When Your Spouse is Angry

When was the last time you told your spouse “I love you”? Or when was the last time you felt really loved by your spouse?
In our counselling experience, as well as those among other counselors we know, one of the most common foundations of escalating conflict among couples is when one or both parties feel unloved and unappreciated.

In times like these, you may suspect that your spouse is angry, but for the life of you, what if you can’t figure out what’s wrong?

In our case, Joy used to have the habit of walking out on me and flopping into bed. The more I try to coax her, the more she pretends to be asleep! And I must say, there’s nothing more frustrating to me than knowing she’s angry but not knowing what I did wrong.

Trying to discuss things in the heat of the moment might only lead to one or both of you saying things you might regret later.
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5 Healthy Practices for Dealing with Anger

Now, we know that every individual is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to these things. But we hope these suggestions can help you learn to communicate better with each other:

1. Talk when both of you are calm.

If you’re like me, you probably can’t stand having your spouse mad at you and want to resolve things as quickly as possible. Joy calls me the “shark,” because I always charge head-on, pushing and pushing her to talk and get reconciled even when she’s not yet read.

For this, we need to learn to wait until both of you have calmed down. Trying to discuss things in the heat of the moment might only lead to one or both of you saying things you might regret later.

2. Give each other a safe place to share feelings.

For healthy communication, we recommend learning to talk about your feelings, but before you do so, you need to learn to help each other feel safe to do so. What do we mean? You will have to commit to be open about how things make you feel, but whoever is listening needs to commit to not judge or berate the other!

For example, if your spouse says he’s hurt from what you said, you need to keep yourself from going all defensive and telling him he’s childish for feeling that way! Learn to accept feelings as they are: they’re not right or wrong, it’s just how we react to things.

3. Practice expressing how you feel.

With the commitment for no judgment in place, then you can both practice expressing how you feel. Remember, we’re talking about emotions. Do you feel angry, sad, afraid? Nervous, pressured, terrified?

One challenge with expressing feelings is that sometimes, we use the words “I feel” to express something that we perceive in the other person—but that’s not sharing about our feelings. For example, when you say, “I feel like you’re not listening to me,” you’re already passing judgment on your spouse’s actions. A better way to phrase it is, “I feel misunderstood.” That way, you’re telling your spouse what you feel and not blaming him for something he or she did or didn’t do.

4. Learn to listen.

When your spouse is sharing how he or she feels, learn to listen well. This means not interrupting until they’re done. You might also practice reflective listening: you have to mirror back whatever was said to confirm that you understood it correctly.

For example, if you spouse says, “I’m feeling pressured with all the demands at work and I come home to more pressure!” you might mirror this back as, “I understand that you’re feeling overwhelmed, because there’s pressure at work and more work for you to do at home.”

5. Apologise and forgive.

Lastly, practice saying you’re sorry and forgiving each other. Sometimes, something we do might hurt our spouse even if we didn’t have any bad intentions. Still, we can apologise because our actions or words hurt them, even if we didn’t mean it.

If you’re on the other side of the argument and your spouse apologises, verbally express your forgiveness as soon as possible. It will help clear the air between you and help you move on closer than ever.

Learning to Deal with Feelings as a Couple

Learning to communicate about your feelings is an important skill for building connection and intimacy with your spouse. We encourage you to keep growing in healthy communication so that you can keep growing closer even through conflict and misunderstandings.

If you need ideas for connecting more intimately with your spouse, check out some of our resources, such as our 10 Days to a Healthy Marriage, which you may download from our Publications page.

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