Anger between partners doesn’talways look the same. Sometimes it boils hot, asoutrage and lost tempers spill all over the place. Sometimes anger appears cold and aloof, punishing with silence and absence.
Either way,ongoing anger is not an optimalsituation or preferred state forstable, loving couples. Anger, left unchecked, can easily intensify, develop into simmering resentment, and get mired in unresolvable contempt. Unhealthy expressions of anger have a tendency to plant themselves between partners and fester.
Couples who allow anger to reside in their relationship, without an intentional plan to address and resolve it, leave themselves open to serious relational damage and discontent.
What Is Anger?
Anger is often called a secondary emotion because it can protect us from experiencing other vulnerable feelings. There is usually a primary emotion buried under our anger such as fear, sadness, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling offended. Anger can give us strength, so we tend to lean towards anger to avoid feeling vulnerable.
Anger is also an emotion characterized by hostility toward someone or something you feel has done you wrong or offended you. It is a reaction to a perceived threat to us, our loved ones, our property, our self-image, or some part of our identity. We all know what anger is because we have all felt it in a wide range of intensity, from mild irritation and frustration to rage.
Common Symptoms of Anger
- Physical reactions, usually starting with a rush of adrenaline and responses such as an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and tightening muscles; often known as the “fight or flight” response.
- The cognitive experience of anger, or how we perceive and think about what is making us angry. For example, we might think something that happened to us is wrong, unfair, and undeserved.
- Behavior, or the way we express our anger. There is a wide range of behavior that signals anger. We may look and sound angry, turn red, raise our voices, clam up, slam doors, storm away, or otherwise signal to others that we are angry. We may also state that we are angry and why, ask for a time-out, request an apology, or ask for something to change.
Functions of Anger
- Moves to action
- Gives a sense of power or strength; makes you feel like you are “taking charge”
- Expresses your emotions or how you are feeling
- Disrupts thoughts and behaviors: affects wise decision-making and interferes with clear and logical thinking, thereby setting you up to regret decisions.
- Acts as a catalyst for acts of defense, from hurting others or self-destructive behaviors, to embarrassment and creating resentments
- Instigates negative feelings, i.e., revenge
- Creates a barrier from others; angry, aggressive people keep others away.
Ten Signs of Hidden Anger
Did you know that anger doesn’t always look or feel like an angry outburst? Here are ten common symptoms that indicate you may be experiencing hidden or repressed anger:
- Excessive irritability over insignificant issues
- Chronic depression — extended periods of feeling down for no reason
- Boredom, apathy, loss of interest in things you are usually enthusiastic about
- Chronic procrastination, or habitual lateness
- A liking for sadistic or ironic humor, along with sarcasm, cynicism, or flippancy in conversation
- Over politeness, constant cheerfulness, attitude of “grin and bear it”
- Overly controlled, monotone speaking voice and frequent sighing
- Slowing down of movements
- Sleep difficulties: Getting tired more easily than usual, difficulty in getting to sleep, sleeping more than usual, frequent disturbing or frightening dreams, clenched jaws or grinding teeth while sleeping (TMJ)
- Physical symptoms: Facial tics, spasmodic foot movements, chronically stiff or sore neck, stomach ulcers, habitual fist clenching or similar repeated physical acts which are unintentional
Everyone experiences anger, but it doesn’t have to be an unhealthy emotion. It can motivate us to stand up for ourselves and to correct injustices. When we manage anger well, it prompts us to make positive changes in our lives and in our relationships. But mismanaged or excessive anger is counterproductive and can cause other issues. It can lead to poor decision- making and problem solving, create problems with relationships and at work, and can even affect your health.