What can I do about it?
My work with clients often comes in themes. Most of the time, I find that my clients’ inner work is a reflection of my own journey and we grow together. But lately, a new theme is emerging. And it is not something I am currently facing in my own life because I am single. Many people are coming to me with the same message. “My husband is angry and I can’t convince him that he needs help.”
Just because I am single doesn’t mean I haven’t lived with angry people. Until recently, I have lived with angry people my entire life. And because I lived with angry people, I know anger. I get anger. I lived most of my young life trying to suppress my own anger, only to have it come out as passive aggression and emotional explosions about small stuff. And unlike society in general, I have learned to embrace my anger. I have learned how to express my anger safely. And I have learned why we are scared of it. But I have also learned that the fear is not based in reality. It is suppression that creates the problem with anger. Safe expression is not the problem.
While society doesn’t love anger, men have been taught that anger is all they have (as long as they express it privately). Their vulnerable emotions have been shamed with phrases like “man-up” and “don’t be a pussy”, which is very traumatic for a child who just wants to express.. It tends to be passed down from one generation to the next by the men in families. That is not always the case, but I have noticed that mothers are much less likely to tell their sons to “man-up”. As a matter of a fact, mothers are often ridiculed for letting our sons be too soft. This is also a part of the problem.
But what can we do about it? Well, here’s the hard part. I am going to tell you what you don’t want to hear. You are mirroring his anger in the relationship. It may be happening on an energetic or unconscious level, but it is happening. Let’s face it. Women are angry. We are mad as hell. And we have never been allowed to express it because while anger is the only emotion allowed for men, it is the only emotion not allowed for women. So where is your anger? It is shoved down inside. You turned it on yourself. You may actually be angry at yourself for being angry. And what happens with all that anger? It might come out sideways like mine did. Or it might be making you physically ill like mine did.
Turn It Around
So while your husband may be angry, I am asking you to work on yourself. Don’t get me wrong, don’t put up with anger directed at you. Set boundaries. Refuse to allow that abuse. But start to unravel your own anger and where it is coming from. Allow yourself to feel your anger. Go to your car, turn up the radio and scream until you are hoarse. But most of all, write. Write about how much you hate this and that. Write about how you just aren’t going to take it anymore. If your anger is blocked, develop a relationship with the inner defender who is blocking it. I can help you with that through my program.
It is also important to know where your anger is coming from. Look at your own unmet needs and how you can meet them. Squelching your needs will only build on your anger. And often, we mirror that in relationship. If you refuse to allow yourself to do or act certain ways, it is likely you don’t tolerate the same in your husband. For example, if you never let yourself rest, you won’t be very happy when your husband rests. You may not show it openly, but energetically, it is there.
Watch What Happens
So start expressing your anger safely and start taking care of your needs (instead of waiting for others to do it). If you work on your own anger, your husband will do 1 of 3 things:
- He will meet you unconsciously. He will change without knowing why. And he will be grateful to you without fully understanding it.
- He will meet you consciously. He will see the impact of your work and he will choose to be more aware.
- He will leave because you aren’t the person he married. That is true. You aren’t. If he wants to express his anger without boundaries, you are no longer for him.
I have experienced all three reactions from others, and in all three cases, it was exactly what I needed. But this isn’t easy work. I know I am not asking you to take a Sunday stroll. But I have learned that asking someone to work on themselves who doesn’t see the point will only lead to resentment, not growth. He has to find his way. You have to find your way. You can’t control him. And he knows that. The only option is to start with you.
There is good news and bad news in that. The good news is you have control over it. The bad news is you have to do difficult self awareness work. But whether or not your husband joins you on some level, the work is worth it. I promise.
*I fully understand this scenario could be reversed. I also understand this promotes some generalizations. But I am representing the subject as it has come to me. No matter who is outwardly angry, use your relationship as a mirror for your growth.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW
*This work has been edited for SJS publication, for the original article, please see above link.
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