I used to be an arrogant nagger. I loved to fight with my wife mercilessly. But then, the tables turned.
Some women compare living with an angry husband to living by an active volcano. One always lives in a constant state of alertness—always waiting for something to blow up and splatter molten lava everywhere. Even a small outburst can immediately throw one off-balance and ruin a perfectly lovely day. The one big difference between a husband and a volcano is that you can more easily move away from one of them.
However, a husband is also more manageable than a volcano. You can at least somewhat prepare yourself to deal with your husband to whom you've committed your life and love. I'd like to share a few things about anger from a guy's perspective, based on my own past and actions. Because, well, no one knows men better than men—after all, dogs know dogs best.
The following advice is based on the assumption that your husband's anger is directed at you, and not a politician or the electricity bill. However, for the advice to be effective, it may require you to shift your own mental perspective and, often times, your ego.
It is essential you do what is best for both of you. So, if you are ready to arm yourself with a new mindset and learn helpful skills, then read on.
Why Is My Husband So Mean to Me?
There are many reasons why your husband treats you poorly and gets angry with you for no reason. Some of these reasons have to do with underlying mental and physical issues that are not being addressed while other factors are environmental.
- Low testosterone. While many people associate high levels of testosterone with heightened levels of anger, that behavior is associated with the abuse of steroids, not natural testosterone production. Studies have shown that men with low levels of testosterone are more irritable and prone to mood swings. Environmental factors such as diet and sleep quality can have an impact on testosterone levels. Many men suffer from low testosterone, and it commonly goes undiagnosed.
- Low serotonin. One of the key neurotransmitters in our brain, serotonin, plays a role in emotional and mental health. If we have too little of it, we become irritable and unhappy. Much like testosterone, eating and sleeping habits can play a big role in determining serotonin levels.
- High stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can lead to irritability as well as sleep and cognition problems. If your husband is experiencing severe stress at work and is not sleeping and eating properly, the high levels of cortisol can turn him into a very different person.
- Loss of male identity and purpose. The constant grind of your husband attempting to live up to some impossible masculine ideal can wear him down. A single-minded focus on job success and earning large amounts of money can leave him feeling stressed, isolated, and lonely. He may feel that, in comparison to others, he is inadequate, and these feelings can manifest themselves in angry outbursts.
- Unaddressed emotional trauma. It is also possible that your husband is dealing with some unresolved emotional issues. By trying to suppress these emotional wounds, he becomes angry and irritable.
Mental Approach for Dealing With an Angry Husband
Here are some steps to follow when it comes to handling your husband. Try to always take a calm and relaxed approach to the conflicts. It is very easy for the situation to get out of hand if you both get angry with each other.
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- Don’t be afraid. Don't fear the anger itself. Know that anger stems from a general lack of real power. Often, it's because one doesn't have control over one’s situation. It helps to look at it as a baby’s cry, rather than a lion’s roar.
- Reflect on your actions. Think about whether you played any role in triggering this anger. It pays to be honest with yourself here. If you did play a role in escalating the conflict, this will require an approach of taking ownership of your actions and maybe apologizing for them if the situation calls for it. However if you didn't contribute to his anger, then your priority shifts to showing him where he misunderstood you, but not now.
- Know that anger is a habit. Many times, a man's anger is simply a condition—a habit triggered by the most trivial events. It’s not your fault that he has a short fuse, no matter how he may try to unintentionally (or intentionally) brainwash you into believing so. His words and actions are his own responsibilities, so never take the blame for what he does or says.
- Don't try to take the reins. Don't try to control your husband's anger. First things first with this, don't focus on trying to change him, because you can't. Only he can. All you can do is control how you react to it and what it does to you on your end. In other words, he can spit fire, but you can shield yourself from letting it burn you.
- Anger is a form of great suffering. When a man abuses a woman, he abuses himself too. Initially, anger makes a man feel powerful and in control, but it slowly burns and consumes him from within. Eventually, that stereotypical sense of "manliness" has a boomerang effect on the man's physical and spiritual health, and he agonizes a great deal without ever acknowledging or letting it show. This results in a vicious cycle. If you can see it for what it is then things can seem a bit less personal and more of a lesson about the causes of human suffering.
- Anger is a weakness. Despite how it is often portrayed in our culture, anger is not a strength—it is a weakness. My spiritual teacher has a saying I really like on this topic, "Big dogs don't bark. They don't need to." Strong and confident men don't need to bark, only the insecure and fearful ones do. The real question should be—what is he hiding behind his anger?
- Humor is your best protector. When you're in a serious moment of witnessing your husband's anger, remember that laughter is the best medicine for both you and him. Think about some things that make you laugh. Here, I'll share with you one of my favorite jokes ever: "God created a man and said to him: 'Listen, I gave you two wonderful organs that will give you the ability to think and benefit the world with: a brain and a penis. But I have to admit there could be a design flaw. Very likely, there will not be enough blood flow to share between them at the same time.'"
Techniques to Deal With a Husband Who Has Temper Issues
- Don't put fuel into the fire. Anger has an important trait: it’s temporary. So let him be angry by himself and know that he will calm down eventually. If you put more fire into his fire, it may last for more hours or even days than it normally would have. Remember, his anger will pass but what you say to each other while arguing in the heat of the moment may leave scars forever.
- Wait until he's calmed down. Address his anger when he's more rational. Don’t be surprised that your husband is still angry, even when everything went according to his wish. Understand that the body is an energy system and that it takes time for that energy to settle. Usually, it takes at least 20 minutes for the adrenaline's effect to die down. When he's calm, address his irrational behavior.
- Set your boundaries. Set them and stick to them. The biggest mistake I see others make often is that they do not clearly define what they will be willing to tolerate. Setting boundaries and making them known to your husband is one of the most effective anger management techniques around the house.
- Pick your battles. The greatest generals know to only fight the battles they can win. They don’t waste their resources on the ones that they can’t. The fewer battles you fight, the more powerful the ones you decide to engage in will be. Not only will they pack a larger punch, but you will be more likely take your husband by surprise and win the ones that really matter to you. Of course, it's not about winning or losing. Rather, it's about being mindful of what issues are worth tackling vs. those that just need to blow over.
- Do not tolerate disrespect. This especially goes for a condescending and dismissive attitude. It’s not constructive for him, let alone for you. From a guy's perspective: a man will only mistreat a lady when no one challenges his behavior. If he knows he can get away with it, he'll say hurtful things to you to boost his ego over and over. It's a nasty business. This may sound a bit harsh, but as the old saying goes: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." So if your husband treats you like crap more than once, it's on you to put a stop to it. You can do this by letting it be known that you don't tolerate such disrespect from a man who made a vow to love you for the rest of his life. If you take the abuse over and over, you are allowing it and letting him believe it's okay. Don't tolerate this: set your boundaries.
- Apologize when needed. "I'm sorry." This one is such a common sense step that it’s ridiculous to even mention it here. However, it bears repeating: if you clearly played a role in escalating the conflict, then simply take responsibility for it and say "I'm sorry." Nothing melts an angry heart faster like a sincere apology. Make sure it's sincere, though and the apology is not followed by a "but." For example, "I'm so sorry to make you upset, but you earned it by leaving the dishes." If you use "but" then you negate the apology.
- Diet matters. What is your husband eating? Is it a lot of junk food? The importance of a good diet for good mental health cannot be stressed enough. The cliché "we are what we eat," really does ring true here. If he is consuming nutrient-deficient food (fried, processed, fatty, sugary things), then no wonder his brain is on fire. A lousy diet and especially poor gut health can make any person insane.
- For a quick fix, introduce a ton of raw, fresh foods to your meals, exchange red meats for fish and poultry, juice veggies and local fruits (the exotic ones are too sugary), get some superfoods and blend them, drink them, also get some good supplements like vitamin B complex, good vitamin C, omega-3s, quality multivitamin, drink a ton of water and voila! Your guy's mood and irritability are bound to improve dramatically.
If nothing else works, then grab a dough roller and knock him out! I'm joking of course—this is clearly illegal and may land you in some anger management classes of your own. On the other hand, he may have an anger disorder or some other brain-related conditions that must be addressed by a professional. Perhaps you can convince him to seek some help from a mental health professional.
General Advice on Dealing With Your Angry Husband
- Don't get angry in response. It is not wise to get angry in response to your husband's anger. If you weather his verbal onslaught and remain relaxed and calm, he will likely be embarrassed about his behavior, reflect on it to correct it, and respect you even more. Think of a time when you were insufferable, but in turn, someone dealt with your emotionally charged state peacefully and professionally. Didn’t you secretly leave with a great amount of admiration for that individual when all the things were said and done?
- Know when to walk away. You need to make difficult decisions if they are called for. If all else fails and your husband is making your life too miserable, the bad outweighs the good, he's not the man you married, or you just aren't happy, then you have a difficult choice to make. Reassess the situation and think about whether you stay in the relationship (considering emotional attachment, kids, property, and so forth) or do you make a choice to let bygones be bygones and move on in search for a better quality of life. Remember, an abusive relationship does not serve anyone’s interests. When there’s a lot of anger in the house, everyone suffers: you, your husband, your kids, even your pets.
- Reflection is key. Some Eastern philosophies have explored anger in depth and advise us to follow the way of developing awareness and avoiding automatic reactions to anger. We are advised to take a better look at why that person is angry. Buddha’s words were: “By looking deeply you'll be able to identify the reasons that led to the person’s anger. If you see that you bear responsibility for angering the person, you'll accept that your own misconduct contributed to their anger and won't get angry in exchange. If you are without blame, then you can try to see why that person has misinterpreted you. Then you can find a way to help him understand your true motives. By doing this, you are going to stay clear of causing more suffering to oneself and the other person.”
- Compassion is crucial. If you are a beacon of patience and compassion around the house, you can convince your husband to believe that only compassion towards each other will save and sustain the relationship. Compassion is the elixir of life that heals all wounds and lifts all spirits to new heights. Let's strive for it.
Note to the Commenters Below
Thank you for participating in this important discussion. To clarify: my advice was intended as 'self-help' advice and not as some means to change another human being. The latter is up to him. This advise is also not meant to work with a truly abusive man, who has no sense of honor or a slightest idea of empathy. Should you be faced with someone who's exhibiting psychopathic tendencies (has no remorse for anything) your best bet is to always leave. If you can't leave then build for yourself a support network and strap in until he either gets an epiphany, gets struck by lightning or disease. I have observed over the years that most truly angry people eventually develop blood related cancer, like leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. Anger literally makes one's blood boil so it is only a matter of time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Mateus Brava