Transforming Anger into Growth in Our Relationships

Most couples get angry with each other. The closer we grow to someone, the more likely they are to irritate us, hurt our feelings, frustrate and disappoint us, especially once the enchantment phase passes—as it must.  I hear day in and day out, “We just don’t know how to communicate.”  That's shorthand for, “We fight like cats and dogs.” 

How quickly small things become big.  It’s human, arguments can flame out of control in an instant, leading one or both to say or do hateful, even beastly things. Some avoid conflict and keep their anger internal; a silent cold war of sorts. Whether outward or inward, unless dealt with in a conscious and healthy way, anger breeds relationship plaque, a build up which creates a love calamity known as The WALL.  

At our first meeting, I always hope couples leave with at least this message: friction in your relationship may actually be a good sign. It’s counterintuitive, I know—so I always need to explain.  While perpetual conflict and destructive anger can break down a relationship (and a person), we have an incredible capacity to utilize friction to awaken the very growth, change and healing we need most. The hot buttons our partners push are exact.  Whether it’s the impossible trait, the unmet need, the feeling trapped or controlled, the fear and insecurity awakened — all these difficulties we wish would go away, well, don’t run so fast. Think of these pesky issues as ugly wrapping around a priceless gift — that is, an opportunity to grow into the best version of ourselves and to deepen the love and bond.


The key is being proactive and not approaching any conflict from a victim mindset. Rather, see it as a perfect opportunity for growth. This empowered consciousness and approach will begin to eliminate a huge component of what makes us angry in the first place — helplessness.  So let’s move on to some concrete steps you can to take when you begin to feel angry in your relationship.  

Do whatever you can to remember that responding while angry makes things worse.  This doesn’t mean suppressing your feelings, but rather waiting till your words, actions and body language represent who you really are, not the primitive side of your nature.  In sum, listen and learn from your feelings, but don't respond in the heat of them. When you take charge and start to look inward, this allows you to switch from feeling helpless and a victim to feeling empowered and in control of your choices. Self awareness is power! One way to unpack your anger is by asking yourself: What is really hurting, scaring or frustrating me right now? What dream or need am I afraid of not being met?”  Journaling can yield even greater insight. Your awareness will help you to rise above your emotions, observe rather than fall into them. You will also benefit from the extra time to remember what really matters — growing within and growing closer to the one you love. 

As stated above, it’s important to feel your strong emotions but not become them. Choose affirming thoughts and actions that will help you feel more grounded, more secure, more appreciative, more worthy, more in control. Many find that connecting to a spiritual or uplifting thought transfers the energy and allows anger to fade away.  You can try stepping aside from the situation, such as taking a walk or cleaning a room, or engaging in mental activity such as meditation or working on a mental task. Think of someone who needs some extra love. Creative and sharing activities provide a powerful expansion in one’s mindset and calm emotions when they feel consuming.  

Spend some time going a little deeper when it comes to understanding your anger, on your own or with the guidance of a counselor or trusted friend.  See if you can identify a trait or an old wound that is being triggered. This is likely an area that is calling for more care and transformation, a gift revealed from the friction. Where is it that it’s hard for you to confront? Where is it that you might need to learn patience? Where do you give others too much power over your self worth? Where do you have fears of being alone or being abandoned? Where is it hard for you to trust and let go? If you want extra credit along your road of personal development, see how your anger at someone else is actually reflecting an aspect of yourself you don't want to see. 

When you come from love, you stand the best chance to grow closer from the conflict.  People can feel the difference when you emphasize the LOVE in “tough love.”  Even if you need to tell someone how their actions hurt you, or how you want them to change, the more you come from love and a desire to help the person and the relationship, the more likely your words will be truly heard and draw you closer.   Remind yourself: Growing closer and more loving is ultimately more fulfilling than winning or being right. 

Once we have transformed into an empowered mindset, we have switched from taker to giver.  Even when confronting someone about a hurt or grievance, we are in a position to offer sharing and caring because we have established a greater connection to our inner being and power. Here are some more specific guidelines.  It’s best to select a good time and setting to talk about the issue and use a language you know your partner will hear best. This takes care. Do not play psychologist. Do not play archaeologist, do not bring up past arguments or issues. Bring up only one issue or grievance at a time. No name-calling, putting down, character assassination, or physical attack. Accept responsibility for your actions and your feelings – stop yourself from the blame game. Use “I” statements: “I feel __________ when you ______________ , because ______________.”  Reframe any attacking “You” statements. Refrain from generalizations, such as using words such as always, never, should.

I know, this all sounds like a lot of effort. You're absolutely right! You are worth it.