angry. Instead of running for the hills when dealing with your angry partner check out these tips below.
Tips for managing an angry partner:
- The Echo Effect: As we know the common response when being attacked with an unfair or negative comment is to attack back. Aggression is contagious. However, striking back and matching aggression with aggression creates more conflict. This technique I am about to propose is indicated if your angry partner has good insight, a capacity to experience guilt and is non-violent/abusive. If this is the case non-responding creates a mirror effect. If you are in control during your partner’s outburst the focus is not shifted to your anger. Your partner not faced with a rebuttal from you is left to face his or her own actions. Consequently, this gives them time to re-evaluate their behavior and may lead spontaneously to a repair attempt.
- Emotional Control: Having the capacity to engage in the echo maneuver can be difficult and requires emotional control. If you are receiving anger, mindful meditation, taking a walk, or other self-soothing techniques may work. Keeping in mind that underneath your partner’s anger may be anxiety, depression or sad feelings is also beneficial providing you with the distance and meta-awareness to respond optimally. Another approach that may facilitate the echo maneuver or offset an explosive conflict is to have a code word.
- Code-Word: Develop a code word such as “Red Light” or “snooze”, which will mean to you and your partner that the interaction should stop. The code word can be more effective if it is somehow humorous. If implemented successfully, it will help both you and your partner reflect on the emotional explosion and take the intensity of a brewing conflict a notch down. The code word can be a signal to using less inflammatory language or tabling a conflict to discuss at a latter point when both parties are calm.
- Accept Repair: When your partner makes a repair attempt, accept the repair and acknowledge it. Do not criticize or use it as an opportunity to express more grievances that you may have towards them. At some point ask about coming up with strategies to prevent future occurrences. Validate sad or depressed feelings that your partner may have underlying his or her aggression. Also in the process of a repair attempt accept responsibility for your role in the conflict.
- Weekly Relationship Check Ins: Often your partner’s anger may be related to unaddressed issues that may be occurring in the relationship. The outburst your partner has, for example, about not doing the dishes may be related to other frustration that has been occurring and not addressed. Once a week having a half hour to discuss issues when you and your partner are both calm may be effective. During this weekly relationship check in you may want to exchange perspectives about how things are going the in the relationship.
- Couples Therapy: If you are unable on your own to resolve anger in relationships couples therapy is recommended. Many people shy away from couples therapy because they view attending as an indication of failure. However, it takes strength and emotional intelligence to recognize and discuss relationship issues rather than run away from them.