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Understanding What Anger Is and Isn’t in Your Relationship

Couples Counseling

Anger is generally understood as an emotion to an experience of injustice. When we believe that something “wrong” has happened to us, we feel deeply what is often depicted as fiery or hot. If we pause, we can even notice it somewhere in our body. Maybe it takes the form of a pounding heart, or warmth in our neck or arms. Check out this body map that shows where particular emotions show up in your body. Many studies show that different emotions consistently are associated with bodily sensations. Paying attention to that somatic experience is one more piece of information about your emotions and your underlying thoughts. Further, a conscious attunement to your body creates distance between the anger (that you very much feel in you) and the mindful you.

A relationship brings together two separate histories, beliefs, and perceptions. It is not a stretch to say different worlds. One partner may have been exposed to a range of emotions in their families; whereas, another may have learned that emotions, especially anger, are not safe. What makes Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) so effective is that you learn to speak the same emotional language. Anger may be a safe emotion for you, or it may not be; either way, anger in some form or degree is a universal human experience and signifies something important.

One of the most painful experiences is when you do not feel understood by your loved one, no matter how hard or how many times you’ve tried to express yourself. It’s tempting to think that communication techniques are the solution, but many people are very well versed in communication, and still do not feel connected. Anger is a complex emotion that shows up frequently in couples who are experiencing distress for any number of reasons.

Here’s a list of what anger means and doesn’t mean in your relationship:

It means you’re feeling a betrayal of some kind.
It doesn’t mean that a betrayal has actually happened. (This statement does not suggest that betrayals or violations do not happen.)
It means your body is under stress.
It doesn’t mean you can’t feel your anger safely in your body or learn coping techniques to help you.
It means you’re likely also feeling some pain and more vulnerable emotions too, like fear of abandonment or fear of not being accepted as you are.
It doesn’t mean that your anger is not valid in itself.
It means you’re normal.

Sorting through anger can be very difficult and confusing because it is often connected to other emotions too. Anger can be a great coping tool to have some control over your emotional experience when things are tough in your relationship, but more likely than not anger is not expressed productively and becomes a block to intimacy. Therapy helps persons individually and couples together discover their genuine emotional experiences, anger and otherwise, and to be more connected to your inner world and the world you share with your loved one. Learning how to use anger as a navigational tool in your relationship is life changing.

This Post Written By:
Nicole Rizkallah, MFT Intern – Therapy With Heart
8737 E. Via De Commercio, Suite 200
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258
Phone: (480) 888-5380
Fax: (480) 203-2881