Listening to your partner is a key factor in a successful relationship
Many of us try to suppress our anger. Some of us, particularly if you’re a woman, were taught that being angry is not acceptable. It’s not something nice girls do. So you tamp down your real feelings—even if you might be justified in feeling angry. If you’re a man, you’re not allowed to express emotions of the soft, feminine variety so you lash out in anger instead. You protect your raw feelings by being defensive. With anger.
The fact is, anger is as valid an emotion as happiness. But since showing anger is often taboo, or used to cover up other feelings, many of us think of anger as bad. When actually, it’s a basic emotion that is integral to our biology. Our heart rate speeds up, our blood flow increases, and we’re ready to fight off the wolves that threatened us back when we lived in caves.
Since we no longer live in caves, it’s time to understand why we get angry. To do that, we need to listen to our own anger and that of our partner.
Listen but remain detached. When a child tells a parent, “I hate you!” he’s angry. He doesn’t really hate his parent. But he’s momentarily mad. Perhaps the parent restricted him from doing what he wants, for example. And that’s the real reason the child’s angry. If you’re the parent, you probably know not to take this personally. The same is true when an adult is angry with you, but it is harder to be detached with an adult, especially if he’s your partner. When you wonder what causes his anger, though, you can become more detached. That’s when you are on the road to discovering the root cause of the anger. Once you start investigating with sincerity and a desire to be genuinely helpful, you can get closer to your partner’s true feelings.
Listen and don’t try to fix your partner. That is, don’t try to fix him in the moment by telling him to calm down or any such similar platitude. That only says his feelings don’t matter to you. All you want is a calm partner and you don’t care how he feels. That will only make him madder. Instead, try to listen and validate his feelings. That may be hard to do if you grew up in an environment in which anger wasn’t allowed so people who exhibit it scare you. Of course, there are times when extreme anger should scare you if your partner becomes violent. You must protect yourself against any danger. Otherwise, though, listen to your partner and let him know you understand him and accept how he’s feeling.
Listen and try to learn. There’s a reason behind your partner’s anger. Sometimes it goes way back to childhood, when his mother doted on his sibling while making him feel worthless. Sometimes it’s not so deep-seated and easier to uncover. When you work together to understand his anger, you can help defuse future anger events while becoming closer as a couple.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here