How to Control Anger in a Relationship

Published on: 04 Jan 2022
Clinically Reviewed by Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, LMHC
woman yelling at man

Anger is a normal emotion. We all feel angry from time to time. Anger in relationships isn’t necessarily abnormal, either. In fact, unsolved anger issues can result in some of the most common relationship problems. However, if you’re finding that you can’t control your anger, especially when it comes to how you react to your partner, knowing how to control anger in a relationship might just save the bond you have with someone you care deeply about. 

Looking for tips on how to control anger and frustration in a relationship? Discovering your triggers is step 1. Then, you can use some of our tips for anger management in relationships to keep your emotions in check and your relationship healthy and productive. This guide will also discuss how relationship counselling online can help you and your partner.  It’s important to remember that anger and abuse are different, and that abuse is never ok. If you’re feeling unsafe in your relationship it’s important to speak with someone who can help you immediately.

“Taking the time to recognize our triggers, and our partner’s, is as essential as having good communication. When we take the time to patiently talk about our feelings, wants and needs in a respectful way before or after an argument, we can accomplish more.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S

Why Do I Feel So Angry in Relationships?

The first thing to keep in mind is that not all anger is bad. There’s a time and place when your anger is an appropriate, justified response. Healthy anger can be a safety measure to warn you of a bad situation. It might even be a result of noticing things that aren’t fair in your relationship.

Oftentimes, anger can be misplaced. Remember: feelings are not facts. Dialectical Behavior therapy in particular has helpful techniques on emotion regulation and it explains how sometimes we mistake feeling strongly about something as the truth (ie: ‘I feel very angry, so you must be wrong’, or ‘I can’t trust you’).Anger issues in relationships might surface over something that you’ve been resentful about for a very long time. The key to determining if your anger outburst is justified is to figure out if it stems from you not feeling understood by your partner, or if you’re reacting to something happening outside the relationship like a past conversation with a family member.

If you’re taking your anger out on your partner and they have no control over why you’re upset, that can be a problem. 

Let’s say that your anger is a response to something that’s happening in your relationship. What is so upsetting to you? How can you “fix” it? Let’s look at some triggers you may be dealing with. 

Common triggers of anger in a relationship

Several things can trigger anger in relationships. Maybe you’re upset that your partner:

  • Does or says things you find inconsiderate: It can be difficult to be with somebody who isn’t considerate. If your partner continuously does or says things that offend you, despite you letting them know your feelings, it may trigger an angry outburst.
  • Is always late: Especially if you’re a punctual person, a partner who’s always late can be frustrating.
  • Doesn’t prioritize you: We all want to feel important in our relationships. If you feel like your partner doesn’t put you first, or if they seem to prioritize everything and everyone else before you, you may be struggling. Knowing how to control anger in a relationship where you don’t feel like the priority can be tough, but it is possible. 
  • Puts their career or work before you and your relationship: It can be extremely frustrating to feel like your partner is always putting work before you.  
  • Doesn’t share household responsibilities: When the balance of responsibility isn’t there, it’s natural to start building resentments. Feeling like you’re the only one who does the dishes, does the laundry, or takes the dog out can take a toll on even the best relationships.
  • Isn’t financially responsible: Part of being an adult is being financially responsible. When you’re in a relationship with somebody who doesn’t share that responsibility, it can cause anger and resentment. .
  • Doesn’t have the same priorities as you: To be in a healthy relationship, it’s important to make sure your priorities for the future are aligned. Feeling like you’re not heading in the same direction, or like you don’t have the same goals can be disheartening. It can be so frustrating that you may become angry about it every time it comes up.
  • Can’t be serious: Being with someone who has a good sense of humor can be wonderful. It can also be annoying if one relationship partner is met with humor even in serious situations. 
  • Holds grudges: We all make mistakes, it can be difficult when we feel like we can’t be forgiven for ours. If your partner holds grudges about things you’ve done or said in the past and you feel like you can never be forgiven, it might turn into anger.

Sometimes these triggers can also lead to more problems beyond anger. It might even cause your partner to experience relationship anxiety if they’re used to your anger outbursts.

How Do I Work on Anger in My Relationship?

The most important part of learning how to control anger and frustration in a relationship is identifying your triggers and then coming up with strategic ways to react. 

Feeling like you’re in control of your emotions can be a game-changer in your relationship. Use some of the following tips if you want to know how to change your relationship with anger that might be preventing you and your partner from growing together as a couple. 

Anger management tips 

Think before speaking

Knee-jerk reactions can be terrible when you’re already feeling angry. Learning to take a minute or two and taking a deep breath before responding can do wonders for your relationship. Something as as taking a deep breath really does work. Try counting to 10 if you find it difficult to regain your composure. 

This practice can be a useful communication exercise for couples. Eventually with enough practice, you’ll be able to let go of your anger and react in a calm manner that can be more productive and conducive to finding common ground.

Keep calm and say how you’re feeling

After you’ve given yourself a moment or two to calm down and assess the situation, you should be able to identify what you’re really feeling. In a calm manner, explain to your partner why you’re so upset. 

It’s OK to be direct and assertive, but avoid the temptation to be confrontational. If you’re angry that your partner was late to dinner again, using an “I statement,” let them know “I’m upset that you’re late for dinner again. It hurts my feelings and makes me feel like I’m not a priority to you.”

Cognitive restructuring

Understanding how and why we think the way we do can help us change those parts of our behavior. Anger can make us more dramatic and irrational and cause us to say things we don’t mean. By focusing on how we react, avoiding using phrases like always and never, we can recreate how we react to situations. Cognitive restructuring (also known as cognitive reframing), is a common cognitive behavioral technique that helps us turn negative reactions into more positive ones. 

Seek a couples therapist

A couples therapist can help you and your partner uncover the root of anger in your relationship. More importantly, they can help you both work on ways to deal with anger in disagreements or when your partner does something that upsets you. This way, you and your partner can actively work on improving your relationship and minimizing the occurrences of anger outbursts.

Walk away

There are those times when yes, you’re going to be very angry. You might need more than just a minute. A deep breath may not do the trick. That’s OK. Knowing when it’s time to walk away is just as important as understanding what your anger trigger is. Physically leaving the room or space you’re in if you need to may give you enough time to collect your thoughts and try to let go of your anger before you attempt to re-approach the situation.

Humor can help

Sometimes your anger can make situations worse than they need to be. Humor can beis always a good technique and tactic to defuse situations. If you can use that first tip to pause for a beat, you might be able to pull something funny out of the situation and react to that, rather than your anger. Humor can be inappropriate in certain situations so be mindful of how your partner is feeling and tread lightly.

Note: we are not talking about sarcasm here, which can be hurtful.

Let go, and mean it

Just like your partner holding a grudge might be an anger trigger for you, if you find that you can’t let go of your own anger, you might want to focus on being able to forgive. Negativity can quickly push out positive and healthy emotions. Feeling overwhelmed with being bitter can mean you need to think about forgiving your partner for whatever they did that upset you. 

Forgiveness can be quite powerful. It means you can let go, and part of what you’re letting go of might be some of your unresolved anger issues. 

Having a serious conversation with your partner can help you resolve issues and learn to let go. 

Learn relaxation techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation skills are beneficial in many areas of our life. Particularly if you’re learning anger management in relationships, deep breathing exercises, visualization, and the use of mantras can be incredibly empowering. 

Yoga is another relaxation technique that many people who struggle with excessive anger use to decompress. Any time you’re focusing on yourself and taking care of your own mental health, you’ll probably find that you can be more in control of your anger.

Work out

It’s a well-known and proven fact that exercise reduces stress that can manifest into anger. Particularly if you’re going through a difficult time in your relationship, sometimes removing yourself from the situation and getting your heart rate up by going for a walk, run, or bike ride can help. 

Anger can be a healthy emotion, but when it interferes with your relationship and life, you need to learn how to control it. Whether it’s knowing how to control jealousy and anger in a relationship, or it’s any other feeling that’s coming between you and your partner, getting your emotions under control is one of the healthiest things you might ever do.

“Keeping a journal or exercising help release our negative feelings and prevent bottled anger from exploding when we are angry. Additionally, removing yourself from an upsetting situation can be more productive than staying in it when we are angry; we cannot take back what is said in anger.

Know that help is available in the form of individual, family, and group therapy. Looking for a professional when we realize there is a problem can prevent us from doing something that we may regret.

Above all, remember that anger is a ‘normal’ and common feeling; we are human beings. Knowing how to manage it demonstrates maturity and love for yourself and others.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S

Sources:

1. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Adaa.org. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety. Published 2021. Accessed December 11, 2021.

2. Controlling Anger — Before It Controls You. https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control. Published 2005. Accessed December 11, 2021.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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