Executing a winning strategy applies to you if you are either the angry spouse or the reacting partner looking for a way to deal with your spouse without losing your marriage. Winning strategies are things you can do to achieve the 7 Anger fighter Success Paths we have outlined for you.
In my experience, most people who have anger issues don’t want to have them and feel shame after the rant is over and the damage is done. Some partners don’t really care and go on living as if nothing happened, (an expect their victim partners to just accept that is how it is), but fortunately those folks are the exception rather than the rule.
Out of control angry people are not themselves when they get angry. Most of them are not like that most of the time and in most situations. At work, they may be seen as the calmest person on the work team, or the most patient person with customers or clients. Yet at home they temporarily turn into tyrants. They want love, and intimacy and emotional connection just like almost everybody does, but they go about trying to get it it in the wrong ways. (They feed the wrong wolf-from Step 3). They have developed losing strategies instead of winning strategies.
Five common Losing Strategies for Anger Fighter 1. Avoid these strategies if you are trying to Communicate with respect:
- 1. Needing to always be right. That is because almost all relationship conflict are due to differences in “subjective reality”- not factual or objective reality. Being factually “right” is irrelevant much of the time in marital fights. How to talk to each other about the issue is much more important!
- 2. Behaving in ways that make your partner feel overly controlled by you. Most successful modern marriages in America are based on cooperation and mutuality-not on one person controlling the other.
- 3. Unbridled self expression. Children do this. Adults should not. You may think that you should be able to express anything you feel like expressing at home because you should be able to “be yourself.” Sometimes “being yourself” leads to your partner not liking you very much – or not wanting to be with you. Nothing personal – but you may trigger negative reactions from your partner by “being yourself.”
- 4. Retaliation. I ask Mary why she had an affair.She replied “To get even with George who cheated on ME – I DIDN’T EVEN LIKE THE GUY” Does this make sense to any rational person?
- 5. Withdrawal. Avoiding the troubling issue continuously is like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand to avoid conflict. What starts out to be a pimple may turn into a huge boil if not dealt with.
Seven responses to anger triggers which put you on the path to communicating with respect
When two otherwise rational and sane people get into an argument and turn into 7 year olds fighting in a sandbox, one has to ask how can this happen?
Scientists would say that one or both are responding to what is called their “first consciousness”—the knee-jerk reactions they learned as little children which are stored in their brain. This is called by some therapists “the adaptive child” response – it is the reaction they learned to use to survive as little children.
Unfortunately, sometimes we are married to a partner who just “trips” this knee-jerk response in us frequently. They simply aren’t able to access immediately their adult consciousness: their learned response to the anger trigger which they use at work and at other times. We call this the “functional adult response”- the response that gets much better results.
Winning Strategies include being determined to be a functional adult instead of that adaptive child WHEN UNDER STRESS :
- 1. Talk about feelings instead of trying to fix it alone
- 2. Be warm instead of rejecting and critical
- 3. Develop more empathy for your partner’s point of view
- 4. Don’t blurt out whatever emotion needs to be discharged at the moment…think it through
- 5. Be realistic in your expectations of your partner instead of perfectionist, and rigid
- 6. Get off your high horse, if on one, and see your partner’s viewpoints as just as valid as yours, even though perhaps very different
- 7. Use Gottman repair tools
A personal story
When I was about 8 years old, I can recall sitting in the backseat of our family car when someone cut us off forcing my dad to have to swerve to avoid a collision. My dad reached under the seat to grab a lead pipe which he kept as a defensive weapon. He was going to go after the man who had cut us off. I can still hear my mother screaming at him not to do that because ‘the children are in the back seat.” Thankfully he gained control and stopped himself. The amazing thing is that that particular memory stands out after all these years while thousands of other potential competing memories have been completely forgotten.
Your children are always learning from you and about you based more on what you do than on what you say.
The next time you are tempted to unleash an angry rant in your home. Make yourself step back, calm down, temporarily retreat from the situation, and remind yourself that just letting go because it makes you feel better may be a very selfish act which affects other people in the house.
A renowned therapist named Terry Real writes about treating a woman with a severe anger problem who is also a writer named Jancee Dunn. After her treatment with Terry she wrote abut her experiences in a book titled: “How Not To hate Your Husband After Kids”
“Wheever you feel like lashing out, take out a picture of your children and say to yourself: I know that what I’m about to do Is going to cause you harm, but right now, my anger is more important to me than you are.”
Wow: What a powerful intervention to produce shocking awareness of what you are doing! Maybe you can think of other examples from your own life of how parental anger has affected you and your relationships.
Acknowledge YOUR contribution to the problem
Example: A couple recently came in to see me who were on the verge of splitting up because of anger. I asked who the angry person is. H said that she usually picks on him for something. She immediately says that she wouldn’t pick on him if he didn’t deserve it. He then reacts defensively right in the session. She then reacts to his defensive reaction. He then reacts to her reaction. Pretty soon they are at full scale war with each other. This pattern can be described as follows:
The more he Xs the More she Y’s
The More She Y’s the More He X’s
The more she picks the more he defends and attacks back
The more he defends and attacks back
The more she picks and finds other faults
Most marital conflicts involve the contribution of both partners.
But, the contributions are not necessarily 50%-50%, and regarding “contributions:”
- 1. Sometimes the contribution is in the form of directly being angry in the first place (e.g. raging at partner because the television is broken)
- 2. Sometimes the contribution is in the form of being overly defensive to the partner’s anger or expression of issues (e.g. “i am NOT irresponsible….you are the one who wwrote a bad check last week.”
- 3. Sometimes the contribution is that of reacting poorly to partner in another way (other than defensiveness) which keeps the anger alive or makes it worse (e.g. “ You broke my favorite cup ..you go sleep on the couch tonight)
The contributions may be split such as:
- 95%-5% Example: He is a falling down drunk(99% contribution) who blames his alcoholism on his perception that his wife is a “bitch.”(1% contribution)
- 70%-30% Example: Husband has affair (70%) but after ten years of marriage they have sex once every two years and he has repeatedly tried to talk to her about his frustration and lack of emotional connection. She basically ignores him.
- 50%-50% Example: Partner A and B had to file bankrupcy last year mostly due to Partner A’s irresponsibly spending. They go to marriage counseling.
The therapist has them sign an agreement that neither will spend more than $100 without the consent of the other. B comes home 2 months later to a stack of Amazon boxes. Partner B confronts Partner A in a very angry way.In the next session Partner A uses Partner B’s outburst of frustration as evidence B’s anger issues, without taking any resonsobility for part of the problem.
How does this help?
Acknowledging contribution is a HUGE step in improving communication, problem-solving, and emotional connection around perpetual issues-even if the issues remain.