I feel angry a lot at the moment. I occasionally feel I am going to lose it at work or on the tube, but I mostly take it out on my boyfriend. We have been together three years and moved in together five months ago. I have never been a particularly tidy or house-proud person, but if I walk into the bedroom and see his clothes or a towel thrown on the floor, I just feel this fury. I don’t think he even expects me to pick things up after him, but I do, and then I am angry with him for “making me” do it and I shout at him in a rage. After the row, when I have calmed down I always think my reaction was out of proportion, and I am scared I am going to lose him because of my temper. I really love him, and think we have a good relationship, but I just see red and cannot seem to control my anger. What can I do? Marita, 27, Queens Park
First of all, it’s important to say that even the most loving of relationships will involve some conflict and anger. And anger is there for a reason – to prompt you to sort things out that you don’t feel good or comfortable about.
It is quite likely that your fury isn’t about the blinking socks, it’s more likely to be about how your partner appears to threaten or ignore your needs and desires. It is also possible that you are projecting something from your past. For example, if, in your childhood, you were the sibling who was always relied upon to look after others when you see something that needs to be done now that expectation of how you should be gets projected on to it.
So when you see things that need picking up, there is the unconscious assumption that you are being put upon. Again! And that you have to do this in order to get the love and affection you crave. It is hard for you not to collude with that childhood role, but then your adult self feels angry about it, which is why it feels out of proportion to you. The anger may not be proportional to the socks on the floor but it is proportional to that feeling of having to behave a certain way in order to feel loved and secure.
The good news is: that once you bring the underlying causes of your anger to light, you can begin to regulate your feelings around them and not have the fury triggered all the time. Anger management therapy is an excellent exercise to help identify triggers and teach you how to regulate your response.
Meanwhile, when it does get triggered, you could try:
- some relaxation techniques such as concentrating on your breathing, or picturing peaceful scenes.
- to tone down the drama. For example if you find yourself thinking or saying dramatic things such as “you ALWAYS do such and such!!!” try to do a reality check and rephrase it if that is not accurate. Aim to be rational.
- be solution focused. The anger is there to help you to work things out. So… try to work them out. What could make things better? How can you resolve this?
- slow down and listen. You may have jumped to a conclusion so it is important to be aware of that and learn what his intention actually was
Because the anger is mostly arising at home and is often directed at your partner, it would be good to also work on your communication as a couple. Good communication can help you resolve problems before your anger escalates. It may also have the beneficiary side effect that he might pick up after himself a bit more and you can both get on with enjoying sharing your new home together.