Back in the eighties, the personal growth movement and certain schools of therapy said that if you’re feeling angry, you should share it with the other person, just dump it on him or her, leaving the other person a mere puddle on the ground. This was supposed to help you release your anger. Maybe it even worked. Maybe it gave you a momentary rush of power and feeling of being in control. However, it was a quick fix that helped
you feel better in the moment but that did nothing to address the wreckage you left behind.
If you are the recipient of the anger in your relationship, maybe you think that you’re being a loving partner by letting your partner “get it all out” while you stand there, keep your mouth shut, and take it. But in this situation the loving action, one that will also ultimately help to strengthen your relationship, is being honest and having the emotional courage to say, “Listen, when you get angry like this, my heart shuts down, I want to distance myself, and I even start questioning the relationship.”
Intention is everything. Are you open to refraining from dumping your anger on your partner or, conversely, to help your partner release his or her anger, and you’ll master the art of letting your anger go so you can remove the barrier that the anger is creating? Underneath anger is almost always fear, pain, and/or terror over being vulnerable. Anger is a mask for these emotions, emotions you or your partner would otherwise have to feel. A question to ask which I have probably said more times than I can count to individuals in treatment is “if you weren’t feeling angry, what would you feel?”
You might say, “Can’t I just get angry and get this off my chest so I can get to figuring out what is really going on?” Once you have a history together and confidence in your and your partner’s intentions and ability to learn, grow, and take ownership, then in certain situations, such as in a therapist’s office, and with your partner’s permission and only with the intention of getting at what the anger is masking, you might allow yourself to get angry. But too often anger is employed to intimidate your partner into doing what you want. In other words, it’s not a form of protection, a mask for fear or pain, but rather a tool for manipulation and control. When you angrily blame or shame your partner, you are trying to take power. Expressing anger is also a good way to ensure that you stay trapped in a conflict loop, rather than work toward a circle of love, and you miss out on the opportunity to access and heal the pain
that lies beneath as well as creating the intimacy and the loving connection we all long for.