In general, Maria has a happy marriage, but every now and then, her husband can be a little scary. Today, YourLifeChoices’ relationship expert and clinical psychologist, Jo Lamble, offers Maria advice on how to handle her situation.
My husband is great when things are going well, but when things get tough, he can turn quite angry. I love him but sometimes I’m scared of being around him when he loses it. And worse still, he can get mad without notice. What can I do about it?
A. It’s hard to confront someone about their anger because they can get even angrier! Is there a family history of anger on your husband’s side? He may have grown up with a mother or father with a short fuse. Understanding his own family background can decrease the tendency to take his outbursts personally, but they must still feel unpleasant and scary at times.
If you feel in danger in any way, it’s essential that you remove yourself from the situation – just walk away. Your safety is the most important thing. But if you don’t feel in any danger, there is something you could try. What I’m going to suggest may sound bizarre. I would encourage you to empathise with him. As soon as you see the first sign of anger, give him some empathy. I know that you said that he can get angry without notice, so the first sign may be the explosion itself. When you see that first sign, say what you see. For example: “I can see that you’re angry” or “I can see that you’re upset”. Then try to identify what may have made him angry: “I know you find it so annoying when you’ve tried to make that work and it doesn’t”, or “It’s so frustrating when so and so does that, isn’t it”?
When we feel understood, we often feel calmer and more able to control our emotions. You don’t have to say that it’s all right for him to lose his temper, but you can show him that you are trying to understand what’s going on for him. Hopefully, he will then be able to hear you when you say how frightening and unpleasant it is to be around him when he loses it. When we start a conversation with empathy, what we say next is usually better received.
If this new approach doesn’t work and he doesn’t calm down, then you may have to give him an ultimatum – either he gets help for his anger or your relationship is in serious trouble.
If you have a question for Jo Lamble, email email@example.com