Life with an Angry Spouse: How to Cope, How to Survive

Living with an angry spouse isn’t easy. It can mean a lot of emotional pain for both of you. However, there are ways to cope, survive, and even heal anger to find peace.

Identify Trigger Points for Anger

When you have an opportunity to take a step back from a situation, review what seems to have been the trigger(s) of the anger? Are they particular situations, or does your spouse just always seem to have a low-level of anger? Some things to keep in mind:

  • Does your partner have a low threshold of patience in frustrating situations?
  • Do they isolate themselves from you, your children, or other family members?
  • Do topics from the past bring up anger? Topics such as a parents, siblings, job, or previous relationships?
  • Has your spouse had a traumatic event in their life?
  • Does your partner use alcohol or recreational drugs as a way to soothe anger?

By understanding why your spouse gets angry you can have more patience in those stressful moments and be more intentional with your response.

Remember to Breathe When You Have an Angry Spouse

Remembering to breathe during an angry situation can help you remain calm and be less reactionary and more responsive to your spouse’s outbursts. This can help you speak to your partner calmly. Dr. Tara Brach writes in her book Radical Acceptance about how breathing techniques can help slow things down in stressful situations and how to prevent situations from escalating.

Plan Ahead with Your Spouse for Anger Outbursts

If your spouse is willing, consider drawing up a plan for when an outburst occurs. This creates a framework that can be utilized when emotions are up and nerves are raw for both of you. Some ideas include:

  • Having a code word to indicate that things are getting out of hand.
  • Putting space between you.
  • Journaling to direct emotions onto paper instead of each other.
  • Identifying warning signs that your spouse is about to get angry, but is still able to communicate rationally.

Whatever you do, it is important that both of you don’t just disengage and withdraw without addressing the conflict at hand. Being able to listen to each other and not react is a skill that takes time and practice to master.

How to Survive When Anger Gets Out of Hand

When your spouse gets angry are you afraid of a physical situation occurring?  For instance:

  • Does your spouse break household objects when angry?
  • Does your spouse throw things, even in your direction?
  • Does your spouse punch holes in walls or doors?
  • Does your spouse make physical threats to yourself or your children?
  • Has your spouse physically assaulted you, your children, or any other person?

If your answer is yes than you should remove yourself from the situation immediately.  It is impossible to cope emotionally with anger if you feel threatened physically. One resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline–1 (800) 799-7233–which is available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week to provide help.

Consider Therapy to Cope with Anger

Therapy for both you and your spouse, either individually or as a couple, is important for being able to resolve what is going on. In particular, the benefits of anger management therapy include:

  • Individual coaching to gain insight and awareness.
  • Group classes to learn from others in an emotionally safe setting.
  • Finding alternatives to becoming angry.
  • Changing one’s thinking regarding anger.
  • Finding healthy ways to manage stress and defuse anger.

Being able to talk to someone not emotionally invested in the situation can be helpful for gaining perspective, learning new tools to cope, and finding emotional safety.  

An angry spouse can be frustrating in the least, and unsafe at the worst. However, by problem-solving and using healthy coping strategies, both of you can find some peace of mind and not let anger rule your lives.

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