A common statement about anger in a love relationship is that “you have to talk about it.” That is very true, but I would like to clarify that statement:
“Don’t talk about your anger while you’re still angry.”
The more common that anger and resentment are in your relationship, the more true this is. For example, if you and your spouse don’t usually get upset with each other, talking while angry might not matter much. But if resentments are building in the relationship, it starts to become very important to hold off talking about it until you have calmed down somewhat.
Why is this so important? For a relationship to work, it is essential for most interactions to be positive, or at least non-negative. Trying to explain your feelings while still angry makes it likely you will say something hurtful, yell at your partner, or fight unfairly.
So let’s review three tips on calming down before talking about what has made you angry:
- Take a few minutes away. It’s much easier to calm yourself if you get out of the situation for a few minutes. Take a walk or go to another room. Give yourself a little breathing room to get more relaxed before talking about it.
- Plan what you want to say. You don’t have to spend an hour on this, but take a minute to clarify the main point you want to make. Then make an effort to stick to that one point. This will help to keep you from expressing resentments from months or years ago, which will not help.
- Don’t answer immediately. When you actually talk about a problem with a spouse, it’s easy to get elevated very quickly, and people feel pressured to answer questions or accusations immediately. It is usually better to take a moment to think before responding. This can allow you to hear your response in your head and decide if it’s going to be helpful or harmful to getting what you want.
Bonus tip: If they ask “what’s wrong”, don’t say “nothing” or “I’m fine” (they’ll probably know you’re lying). It’s usually helpful to say something more like “Some things are bothering me, but I’d like to take a walk and think a bit before I talk about them.” Or something similar. This way you have acknowledged what your partner senses, but also allow yourself the space to get calmer before talking it out.
Use these tips when you have to talk about something that made you angry, and you will be more likely to get good results, rather than becoming upset and angry, and creating more resentment in your relationship.