Why is there anger in marriage, and what can one do about it?

In spite of the best intentions of partners, anger prevails in marriages and close long-term relationships, almost as if by compulsion. Is there a way to cultivate an anger-free relationship?

anger concept / angry couple fighting

Everyone would agree that there are no benefits to expressing anger in a marriage, and yet anger seems to exist in some form and to some degree, in almost every marriage. Why don’t the perpetrators of anger realise that it is destructive, and hold themselves back? And, why would the recipients of the first signs of anger respond in kind, thus perpetuating such a destructive cycle?

Most people, both perpetrators and recipients, seem almost helpless in the face of anger and, having suffered for some time, either want relief from the caustic “feelings within” or from the results of expressed anger afflicting them. But one cannot remove something that is not understood. So, the first question to be asked is “What is anger?”

Understanding anger

Anger is not just another emotion. It is a unique kind of emotion, because its first incarnation is as an instinctive reaction [though after its first appearance, it becomes an “invited” emotion]. Anger is not an innate part of one’s higher consciousness, because emotions are not innate—they are part of the cooperative system between the physical body and the ego-based mind. The purpose of anger is to protect the physical form from dangers.

When the mind becomes aware of something that suggests danger, it reacts, such reaction being instinctive. In other words, it is not a well thought out response, but an automatic one that is designed to shut off all thoughts and analysis, lest we are too slow to respond to the danger.

So, the first mental reaction to danger is “anger”. The mind perceives itself to be in danger when it does not get its way. So we can then say that anger is the instinctive reaction of the mind when it does not get its way.

The unregulated mind

The trouble arises when the mind, unregulated, continues to lower the thresholds of danger with each instance of perceived trouble. Because there is nobody controlling  the mind, its automatic functions are not guided by human intelligence; the mind mechanically chooses for us what it considers dangerous. Because of their samskaras (values), some individuals have much lower thresholds than others while others have learned to “manage” their anger. Still others, through holy indifference or daya, have risen above their emotions. But know for certain: until we begin the arduous practice of managing our mind, our emotions will rule our lives, affecting not only ourselves but also those closest to us.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and pain is the prod to liberation. The mind, due to the innate drive to survive, is constantly reminding us that we are perfect in our wisdom—what a joke!

None of us are afraid to declare “I am not perfect”. Yet, in our day-to-day existence, we rarely admit to being wrong. Surely you can see this conundrum in your own life. Well, this defines the battle of battles within, between atman [consciousness] and maya [play of the world]. And we generally pay no heed to the signals, until we can no longer stand the “pain”. The pain caused by anger.

Are you ready to deal with anger?

Whether you are a man or a woman, a loose cannon of anger, or guilt-ridden because of what you might have said or done due to anger, or if you are walking on eggshells because of your spouse’s anger, now you have had enough, and you are willing to do the work, to make the effort, to deal with anger. Good for you!

Now, that you understand that anger is a “force” which is not you, let’s see what you can do to control it, if you are the one who is the perpetrator. Alternately, if you are the “victim” of an angry spouse/partner, you have to know how to deal with them as well as your own anger.

If you follow these prescriptions, you will not have to fear anger ever again.

When anger arises within your mind it feels like everything has to give way to it. But that is only because you have not learned to disassociate from it, or see it objectively. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is simple, but it will not be easy, not in the beginning. But over time, your mind will bend to your will, and you will have more and more control. In order to get a good foothold, you should be hyper vigilant in the beginning of your efforts!

As soon as you feel it, stop the mind

Say to it, out loud if the situation allows (the subconscious mind is more impressionable to sound), "mind, stop, we are not in danger!" Be forceful, and do not allow the physical sensations to convince you that you "are" angry; you cannot be angry, you are atman (consciousness). Next, you can now decide whether you wish to go along with the "feelings" called anger, or turn the mind to a more positive view of what triggered you, and a more positive outward response.

Don’t think the feelings will simply disappear. Those feelings are purposeful to the animal body, and your mind has been reduced to an animal mind in this regard.

A human being has free will. You can choose, always. You can choose to ignore the sensations caused by anger. You can choose to observe the feelings as an intruder which is not you.

You do not have to manage the anger [it is stupid to try to redirect it; it will not be redirected into good]. But you have control over the actual energy that created the anger, and this is what you are redirecting by stopping the mind. This is where you have control, and should exercise it.

Some people who have struggled with rage for their whole lives have tried from time to time to control their fury, and have been foiled every time. While dealing with anger, the will is not strong enough. But those same people have had the will to stop themselves from going along with the anger. They have had enough willpower to step back and observe, allowing them the ability actually see how anger manipulates them and their lives.

The next step is to consider the possibilities

If you were a saint, how would you behave? Consider your ideas. If an idea is going to create a lovingly positive outcome, give it voice. Or, if the struggle continues in the mind then you need to back away from there and go someplace where you can concentrate on your mind, watching the inner triggers, hearing all the lame excuses for allowing the anger to manifest.

Your mind belongs to you. Unless you have damaged your willpower with drugs or alcohol, it is your free will that must rule your life.

Marriage is elegantly designed for happiness, and the phrase "marital bliss" is a reality. But you must do your part by feeding your spouse only love, and that is why we address anger in the case where your spouse is not in control of theirs.

Dealing with another’s ill-temper

If you are living with one who expresses their anger towards you, or your children, try the following.

In today’s world there is a lot of talk about standing up for yourself, and sometimes it is necessary to do so. But there is a fine line between standing up for yourself and being in someone’s face.

As an individual you have the ability to walk away from abuse, if only figuratively. That is the first step. If you are being abused, you can shift your mind to the role of the ultimate compassionate friend, who understands your spouse is himself being internally abused by anger.

Don’t show sympathy outwardly, because their mind will freak out, but feel sympathetic, and carefully allow their tantrum to dissipate, internally chanting, "I love you", "I will remain your best friend" and so on. Very carefully avoid their triggers, and when they cool down again, act as if nothing happened.

This will take a great deal of strength on your part, but it works! You will have to deal with your own anger, your own sense of despair, or feelings of self-pity, and so forth. But so what? Is not life about growth? Is not life about discovering ultimate happiness? Is not life about learning how to love unconditionally?

The soul purpose of marriage is to learn to love unconditionally.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

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