Everybody in a relationship has moments of feeling frustrated, aggravated, or angry at their partner. While this is common, unleashing emotions towards our partners is not a healthy behavior, and repeated arguments can be corrosive for a relationship.
When you feel angry at your partner, here are some ways to calm yourself before it gets out of hand:
1) Remove yourself. The moment you feel anger that you know is going to come out, leave the area where your partner is, whether it’s in public or at home. If your partner isn’t around you, then you can’t lash out at him/her.
2) Cold water. If you have access in the moment, put cold water on your face, neck, and head. This helps slow down the rush of blood and energy to your head and can be soothing.
3) 10-1 Breathing. Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out of your mouth. Start at the number ten, and after each full breath, count down one more number until you reach one. You can always start over at ten if you feel the need.
4) Beat up a pillow. If you need to let some aggression spill out, take a pillow and repeatedly beat it against a bed or couch until you’ve had enough. Some people find punching a pillow to work (if you have access to a punching bag, this would be good here, too).
5) Curse loudly, or scream (not at your partner). Use this one with caution, especially in public and around children. This is really if you have a place where you can be alone and out of earshot of others. If you do have a place for this, cursing has been shown to relieve frustration and stress. Once again, use with caution. If your partner hears you cursing, some may think something is wrong and be concerned, while others may feel it’s personal and it still may cause an argument. Keep this one in your pocket for when you need a last resort to keep control and have a place to yourself. Into a pillow, or in a small closet are generally suggested for this.
6) Ask for a break. If you can see your anger coming, communicate to your partner what you’re feeling and acknowledge that you want to prevent an argument. Ask for a break from the conversation. If your anger is triggered by something such as a request to do the dishes (where it’s not a conversation), let your partner know you need a few minutes to collect yourself in order to prevent an argument.
Some of these may not be pretty, but the goal is to keep arguments from damaging your relationship, and from becoming verbally or physically abusive if it gets out of hand. When you’re not used to controlling anger, the practice at first may solely be to recognize when you’re closing in on your breaking point. That’s the place where it’s helpful to start using techniques, such as listed above. It’s not easy at first, but after some practice, it becomes routine to catch your anger before it catches you.
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Last reviewed: 23 Feb 2013