In some relationships one or both partners are basically bullies. They are used to getting their own way by intimidation, manipulation, threats, and coercion or constant criticism. They demand, they order people around, they huff and puff, they make fun of, they sometimes communicate aggressively often with a loud voice or wild gestures. You may feel scolded. You may feel like a child in their presence. They seem to have no thought or concern for your feelings.
In anger-based marriage, there is constant tension in the home. Partners often feel they can’t “be themselves” when they are with each other resulting in lack of closeness and intimacy. Often, partners talk to each other with lack of respect or just withdraw from each other to avoid confrontation and conflict. The atmosphere is frequently one of irritation. Partners stop looking at each other with love or talking to each other in a tone that indicates caring.
Why This is Harmful to The Relationship
Bullying behavior by either partner is harmful to the relationship. It creates an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and resentment. It also inhibits emotional honesty because partners need to feel “safe” (not punished or ridiculed) to honestly share feelings with each other or to be willing to make themselves emotionally vulnerable to each other. Closing yourself off to each other is always harmful to a relationship, creating emotional distance, lack of communication, and often escalation of normal marital conflicts.
NEXT STEPS: How to Start REPAIRING this Problem
On the surface, it may appear that the “bully” is the one with the anger problem. And that may be true——partially. But Anger in relationships, is often a complex web of interactions. Many times it is difficult to even define. Mary, for example, is constantly criticizing Ben, no matter how hard he tried to please her. She demands that things be done her way! Finally, she pushes him too far. He explodes after being patient for weeks with her rants. Instantly he is identified as the one with an “anger problem” that needs to be fixed before the relationship can continue. Now he is really mad and resentful that” fixing” the problem is all on him. But Mary contributes to the angry atmosphere too and needs to take some responsibility for her contribution.
Truth is, we see destructive anger in relationships as almost always caused by contributions by both partners, although the contributions are not necessarily equal.
In some relationships, the anger is much more the contribution of one partner than the other. In these cases, the angry partner has a history of anger problems, especially in relationships. They would have anger problems no matter who they were married to or who they were with. They often have hair anger triggers, they are defensive, and explode (or withdraw) with the least amount of “push-back” by their partner. They never take responsibility for themselves, they are often self-entered, and they almost always see their partners as the sole cause of their life misery. Frequently partners of these folks remark that it is like “walking on eggshells” for them on a daily basis.
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In some relationships, the anger problem is more mutual and shared, even though only one partner actually displays the anger. Both contribute, even though one may not want to admit it. Mary as described above is such an example. In cases like this, we see anger as a combination of bad behavior plus the partner’s reaction to it. A different reaction to each other by one or both partners would drastically change the outcome of disagreements or conflicts.