A Couple’s Response to Anger

Anger was pretty pervasive and somewhat contagious in our household today.  It clearly stemmed from our individual frustrations.  My husband was frustrated because he spent the day assisting our oldest child procure supplies for her school project which is due in two days.  He could not complete his planned projects for the day.  Our youngest child was frustrated because she had difficulty sewing the simple dress she needed to complete for a service project.  I was frustrated because I was experiencing a creative block with several major deadlines to meet.

We each wallowed in our individual anger until my husband began to throw out not so subtle sarcastic remarks.  Our youngest child retreated to the study to read, avoiding her sewing task without asking for help.  Our oldest stayed in her room waiting for dad to take her to another store.  I decided to ignore all of them hoping to find my flow.

Ignoring it all did not work.  My husband started a conversation with me by making a comment about our oldest child’s last minute requests.  I responded, thinking I was expressing agreement.  He was angry; he heard what I said, but he rejected it.  He wanted to be angry.  This annoyed me because I was trying to be empathetic to him and fair to our child.  I did not want to be angry.  His rejection of my attempts annoyed me. 

Our exchange could have turned into an ugly argument. Fortunately it did not, this time.  We practiced a method that we’ve used through the years that allowed each of us to regroup.  It is as follows:

Controlled our own anger and our own responses.

Acknowledged our own frustrations.

Empathized with each other’s feelings.

Gave each other space to fully examine the cause of our individual frustrations.

Focused on a using that energy in a positive manner.  (We helped our children with their projects.)

If needed, we would have calmly discussed the interaction at a later time.

This method works for us when we allow ourselves to use it.  It enables us to strengthen our relationship by communicating our feelings appropriately.  It also presents a model that our children may use as they mature.

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