Contrary to popular opinion (even among professionals), anger isn’t necessarily bad or destructive to a relationship. All couples have conflicts and frustrations. It is not the anger itself that separates successful couples from other couples. Rather, what separates them is how anger is handled and how the partnersÂ communicateÂ with each other while angry over the issues thatÂ botherÂ them.
For instance,Â communicatingÂ with sarcasm or contempt are very destructive modes of communication that will bring down a relationship if done too often or too intensely. Another very destructive pattern of anger is something called passive-aggressive where the hostility is kept undercover, but the partner “gets even” with the other with snide remarks, emotional withdrawal, or underhanded actions which sabotage the other.
On the other hand, research shows thatÂ communicatingÂ anger in a straightforward way can be healthy for a relationship, as long as it is done correctly. For instance, successful couples use what is known as a “soft startup” which does not antagonize the otherÂ causingÂ them to stop listening to you.
Furthermore,Â successfulÂ couplesÂ haveÂ the ability to complain but not criticize the other over an issue that is botheringÂ them. Registering a complaint can be Â healthy for a marriage, but attacking the character of your partner(criticizing) Â over the issue is not.
As we teach in our angerÂ managementÂ classes and in our online anger programs, successfulÂ relationshipsÂ depend on partners havingÂ learnableÂ skills to make theÂ relationshipÂ successful. Among these is the skill of expressing andÂ communicatingÂ anger in ways that resolve the conflict, that don’t drive an emotional wedge between the partners, and that allow both partners to feel betterÂ aboutÂ things later.