How To React (Constructively) To An Angry Partner

Frustration and anger are unavoidable in any relationship. The point is not to try and avoid them altogether, but to change the way we demonstrate and verbalize these feelings.

Express compassion for your partner while maintaining compassion for yourself.

If you’re in a committed relationship with someone you believe has a short fuse, or quick temper, it usually manifests in two ways:

Passive-Aggression: “I’m not going to tell you how I feel, I’m just going to find a way to hurt you or break a promise to you.” Verbal Aggression: “Instead of communicating with you about how I feel, I’m going to lash out with an insult, a criticism, or put all the blame on you.”

***If your partner demonstrates physical aggression, please address these issues with a professional. You can call the hotline 1-800-799-SAFE for assistance.*

Reacting Constructively
According to licensed therapist Dianne Grande Ph.D., compassion and assertiveness are the two best responses to your partner’s display of anger or aggression. Although it is easy to protect yourself by launching a counter-attack, that will only escalate the situation. Take a breath and only respond when you are sure you can do so calmly.

Compassion & Assertion
Express compassion for your partner (“I know this is difficult for you…”) while maintaining compassion for yourself (refusal to take on blame or not accepting their criticisms of you) and approach the issue from a point of love and understanding.

Express assertiveness by speaking in clear, direct sentences. Instead of:

“You always blame me for this. Why can’t you ever, just once, realize that you take some responsibility here?”

Try this:

“It’s not fair of you to blame me. I don’t want to point fingers, I want to try and think about how we can get to a solution.”

Anger Typically Comes From Fear
Remember that although you have a partner who may demonstrate verbal aggression, that does not make them an aggressive person. Often, their reactions are triggered by what they perceive to be signs of danger (especially if they lived through a traumatic childhood). They protect themselves from this danger with narcissism (taking none of the responsibility) or defensiveness (lashing out at you). But at their core, they are scared. Scared of losing you, being vulnerable in front of you, or letting you to think less of them. This insight by no means excuses their behavior, but it does give you understanding into why they have developed those tactics in the first place.

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