We know that only half of all first marriages make it. What we often don’t recognize is that the first four years seem to be important ones in shaping, making or breaking a marital relationship.
Research has long pointed to communication as core to a couple’s satisfaction and regulation of conflict. A study by Ronald Rogge and Tom Bradbury, uncovers another tipping point of early marriage survival.
Notwithstanding the undeniable importance of communication for marital happiness, this suggests that a crucial skill for early (and likely longtime) married couples is anger management.
Stephen Mitchell, author of Can Love Last, tells us that “The survival of romance depends not on skill in avoiding aggression but on the capacity to contain it alongside love.”
Containing anger alongside love means managing it in a way that does not escalate into verbal abuse or physical aggression. Partners will inevitably become angry but in terms of relationship stability the real question is how they handle that anger.
Anger Management Strategies
If a couple considers strategies to manage anger when they are emotionally and logically in a calm state, they give themselves tools to understand triggers, avoid escalating reactions and recover from an angry emotional state. Here are some strategies:
Establish a Relationship Safety Net
This is the implicit or stated understanding between partners that they love each other, value the relationship, will not physically threaten or harm each other, will not say the “unsayable,” and will prioritize their marriage.
Stop and Reflect
When we feel we have a reason to be angry with our partner there is a tendency to ruminate about it in a way that legitimizes our case and fuels the fire…
“ How did she rack up this credit card bill?”
“ He is late again because it is MY family that is coming over.”
“ I can’t take another moment of seeing the house in shambles when I walk in!”
There is great advantage before you jump into your anger to Stop and Reflect.
Timing is Everything
Communication is Central to Anger Management
Speaking and Listening are counterparts to any successful management of conflict between partners.
“ I get so worried when you are late and I don’t know where you are?”
“ I don’t know what to say. I need to think about it.”
Verbal Abuse is Dangerous.Whether you are starting or responding, verbal put-downs, non-verbal dismissal, mocking or crude language destroy safety and respect.—Assaultive language disrupts connection. Protect by planning.
Recovery and Reconnection
All couples fight. In securing the stability and satisfaction of a marriage, it is not about the fight, it is about the recovery.
Some couples just let it go and proceed. Some couples have a style of apology and forgiveness. Some use humor. Some use sex.
What you hope is that something positive comes from the inevitable clash-particularly the awareness that discord, conflict and anger are not incompatible with love.
For an interesting discussion on the Use of Movies as a proven effective way to Strengthen and Monitor your Relationship Skills, Listen in to Dr. Ronald Rogge on “ Psych Up” on Cosozo Radio
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Last reviewed: 14 Mar 2014