Ever wonder why your significant other rages at you, and not sure what to do?
This breaks down what may be beneath her anger.
And, also importantly, what you can do about it.
Ever glance at your wife as you’re spacing off thinking about something totally unrelated to her, like what you’re going to eat for dinner, or whether you paid the electric bill or not and she suddenly explodes?
Or you folded the laundry the wrong way again and you might as well have cheated on her with her sister based on the way she reacted?
Perhaps you were 3 minutes late and you felt like she would have you sent off to the guillotine.
And you wonder to yourself:
What is beneath her anger?
How can she possibly be mad at you ALL THE TIME and how come NOTHING YOU DO IS RIGHT?
It an awful place to be – between a rock and a hard place – and you feel totally helpless, hesitating to rock the boat for fear of the tidal wave it may instigate in her. You’d both drown, for sure.
So you bite your tongue, turn away, shut it down, and walk on eggshells.
Until the next explosion.
Here’s what’s likely happening:
- You two are caught up in a pattern of disconnect that is only getting worse as you both continue to stay stuck in the roles you’ve fallen into. The more she rages, the more you run for cover. The more you run for cover, the more she rages. She gets huge and loud and you shrink and want to disappear. It’s a classic “pursue-avoid” / “demand-withdraw” cycle that so many couples fall into that can destroy their relationship if they don’t intervene.
- You know your role – you want to get the hell away from her! Protect yourself and your relationship by keeping things calm. But you have no idea what’s up with her, so let’s look at that a bit more closely:
- The louder and more angry she becomes, the more invisible she may feel [like the many others who commented on this post].
Let’s look at #3 a bit more to understand what’s beneath her anger:
She feels invisible so she criticizes you, and the more invisible she feels, the more she attacks you. That hardly seems to make sense if she does not wish to feel invisible, as all she is doing is pushing you away.
Understandably, the more she attacks and criticizes you, the more you feel that you can’t do anything right by her and no matter what you do, you’ll never make her happy.
If she feels invisible, the solution then is to SEE her. To attend to her. To let her know how much she matters to you.
Because she’s not mad that you’re looking at her neutrally, that you folded the laundry wrong or that you were late. She’s mad because she feels like you don’t care about her. That you don’t see her. That her needs and desires aren’t important to you. That she is not taken into consideration.
Her anger is also because she feels very alone.
The solution then is clear, to let her know that her needs and desires ARE important to you, that SHE is important to you, and that you care deeply about her.
You can do this with words, with actions, with time and with signs of affection.
But this is not a once and done solution.
Because even if you do all the right things, you still might be slammed by her.
Her anger seems omnipresent.
When caught in this lethal pattern of disconnect, you can even look at her lovingly and she’ll still rage.
And you feel out of luck, no matter what. Totally helpless.
The trick then is to recognize this pattern.
As Dr. Sue Johnson advises in her brilliant book for couples, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, you need to see this pattern as the enemy, not your partner.
So if taking a risk and trying something new may not produce the results you’d like to see the first time, you continue to do it.
I’m not advising you to fake anything or shape-shift to appease her.
But I am suggesting you step up and recognize that her anger and rage is likely NOT about how much she HATES you, but how much she NEEDS you.
Yes, she is doing a very bad job expressing this if all she does is yell.
It’s unfair to you as well, and it’s unsustainable.
But if you both can just put your finger on the fear you each have about not being important to each other or not being good enough for each other, you can start a conversation about THAT, which is a lot more powerful than running around in the same circles.
And, let’s face it, she’s not reading this post, but YOU ARE, so instead of hiding from her and feeling badly about everything, why not try stepping it up and really showing her you see her? She matters?
It’s just one theory and obviously hard to hypothesize from afar what’s going on in your marriage without knowing you from Adam, but if it resonates at all, give it a whirl.
Let me know in the comments what happens.