If you read Otto’s story called “Recovered from Rage,” you saw how his anger used to get lit very easily when he thought he was being controlled or wouldn’t get his needs met.
He also explained what he learned that changed him from occasionally explosively reactive to calm and even-keeled.
What he didn’t tell was my transformation around his anger–but that’s my story…
Where there’s a person who explodes with anger, there’s usually someone who experiences the impact of it.
This person either reacts by withdrawing and pulling away, trying to soothe and placate or even getting angry as well and fighting back.
I generally used withdraw, shrink and soothe tactics and might finally sink into superiority when Otto seemed to explode for no reason.
Now keep in mind that he was never violent toward anyone and if you’re the recipient of violence, take care of yourself and find a safe place.
Don’t accept or excuse behavior that endangers you or a child because you “love” him or her. That’s just not safe or wise. You’re worth more than that!
With that being said, here’s some of what I’ve learned in loving an angry partner…
–Don’t escalate it or prolong it
If you’ve been dealing with an angry partner, you’ve probably already been told that but somehow you can’t figure out how to not get angry yourself when you get caught in it.
You might have also seen that your withdrawal or attempts to soothe are met with increased anger.
When a person is angry, it’s not the time to reason with him or her–even though that can be a natural tendency.
When a person is blind with anger or rage, emotion caused by whatever thoughts are believed literally blinds him or her.
I remember trying to soothe Otto with what I thought was reason but he couldn’t hear it when anger consumed him.
So all my attempts did land on deaf ears!
–Don’t make it worse or better than it is
As humans, we seem to focus on what’s not going the way we want it to go, excluding whatever else is happening.
No one is angry all the time but when your partner is angry, that’s what you focus on most of the time…
Wondering when he or she will explode again and maybe how you can act so it doesn’t.
During the years, Otto and I have had a deep connection with each other and remembering that when he did explode with anger helped me to stop my patterns that just made it worse.
–Don’t try to fix it and set healthy boundaries for yourself
I had it in my mind that I had to somehow “fix” his mood but that never worked either. Trying to please someone who’s angry usually backfires and while it seem like a “normal” strategy, it usually doesn’t get you what you want. If someone is blaming, name calling and berating you in anger, give yourself permission to set a limit on what you’ll listen to in that moment. You can say you’ll talk when the person is calmer.
–Do look at the gifts of the situation
While it’s tempting to lay blame on the angry person and think that if he or she didn’t act like that, everything would be fine…
If you do that, you’re missing out on the gift for yourself.
When I turned my focus inward, I realized that I had a lot of fear around expressing anger because I couldn’t remember anyone in my family as I was growing up doing that.
For that matter, I couldn’t remember anyone in my family expressing any “negative” emotion at all!
Was I sheltered in a weird way?
Yes and who knows if that’s just what I remember and not what actually was true or not.
But the upshot was that I was ill-equipped to deal with loving an angry partner.
I got scared and backed away because an expression of intense emotion was unfamiliar to me.
I couldn’t imagine allowing myself to show this kind of emotion and I’m not sure I even recognized the feelings inside me.
That was totally unexplored landscape for me!
Otto showed me a new range of emotion and in a sense, gave me permission to explore it within myself and not be afraid of it.
The truth is that I had to learn that anger is just one of many emotions we can have when we believe our scary thinking and that it will pass on its own when the thinking calms down.
–Do take a look at the stories you’re believing
I realized that I had made up a lot of stories about what Otto’s anger meant…
*He didn’t love me
*I was somehow lacking in some way
*It was my job to fix him
When I stopped churning around why it was happening and trying to figure it all out…
Slowly I saw that there were things I could learn in all this about myself and it wasn’t my job to “fix” him.
He didn’t need “fixing.”
I saw that when his thoughts settled he was once again the man I knew.
I learned to get still myself and just see what comes up. It was a wealth of emotion that I could just let flow without trying to fix anything.
When I didn’t go into the past with my thinking or the future–just stayed in the present moment, I could open to the fear that was underneath all the soothing and withdrawing.
I could open to what was inside me.
When I allowed him the space to see something new in all this without trying to fix him and allowed myself space to see something new as well…
There was the space for us to fall into deeper love and understanding of one another.
We could both open up to each other in ways we hadn’t before.