As the couple’s argument escalated to a fever pitch, I heard the tentative steps of the store owner above our office coming down the stairs. I redirected the couple to more stable ground and heard her retreat. Once calmed, each spouse admitted that anger was a huge factor in their decision to divorce. I get so angry, I can’t think straight, said the wife. Later, the store owner shared that the yelling had her so worried she was coming to check on me.
What must the couple’s neighbors fear? More, what is the impact of the couple’s outbursts on their children?
Many couples cite overwhelming anger as a prime reason for divorcing.
Some note that they don’t like what their outbursts do to them or their children. Others, who have stuffed their anger for years, decide they can’t stuff any more. At both ends of the spectrum, couples choose to divorce.
Yet, according to John Gottman, founder of the Gottman Institute, healthy couples experience as much conflict as unhealthy. Presumably, they also experience as much anger.
So, what makes the difference between growing closer. . .and blowing apart?
Anger is a wonderful tool for detecting that something is wrong, says Dr. Scott Turansky, family expert. Turansky notes that anger serves as an incredibly reliable tool for discerning when an issue needs to be addressed. If a behavior or attitude routinely causes anger, that anger points to a necessary discussion.
Anger is a terrible tool for fixing it, Turansky finishes.
A stud finder proficiently finds the necessary wall studs for hanging a shelf. Yet, using the stud finder to hammer the nail will likely ruin both the stud finder and the wall.
In the same way–anger accurately points to issues to address, but proves a horrible means for resolving issues. When couples try to fix their issues through yelling, cursing, throwing, or stomping away in a huff they wreak havoc.
Healthy couples learn to express their frustrations in ways that nurture the relationship.
They are still honest about their emotions. But, that honesty is couched in gentleness, humility, and grace. As Gottman puts it, health couples find ways to repair and build their relationship even during disagreement. Which is where setting expectations can also prove fruitful.
Healthy marriages begin with intentional discussions about the everyday layers of life. Finances. Daily routines. Parenting. Long-term goals. As couples discuss what they expect from life and from each other–they get on the same page.
Discussions framed by agreed expectations likewise bring couples back to common ground when anger strikes. Back to shared goals and agreed processes. When couples revisit the expectations they had for each other and for different situations, their conversation maintains a sense of direction. This helps couples treat each other well even when emotions run high.
“Who you are when you are angry is who you really are,” notes Dr. Tim Gardner, author and family counselor.
Most people want to be kind, self-controlled, and respectful. As couples frame their disagreements around their shared expectations, they open the door to being kind, self-controlled and respectful even in anger. They work together to either to adjust their own behavior or to adjust the expectations.
Rather than ripping through a relationship, conflicts actually become opportunities to learn more about each other. To join forces in a new way. To build unity at a deeper level.
Many couples believe they can’t save their marriage because they can’t stop the anger. They don’t have to.
Anger plays a key role in healthy marriage–helping detect issues that need addressing. Once anger serves its purpose, couples can then put the anger tool away and turn to other tools for resolving the issues.
If anger, or other challenges, threaten to overwhelm your marriage, call The Resolution Center at 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We help couples resolve the issues. . .and protect their relationship.