Are outbursts of anger and feelings of resentment taking a toll on your marriage?
If you long to get back to a more respectful and harmonious union with your soulmate, then I’m sure I’ll be able to set you on the right path. I struggled with and overcame anger myself. And I’ve helped countless clients overcome their anger, as part of helping them save their marriage.
Once anger and resentment set into your marriage, it seems like there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Unchecked anger is a powerfully destructive force that will keep on growing unless it’s stopped, picking up momentum like a car slowly rolling down a hill.
When anger becomes an overwhelming factor in your relationship you may find yourself asking, “Is this what I got married for?!” which makes you even angrier because now you’ve created a cycle of painful reminders of what made you angry. Ideas that come into an angry mind are toxic, and even worse, are usually infectious.
Let me make this clear right now, venting cannot and will not eliminate anger. It merely spreads the toxicity around and creates more drama. Do not listen to the so-called “professionals” who suggest dumping your negative emotions on others. There are far more effective means to address them.
Once anger becomes habitual, which is inevitable, it begins to own you.
Permanently eliminating anger from your life and marriage is possible, but only with a true understanding of what it is and the singular cause. You must then be able to observe your own anger. Next, you must experiment with various techniques and methods until you recognize which work most effectively for you, and why. Finally, you will need to build a strong habit of using those tools. Only then will your marriage be permanently free of this plague.
As a side note, anger “management” should be avoided. That common approach is like having rats in your house, but “managing” them.
In this article, we will answer the following questions:
- What is anger?
- What’s the difference between anger and resentment?
- What can you do when your spouse is the angry person?
- How can you permanently resolve anger and resentment?
What Is Anger?
Anger, most simply defined, is an ‘instinctive reaction’. It is by and large ‘mechanical’ in nature. Anger is the mind’s instinctive reaction to thwarted desires, which then becomes habitual.
Don’t dismiss this definition because it sounds too simplistic. The unvarnished truth is that anger is nothing more than an instinctive mental reaction to your mind not getting its way. This knowledge alone will allow you to dispassionately dissect your own or another person’s anger. Then you will see yourself that this simple formula is 100% correct, 100% of the time.
Notice I wrote your mind is what is not getting its way. There is an important distinction between you and your mind. If you want to conquer anger, it is vital to recognize that you are not your mind. Your mind exists as a ‘separate’ part of you, a possession actually, that can and must be both observed and controlled.
Before you go any further, you must grasp the actual relationship between body, mind, and soul. This science is the key to unraveling the nature of anger. So, we will examine these parts of you in some more detail.
The Human Body
Everything that lives has a “drive-to-survive”; it is innate in every single living cell and collection of cells. Therefore, the human body which is a bundle of trillions of individual cells, each individually and/or collectively clamoring to survive, exemplifies this reality in open and hidden ways. Through observation, you can see how the mind is run by the drive-to-survive.
The singular goal for survival is utterly ruthless. All the cells of your body work in concert to constantly impose their survival-driven influence on your mind. This relationship between body and mind literally begins at conception and continues until the end of life. This hidden influence leads to powerful instinctual and emotional reactions, including the formation of detrimental habits of anger. But, don’t forget that the body, your body, is your possession. You have the ability, and responsibility, to maintain and control it, to keep it healthy and fit, as it carries you around throughout your life.
Having a body means you always have to deal with its constant demand for survival, and its demands will always try to override your conscious thoughts, words, and actions. The drive-to-survive does not care about important traits like common courtesy, selflessness, opening your heart, or loving your spouse; it only cares about being safe, individually.
It’s a life-long task to regulate the drive-to-survive. You can and should master it with the right efforts.
Minds, like computers, are machines that perceive, calculate, store, analyze, etc. They have programs that are always running in the background called habits.
Most of the mind’s work is hidden, running the things we take for granted, from regulating assimilation and elimination to controlling heart flow and blood pressure. They quietly and continuously influence most of our behaviors, too.
The mind is impartial to whether the habit programs you “load” are beneficial or destructive to your health, your marriage, or your life. As labor-saving programs, they automatically perform whatever they’re designed and trained to do; on auto-pilot. They don’t give you warnings or feedback. They just repeat their jobs, based on whatever criteria is included in the program.
The gift of habits is clearly a two-edged sword. Good habits are incredible helpers, but bad ones, like smoking, arguing, or substance abuse, can kill you or harm those closest to you.
Habits are created either consciously or subconsciously. They are trained to perform their tasks primarily through repetition. The more you do something, the deeper the habit becomes. Did you know habits actually form physical grooves in the brain? It’s true.
Due mostly to a lack of understanding, fed by the drive-to-survive, we watch and analyze how others behave but are nearly completely oblivious and indifferent to how we ourselves behave. Also, because most of our habits were established from subconscious intentions, we’re not aware of them even being habits.
In other words, our daily behavior is controlled through habitual programs we neither consciously chose, or are even aware of! Becoming consciously aware of your actions will help you curb bad habits, but being observant of the mind has to be learned and practiced. Self-observation must become a habit.
If you’ve already created a habit of defensiveness to something your spouse says or does, your mind will impartially play the program of an angry reaction, again and again, without a second thought. In fact, it will increase in intensity as the habit becomes more entrenched, and initiate the dumping of even more negative emotions into your mind, and caustic chemicals into your body.
Like the body, your mind is your possession. You have both the ability and responsibility to control it. This vital fact should have been taught to us and reinforced when we were children.
If you don’t control your mind, the ‘animal’ body whose only goal is survival, will control your mind.
The body’s influence is very strong and it literally runs most people’s lives without them knowing it. Most have given up their free will.
For example, when the body requires sustenance, it takes over the untrained mind and starts clamoring for food. Often hungry people are short-tempered, unintentionally angry, or even mean to those they love until they finally get something to eat and calm down. Their life was not in danger, yet they acted as if it was because the drive-to-survive controlled their behavior.
When the body-driven mind wants to add more security to the tribe (protection in numbers), it sends a message to the body to procreate, which takes over the mind. Studies have demonstrated that ovulating women tend to dress more attractively than they would normally, visible body changes like slightly flushed cheeks, and shifts in behavior.
And we all know and joke about how men change their behavior when they want to “procreate.”
The body’s drive-to-survive secretly manipulates our minds to achieve its goals. But it remains your obligation to overrule these instincts whenever and wherever it makes sense, which will also help to change bad habits.
Fear is the underlying energy that sets off anger. The body-mind alliance has one goal, to create safety and security. When the mind senses danger, the drive-to-survive kicks in big time and uses anger to start pumping adrenaline around, putting you into fight-or-flight mode, without the need for any conscious thought. Whenever anything or anyone gets in the way of its mission to survive (i.e. when the mind doesn’t get its way), it reacts with anger.
Unfortunately for us, one thing that gets in the way of anger is reason, so the mind disconnects it. And when the mind is left on autopilot (habits), you don’t think things through.
These unconscious, inner habitual and instinctive behaviors are a huge problem in marriage because your programmed mind doesn’t recognize your spouse as any different from anyone else.
When you are in an argument with your spouse, the same triggers and danger signals as if you were being mugged fire off. Your body gets ready to address the threat by fighting or flying, even if that “threat” is your harmless, sweet, loving spouse.
I hope you can now see the complexity of the dilemma you are in. The body and mind are your possessions. You have the ability and responsibility to control them, but since you haven’t done that, your body’s drive-to-survive presently and almost completely runs your life through the instincts and habits it has created. Any anger problem should be a wake-up call to this unequivocal fact.
You are a conscious entity. The term for that is a soul. You are a conscious being driving around in a meat body, with a computer mind as your faithful servant taking care of 95% of the body management for you.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. But like most people, you’ve been living on autopilot the whole time, and the body’s drive has been steering the mind, with you going along for the ride or asleep at the wheel.
Just because we talk about souls does not mean this is a religious discussion. Your faith is your business, but the fundamental relationship between your body/mind/soul needs to be understood in order to address anger. And I only discuss what you’ve already experienced on some level. Regardless whether you call yourself a soul or a consciousness, the point is you are not the mind. You are its boss and your job is to run the show.
The potential of the soul is untapped by most people. Hidden inside are peace, love, and joy, but these feelings are usually eclipsed by the chemicals in the body and negative emotions in the mind when triggered. When you’re calm, your true nature of peace leaks into your conscious awareness.
You feel the innate joy when you are stress-free, happy, loving, having fun with your spouse, friends, or family, or when you are meditating, relaxing, being entertained, or sleeping. Peace, love and joy are not emotions the mind can produce; they are a much deeper part of ourselves.
We were never taught any of this growing up, so all of us allow our minds to be ruled by the drive-to-survive instinct until we finally pick up the reigns and start taking control. Until then, people allow their body-run-mind to sabotage their lives when they could be much happier with self-observation and self-control.
The bottom line is either you tell your mind what to do, or your body’s drive will be your master.
Now that you understand what causes anger, you’ll be able to see it more clearly in your own life for what it is. You are not an angry person, not even when it owns you. Anger is an unwelcome guest that you can kick out of your life. You are a soul: joy, peace, calmness, and ultimately Love, with a capital ‘L’.
What’s The Difference Between Anger And Resentment?
Resentment is not the same thing as raw, reactive anger. Resentment is a form of anger that is not reactive; it’s not mechanically instinctive like primal anger. Rather, it is more of an emotion that keeps the mind on high alert because of a subconscious fear of attack. Essentially, it is a habit of tense cautionary waiting; as in waiting for the next offense or waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Think of the triggers embedded in your mind as guards on the front line. Their job is to warn the mind when you are being attacked. External events set triggers off, but the outer events are not the cause of anger. The cause is always the trigger in the mind.
Because the mind is hyper-sensitive about protecting you, it prepares the body and mind for all-out war at the drop of a hat; it’s hyper-vigilant! But because the chemicals it releases during anger reactions are power stimulants that have a caustic side effect, minds can only sustain the high alert for so long. Otherwise, the body will suffer from the side effects, sometimes irreversibly.
So, nature implanted a mechanism to take over. Longer-term protection kicks in as the emotion called resentment. It takes a lot of energy to maintain, just like a general who maintains a perimeter defense; it drains resources.
Resentment is like a continual flashing yellow warning light, keeping you on your toes. It is acidic, eating away at your peace and happiness. And almost always, the person you resent is completely unaware of your emotions towards them.
Whether you are suffering from reactive anger or the anger has settled in as resentment, there is one irrefutable fact you must remember at all times:
There is NOTHING on the outside that can cause anger or resentment. It is caused only by the triggers in your mind.
A trigger is pushed when your mind does not get its way. That’s all anger is.
Children get angry the moment they don’t get their way. BAM! The triggers go off. They have no filters or maturity. As they grow up, the little things that caused a child to get upset no longer matter to the adult. How often is it that you still see an elderly person really upset?! Unfortunately, many adults still haven’t learned how to handle their anger yet.
Gandhi is a great example of one who worked on controlling his mind so it never got angry. Even when he was shot he blessed his attacker as he went down and died. He was in charge of his mind. You too have this same essential capability; you just have to learn and practice developing new habits.
What Can You Do When Your Wife Or Husband Is Always Angry And Negative?
People often complain about how their wife or husband gets really angry over little things. They call them over-sensitive, cranky, or whatever. Sometimes their spouse can even be downright mean. Perhaps they were raised poorly and don’t care about anyone but themselves. Since we live in a “what about me?” world, there are a lot of these people around.
One lady wrote to our counselors, (and you may write to them also), “My husband’s anger is ruining my marriage!”. We get it! This is a big problem! However, the problem was not what she thought it was (namely her husband).
Look, no one wants to walk on eggshells all the time or live in fear that a ticking time bomb will go off at any moment.
But you must observe their behavior objectively and realize that the anger is their problem, not yours. If it’s causing you to get upset, then you are victimizing yourself. This common situation can be handled.
Like most people who do not know about the body, mind, and soul relationship, this lady took everything personally. Identifying with her mind instead of as a soul, she allowed his negative behavior to push her own triggers, and her own negative reactions eclipsed her peace and love.
If she were objective, her first reaction would be sympathy for her husband and his issue. She would have trained her mind to not be impacted.
I know it might sound crazy right now, but it does only to the drive-to-survive controlled mind. Souls only love, they don’t react. So, identifying as a soul or a consciousness that owns and controls the body and mind is the first step.
Remember, the cause of anger is always the trigger inside the mind. So, if your spouse is angry, it is not actually your problem; it’s theirs.
The part that is your problem is when their outward reactions of yelling, criticizing, cold shoulders, etc, hit YOUR triggers. Like it or not, you have to deal with them.
When your children are angry for silly reasons, (e.g. you cut their sandwich the wrong way, or you won’t let them eat dirt, etc) do you feel like it is ruining your family? Does their anger ruin your day, cause you to resent them, or to close off your heart to them? No, of course not. You simply deal with them lovingly as they work through their own issues. You hope that over time they will mature enough to handle their anger in a better way. But ideally, you should teach them how to consciously manage their emotions so they can deal with them effectively and become psychologically healthy adults.
Expecting your spouse and others in your life to never push your own psychological triggers is not practical. It’s impossible really. They are there to help you identify your triggers so you can remove them. That’s the only way to a truly, lastingly happy life. This is the process of maturing. Can you now see this?
So with your angry spouse, your job is two-fold:
- You must deal with your own triggers by controlling your reactions. Allowing yourself to react to their negative behavior will only degrade your marriage further. If you can do it with your children, you can do it with your spouse.
- Your job is to be loving. Not a teacher or a disciplinarian as you are with your children. Your role is to understand and support your spouse while they are suffering from and working through their own issue. Recognize your spouse is suffering and needs love, now more than ever.
Lovingly supporting them could mean giving them space when they are angry, or doing things that would be useful to them, such as helping them with their responsibilities. All criticism, negativity, nagging, and expectations from your side should be non-existent. Only positive and loving words should be expressed, but never to reinforce bad behavior.
Next, you could subtly suggest they read this article. Share it by writing something like, “I found this article helpful for me, and thought you might like to read it too.”
How To Permanently Resolve Anger And Resentment In Your Marriage
Sometimes, even knowing how things work scientifically is not enough to formulate an effective strategy. I personally struggled unsuccessfully to control my anger for over 10 years. It wasn’t until I started helping clients with their marriages that I devised a process that not only helped them but finally helped me too. The process is this:
- Pay attention to your mental reactions. Learn to become aware of your reactions as they are happening. You cannot stop what you are not aware of. You can increase your awareness by observing your mind and choosing not to go along with what it wants you to do. This is very important. You should learn some calming techniques to help you manage your mind. You may even want to learn to meditate; I did.
- Use a reliable technique to stop negative reactions and feelings. Start by keeping your mouth shut. But with better tools, you can go further to actually stop the feelings.
- Establish a new pattern of behavior. Redirect the negative energy into a positive, loving response. Using the right tools will, over time, create a strong habit that will automatically stop reactive anger before it starts and allow you to consciously choose a loving way to respond.
This simple process I’ve laid out is what I have proven works in my own life and in those of my clients. This is something you can do all on your own.
To summarize, the process is to first become aware of your own triggers and reactions as they happen, then learn to stop those reactions, and finally turn that positive behavior into a new habit.
Of course, this isn’t a full course on managing anger. This already lengthy article is only intended to be a framework to guide you, now that you understand what causes anger and that you can do something about it.
If you would like to learn the techniques and tools that we use with our clients, I created a system that will take you through the process step by step. It starts working right away. It teaches you all the best techniques I’ve found or devised to control your emotions and mind, and uproot and replace bad habits with good ones.
And it’s so much more than just resolving the anger and resentment in your marriage. You will learn how to communicate far more effectively and lovingly. You will fully understand yourself and your spouse. You will enrich your marriage more than you probably think is possible right now.
My online course will save you a lot of time by walking you through the exact steps I used with my one-on-one clients to save their marriages. There’s no need for trial and error because what I teach has already been proven by thousands of students.
My course also comes with access to special counselors I have personally trained. They are available to guide you according to my principles whenever you need it.
The course and counseling service costs a nominal fee of course, but it is far cheaper and far more effective than traditional marriage counseling or anger management courses.
And one more key point, the primary techniques I teach to control your mind and emotions are available to you for free, in the first part of my course. You can get them by signing up for the free trial. Learn for a few days at no cost before deciding if you want to continue with the rest of the course.
Read about and sign up for the free trial of my 12 week marriage-saving system today.
Finally, if you’d like more free advice for your marriage beyond the anger issue, I suggest you get my Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Marriage, which is available right below this post. It contains the most critical lessons we’ve learned through saving countless marriages over the last 15 years. If you just stop doing the Don’ts and start doing the Do’s, then in no time you’ll be in a far better place than where you are today.
My best, always,