Personal story: My anger wasn’t serving me the way I thought it was

Have you ever experienced living with regrets, shame, or guilt after expressing anger?

Have you then wondered why this was the case?

Let me share with you how I realized that the way I expressed my anger wasn’t serving me as I thought.

Years ago, I was in a relationship where I was not happy. For personal reasons, I insisted on staying and was unable to make the decision to leave.

“I love her,” I would tell myself to justify my decision. But the reality was, even though I genuinely loved this woman, I could not find peace in the relationship. We had a bipolar dynamic, with incredibly invigorating highs followed by significant crises that I never saw coming, and this was a daily occurrence. I was confused because I was not used to living in such chaos.

The majority of our arguments were related to money. She wanted to replicate the traditional model of a stay-at-home mom taking care of the children, even though we didn’t have any. I wanted to build a modern couple’s life where both partners cooperate and share responsibilities and resources according to their needs. We clearly did not agree.

I had to regularly reiterate my request that she find a job to at least cover her minimal needs, but she resisted, and I was left alone with my needs and my anger. When she finally decided to do it, the money slipped through her fingers, and I still ended up having to take on more of the financial burden than I was comfortable with. Added to this was a significant mindset difference related to spending. I was very frugal, planning the budget out of financial insecurity. She, on the other hand, didn’t plan anything in advance and made impulsive and spontaneous purchases. I remember that leaving the grocery store, the bill often included more items bought on a whim than those on the list, which also fueled my anger. I felt this jeopardized the future of our relationship. Another issue was my ex-partner’s tendency to tell me what I needed to hear to calm down but without taking the actions I so desperately wanted to see. So, nothing changed; it was an unsatisfying status quo.

At the time, I was limited in my ability to navigate my emotions and accept them responsibly. I told myself, “it will pass”; “she will eventually understand that we can’t build a solid couple with this kind of behavior”… I rationalized my suffering. In reality, I felt suffocated and was unable to express myself to be heard or to ask for help to get out of this space of suffering that I was imposing on myself by choosing to stay, while resenting my partner for it. Thus, my anger grew, and I could no longer control it. I began to have outbursts at every little thing because I was overwhelmed, and at night, my nervous system was so overloaded that I would jump in my sleep, to the point of not touching the mattress anymore.

This dynamic lasted several years, and I didn’t understand why I was stuck in it or how to get out. I was living “Groundhog Day”.

A serious man with glasses and a beard under soft lighting, symbolizing a moment of contemplation or internal struggle with anger.

The event that led me to realize I needed to work on my anger was these words from my partner:

“You’re sick, you need help.”

Oof! Even now I had to take a few minutes to calm down after writing those words because it’s still a sensitive subject, even though it happened over 15 years ago. I completely disagreed with that statement. I was angry and needed that anger to be acknowledged in my relationship to rectify situations that were unsatisfactory to me. But, at that moment, I understood that I was not being heard, no matter how loudly I yelled or slammed my fist on the table to show my anger. In fact, I realized that the more I amplified my expression of anger, the more it worked against me.

After coming to this realization, I immediately found a therapist to help me work on expressing my anger. By sharing this story, I want to emphasize the importance of taking responsibility for the impact our expression of anger has on our relationships, especially our romantic relationships. How often do we see a couple’s conflicts escalate because one partner’s anger is not well managed, even though the source of the conflict is often minor.

Taking responsibility for our actions and their consequences is an essential step to satisfying our needs. Before realizing that my way of expressing anger was not helping me, I was convinced that the more forcefully I expressed it, the more I would be listened to, understood, and respected by my partner. I was far from reality, but I gradually learned, through therapy, to master this anger and to change my behavior.

Realizing that my anger was penalizing me in its current form of expression, I refused to express it in front of her in the future. I wasn’t yet decided on breaking up at that moment. So, I began to think about strategies to continue until I could see clearly. The one that helped me the most was committing to be aware when my anger was triggered and to acknowledge it. Then, I committed to saying nothing as long as I was in that state. To stay connected with my partner in those moments, I visualized roots coming out of my feet and anchoring into the ground to give me stability. I would then cross my arms to show my closure to what was not suitable for me and look her straight in the eyes, all while connecting to the energy of my anger. This was very effective, and I quickly saw my partner’s behavior change in turn.

This lasted a year before I made the decision to leave the relationship. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is that choosing a partner is crucial for developing a harmonious relationship. I took my time to choose a partner who shares my values and has a compatible temperament.

In my current relationship, which is far more harmonious, I no longer accumulate anger to avoid an explosion. When I express it, I always ensure to respect my partner and to talk about my experience and needs. If, unfortunately, I express it defensively, I do not hesitate to take responsibility and apologize to her afterwards.

It’s important to say that anger itself is a very useful emotion in our relationships. It serves to make us heard and to assert ourselves with conviction, which is often necessary for developing congruently with our needs. Anger is thus an energy that allows us to assert ourselves.

It is often experienced when we believe that there are important things for us to correct in a relationship and that we need something to change. However, it can also have the opposite effect if it is not mastered or channeled correctly. When it is not handled consciously and directed to meet our needs, it risks destroying us. And this applies to both men and women. It’s up to you to decide how you use it.

In conclusion, here are some tips to help you recognize when it might be important to take a step back and, probably, to consult a professional to help you better manage your anger:

  • When you start to see that your anger has a negative impact on your relationships. This realization can come in different ways, such as a loved one talking to you about it directly, or simply when you notice that the expression of your anger does not bring the desired results.
  • When, after expressing your anger, you start to experience painful emotions like shame or guilt. Take the time to acknowledge these emotions and ask yourself if your anger serves you the way you would like.
  • When you find yourself facing unpleasant consequences in various contexts, such as disciplinary measures at work or friends no longer inviting you to events because of a moment where you expressed your anger publicly and inappropriately.

If you think you need to work on your anger, I strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment with me so we can explore your relationship with anger. Having been through it myself, I am convinced I can help guide you in the right direction.

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article written by:
Frédéric Labelle
TRA, ANDC® Relationship Therapist
Services
  • Adult Individual Therapy

  • Polyamory and Non-Conventional Relationship Therapy

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