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15 Best Ways to Control Your Anger in a Relationship

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Nearly one in ten1 American adults struggles to control their anger, and one of the most common places we can lose our cool is in a romantic partnership.

Anger is a powerful and fundamental human emotion. It’s something everyone experiences at one point or another. But when it starts to impact your romantic relationships, it may be time to take a step back and reassess. 

In this article, we’ll share insights and tips to help you learn how to control your anger and improve your relationship. 

How Anger Can Hurt Your Relationship

Within the context of a romantic relationship, unchecked anger can give rise to multiple issues. It has the potential to: 

  • Erode trust: Constant anger can lead to a feeling of walking on eggshells, breeding an insecure environment and eroding trust over time.
  • Prevent effective communication: If conversations constantly erupt into anger-fueled arguments, both parties may withdraw from communication out of dread, resulting in a breakdown of dialogue.
  • Create resentment: When anger isn’t managed healthily, it can transform into resentment, further poisoning relationships.
  • Harmful decision-making: Studies show2 that you will take riskier actions when angry. So when your temper flares, you’ll be more likely to say or do something harmful that you’ll later regret. 

One study3 found that higher levels of anger in a relationship are correlated with more violence. You don’t need to let it get to that level to start working on your anger. 

Fortunately, with the right strategies, you can manage your anger and transform your relationship into a more harmonious affair.

Please note that this article is not considered professional medical advice. And if anger is something that you find immensely challenging and you feel like you could use professional help, check out Mental Health America’s helpful list.

Why Do I Get Angry Easily in a Relationship?

This is a challenge many of us face, and it comes down to our attachment patterns, trauma history, and biology. 

Anger is a fundamental human emotion and something that even all mammals experience4,SADNESS%201%20(negative%20emotions).. In itself, anger is not bad. 

When we get close enough to our partners, we form an attachment bond with them, and our insecurities and deepest wounds start to come out. So even if you’re cool as a cucumber for most of your life, your intimate relationship can bring out your most vulnerable.

For some, anger can be particularly difficult to control. This struggle often has deep roots, such as if your childhood caregivers expressed over-the-top anger. It can also be attributed to never having learned healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress or confrontation. Neurological factors may also play a role; some individuals may have a naturally lower tolerance for frustration due to their brain chemistry.

Let’s go into some tools you can use to master your relationship with anger in your relationship.

List of Tips on How to Control Your Anger in a Relationship

Create an Anger Management Plan

Having a proactive strategy for when anger arises can make all the difference in handling conflicts constructively. An anger management plan is your personalized playbook that outlines the steps you’ll take when you notice your anger escalating in conversation with your partner.

This way, you won’t have to think of what to do when you’re blind with rage. You’ll just have to whip out your plan.

Action Step: Sit down during a calm moment and draft an “anger management plan” with your partner. This plan should include:

  • Identifying triggers: List situations or topics that commonly trigger anger.
  • Coping mechanisms: Outline agreed-upon techniques when angry, such as timeouts, breathing exercises, or expressing feelings through “I” statements.
  • De-escalation strategies: Include ways to de-escalate potential conflicts, use humor, change the environment, or show empathy. Use any tools from this article that resonated.
  • Aftercare: Decide the steps to take once the anger subsides, like discussing the conflict calmly or showing affection to reinforce the bond.

Here’s a simple example of a plan of what you could do when you feel angry in a conflict:

A  simple example (step by step) of a plan of what you could do when you feel angry in a conflict. This is helpful when learning how to control anger in a relationship.

Get on the Same Team

Viewing anger as a shared challenge rather than a personal attack can transform conflict into collaboration, strengthening your relationship.

Action Steps: Try out these tips to get on the same team and approach your anger together:

  • When you sense anger brewing, communicate it to your partner as early as possible with a pre-agreed-upon signal or phrase (e.g., “I’m starting to go red”).
  • Whenever you learn something new about your anger, share it with your partner.
  • Discuss strategies for managing anger during a calm moment, so you both know what steps to take when tensions rise.

Clarify Your Boundaries

If your partner is constantly overstepping your boundaries, it can create anger and resentment.

In most cases, this happens because you aren’t clear on your boundaries or you’ve never explicitly stated them.

If you feel constantly violated or disrespected by your partner, you’ll need to take the initiative to clarify your boundaries and speak them up.

Action Step: Spend time alone to identify where to set limits. Think about past situations that made you uncomfortable or angry and ask yourself why.

See if you can identify any boundaries you have that you’ve never stated. Boundaries can be emotional, such as the need for personal space, or practical, like limits on how money is spent.

Then, have an open and honest conversation with your partner. Let them know your boundaries, why they are important to you, and how you feel when they are not respected.

If you’d like a deeper dive into boundaries, you might enjoy this article on creating boundaries.

Befriend Your Anger

You can change how you relate to your anger, but you’ll never make it go away.

Your anger will be a companion by your side for your whole life.

So why not get on the same team as your anger? Get to know it. Understand what it feels like and why it comes up.

Action Step: Sit down in a safe and quiet place when you’re in a good mood and spend about 10 seconds summoning the feelings of anger in your body. Don’t force it; just allow your anger to come up without pushing it away or feeling like it is justified.

Pause and notice what it feels like. Do your fists clench? Does your jaw tighten? What happens to your stomach?

Try this a few times. 

Then, with your eyes closed, see if you can imagine your anger. Does it have a color? A shape? Does it look like a person or a being? And then, from a neutral and compassionate place, dialogue with your anger. Get to know why it comes up and what it wants.

Create a Safe Space to Express Your Anger at Your Partner

Many people have two options: bottle up their anger and resort to passive-aggression or explode at their partner when they get angry with their partner.

But what if there were a third option? A way to express anger at your partner that was healthy and constructive?

One option is through shared physicality.

Sometimes, I get unbearably annoyed with my partner. When this happens, I’ll ask them if I can “beat them up.” This is code for us getting on the bed and wrestling, where they let me win and take my anger out on them by squeezing them and giving them playful body slams.

The anger I’m expressing is real. In my head, I’m imagining how upset and annoyed I am at them. But it’s coming out through connected play.

Is there a safe, loving physical outlet that you can explore with your partner to express your anger?

Action Step: Try playfully wrestling with your partner in a pre-agreed container to express your anger. If you do use this tool, it’s probably best to engage when you feel your annoyance rising and not when you’re feeling rage.  

Regular Relationship Checkups

Sometimes, your anger might point to deeper dissatisfactions or challenges in the relationship that must be addressed. 

Set aside time regularly to discuss the state of your relationship without the pressure of an immediate conflict.

Action Step: Schedule a weekly “relationship check-in” with your partner to discuss concerns in a non-confrontational setting. Here’s a possible list of conversation items:

  • Both name one thing you each appreciate about the relationship
  • How does the relationship feel to each of us this week?
  • Is there anything we are holding back from saying that we want to say to clear the connection?

Get to the Root of Your Anger

Understanding the deeper causes of your anger is pivotal for long-term management and healing. Often, anger is just the tip of the emotional iceberg, with a mass of other feelings and past experiences hidden beneath the surface.

When exploring the roots of your anger, it can be helpful to know that anger tends to arise in these situations:

  • Your partner violated your boundary
  • You feel like you were treated unfairly
  • Your partner disagreed with you
  • You have a goal or desire that got blocked
  • You have an expectation that didn’t get met

Action Step: Journal on the following questions:

  • Think about the last few anger episodes you had. First, write out the chain of events as objectively as possible.
  • What event was the cause of your anger?
  • Were there any other emotions that were present for you? 

Break Out of Your Perspective

Psychologists have found5 that when we are angry, we tend to think in the following ways:

  • We blame the other person (“This is your fault!”)
  • We make the situation a catastrophe (“This is a huge deal!”)
  • We insult the other person (“You are so inconsiderate!”)
  • We feel entitled (“How dare you make things harder for me!”)
  • We assume malintent (“You did this on purpose to punish me!”)

These types of thoughts skew what’s happening. And when you’re stuck in these perspectives, your anger will cycle on itself.

But if you can break the cycle, you can break out of your anger.

Action Step: The next time you feel angry with your partner, see if you can take space and write down all your angry thoughts. Go through each thought, and ask yourself if it’s true or not. 

Practice Empathy

Anger turns your partner into a one-dimensional villain. 

When you bring empathy into the mix, it brings forth the humanity of your partner, which melts your anger away and puts you back in your heart.

Action Step: When you feel angry with your partner, see if you can pause and tell the story from their perspective. Try the phrase, “I imagine you’re feeling ______ right now.”

See If There’s an Underlying Emotion

Anger is often a surface emotion that can mask deeper feelings like hurt, fear, anxiety, or shame. Identifying the underlying emotion can provide clarity and lead to more constructive conversations.

The Gottman Institute6 uses the metaphor of an iceberg. Anger is the tiny, visible bit you see floating above the surface. But below the surface is the mass of the iceberg—grief, sadness, hurt, and anxiety. When many of us experience anger, there’s much else going on under the surface.

Action Step:  When anger flares up, take a moment to pause. Breathe deeply and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”

Share these findings with your partner. Say something like, “I realized that when I got angry about the dishes, I felt unappreciated and overwhelmed.”

Do You Have Unmet Needs?

Anger in a relationship often signals unmet needs. These could be either personal needs or needs within the partnership. 

A personal need might be: 

  • I’m hungry
  • I need more alone time
  • I need to get to work

Studies show that a lack of sleep7,fatigue%2C%20and%20lack%20of%20vigor. (even just one crummy sleep) increases your angry outbursts. Feeling hungry8,-Date%3A%20July%206&text=Summary%3A,irritability%20strongly%20linked%20with%20hunger. is also shown to increase your anger. When your needs aren’t met, you’re more likely to snap.

A need within the partnership might be:

  • I need to feel respected
  • I need to feel understood
  • I need autonomy

If any of these aren’t met (or any other relational needs you have), then you’re bound to get upset.

Action Step: Reflect on your relationship dynamics. Are your core needs for support, appreciation, and connection regularly met? Identify any consistent patterns where your needs remain unaddressed.

Look at Your Stressors

When people are stressed9, they are more likely to erupt in anger.

If you are stressed outside of the relationship, you might be taking it out in the relationship.

Action Step: On a scale of 1-10, how stressed do you feel most days?

What are your main sources of stress?

If your number is a 6 or higher, you might consider focusing on improving the stressor (if possible).

If you’re finding that stress and burnout are things you struggle with, you might benefit from this free training:

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Big, Deep Breaths

Studies have found that deep breathing exercises10 can slow your heart rate, lower stress levels, and calm your body. Deep breaths are a relaxing antidote to anger.

Action Step: Every morning this week, take 10 super deep breaths. Make your inhale slowly and take in as much air as possible. Then, make your exhale slow and breathe as much air as possible.

This way, you can pause and use this tool the next time you feel angry in a conflict.

Exercise regularly

Studies11 have found that people who exercise regularly can better manage their anger. Exercise is known to burn energy11, release endorphins, and calm your body. 

Exercise makes you feel better in the moment, and it makes you a calmer person over the long term.

Action Step: The next time you’re angry, try removing yourself from the situation to run, swim, bike, or go for a brisk walk. 

Seek Mental Health Support

Sometimes, the best way to handle anger in a relationship is by seeking help from a support group or a mental health professional.

Anger support groups can provide a sense of community and shared experience, offering reassurance that you’re not alone in this struggle while also presenting the opportunity to learn from others’ challenges and victories in managing anger.

Counseling (either individual or couples therapy) can offer a neutral space to explore the roots of anger, learn new coping strategies, and improve communication skills. 

Action Step: Check out one of these groups:

Or look for a therapist who specializes in anger management on Psychology Today.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Control Anger in a Relationship

What causes anger to arise in relationships?

Anger in relationships often arises from unmet expectations, feelings of disrespect, or unresolved conflicts. It can be triggered by anything from daily stresses and misunderstandings to deep-seated issues related to trust or communication.

Is it normal to feel anger in a relationship?

It is normal to feel anger in a relationship, as it’s a natural emotional response to perceived hurt or injustice. However, how you handle and express this anger can foster healthy communication or create further issues.

How can uncontrolled anger affect a romantic relationship?

Uncontrolled anger can seriously damage a romantic relationship by eroding trust, creating emotional distance, and leading to a pattern of hostility and resentment. The effects of anger can turn small disagreements into heated arguments and make it difficult to resolve conflicts constructively.

What are some common signs that anger is negatively impacting my relationship?

Signs that anger negatively impacts your relationship include frequent arguments, resentment, a lack of empathy, and an inability to enjoy time spent together. These signs indicate that anger is not managed healthily and is starting to affect the bond between partners.

Are there healthy ways to express anger in a relationship?

Yes, there are healthy ways to express anger in a relationship, such as discussing your feelings openly and respectfully, using “I” statements to avoid blaming and taking time to cool down before addressing issues. Constructive expression of anger involves clear communication and a willingness to understand each other’s perspectives.

When should I consider seeking professional help for anger issues in my relationship?

You should consider seeking professional help for anger issues in your relationship if attempts to resolve conflicts lead to more anger or if the anger leads to intimidation, fear, or harm. A therapist can provide strategies to manage anger effectively and help improve your relationship dynamics.

What steps can I take to improve communication and reduce anger with my partner?

To improve communication and reduce anger with your partner, actively listen, ensure that both of you feel heard and understood, and commit to addressing issues without aggression or contempt. Creating a safe space for each partner to express their feelings and needs can significantly diminish the frequency and intensity of angry exchanges.

Takeaways on How to Control Anger in a Relationship

Anger is a challenging emotion. But with the right effort and actions, you can work to manage it. Just remember these tips:

  • Get on the same team: Recognizing anger as a mutual challenge helps turn conflict into collaboration and strengthens relationships.
  • Clarify your boundaries: Making your boundaries clear prevents anger and resentment stemming from feelings of disrespect or violation.
  • Befriend your anger: Accepting anger as a lifelong companion can lead to a better understanding and management of this emotion.
  • Create a safe space to express your anger: Finding a physical, safe outlet for anger can prevent harm to the relationship.
  • Regular relationship checkups: Addressing dissatisfaction proactively through regular discussions can help mitigate anger arising from unresolved issues.
  • Get to the root of your anger: Uncovering the deeper causes of anger can facilitate more effective management and healing.
  • Break out of your perspective: Shifting away from accusatory and exaggerated thinking patterns can reduce the intensity and duration of angry feelings.
  • Practice empathy: Empathy can dissolve grudges, allowing for a more multi-dimensional view of the partner and the situation.
  • See if there’s an underlying emotion: Recognizing and understanding emotions beneath anger can lead to more constructive communication.
  • Do you have unmet needs?: Acknowledging and addressing personal needs or relationship needs can reduce occurrences of anger.
  • Look at your stressors: Managing external stress effectively can decrease the likelihood of it spilling over into the relationship and causing anger.
  • Big, deep breaths: Utilizing a deep breath relaxation technique can help calm the body and mind, providing a tool to manage anger.
  • Exercise regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity can enhance mood regulation and anger management.
  • Create an anger management plan: Having a pre-determined strategy for dealing with anger can help navigate conflicts constructively.
  • Seek mental health support: Professional help can offer new strategies and perspectives for managing anger within a relationship.

Best of luck in your journey with anger. If you’d like to learn more about anger and how to work with it, here’s a comprehensive article that dives deep.

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