Past hurts and arguments are painful, and they don’t vanish overnight. These for dealing with unresolved anger in your relationship will help you break free from emotional baggage.
Harriet Lerner, author of Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships says, “Anger is a tricky emotion. It signals that something is wrong but it doesn’t tell us what is wrong or how to approach the problem in a growth-fostering way that leads to lasting change. I wrote The Dance of Anger to help readers identify the true sources of their anger, and then to take new steps in relationships stuck in too much distance, intensity and pain.”
Unresolved and unexpressed anger can lead to depression – in fact, I’ve heard that depression is anger turned inward. If you struggle with depression, is it possible that the root cause is anger? We know there are many possible causes of depression, such as brain chemistry, hormones, and complicated grief over a loss or tragedy. But we need to be open to the idea that unresolved anger in relationships is the cause of depression for some women and men.
Dealing With Unresolved Anger in Relationships
Connect with your anger. Are you holding on to an argument or past hurt? Maybe you’re like a terrier with a bone; you keep gnawing on it and you just can’t seem to break free from the hold it has on you. You sleep with your anger, curled around it like a teddy bear. You feel it flare up when you’re stuck in traffic or in a long line at the grocery store. Or, maybe your anger only rises up in relationships with people close to you – with people you trust. If your unresolved anger is uncontrollable, read How to Control Your Anger When You Want to Explode.
Take time to get to the bottom of your angry feelings. Before you can deal with unresolved anger in your relationships, you need to find time and courage to figure out where it’s coming from. Sometimes angry feelings aren’t caused by current relationships. Our partner, kids, or family members may irritate and make us mad, but they may not be the root cause of our anger. The root cause might be something that happened when we were five, eleven, fourteen, or twenty. If we didn’t deal with our anger when we first felt it, it’s more likely to come back again and again.
Ask yourself how comfortable you feel expressing anger. “Women have long been denied the expression of healthy anger and protest,” says Harriet Lerner. “Instead, society encourages women to cultivate guilt like a little flower garden. If we’re guilty and self-doubting we stay in place. We don’t take action against our own selves. Many women I see in therapy still feel guilty if they are anything less than an emotional service station to others.”
Learn how to express anger in healthy ways. The best way to deal with unresolved anger in relationships is to learn how to express it appropriately. For instance, if you’re angry at your partner then you need to learn how to communicate with him. Don’t expect him to change, necessarily…just learn how to be honest about your feelings. If your husband is the angry one, How to Live With Your Husband’s Anger Problems.
Use your anger. This is my favorite tip for dealing with unresolved anger in relationships: find ways to make your anger valuable! “Our anger can be a vehicle for change,” says Lerner. “It can help us clarify the limits of how much we can give or do in a relationship, and the limits of our tolerance. It can inspire us to take a new position on our own behalf so that an old dance can’t continue in the same way.”
Decide what has to change in your relationship. The only person you can change is you. You can’t change the past sources of your unresolved anger, but you can deal with the emotional side effects. You can’t change your partner, but you can change the situation. There are things you can change in your relationship, but first you have to find your source of strength, courage, and energy.
My prayer for women dealing with unresolved anger in relationships: May we learn how to cope with unfair, infuriating, unjust, and wrong situations in our relationships and lives. May we learn from the past, and break free from unresolved anger that entangles us. May we connect with you, dear God, our Source of hope, strength, courage, and peace. May we learn how to lovingly express our unresolved anger in our relationships, and heal from the bitter hold anger has on us.
I welcome your thoughts and prayers on dealing with unresolved anger in relationships below. I can’t give advice, but I want you to know you’re not alone! xo
Source of Harriet Lerner quotations: What Selling 3 Million Copies Of ‘The Dance Of Anger’ Has Taught Renowned Psychologist Harriet Lerner by Kathy Caprino on Forbes Magazine website.