Is it really necessary to learn how to control your anger with people you love? Shouldn't you be entitled to express your angry, upset feelings in your own way as long as you are honest? If they really love you, shouldn't they be more "understanding?" The answer is this: even a good relationship can be degraded or even destroyed by excessive anger.
I have been practicing marriage counseling and couple coaching as a licensed psychologist in the New York metro area for over twenty five years. I have seen how problems with anger chip away at relationships and families.
People often seek out anger management counseling because of the harmful effects of anger in family, marriage, or couple relationships. Spouses seek anger management because want to resolve issues calmly and respectfully and prevent divorce. They also want to restore the communication and intimacy that anger destroys. Couples want to learn anger management skills so that they don't have to get mad or have to walk on egg shells for fear of a loved one's anger.
Why I regulate anger in couples, marital, and family counseling
There is a major error that many psychotherapists, family counselors, and couple therapists continue to make. They do not take a sufficiently clear and active position on the issue if anger in their client's lives and relationships.
I also believe that there is an misplaced emphasis on the therapeutic importance of expressing anger and other negative feelings in marriage counseling and family therapy. This often comes at the expense of constructive communications and productive actions.
It is my experience as a couples, marriage and family counselor that passive-aggressive hostility, verbal and physical abuse, and the like are immediate, priority treatment issues. My role as therapist and counselor for the couple relationship or the family requires me to identify and set limits on relationship-destructive behavior and negative communications. I can do this without being judgmental or taking sides. Anger in a marriage or therapy session can be productively examined to provide a treatment opportunity and a corrective experience.
Counseling techniques for overcoming anger in therapy sessions
I believe that traditional methods of treating couples need to be revised when anger is a significant issue in the relationship.
Individual and couples therapists sometime regard anger problems in marriage as merely the symptoms of different problem or of an underlying problem. For example, they may view depression, loss, poor communication, etc., as the priority target (or only target) of treatment.
Side-stepping the treatment of anger of can be a serious mistake.
Another common treatment error is when anger issues are addressed in too roundabout or non-directive a fashion. For example, a couples or marriage counselor may routinely deal with anger or aggression through such techniques like interpretation, reflection, empathic understanding, or re-framing. When these techniques are appropriate, they can have a truly therapeutic impact. However, it would be a mistake to rely on these interventions alone. They are just not powerful or focused enough.
I believe that it is of primary importance to quickly identify and set limits on relationship-destructive behavior and communication, both in and out of the session.
Couples and family therapists sometimes encourage therapeutic ventilation of anger. They believe that an individual may need to express or "release" their anger at someone in order validate themselves or to "let it go." I believe that extreme or prolonged ventilation of anger in couple therapy is not helpful. For the angry partner, it offers slight and brief relief at best. For the other partner, such ventilation of anger prompts fear and reciprocal anger that can further degrade the relationship. Valid communication gets blocked when one partner is continually angry and the other is walking on egg shells, or shutting down emotionally, or acting out in some way.
Learning healthy ways to express and master anger
Anger in couple and family therapy can be shifted to promote understanding, compassion, and success in the relationship. It may be necessary to teach useful ways to communicate anger. For example, it is vital to help an aggrieved partner to move from expressing raw anger and blame to simply stating that they are angry and explaining what one is angry about. The next step is to express the underlying feelings and actions that prompted the anger. This can promote a calmer, more productive discussion and help a couple get to the bottom of a problem. I direct a couple to discuss their issues in order to overcome angry feelings and not get stuck in them.
Healing emotional wounds requires that both partners experience a sense of emotional safety, which is a therapeutic process goal. This kind of valid communication helps couples to feel compassion, open up, and give to each other again.
Sometimes a couple can be so angry that it is better to work with them individually in order to master treatment-destructive anger. I use individual coaching and anger management training, when necessary, to get them ready to work together in marital therapy.
The best anger management treatment strategy for relationships
The best anger management strategy for couples and families is prevention. in close relationships, preventing significant problems with anger depends upon building or re-building a high-quality human connection. The best strategy for overcoming entrenched anger in relationships addresses a couple's specific issues. draws upon relationship, communication, and conflict management skills. I also teach individual emotional self-control skills when needed.
Relationship counseling to prevent anger and heal emotional wounds
Successful couple and family relationships are based upon a
- strong love connection and a
- high quality of relatedness.
Love is a powerful emotion that is experienced by humans
and animals. It facilitates bonding. Human beings have the need for relatedness as well as love. Relatedness means that we need to really know the people we love. Knowing, in this sense, is based upon learning about who they are and understanding them. A mature relationship also requires that we care about, take care of, and respect a person we love.
Romantic love can get a bonded, emotional connection established, but relatedness keeps relationships healthy, productive, and viable. Loving, related partners continue to add value to each other's lives.
An intimate or marital relationship that is high in relatedness but low in love will lack passion and vitality. It may produce frustration, resentment, and anger. A relationship can be high in love but weak in relatedness may be passionate. However, its immaturity or disconnection may eventually result in resentment, anger, hatred, or rage.
We start out learning about relationships by being in family relationships as children. It's not surprising that to one degree or another, relationships bring out the immaturity, unmet needs, and unfinished emotional business in all of us.
Love relationships can make us more vulnerable to dizzying heights as well as deep despair when we feel threatened in our sense of connection, security, and self worth. Roller-coaster emotions, including powerful anger reactions, are a key cause of relationship problems.
Often, we don't know everything that we need to know about how to respond or act in a mature, intimate relationship. We tend to find out these facts of life when we get married or have children. We may be surprised, embarrassed, or defensive about gaps in knowledge or relationship skills. Too often, this leads to hurt, anger, and pointless fighting over "who said what" and who is "right".
Couples may need to learn more about how to get needs met. They may need to learn how to make appropriate requests or accept legitimate demands. They may need to learn when it is appropriate to put their needs second and negotiate differences for the sake of the relationship.
Sometimes, a person needs to get coached on more reasonable expectations reasonable expectations for what is permitted in a relationship. For example, some partners erroneously believe that, when they are upset, they have the right to say to whatever they feel to a loved one. Some partners are extremely anxious. They become readily irritable when minor things do not go as they wish. They control the lives of loved ones through anger or guilt in order to prevent themselves from feeling anxious or disappointed. A partner may feel that it is acceptable to fly into a rage or entrench themselves in a prolonged sulk whenever they feel hurt or offended. Couples often fight about differences in what they expect of each other. One or both partners may need to be counseled on what being in a relationship requires of them. It is easier to learn these facts of relationship life from a neutral, professional third party who can offer a variety of alternatives to the current situation.
Communication and intimacy coaching to head off resentment
Even couples that try to treat each other well can hurt each other too often. Misunderstanding is an unfortunate but correctable part of the communication process. We take the exchange of ideas for granted and tend to talk past each other without recognizing it. When we understand the process of communication better, we can look past a person's words and know what they mean. When we understand how what we say is received, we can communicate what we really intend to say. We can avoid having an inadvertent, negative impact on a partner or family members. Communications skills coaching can make us more sensitive and more effective as a partner, parent, or family member.
Improved marital communication can heighten intimacy and turn a good relationship into an excellent one. Good communication leads to an enhanced sense of closeness. This sets the stage for emotional and sexual intimacy. Mastering anger is much easier under these conditions. It is easier to block and exclude anger through good feelings than to try to manage anger during a marital spat.
Conflict management training to stop fights and resolve arguments
Honest differences are inevitable. Poor conflict management skills can turn a routine conflict into a bitter, unnecessary fight. Conflict management and resolution requires that a couple's relationship and communications skills are at least "fair". In conflict management counseling, a couple learns that their relationship has a higher priority than the immediate conflict, that they are discussing an issue, not fighting each other to win.
Couples can learn that conflicts cannot be truly resolved except by a win-win solution. An important focus is to identify and address one's partner's key concern before pushing for one's own priority. From the start, they have to come to some agreement on what the conflict is about. They learn to stick to that topic and argue fairly until reaching a satisfactory resolution.
The best couples and marriage counselors for anger management
Are problems dealing with anger interfering with the quality of your relationship or family life? Do you and your spouse get stuck in arguments which do not get amicably resolved? Do you or your family seem to "walk on egg shells" in order to avoid triggering an argument? Is communication compromised by fear? Is intimacy hampered by resentment?
When problems with anger go unaddressed they pose enormous challenges to emotional growth, well being and success in a relationship. When couples get caught in a negative feedback loop, they can often benefit from the help of useful third party to get them unstuck.
Anger, like fear, creates special problems in marriage that can go beyond our understanding. Anger in couple and marital relationships can add additional layers of confusion and distress. For example, you may wonder: Is this problem mine, my partner's, or is it a problem that we share as a couple? More importantly, how do we go about fixing this?
An anger management specialist can help to see through the complexities to address the issues more effectively. Select couple therapists or choose marriage and family counselors who are licensed psychologists or other accredited mental health professionals. They need to have significant experience treating problems with anger in couple, marital, and family relationships.
A good couple therapist for anger issues should be able to clearly discuss their diagnostic and treatment ideas in psychologically meaningful and behaviorally concrete terms.
You can learn more about how to select and locate couples and marriage counselors for anger management in Fairfield, New York, or Westchester Counties by going to www.visitdrbob.com.