Our clinicians at San Francisco Marriage and Couples Center can help you and your loved one navigate the challenges of coping with anger in your relationship.

Our clinicians at San Francisco Marriage and Couples Center can help you and your loved one navigate the challenges of coping with anger in your relationship.

5 Tips to Coping with Anger in Your Relationship

 

Anger is one of the most powerful human emotions we can encounter. It can take many forms, ranging from resentment and seething, to rage and violence. However, unleashing these forms of anger can lead to ruptures in relationships with our loved ones which are often difficult to repair.

 

Fundamentally, we must remember that anger can also be a force of creation and manifestation. The next time you find yourself welling up with anger directed towards your partner, it may be wise to consider these steps to take control over the heated feelings inside of you.

  1. Sleep & Physical Exercise - A life with minimal sleep can make all negative experiences feel worse than they might have if you acquired a solid amount of rest. Staying with a regular sleep schedule can help you reduce the chance of anger arising in the first place! Sleep deprivation is commonly linked to low impulse control, as a lack of sleep diminishes activity in the frontal lobe.

    If you find yourself caught in a moment of anger, it could also be helpful to redirect that anger to a realm that both helps helps keep your body healthy, and does no harm to others. Whether you choose to practice yoga, swimming, running, weight-lifting, basketball, or any other sport or activity, channeling anger in this direction will reduce stress hormones and increase the feel-good neuro-chemicals in your brain, leading to healthier relationship dynamics.
     
  2. Consider your Rational Mind - Though it can be challenging to think rationally amidst an emotional hurricane, controlling how we interpret the things that provoke us in relationships can be a simple key to a healthier lifestyle with our partner. Ask yourself what evidence you have to support your claim; did your partner purposefully intend to hurt you as they asked about the laundry, or could they have not known that what they said was going to hurt? While any upset is frustrating, placing blame will only fuel greater anger. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt in times of uncertainty can alleviate rage and prevent a relational meltdown. 

    It may also be worthwhile to consider the consequences of your anger. What sparked this feeling, and what is at the root of it? How will the various ways in which I can act on the feeling alter my relationship with my lover, my family, or myself? One important technique for bringing the rational mind into conversation with your anger involves awareness of breath...
     
  3. Take Deep, Full Breaths - Regardless of where your anger stems from, it is essential to remember the healing power of the breath. Just ten slow, long, deep and gentle breaths may be all that it takes to shift the feeling of anger into something new, and quite possibly something more productive.

    As your blood pressure rises alongside your anger, breathing tends to fasten and tense up. Centering your breath in your diaphragm instead of the shallow breath locked in your throat can be helpful in bringing calmness and perspective to any relational upheaval. 

    Not only will this practice be healthy for your relationship, but also for your body! Taking this step can help reduce high blood pressure and stress while increasing stamina.
     
  4. Accept Your Anger, Claim Your Space - Anger is often viewed as a negative emotion. However, if we are stuck in a pattern of getting angry and then shaming ourselves (or receiving shame from others) about our anger, then the pattern is likely to continue. 

    There are many times when you will be justified in your anger, especially if you have been treated unfairly. In many ways, it's more worrisome when someone is unable to stand up for themselves against injustices. So love your anger! What's most important is defining the boundary for when anger gets out of hand and hurts oneself or others, rather than serving a purpose to enact change or defend one's rights. 

    With time, you will begin to understand the difference between assertion and aggression, standing up for yourself versus attacking others. And for the times when it's challenging to see clearly, the best advice might be to simply remove yourself from the situation that sparked the anger. Taking a step back reduces the chances of bringing out out an uncontrolled or unreasonable reaction. By claiming your own space, you're doing a great service to yourself and your lover.
     
  5. Understanding Catharsis vs. Creativity - Some claim that unleashing one's anger through an act of catharsis is a healthy and safe method of coping. However, acting out or viewing aggressive content is known to increase anger as well as the risk of cardiovascular problems.

    Alternatively, one of the most mature and substantive methods of dealing with anger is through unleashing your creative spirit! One of my favorite ways to understand anger is through writing. Just the other day I got in a heated argument with my housemate, so I decided to ride my bike (physical exercise) to my favorite spot by the beach (removing myself from the situation), notebook in hand. I ended up gaining a deeper understanding of my own reaction to the situation by writing, and was able to talk it through with my housemate the next day. You might even choose to maintain a daily journal as an effort to ground your emotions within a consistent structure.

    Another alternative to catharsis is to embrace music and dance! Whether you choose to dance to your favorite indie artist in your room, or mosh to some heavy metal for fun, choosing this route guarantees you the space you need to center yourself while also providing an outlet for physical exercise. 

It's important to remember that anger, while not often productive in itself, can be channeled into wholesome outlets that will make you feel alive. Remember that anger is an expression of your fiery passion, your zest for life, and your drive for creation and motivation. Seeking solutions as opposed to confrontations can lead to a sense of understanding, forgiveness, and empathy, which is the true basis of a healthy relationship. 

If all else fails, we recommend that you seek services with a mental health professional at the San Francisco Marriage and Couples Center. We'd be more than glad to help you and your loved one navigate the challenges of coping with anger in your relationship.

 Greg Tilden, AMFT, is an admin coordinator st SF Marriage and Couples Center and 2018 graduate of the California Institute of Integral Studies. As a person who is passionate about holding space for people to find their own inner tools for wellness and self-development, he contributes his work to SFMCC and Amador Institute, Inc. Greg envisions the process of therapy a fun, co-creative & curious endeavor. In his spare time, he enjoys astrology, tarot, creating and appreciating music & art, and exploring nature. 

Greg Tilden, AMFT, is an admin coordinator st SF Marriage and Couples Center and 2018 graduate of the California Institute of Integral Studies. As a person who is passionate about holding space for people to find their own inner tools for wellness and self-development, he contributes his work to SFMCC and Amador Institute, Inc. Greg envisions the process of therapy a fun, co-creative & curious endeavor. In his spare time, he enjoys astrology, tarot, creating and appreciating music & art, and exploring nature. 

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