Many people think that anger management is about learning to suppress your anger. The true goal should be to understand the message behind these feelings and to express them in a healthy way without losing control. The person who can do that will feel better, be more likely to have their needs met, be better able to manage conflict in their life and will strengthen their relationships. However, in abusive relationships anger isn’t the real problem.
If you are involved with someone who has an anger problem, you likely feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells around them. Your abuser wants you to feel this way. They could control their temper if they wanted to. They make deliberate choices to use their expressions of anger as a means of controlling you. You likely give them their way more often than you would like because you are intimidated by how they would likely react.
Why do we put up with this? The answer is that we are only as oppressed as we allow ourselves to be. We get the relationships we are willing to put up with, not what we deserve. Consider how you enable your partner’s bad behavior. Do you make excuses for him? Do you feel bad when she is upset?
It is not your job to try to get your partner to “diffuse” or “control” her anger. Each angry person needs to take care of their anger and find appropriate ways of expressing it. However, if an abuser is getting what they want from you they may not have the motivation to do so. If you allow, excuse or forgive him repeatedly for his outbursts, why should he be expected to change?
While none of us can control another person’s anger, we are able to control how we respond to it:
1. Remove yourself from the situation if your loved one does not calm down.
2. Wait for a time when you are both calm to talk to your loved one about the anger issue. Don’t bring it up when either of you is already angry.
3. Set clear boundaries about what you will and will not tolerate.
4. Consider counseling or therapy for assertiveness if you are having a hard time standing up for yourself.
5. Put your safety first if you feel unsafe or threatened in any way.
We are the only ones who can decide what we will allow or will not allow. We have our own conscience and sense of self-respect to live with. If we find ourselves allowing the “bottom line” behavior we define to happen without doing anything about it, our line will slip lower and lower. Our self-esteem will drop, our partner will lose respect for us and continue to act out. If we have difficulties setting limits and boundaries it might be a good idea for us to consider counseling in order to learn how to be more assertive.
Utilize your support network (family, friends) to get ideas about how they expect to be treated by their partners. Do something different than you have done before when you are bombarded by someone else’s anger. Don’t just hope that the situation will change by itself. Why should it? Angry people get to stay in charge and threaten others by their explosiveness. Set your “bottom line” and stick to it.
Jeremy Skow, LMHC, MBA maintains a private practice in Garden City, NY. Contact him at 516-322-9133, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mentalhealthcounselingny.com.