In our last blog, we taught you Lesson 1 of how to tank your relationship: React to bad behavior by your partnerÂ in way that indicates that you think they are 100% wrong and you are 100% right. Then assume that there is only one way (your way) to view or look at the situation, so there is no need to try to see things from the perspective of your partner.
Today we continue with our lessons on how to tank a relationship- just in case Lesson #1 hasn’t worked for you yet:
How to tank your relationship: Lesson 2- Handle anger toward each other poorly.
To tank your relationship, get “stuck” in your anger either as the partner with the original anger or as the partner who is on the receiving end of anger. Either way, getting stuck in anger can quickly turn toÂ disgust. Eventually, you might even get to contempt for your partner which is a deathblow to most relationships. With a contemptuous attitude, you don’t even bother to get angry back at your partner because you tell yourself “I won’t stoop to my partner’s level by getting angry.”Â So you stonewall (don’t talk at all to your partner), become passive-aggressive (get back at your partner in a sneaky way), or emotionally shut-down.
Fact is, research on successful couples (as described in a book by marital therapist Brent J. Atkinson called “Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy”) shows that anger itself is not a dangerous emotion for marriages. Many highly successful couples regularly blow up at each other. Blow-ups are not necessarily destructive (within limits). Rather, partners getting stuck in their resentment for having been attacked is an equally seriousÂ issue that brings down a marriage.
That is because when a person fails to stand up forcefully when feeling disregarded or criticized harshly, they almost always harbor resentment and in internal attitude of contempt (That is, they think of themselves as “better”Â in some sense than their exploding partner.) And, as mentioned above, having contempt toward your partner is a very serious problem in terms of longevity of the relationship.
Caution: Only read the next paragraph if you have decided NOT to tank your relationship:
So, what is the healthy way to handle anger in a relationship? First, if you are the primary angry partner, learn to communicate better and deal with normal angry feelings more effectively without destroying your partner or the relationship in the process. There are many ways to handle anger so that you get a better result and you get more of what you truly want from your partner! These techniques (including something called a “softer startup”)Â are what we teach in local anger management classes as well as in our online distance-learning program.
Second, you do not have to suffer in silence if you are in relationship with a person who handles their anger poorly.Â The trick is to stand up for yourself and deal with the issue rather than “stuffing it” and building resentment through the years. (Of course, do not put yourself in a dangerous situation by standing up for yourself with a truly raging or violent partner).
Research strongly shows that partners of people who act badly in any way (including anger) have more influence than they think on future occurrences of that bad behavior by their spouse. You do not have to tolerate it and can even change it to some extent if you do the right things.