How to Let Calmer Heads Prevail. Part one.

Cassie and Phil loved each other dearly but often found themselves in heated verbal battles over almost anything and everything. The most minor disagreements quickly became a full-fledged war over who was right and who was wrong.

This left Cassie and Phil feeling exhausted, emotionally disconnected from each other, nursing hurt, and harboring resentment that grew with each argument. 

When an argument ensued, both immediately went on the defensive; their bodies moved into fight or flight mode, and they hurled insults and comments they would never say when their minds were reasoning. 

Much hurt and resentment could be alleviated if they learned to “Retreat and Think Things Over.” However, many factors prevented them from doing this. First, let us look under the hood and see what happens biologically when we argue.

What Happens to Our Bodies When We Feel Anger?

The first thing that happens is our brain releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. This quickly begins to course through our bodies, increasing our heart rate and blood pressure (this is why some people feel their face flush when stressed.)

Muscle tension and heightened awareness are also felt, helping us with our instinct to either fight or flee.

However, as some senses are heightened, our reasoning ability decreases markedly. This can lead to verbally responding in a manner we would not do under normal circumstances. 

Unfortunately, our body’s reaction to anger and stress can also lead to some people acting or behaving in a physically or verbally aggressive manner. There is a technique I teach to my patients to prevent arguments from escalating. However, there is a small catch.

The Solution Sounds Easy…But Is It?

Walking away from a heated argument allows you to process the physical response within your body, calm down, and resume the conversation when you can both reason and think calmly and without heightened emotion.

However, this advice I offer my patients, especially those seeking anger management, sounds very simple. Still, in reality, it is much harder to put into practice.

As I mentioned earlier, when the brain floods with our fight or flight hormones, it can reach a point of no return where one or neither partner backs down. Both choose to argue to the bitter end and say and do things they later regret.

One may accuse the other of “avoiding” or “running away” from the problem. The other may feel invalidated, or that a resolution must occur, and by walking away, their partner is refusing to confront the issue and find a solution.

Worse still is when one partner needs space and the other, instead of allowing them the time to cool down, follows them from room to room, escalating the argument and leaving the other with no means of escape.

This is a no-win situation for all involved. So, how do we approach this so that both couples feel validated and issues can be broached and resolved even when heated conflict arises?

What are the Warning Signs?

You may be laser-focused on your physiological responses when engaging in a heated argument. However, it is essential to be aware of the external factors in most arguments that warn you it is time to walk away and calm down.

  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Raised voices.
  • Feeling your temper rise or getting out of control.
  • Feelings of negativity and being unable to focus on your thoughts.
  • The argument escalates rapidly.
  • Unable to speak logically and being aware of this.
  • Wanting to move away or flee from the fight.
  • Heat racing, muscles tensing.
  • Minor issues suddenly become significant problems.
  • Inability to calm yourself and reason during the argument.

Why Retreating to Think Things Over Works.

Temporarily distancing yourself allows you time to calm down, for your body and the hormones to return to normal, and for your brain to go back to its normal state, allowing you to think clearly and rationally. 

Take the High Road.

During a heated argument, our emotional brain takes over from our thinking brain. When this happens, our brain is taking the low road, the path that allows our brain to think on its fundamental level. Our emotional brain doesn’t care for diplomacy, politeness, or the feelings of the person you love most. 

When you retreat before an argument becomes heated, you allow your emotional and thinking brain to work together so that you can understand your emotions and verbalize them effectively while considering your partner’s feelings. This is taking the high road in an argument.

So, How Do I Take the High Road?

In theory, this technique is straightforward, but it takes work, time, and practice, and it helps to have some basic rules to fall back on in times of stress. Stay tuned for part two where I teach you the steps to take the high road and how to overcome differences and make the necessary changes creates a harmonious relationship.

To learn more, download our mini-course, “Why couples fight: A Psychologist’s guide to understanding relationship conflict.”

In this mini-course, we emphasize the importance of centering your mind and body, creating a state of mental and physical calm. We teach you the value of being mindful of your emotions and the importance of acting objectively rather than subjectively. Additionally, we explore concepts such as “dropping the bone,” mastering the art of taking the high road in an argument, and how to deflect sarcasm. While these skills are crucial to every relationship, they are often overlooked. Here, we guide you and help you develop these essential skills so that you can rely on them when stress and conflict inevitably arise.

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes. www.angercoach.com, follow the link and start your journey to a harmonious relationship. 

To schedule an appointment, please click here.

This blog post has taken me some time to get around to… It is a testament to my stellar ability to push an article aside and hope it magically writes itself. Unfortunately, it never does.

We are all culprits of procrastination; the path of least resistance beckons us all, especially after a hard day’s work. After dealing with job stress, a chaotic drive home, and kids fighting in the back seat over who touched who’s arm, I know many would prefer to kick back and relax than face problems in our relationship.

It’s no secret that relationships can be challenging, but I often encounter a recurring theme: a reluctance to confront and address issues head-on.

The Reality Behind Procrastination

Procrastination, the art of delaying or avoiding tasks, is a pervasive human behavior. It’s not just a simple matter of lacking discipline; a complex interplay of psychological and emotional factors is at play.

People tend to procrastinate due to emotional factors such as fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. In a relationship, it might manifest as a reluctance to address uncomfortable issues or confront potentially awkward conversations. 

The brain’s reward system also plays a significant role – we prioritize immediate gratification over long-term benefits. This means we’re more inclined to avoid a difficult conversation today, even if it would lead to a better relationship tomorrow. So why should we talk about the problems in our relationship instead of curling up with a good book or binge-watching the latest Netflix series?

As hard as it may be, addressing issues as early as possible is far better than letting them build and fester, where they grow into something daunting and untenable for both partners.

The Elephant in the Room

Procrastination can be devastating to relationships. Unaddressed issues fester, resentments grow, and emotional distance widens. A small unresolved argument could one day create a chasm between both couples.

While we think we’re avoiding discomfort, we’re exacerbating it. Procrastination creates a negative cycle that may erode trust and intimacy, widening the gap between partners. It is a vicious cycle; the worse the problem becomes, the less we want to confront it.

The Road to Repair

Confronting problems within your relationship takes courage from both parties, and you must both be willing to do so with an open mind where you can learn, understand, empathize, and heal from the hurt.

One Small Step at a Time

Let’s approach this as we would a giant, 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle—one with some pictures but mostly color. The color is the emotion we are trying to understand and piece together. 

When we begin a jigsaw puzzle, it can be a little overwhelming. We dump all the pieces onto the table, a jumble that makes no sense to anyone. Slowly, you begin sifting through the pieces to find the corners, the edges, the colors that match, and so on.

You want to begin with the easier parts of the puzzle first, to find a structure so that the big picture gradually, over time, begins to appear. This is an excellent way to approach problems in your relationship, especially if you are both prone to procrastination or avoidance.

So, think about a problem you agree upon. Something small you can talk about to open the lines of communication. The goal is to learn how to speak with each other to solve issues harmoniously so that you can gradually incorporate these discussions into your life. This way, when a minor problem arises, you can resolve it before it becomes unmanageable.

The Big Picture

Set clear goals for yourselves and agree to prioritize the health of your relationship. You agree to address issues before they escalate instead of letting them fester or completely ignoring them.

The Importance of Empathy

Empathy allows you to understand and share your partner’s feelings, helping you connect more deeply. It fosters a sense of openness and enables you to discuss your issues. 

Genuinely listen to your partner’s perspective, acknowledge their emotions, and validate their experiences.

Take Time for Self-Reflection

Think about your actions and behavior in your relationship and recognize that they play a part in the dynamics of your partnership. Owning your problems requires self-awareness and a commitment to personal growth.

Celebrate your Progress

Making a change in any form is difficult, but to do it as a couple can be challenging. Take the time to celebrate your small successes and be proud of the progress you make. When we encourage each other, we reinforce positive behavior. 

Seek Professional Help

If there are un-resolved issues that are causing significant issues in your marriage, consider an appointment with a Psychologist specializing in relationship issues. My details are at the end of this article.

Finally, Be Kind to Yourself

Change takes time, patience, and understanding. Resolving issues swept under the rug for extended periods may sometimes feel overwhelming, but be patient with yourself and each other. Know that you are both working towards a common goal, and be compassionate to yourself and each other as you move through this journey together.

To learn more about how to overcome problems within your relationship, download our full course: “Anger and Your Relationship; the Road to Repair.”

Anger and your relationship: The road to repair gives you the skills you need to transform your relationship from conflict to peace-even if your partner does not actively participate in the process. The program consists of 23 short videos and many practical worksheets and exercises. Presented in a way to keep you committed, motivated and engaged. 

If you would like to schedule and appointment with me, please click here

Life would be blissful and easy in a perfect world, and blame would never point in our direction. We could skate through life doing what we pleased, never being held accountable for our actions. Unfortunately, such a world does not exist, and we all must take responsibility. 

While conflicts and disagreements are a normal part of any relationship, how a couple handles these challenges can significantly impact the dynamics of any relationship. 

A common issue in my practice is when one partner blames the other and refuses to accept responsibility for their actions. This is a recipe for disaster and, if left unchecked, can and will cause a breakdown in even the strongest relationships.

Understanding the Blame Game

Blaming and avoiding responsibility can be a defense mechanism. Here, one person is unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes, shortcomings, or contributions to conflicts and instead blames their partner, holding them solely responsible for the problem. This pattern of behavior, if left unchecked, can create resentment and lead to a serious and sometimes irreparable breakdown in the relationship. 

Lets look at one example:

After a hectic day playing chauffeur to her three children, cooking dinner, and getting the kids bathed and in their pyjamas, Sarah noticed the dirty dishes still piled in the sink. She turned to her husband, “You agreed to do the dishes while I put the kids to bed; why are they still here?” she asked, tired and now quite frustrated.

Tom, defensively, responded, “Stop being so demanding and critical! I need a break, I’m the one who has been at work all day, not you.”

Sarah, though exhausted, sighed and started loading the dishwasher. “I should have managed my time better; I’m sorry.” She replied, now feeling both shame and guilt.

This scenario wasn’t new; Sarah often took the blame to avoid arguments. Tom, accustomed to deflecting responsibility, continued, “You always say sorry but never change. You just make excuses.”

Their conversation spiraled into a familiar pattern. Sarah habitually takes the blame to diffuse tension, and Tom habitually shifts responsibility and commitments, leaving both feeling dissatisfied but trapped in a cycle difficult to break.

How Does the Blame Game Affect Communication?

When one partner consistently plays the blame game, they undermine open and honest dialogue as they continue to evade responsibility. Instead of discussing issues together, they engage in a cycle of accusations and defensiveness, making it nearly impossible to communicate openly and honestly, leaving no way to resolve the issue.

Moreover, blaming and avoiding responsibility often leads to miscommunication. Partners may misunderstand each other’s perspectives, intentions, and emotions, further fuelling the conflict. The inability to take responsibility for your actions can result in a lack of empathy for your partner’s feelings and experiences, causing emotional distance and eroding trust within the marriage.

It is essential to communicate effectively with your partner; without communication, the relationship dissolves, leaving both parties feeling isolated and distanced from each other.

Self-Esteem and Emotional Well-being

The blame game within a marriage significantly affects self-esteem and emotional well-being. When one person consistently shifts blame onto their partner, they neglect their ability for personal growth and self-improvement. This can lead to feelings of stagnation and a sense of powerlessness to effect positive change in the relationship.

Furthermore, being on the receiving end of constant blame can damage a person’s self-esteem. Over time, this can create feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and a diminished sense of self-worth. Such emotional distress can lead to anxiety, depression, and a reduced overall quality of life for both partners.

Detrimental Impact on Trust

Trust is the bedrock of any successful marriage. Blaming your partner and avoiding responsibility can severely compromise trust within the relationship. When someone evades responsibility, they say, “I cannot be trusted to take ownership of my actions or their consequences.” This breach of trust can lead to a growing sense of betrayal and decreased emotional intimacy between partners.

Breaking the Cycle

To cultivate a healthier and more resilient marriage, it is important to recognize the destructive pattern of blaming and avoiding responsibility and take proactive steps to break the cycle. This can be a challenging habit to break but here are some strategies to achieve this:

  1. Self-awareness: Acknowledge the tendency to shift blame and avoid responsibility. Understand that taking ownership of your actions signifies emotional maturity and a step toward personal growth.
  1. Active listening: Practice active listening  when conflicts arise. Try to understand your partner’s perspective, feelings, and needs. This will help foster empathy; they will feel heard and validated, opening the door to healthier communication.
  1. Self-reflection: Take some time to assess your behavior and contributions to conflicts. You accept responsibility for your actions and acknowledge that working on self-improvement is vital to maintaining a healthy marriage.
  1. Seek professional help: If the blame game is deeply ingrained in your marriage, consider contacting a Psychologist specializing in couples therapy. They can provide valuable guidance and strategies for breaking the cycle. I am available for Telehealth consultations; my information is at the bottom of this article.

A successful marriage requires self-awareness, open and empathetic communication, and the willingness to take responsibility for your own actions. These may be difficult steps to take at first, it can be hard to look at ourselves and admit our mistakes, but each time we do, we improve the connection we share with our partner. The less we blame, the more open we are to accepting our own faults and it becomes easier to make the changes needed to create a loving, harmonious life with the person you love the most.

To learn more about recognizing destructive patterns of blaming and avoiding responsibility, download our mini-course, “Why Couples Fight: A Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Relationship Conflict.”

In this mini-course, we emphasize the importance of centering your mind and body, creating a state of mental and physical calm. We teach you the value of being mindful of your emotions and the importance of acting objectively rather than subjectively. Additionally, we explore concepts such as “dropping the bone,” mastering the art of taking the high road in an argument, and how to deflect sarcasm. While these skills are crucial to every relationship, they are often overlooked. Here, we guide you and help you develop these essential skills so that you can rely on them when stress and conflict inevitably arise.

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes. www.angercoach.com, follow the link and start your journey to a harmonious relationship. 

To schedule an appointment, please click here.

Thanksgiving is a time of joy, celebration, and eating massive amounts of food while the buttons on our pants strain for dear life. It’s when families come together to create lasting memories and reminisce about past feasts, succulent turkey, and football games won and lost. However, this time of year can also be challenging for many, as it brings the dynamics and tensions within family units to the forefront. 

As the big day approaches, stress levels increase, which can have a domino effect. Someone may have a bad day and snap at you in the store. This makes you mad, and you arrive home feeling vexed and annoyed and, in turn, take it out on your partner. Anger and stress are unwanted gifts that keep giving, which tends to be exacerbated this time of year.

As a family therapist, I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles that people face when dealing with problematic family members during the holidays. I want to offer some guidance and advice to help you through the holiday season.

The Reality Behind Holiday and Family Conflicts:

The holiday season creates the perfect environment to re-ignite deep-seated family dynamics, stirring up emotions we thought were long forgotten. For instance, adult children returning home may revert to their old roles, leading to power struggles and disagreements. Past grievances can resurface, rekindling old conflicts while spending extended periods in close quarters with family. This can lead to cabin fever, sibling rivalries, or other interpersonal issues that magnify underlying tensions.

Awkward Conversations:

The holiday season brings out both the best and worst in people. Someone will inevitably bring up a topic of conversation that rubs another the wrong way; it wouldn’t be the holiday season without it. 

I know a couple who are asked every Thanksgiving, ‘So, when will you start a family?” They have no intention of having children, and they explain this every year, but people continue to ask and always feel uncomfortable.

So, how do you react to questions or topics such as this, especially when sensitive matters such as politics, religion, or personal life choices arise? Here are some strategies to help you navigate these conversations:

  • Redirect the Conversation: When a touchy subject arises, gently shift the conversation towards a safer, neutral topic. For example, if politics come up, you might say, “Speaking of politics, did you catch the latest ball game or binge-watch anything recently?” Try to lighten the atmosphere without being dismissive.
  • Active Listening: When someone expresses their opinion, actively listen without immediately responding or placing judgment. This can help defuse tension and encourage open dialogue. 
  • Practice Empathy: When engaged in a conversation you may disagree with, try using empathy to understand the topic from the other person’s perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and look at how and why they may have their opinion. We sometimes argue before the other person can finish their thought and miss a crucial point that changes everything. Remember, it is OK not to agree with everyone; we all have the right to our opinions.
  • Set Boundaries: Communicate your boundaries politely but firmly. If someone persists in discussing a topic that makes you uncomfortable, say something like, “I’d prefer not to discuss this right now. Let’s focus on enjoying our time together.”

Toxic Family Members:

Dealing with a toxic family member adds yet another layer of complexity to our holiday season. I know several patients who dread this time of year; their stress levels rise because they know they have to deal with that one person in the family who seems to go out of their way to make their day miserable. Here are some strategies to manage such situations:

  • Choose Your Battles: Not every issue needs to be confronted during the holidays. Assess the importance of the problem and decide whether it’s worth addressing. Conversations can be shelved and picked up at a more appropriate time. There may be topics that you will always have differing views on. It is OK to agree to disagree and say as such in a kind yet firm manner, for example: “I don’t think we are going to see eye to eye on this topic; let’s drop this and chat about something else.”
  • Limit Interaction: Spend time with toxic family members in small doses, and make sure you have a support system in place to help you cope with any negativity. Chat with your support people ahead of time; you can even have a code word or subtle gesture you can give them so they can step in and help distract from the conversation. Be sure to ask them if they feel comfortable doing this so they don’t have to choose sides.
  • Be Kind to You: Prioritize self-care during the holiday season. Engage in activities that help you relax and recharge, such as walking, exercising, or just taking time away from the family to read a chapter of your book, walk your dog, unwind, and lower your stress levels. 
  • Keep a positive outlook and embrace your inner smile: When things begin to go south and tensions rise, keeping a smile on our faces and our thoughts in a positive place can be challenging. However, remember that this time of year is fleeting; things will return to normal, and there is the opportunity to create some fantastic memories. When your stress levels build, think of something you are looking forward to or focus on the positives of the holiday. You may be thrilled to see your Dad after many months of separation, or your sister may have done something ridiculous that you can both laugh about for years to come. It is the small things that keep us going.

Remember that every family has its quirks, and while conflicts may arise, they don’t define the entire holiday experience. Focus on the love and shared moments that make the holiday season special, and remember, if things get stressful, there is always pumpkin pie!

To learn more about effective communication and keeping a positive outlook during stressful times, download our mini-course, “Rise above the chaos and embrace your inner smile.”

In this mini-course, we emphasize the importance of centering your mind and body, creating a state of mental and physical calm. We teach you the value of being mindful of your emotions and the importance of acting objectively rather than subjectively. Additionally, we explore concepts such as “dropping the bone,” mastering the art of taking the high road in an argument, and how to deflect sarcasm. While these skills are crucial to every relationship, they are often overlooked. Here, we guide you and help you develop these essential skills so that you can rely on them when stress and conflict inevitably arise.

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes. www.angercoach.com, follow the link and start your journey to a harmonious relationship. 

I am pleased to announce the release of my new online couples course called “Anger and your relationship: The road to repair”. This new course has been designed from the ground-up to be taken as a solo course (meaning you don’t have to take it with your partner) or as a course that couples can both take together. Regardless of how you decide to take it, the principles taught will help you whether your partner participates or not!

6 modules and 23 lessons to help your relationship be the best it can be

My course is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of a relationship, the root causes of the issues you experience and provides you with a unique set of tools to turn to in times of stress. 

Learn practical techniques with tutorial videos voiced by Dr Tony Fiore

Each lesson features a professionally created video tutorial where I walk you through the steps and techniques taught throughout the course. Learn from helpful real-world examples from my many years of professional practice. Put the techniques to work in your daily life and see improvements in your relationship – even if your partner does not participate!

This course features the following:

  • Comprehensive online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to Anger and relationships
  • 23 professionally created videos that explain concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Many short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • 48 page downloadable PDF containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure – including a personal log so that you can record your experiences and evaluate your progress as you continue the program
  • More information about the online course
  • Register now

Use the code “ACREFER” to receive 10% off

Every day, the world we live in presents us with innumerable challenges. This results in a constant source of stress; from worrying if we are going to be on time to pick up the kids, what to prepare for dinner with little in the fridge to having to take time from work to care for your child who is home sick. Then there are the worries that keep us up at night; major financial struggles, the cost of living crisis, mortgage hikes to the constant media pressure highlighting the latest tragedy. No wonder we are all on edge.

Unfortunately, as our stress builds, so too can our anger. Participants in both my anger management class and relationship therapy sessions often say that they don’t always know what causes their stress, they are unable to pinpoint the exact issue but it seems overwhelming.

Stress is created when you have more demands placed upon you than you have the ability to meet those demands. For example, you must have four presentations completed by Friday, it is almost the end of the week and each presentation takes a day to prepare. The stress you feel builds as you watch the clock, struggling to make the deadline. Unfortunately, such stress is inevitable and is often brought home into the family environment.

One of the major challenges we face is trying to foster a loving and ongoing relationship with our partner while simultaneously coping with the daily demands and expectations of life. Sometimes this is simply not possible and it is our relationship that suffers, causing yet another source of anxiety.

In my years of practice, I have helped countless couples, guiding them through identifying their major source of stress, teaching them stress and anger management techniques, and how to repair problems building within a relationship due to these issues.

My new course, “Anger and your Relationship: The Road to Repair” focuses on providing you with the skills you need to transform your relationship from conflict to peace, even if your partner does not actively participate in the process.

You can click here to access the course.

The program consists of 23 short videos and many practical worksheets and exercises. This is presented in a way to keep you committed, motivated, and engaged.

We also offer mini-courses of the same program.

“The challenges you have faced, the heart break you have felt may someday

inspire others so they don’t have to walk the same path.”

Be kind to yourself and others and thank you for supporting us.

Kind regards,

Dr. Tony Fiore

One of the major challenges of living and thriving in current times is managing our stress levels in a world of complex demands and expectations. There are times when this proves very difficult and we can sometimes lash out at the ones we love.

Occasional emotional outbursts (within reason) are common in a relationship however when anger becomes a daily occurrence, it is time to take a look at our behaviour and makes changes for our own wellbeing and for those around us.

Surviving in an environment of anger or similar emotions proves challenging for any relationship. Anger instills fear and creates emotional distance between individuals. On the other hand, simmering anger fosters an atmosphere of extreme tension, eroding trust and openness.

Often, people attempt to mend the damage caused by their outbursts or irrational anger, but this process is time-consuming and may not always be successful. A partner or family member may find it difficult to recover from the impact of the verbal outbursts. The negative emotions linger with them, as the image remains vivid long after it occurred – akin to a bell that cannot be “un-rung.”

To help couples learn about anger in their relationship and how to overcome this sometimes overwhelming issue, I have launched my new course titled “Anger and your Relationship – The Road to Repair” which can be taken alone or as a couple.

To take this new course, click on this here and begin your journey to relationship harmony.

This FREE mini course is the introduction to my popular series: “Anger and your relationship: The road to repair”. In this course, I offer 3 lessons that help you understand how and why conflict may be playing a role in your relationship. Upon completing the course, you will receive a special offer for future courses.

This course features the following:

  • Online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to anger and relationships
  • 3 professionally created videos that explain the concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • Downloadable PDFs containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure so that you can record and evaluate your progress through the program

This innovative mini course provides you with an insight into the dynamics of your relationship. We show you how to recognize dysfunctional patterns, give insight into why you fight and explore the neurobiological responses of the brain in stressful situations. We then provide you with a set of techniques to follow to effectively and harmoniously address and resolve conflict in your relationship.

This course features the following:

  • Online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to anger and relationships
  • 3 professionally created videos that explain the concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • A downloadable MP3 demonstrating the concepts presented in this mini course

This mini course introduces you to the concept and principals of Verbal Aikido and its application in marital communication. Verbal Aikido empowers you to resolve marital conflict in a harmonious manner that fosters unity in your relationship. We then explore the importance of emotional connection and how modern day technology has entirely changed our communication methods. Finally, we learn about conflict igniters, what this is, how this behaviour leads to contention and disharmony and we teach you how to address these behaviours effectively and harmoniously to achieve resolution.

This course features the following:

  • Online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to anger and relationships
  • 4 professionally created videos that explain the concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • Downloadable PDFs containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure so that you can record and evaluate your progress through the program

In addressing partner conflict, the first step is not to focus on your partner but on yourself. In this mini course, we emphasize the importance of centering your mind and body, creating a state of mental and physical calm. We teach you the value of being mindful of your emotions and the importance of acting objectively rather than subjectively. Additionally, we explore concepts such as “dropping the bone”, mastering the art of taking the high road in an argument, and how to deflect sarcasm. While these skills are a crucial part of every relationship they are often overlooked. Here we guide you and help you develop these essential skills so that you can rely on them when stress and conflict inevitably arise.

This course features the following:

  • Online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to anger and relationships
  • 4 professionally created videos that explain the concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • Downloadable PDFs containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure so that you can record and evaluate your progress through the program

In this mini course, we teach you to the art of Irimi. Here you learn to focus on your partner while centering yourself using your ‘wise adult’ frame of mind. Irimi involves using cognitive empathy to understand your partner’s perspective from a loving and harmonious place. There are six techniques that we cover that are designed to foster an environment of unity and togetherness making it difficult for continued hostility. Once you have mastered these steps, you can move on to the next of Verbal Aikido, Aiki.

This course features the following:

  • Online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to anger and relationships
  • 5 professionally created videos that explain the concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • Downloadable PDFs containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure so that you can record and evaluate your progress through the program

In this mini course, we equip you with the knowledge to not only focus on yourself but also your partner, fostering a team-oriented mindset of ‘we’ and ‘us’ as opposed to seeing each other as adversaries. You learn the techniques grounded in the Aiki principles, gaining the ability to let go of old habits, overcome problems that may feel overwhelming by communicating honestly and harmoniously, and find common ground while cultivating a lasting connection.

This course features the following:

  • Online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to anger and relationships
  • 4 professionally created videos that explain the concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • Downloadable PDFs containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure so that you can record and evaluate your progress through the program

Relationship research has revealed that a high percentage of relationship issues are unsolvable. These are often called “Perpetual Issues”. Every relationship has these unresolvable issues – but the key difference between successful couples is how they handle these issues.

Learn a basic principle in how successful couples manage to deal with perpetual issues and how you can apply this in your life.

Assertive communication helps people – whether they are in relationships or not – experience better interpersonal outcomes. In this video, I will help you understand what assertive communication means, and I provide 6 simple ways to implement assertive communication tools in your life.

Improve your relationships with others whether they be friends, family, workmates or romantic.

“Dr. Fiore,” the voice on the phone pleaded, “I need anger management classes right away. I blew up at my girlfriend last night and she said it’s over until I get help”.

As Kevin recounted the first night of class, he and his girlfriend had argued in the car over which route to take home from a party. Events progressed from mild irritation, to yelling and name calling.

Things escalated at home. He tried to escape, but she followed him from room to room, demanding resolution of the conflict. He became angry, defensive and intimidating.

Frightened, she left. Later, she left an anguished message saying that she loved him, but couldn’t deal with his angry, hurtful outbursts. Kevin said that he normally is a very “nice” and friendly person. But, on this occasion, his girlfriend had been drinking before the party. In his view, she was irrational, and non-stop in criticism. He tried to reason with her, but it just made things worse. Finally, as Kevin saw things, in desperation he “lost it” and became enraged.

How should Kevin have handled this situation? What could he have done differently? What actions should you take in similar situations?

Option 1: Time-out

Take a 20 minute time-out (but commit to returning later to work on the issue). Take a walk. Calm yourself down. Breath deeply. Meditate. Do something else for awhile.

New research by John Gottman, Ph.D., at the University of Washington indicates that when you and your partner argue, your pulse rate goes above 100 beats per minute, and you enter a physiological state called DPA (diffuse physiological arousal). Once there, it becomes nearly impossible to solve the problem. You lose perspective. Your reasoning ability, memory, and judgment, greatly decline.

Taking a time-out allows both of you to return to your normal state of mind.
It is neither healthy or necessary for you to explode as a result of being provoked by your partner. Our recommendation: Turn the heat down rather than intensifying the pressure.

Option 2: Interact differently

Many couples like Keith and his partner develop patterns of behavior that create miscommunication and conflict. Do you interact in one, or more, of these ways?

  • Inattention – simply ignoring your partner when you shouldn’t. This is also called stonewalling, or being emotionally unavailable when your partner needs you, or not speaking to your partner for long periods because you are upset with them.
  • Intimidation – engaging in behavior intended to make your partner do things out of fear. This includes yelling, screaming, threatening, and posturing in a threatening way.
    Manipulation – doing or saying things to influence your partner, for your benefit, instead of theirs.
  • Hostility – using sarcasm, put-downs, and antagonistic remarks. Extreme or prolonged hostility leads to contempt – a major predictor of divorce.
  • Vengeance – the need to “get even” with your partner for a grievance you have against them. Many dysfunctional couples “keep score,” and are constantly trying to “pay back” each other for offenses.
  • Criticism – involves attacking someone’s personality or character, rather than a specific behavior, often coupled with blame. Like contempt, criticism is a second major predictor of divorce.

Option 3. Positive interactions

Start by actually listening not only to what your partners says, but what he or she means. Partners in conflict are not listening to understand; rather, they listen with their answer running because they are defensive. Unfortunately, defensiveness is another predictor of divorce.

Stick to the issue at hand. Seems obvious but is very hard to do in the heat of battle. Focus and stay in the present.

Learn to forgive

Research by Peter Larson, Ph.D., at the Smalley Relationship Center, suggests a huge relationship between marriage satisfaction and forgiveness. As much as one-third of marriage satisfaction is related to forgiveness!

Communicate your feelings and needs. Tell your partner how you feel about what they do, instead of accusing them of deliberately offensive behavior. Use “I” statements rather than accusatory, or “you,” statements. Learn to communicate unmet needs so that your partner can better understand and respond to you. For instance, If you are feeling fear, it may be your need for emotional safety and security that is not being met; communicating this is far more effective than lashing out at your partner in an angry tirade.

Literally, think again. And then think about what you are thinking about- especially around anger issues.

As famous psychologist William James said over 100 years ago:

“Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.”

The case of Sally and Jim

Sally and Jim sat in my office glaring at each other. Sally told a story around an angry conflict they had had eariler in the week.

I found Sally to be quite humorous and entertaining. But Jim had an entirely different perception. Getting more and more agitated and angry as he listened to his wife, he looked at me and said “see what I mean, doc? Isn’t she irritating?

“I don’t find her irritating,” I replied. I then went on to explain that “irritation” (or most other traits or ways of relating) isn’t as much in the partner as in your perception of it- or how you think about it- or the general attitude you have toward your partner to begin with.

In other words,your mental set or mental framework you have toward your partner influences how you interpret what they do or how they are.

Negative and positive sentiment override

There is much marital research at the Gottman institute to back this up. There, researchers discovered something called “negative sentiment override” vs positive sentiment override.”

In Gottman’s theory, when negative sentiment override (NSO) is present, there is a discrepancy between the perceptions of the receiver and the sender of an interaction.  Just like Jim, we can distort and see a communication through a negative lens, even when their partner did not intend it to be negative.  In fact, objective observers may not perceive the interaction to be negative, at all. (just as I didn’t see Sally as irritating, like Jim did).

 It is in the “eyes of the beholder” so to speak, that he or she are on the receiving end of something negative. By contrast, In positive sentiment override (PSO), negative interactions are not seen as particularly negative, or at least they are not taken personally.  When there is PSO between a couple, the partners give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Even if one partner IS conveying negativity in content or tone, the other does not personalize, react to, match, or “store away for a rainy day” their partner’s bad mood, negativity, etc.

Getting from negative to more positive sentiment overide: Two Steps

Sounds good, but how does a couple shift from negative to positive sentiment override? Try these two steps as a startup strategy:

Step 1- Try to become friends again by doing things you enjoy together -like when you were dating. I know there are any obstacles to this: children, Covid-19 pandemic, money ,etc but try a little harder to re-connect.
See the attached worksheet to give you some more ideas.

Step 2- Consciously alter you thought patterns about your partner by looking at what you are telling yourself about what they do that makes you angry or upset toward then.

Here are some “self-talk” thoughts I teach people in my anger management classes to teach themselves to be less angry at whatever their partner does. These changes in thought patterns have helped many hundreds of partners be less angry toward their partner- even if their partners doesn’t change their behavior.

Change Angry Thoughts to 4 Corrective Thoughts

Angry Thought #1- My partner should think like I do. If they don’t, its my duty to work on them until they do think like me- or at least admit they are wrong.

Corrective thought #1: My partner and I don’t have to think alike: to get along we just have to be tolerant of how the other one thinks.

Angry Thought #2-My partner does things I consider stupid or wrong. Because they are stupid or wrong, they shouldn’t do these things.

Corrective thought #2: Within limits, they have a right to do what they want to- but I also have a right not to want to live with a person who does those things and I will communicate that to them calmly.

Angry Thought #3- I know I am right about the issue we often fight about.

Corrective thought #3: I am not 100% right nor are they 100% wrong on any matter of dispute. Fact is, usually “the truth” is in the middle. In marriage, there is more than one “truth” so it is possible you are both “right” but you are each looking at the conflict or issue from a different point of view.

Angry Thought #4– Things should go my way- because I deserve it and because I want it that way.

Corrective thought #4: I am not the center of the universe, or even the center of our relationship. It is irrational to think that things MUST go my way- even though I would like them to. Rather than getting angry, I need to work on my skill of accepting what is instead of what I self-centeredly want it to be. I also need to practice thinking in terms of “we” instead of “me.”

Downloads

Download a FREE PDF file called “Sharing Things as a Couple Worksheet” that will help you develop the techniques discussed in this article.

According to famed therapist Terry Real, the short answer is:

“To disarm an angry woman, give her what she needs.”

To illustrate this point, let me introduce to 55 year-old Jerry who came to see me because his very angry (Linda) gave him the ultimatum of seeing a therapist or a divorce lawyer. (He had to think about this for awhile, but decided a therapist was the lessor of the evils)

The Case Of Jerry
Jerry, a successful real estate developer, wasn’t a bad guy – he just didn’t have a clue as to why his wife of 10 years was always angry at him. If she wasn’t yelling, (even raging), or criticizing, she talked to him with absolute contempt. This, despite the fact that he was an excellent provider, he was a great father to their children, and he was well thought of in their social circles and their community. He did not drink excessively and he was not unfaithful to her.

He felt he could do nothing right in her eyes – but honestly couldn’t see anything he was doing wrong either. Again, her constant anger and dissatisfaction mystified him.

At first, he became defensive to ward off her attacks and protect himself. Jerry often argued with her by offering all kinds of logical reasons why he did what he did that upset her, trying to convince her that she was mistaken, that she was wrong, that she was exaggerating, or worse, that she was crazy.

Her response? More angry. In fact, now the anger included not only the original complaints, but the fact that he was so emotionally unaware that he didn’t understand at all what she was really upset about.

Jerry tried to stay out of trouble
To stay out of trouble, he started avoiding his wife more and more both physically (including sexually) and emotionally. After all, he reasoned, why stand in the path of gunfire when someone is shooting at you?

Like many beleaguered husbands, he mistakenly attributed his wife’s mood swings and anger to menopause or other medical explanations for her behavior.

When he mentioned this to her, again her level of anger increased because she saw it as a way to disavow his contribution to what she saw as her justifiable anger toward him.

Underneath, Linda saw herself as being emotionally victimized by her husband. Consequently, she felt justified in her anger and justified in her need to protect herself by attacking him.

Jerry saw himself as a good husband
Jerry, for his part, certainly didn’t see himself as victimizing his wife in any way. His motive was to please her, so he would have a peaceful life, but he just didn’t have the skills needed to deal with Linda and her emotional needs.

He grew up in a home and at a time period in our history where no one taught him how to deal with the emotional needs and raised expectations of modern women who demand much more out of their relationships than did many women of an older generation.

So, what are these skills exactly, that Jerry and thousands of other men in our society need to learn and acquire to disarm an angry wife?

(Note – I had to learn them too. The rules have just changed over the years.)

Are you ready for the shocking answer?

3 disarming skills to use on a daily basis

Skill #1: Learn better “Empathy. “ To do this, start actually listening more to her. Seriously, listen more to your wife- not only the facts and information she talks about, but how she feels about what she is telling you- and the underlying meaning to what she is saying.

Remember, “hearing” your wife is not the same thing as “listening” to her. Developing better empathy skills requires getting out of yourself and practice seeing the world as your wife does, even if you don’t agree with her. Then acknowledge to her that you understand how she sees the issue.

Skill #2: Find ways to emotionally connect on a daily basis, even if it is only for a few minutes. Think of your marriage as a plant sitting out on your back patio. To survive, both must have daily watering and sunshine. Respond to her “bids for affection.”(ways she is trying to connect with you) Ignoring or blowing off such bids is not a good idea.

Skill #3: Show More emotional vulnerability. Don’t double down on issues of disagreement. For many women, male vulnerability is the pathway to her feeling close to you.

Enlightened men who trust their partner enough to show vulnerability are able to drop their defensiveness, to share feelings with their wife, and be brave enough to risk allowing your wife to see you for who you really are.

Downloads

Download a FREE PDF file called “The Active Listening Worksheet” that will help you develop listening techniques discussed in this article.

Audio version

Click here to listen to an audio version of this post.

Spending so much time together in social isolation during the pandemic is bound to challenge the patience and coping skills of many partners. Fortunately, new technology has been developed to help you stay calm called “Gaze-Spotting” based on the original work of Dr. David Grand, developer of a technique called Brainspotting.

STEP  1 : Walk away from hearted argument, telling your spouse you need some time to calm down- but that you promise you’ll return later to work it out. Do not yell, call names, or be nasty. 

STEP 2 : Sit in a comfortable place where you an be alone. Mentally scan your body from head to toe. Become aware of where in you body you feel the tension, the anger or the frustration with your partner that triggered your anger. 

STEP 3 : Also Notice in your body where you feel the most calm, grounded, and centered.

STEP 4 : Focus your awareness to this grounded, calm body place. Stay there for 10-15 seconds. Notice where your eyes are focusing while having your attention on your body calm place.. (You can do this with your eyes opened or closed.) Let your eyes settle on a spot (called a gazespot) and maintain that eye position. 

STEP 5 : As you keep your eyes on this “Gazespot,” focus on the argument you just had with your partner. While you think about it keep your eyes on your Gazespot.

STEP 6 : Think of how irritated you are at your partner and notice how activated you are around it. Pick a number from 1-10 which you will use as a gauge to represent the degree they have triggered your anger. 0 is neutral and 10 is highly activated. 

STEP 7 : Without judging, continue to observe your thoughts as you gaze at your Gazespot and bring your awareness to your calm body place. Your mind may wonder as you keep your gaze on the spot. Just notice without directing your thoughts. 

STEP 8 : Continue to observe what is going on in the various parts of you mind with curiosity, but try not to have expectations or  judgement about what is going on. 

Think about the original issue with your partner. How are you feeling now? Take an AngerCheck from 0-10. Continue a long as you like. End when you are ready and note your brain will continue to process.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS ANGERCHECK TECHNIQUE, SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION WITH DR FIORE BY CALLING 714-745-1393 or click here to schedule an appointment yourself

Do You Have Resentment In Your Marriage?

Mary, age 40, came to see me recently for a consultation on how she could improve her marriage and deal with an angry husband who refused to see a marriage therapist. She was extremely resentful, unhappy and depressed. She had tried “everything” to get her husband to change- all to no avail.

The resentment Mary was feeling was normal when a partner has grievances toward their partner which are unexpressed – or- when your partner does not respond even when they are indeed expressed. Take our free Anger Quizto assess the degree of resentment in your marriage. Many times grievances are formed in a marriage because some essential needs are not being fulfilled – needs which you want satisfied through the marriage. After all, satisfaction of some of those needs are the reason you married in the first place.
Mind you, just because you have normal needs doesn’t necessarily mean you are “needy.” We all have needs, as a famous psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote about way back in the 1940s. Here is a simplified version of his needs diagram. In Maslow’s theory, lower needs (such as having enough to eat) need to be satisfied before higher needs such as “esteem” seem important.

The question is:to what extent should we look toward marriage to satisfy some of these needs?

According to Dr. Finkel, some people put too much pressure on the marriage to satisfy those needs without considering other ways to get them satisfied – so that the marriage can still survive and you can be happy again.

Fact is, many people never ask themselves exactly what their needs are and to what extent they expect their marriage partner to satisfy those needs. When I asked Mary what she wanted or needed out of her marriage, she looked at me like a deer in the headlights.

She had never asked herself that question; she only knew that she was very unhappy with her life – and very unhappy with her husband who never seemed to change even though she constantly expressed her frustration and resentment to him.

You may not be aware of some of your needs

In reality, it not a simple question to answer for a number of reasons. First, you may not be aware of some of the needs you actually have – like needing to feel safe or needing to be acknowledged often for your contributions. If that is the case, you might want to consult a psychologist to help you sort it all out. After all, it is unfair to your partner to resent them for not satisfying needs that even you don’t know that you have.

Need satisfaction is a moving target requiring re-calibration

Secondly, what partners need from each other often changes as the marriage goes through different developmental stages (yes, marriages have developmental stages just like children do). Successful couples find a way to adapt to these changes and strive toward satisfying these changing needs either through the marriage itself or in other ways.

This often requires a recalibration of your relationship which is accomplished by asking yourself some basic questions, rather than holding resentment toward your partner who isn’t changing despite your pleas.

Three questions to ask yourself about your needs:

  • What needs do I have that can only be satisfied through my partner? Some needs indeed can only be satisfied by an intimate partner. After all, that is why we got married in the first place. Examples of needs in this category are to develop and sustain a warm emotional climate in the home, have a steamy sex life, co-parent and enjoy your children.
  • What needs do I have that can be met through our partner or some “other significant other” (OSO) such as a friend or other family member? Examples of needs in this category are to receive emotional support when something bad happens at work, celebrate when something good happens at work, debate politics, attend cultural events, travel.
  • What needs do I have that can be met through our partner, through an OSO, or on our own? Learning to meditate, anger management, deepen relationship with God, learning to play the piano, writing that long-promised novel.

When Mary looked at her list of needs, she was shocked at how much she was asking of her marriage. With her therapist, she began working on a more deliberate plan for meeting her needs.

The most difficult part of course is evaluating what to do about needs that indeed can only be satisfied by one’s partner. The good news is that often through re-calibration, we can create a different vibration in the home so that our partner might respond by being more motivated to indeed try harder.

For instance, if your need is to have a warm emotional climate in the home, you might work on being less critical and more trusting by letting go of resentments caused by things done in the past. How do you do this? Through the process of “forgiveness.” You can learn to forgive either through therapy or through a a faith-based approach (all religions encourage forgiveness).

The Marriage of Stacy and William

Married 30 years, from the outside looking in they have a perfect marriage. They never disagree with each other. They rarely conflict. They hold hands in public. They are always civil to each other in public. 

Behind closed doors, however, there is a different story. While they dine together, they share very little with each other about their day beyond superficial topics. After dinner, William typically watches football on the den television while she goes into her bedroom to watch her favorite shows. They stopped sleeping together years ago. He masturbates twice a week for sexual release. They do enjoy each other on vacations, but this is only once a year.

Believe it or not, Stacy and William have an anger problem in their relationship – even though it certainly isn’t obvious from the outside looking in. How could that be true if they never fight, there is never any yelling, shouting, or insults hurled, and they even show some public physical affection for each other?

Couples anger has at least six other ways it can be expressed without yelling or shouting

Some angry couples, of course, fight like cats and dogs – mean spirited, always arguing, putting each other down, and are downright nasty to each other. But couples also express anger to each other in at least six other ways. Although not as obvious, it is just as destructive in its other expressions as it can be for the high-conflict couple.

  • The Ostrich – Anger expressed as emotional avoidance. Ostriches withdraw when threatened and put their head in the sand. So do some marriage partners who refuse to deal with issues that are important to their partner or are insensitive to the emotional aspects of an argument. This often enrages the more “emotional” partner.
  • The Sniper – Anger expressed as constant or intense criticism. The sniper always thinks they are right or know better. They see their partner as a project to improve. They sometimes are put-down artists.
  • Shields Up and Red Alert – Anger expressed as defensiveness. This expression of anger is difficult to penetrate. Rather than deal with issues, partners spend all their energy defending themselves or what they have done (or didn’t do). They are not open to influence from their partner.
  • The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing – Anger expressed as passive aggressive. The passive aggressive has much anger or hostility but is unable or unwilling to express it directly. So, they get you behind your back!
  • The Silent Volcano – Anger expressed as holding resentment. Some people hold resentment for years and silently or indirectly punish their partners who may not even remember the offense any longer.
  • Here Comes The Judge – Anger expressed as contempt. Some partners hold themselves to be morally, intellectually, or socially superior to their spouse. They constantly judge their partner and are not open to the idea that their partner’s opinions or ways of doing things might also have value.