If you need immediate help, please call 911 or the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1

Managing Anger in Your Relationship

Relationships can be very fulfilling and having the support of a loved one can help you navigate the challenges of military life. However, in any relationship there may be times when you and your partner will disagree. Whether it’s arguments about household chores or personal finances, it’s common to get angry sometimes. However, when emotions are running high, reactions driven by anger can damage your relationships and your health.

The Side Effects of Anger

Anger is a natural response to a perceived or real threat. It can range from mild irritability to intense rage. Everyday situations, like getting stuck in traffic or your partner forgetting to pay a bill, can trigger the emotion. Frequent bouts of acting angry can start to take a toll on your self-esteem and psychological well-being. Research has also shown that bottling up anger or expressing it unchecked towards others contributes to a multitude of health issues, such as high blood pressure, digestion problems, and higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.

When Anger Becomes a Problem in Your Relationship

Anger may be impacting your relationship if you find yourself:

  • Angry frequently or with increasing intensity
  • Unable to control your anger
  • Reacting with aggressive verbal and physical actions, such as yelling, cursing, throwing objects or violence toward your partner

Practicing constructive ways to manage anger can strengthen your relationship and your emotional well-being. When verbal disagreements arise, try the communication tips below to help keep anger in check and find a resolution to the disagreement.

Communication Tips to Manage Angry Responses

Cool Off

If you find yourself worked up and in the middle of an argument with your partner, make an agreement with them to step away from the situation until you can both discuss things rationally. Giving yourself ten minutes to take a walk or even ten breaths to collect yourself can help alleviate the tension and clear your head. 

Write It Down

Instead of immediately engaging in an argument with your partner, try jotting down your feelings in a journal. Keeping a journal will help you figure out how and why get angry and if other feelings, such as embarrassment or sadness, set off your anger. By writing it down, you can also organize your thoughts to have a respectful and calm discussion with your partner when the time is right. 

Create a Communication Plan

With your partner, develop a communication plan for your relationship. The plan can include scheduling your discussions for a later time when emotions have settled down, as well as ways to use active listening and set boundaries in advance. Consider agreeing to use ‘I’ statements to describe how you feel about a problem to minimize finger-pointing and blaming when talking it out. For example, ‘I feel frustrated when we are not equally sharing household tasks like taking out the trash.’

Talk to a Professional

While anger can be a common reaction, experiencing it with increasing intensity or frequency can also be a reaction linked to psychological health concerns such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you need additional support managing your anger, connect with a trained health care professional. They can work with you to identify techniques to manage your anger and may recommend resources such as anger management courses, conflict resolution training, cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy.

Reaching out for help can keep you mission ready and improve your relationships. Call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 to speak with a trained health resource consultant or start a conversation on their live chat. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255), service members press 1.

Additional Resources

Sources

Cigrang, J. A., Cordova, J. V., Gray, T. D., Najera, E., Hawrilenko, M., Pinkley, C., . . . Redd, K. (2016). The Marriage Checkup: Adapting and Implementing a Brief Relationship Intervention for Military CouplesCognitive and Behavioral Practice,23(4), 561-570.

Masarik, A. S., Martin, M. J., Ferrer, E., Lorenz, F. O., Conger, K. J., & Conger, R. D. (2016). Couple Resilience to Economic Pressure Over Time and Across GenerationsJournal of Marriage and Family, 78(2), 326-345. 

Williamson, H. C., Altman, N., Hsueh, J., & Bradbury, T. N. (2016). Effects of Relationship Education on Couple Communication and Satisfaction: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Low-Income CouplesJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(2), 156-166.

Zamir, O., Gewirtz, A. H., Labella, M., Degarmo, D. S., & Snyder, J. (2018). Experiential Avoidance, Dyadic Interaction and Relationship Quality in the Lives of Veterans and Their PartnersJournal of Family Issues,39(5), 1191-1212.