Everyone wants a relationship that is passionate, joyful, and safe, but too many people are living in a relationship that is stressful and full of conflict. There are fights or, even worse, deadly silences. Here I’ll share some of the basics you need to know to understand male anger and keep it from wrecking your relationship.
1. Understand that men are rarely angry for the reasons they think.
OK, let me get down-home and personal. Most people would say I’m a pretty even-keeled kind of guy. I’m generally happy, smile a lot, and get along well with most everyone. With one exception—the women I love. Anger has been a problem in all my relationships with women. I would get crazy angry with my first wife (but I would tell myself, “Of course I get angry. Who wouldn’t get angry with someone who treats me like she does.”) But I would also get angry at our daughter (And I would tell myself, “I’ve got to get her to learn to listen to me and do what I tell her to do. It’s for her own good.)
The real reason I was angry was hidden from my awareness. Since my anger wasn’t really about my wife or my daughter (Sure, people always do things that irritate us), my anger kept coming back again and I would blow up in ways that never made sense to my daughter or my wife.
2. Recognize that 90% of our anger comes from the past.
We think something in the present is causing our anger, but the truth is most all of it has roots in the past. Chronic anger has very little to do with those we care about now. Its roots are in our past relationships with people who wounded us long ago. We bury the memories because they are so painful. However, they don’t go away. They lie buried inside like time bombs just waiting to explode. My wife looks at me a certain way or says something that feels hurtful. My daughter acts like a child and gets stubborn and resistant. Bombs are triggered and I blow up.
3. Accept the reality that male anger will destroy everything and everyone you love unless you get serious about changing it.
My anger contributed to the breakup of my first marriage. Next, I married an angry, violent woman (When anger has not been healed, its not unusual to pick a partner who has anger issues). When we broke up, I licked my wounds, told myself I had just picked the wrong partner and fell in love again (although its difficult to truly know love when we have an anger demon inside us).
Fortunately, I began to get at the roots of my anger and got serious about healing it. Carlin and I have been together 39 years now and a lot of what I’ve learned and written about in my books is the result of what we’ve learned together.
4. Join a men’s group so you can be in the company of men who care.
Most of us grew up learning that men were supposed to be strong and silent, that we were supposed to solve our problems ourselves, that showing our vulnerable sides was a sign of weakness, that big boys don’t cry, and a whole lot of other beliefs and rules that we learned from movies, T.V., other males in our families. The result is that most of us live inside a Man Box and our anger is bottled up inside until it explodes on those we love.
I write about the Man Box in my new book, 12 Rules for Good Men, which will be out on November 21, 2019. The first rule for good men is to “join a men’s group.” My wife, Carlin, attributes the success of our 39-year marriage to the fact that I’ve been in a men’s group for 40 years. In the book, I tell you the benefits of joining a group, where you can find one, and how to join.
If you’re interested in getting details on the new book as soon as it is available, drop me a note to [email protected] and put “12 Rules for Good Men” in the subject line. You’ll be the first to get the book as soon as its available.
5. Learn about the 5 stages of love and understand that stage 3 is the most important one.
Throughout most of my life, I thought there were only two stages. First, we fall in love with the right partner. Second, we build a life together. Then, we live happily ever after. When I became angry and disillusioned with the person I was with, or she became disillusioned with me, the marriage ended and we eventually start over and try again.
But, here’s the thing. I learned that disillusionment is actually a stage that every relationship must go through. Its purpose is to help us get real and deal with the wounds that we’ve been living with our whole lives that create the time bombs that blow us up until we defuse them.
When I did my own Stage 3 healing, I dealt with my father wound and understood how his anger got transferred to me. I realized that I was angry as hell towards my mother who I had always thought was a saint for carrying on and taking care of me after my father was committed to a mental hospital. I dealt with my rage towards a babysitter who had abused me when I was a child and the neighbor girl who used to torment me and hit me, but who I could never stop because “Boys never hurt girls. We’re tough and we can take it.”
6. Heal Stage 3 and allow real, lasting, love in your life.
I’ll be honest about Stage 3–Getting through it is not easy. I needed help which I received from a great therapist. For a while, I needed medications to help me with my life-long depression. But the rewards allow us to move into Stage 4, Real Lasting Love. We finally are able to get what we’ve longed for our whole lives, but didn’t know how to achieve. I still get angry but it’s a kind of anger that is based in the now, not being driven by past wounds.
I can tell you that Carlin and I have fallen in love with each other and continue to fall in love over and over. We have even learned about Stage 5, Finding Your Calling as a Couple. I invite you to join us on the journey. Check out my book, The Enlightened Marriage if you’re interested in learning more. You can also check out my other books around male anger: The Irritable Male Syndrome and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship. You can also come visit me at my blog and share your own experiences.
Originally published on Men Alive.
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