Are you “in anger” with your spouse?
Some of you are nodding your heads as you read this,
because you know exactly what I’m talking
about. You’re suffering with this problem, and it’s tearing
your marriage apart.
But for those of you who aren’t completely clear what I mean
by being “in anger,” let me explain.
I have found that when feelings of love die in a marriage,
the person who is no longer “in love” is often “in anger”
Underlying angry or resentful feelings are present,
and these feelings are tearing the “in love” feelings apart.
This can happen for any number of reasons.
It may have been a catastrophic event like an affair that
created the angry feelings. Or it could be that certain wants
or needs have gone unmet or unfulfilled for a long time, and
these unaddressed needs are driving a wedge between you.
Either way, I have found that when this problem has
escalated to the point where the “in love” feelings have
begun to die, it means the spouse who is “in anger” has
tried to express what she has been angry about for
a long time . perhaps even years. But she doesn’t feel
her partner has been listening.
As a result, the person stuffs her feelings. She
swallows her anger, because her spouse hasn’t responded
to her communications in a meaningful way.
This buried anger festers and turns into resentment .
Then the loving feelings begin to die away.
Hence he or she is “in anger” instead of in love.
As you know from my last article, it is difficult to
be in love with someone you are angry with. When you
are “in anger” it means your inner caveman has identified
your spouse as an enemy. And it’s difficult to love
You turn this around, of course, by learning to identify
your spouse as your best friend once again, which I
described last time.
However, in most cases that’s easier said than done.
After all, if you’re “in anger,” your angry feelings are
the dominant feelings you experience when you
think about or interact with your spouse.
How do you start the process of identifying your spouse
as your best friend once more?
You have to express your feelings-particularly your
hurt feelings that built the resentment in the first place.
I know, you’re thinking:
“But Stephanie, you just told me in the last article that
I was supposed to keep my inner caveman locked away
when I talk with my spouse. How will expressing
my feelings make me less angry with my spouse?
How can I keep my caveman locked away when I am supposed
to share feelings with my spouse. It doesn’t make sense.”
You’re right. On the surface it doesn’t make sense.
Nonetheless, that’s exactly what you need to do. You need
to discuss your feelings with your spouse. You need to
tell your spouse about your hurt feelings.
Anger and Resentment Won’t Go Away on Their Own
As long as you are “in anger” it will be very difficult to
rebuild the love in your marriage. Let me give you an
example to illustrate why this is true.
For years, Ralph had been struggling in his marriage,
because he felt his wife, Christine, wasn’t affectionate
enough to him.
When he came home from work she rarely greeted
him with much more than a simple “hello” (he would
have liked a hug and kiss), she almost never snuggled
on the sofa with him when they watched TV, and he
felt she was distant in the bedroom as well.
Christine felt that Ralph should have known how she felt
about him without all the mushy stuff. Ralph, on the
other hand, has felt consistently disappointed that his wife
didn’t and doesn’t show him more affection.
The problem is that Ralph never said anything about it.
After all, Christine is his wife and she should know
what he wants. Ralph feels like he’s in a one-down position
if he has to ask his wife for more attention. He’s also
quite afraid that she will turn down his requests.
So what happens?
Ralph buries his feelings, and goes day after day craving
affection from his wife that he never receives.
Eventually these cravings turn into anger. He begins
to brood about the fact that Christine doesn’t show him
the affection he desires. In time, he begins to resent
Christine for not fulfilling his needs.
This resentment starts spilling over into other parts of
their marriage, and Ralph begins to show his resentment
in small (and sometimes even large) ways believing that if
Christine sees how hurt he is she will eventually change
Unfortunately Christine doesn’t see his hurt feelings.
She sees his anger and that Ralph is pulling away. And
because he hasn’t expressed his needs to her she imagines
this is happening for “no reason.”
In turn she starts resenting Ralph, and showing her
resentment as well. In fact, she doesn’t become more
affectionate because of Ralph’s expressions of resentment-
she becomes less affectionate. She pulls away
from him as well in hopes of protecting herself.
In short, they have begun the vicious cycle where they
have identified each other as enemies instead of friends,
each mistakenly thinking he or she is making an
understandable and undeniable statement of hurt feelings.
This anger and hurt will only cause more distance and
confusion between them. The cycle is only amplified by
time, and it’s not going to dissolve on its own.
As long as Ralph and Christine remain “in anger” the
loving feelings they once shared will not flourish again.
The same is true of your marriage. If you are “in anger”
with your spouse, you will have to overcome
your resentment if you are going to fall in love with him
or her again.
The key is opening and maintaining the lines of
communication with your spouse. You have to talk
about your feelings-even if it is very difficult, even
if you think your spouse might be upset with you. You
have to get your feelings, thoughts, needs, and desires
out on the table if you are going to heal your marriage.
That means you have to talk about your hurt feelings
and your resentments without blaming your spouse. In
this way, your communication is more likely to be productive
for your marriage instead of tearing it down further.
You need to let out your feelings without letting
out the inner caveman.
What’s more, it is even better if your spouse receives
your communication without letting his or her inner caveman
That means your spouse needs to be able to listen
to your position and validate your feelings. Your spouse
doesn’t have to like what is being said or even agree
with your position, but he does need to validate the
experiences you have had and are having and he needs
to understand how you came to be experiencing the feelings
you are having.
None of this is easy to do. But there are techniques you
can learn that will help you. Here are a few tips that are
part of a much broader method I utilize for learning how
to communicate with your partner again.
Tip #1: Set Aside the Idea of the Truth
Generally, what you communicate is your experience.
Due to the fact that different people have different
experiences-even while being in the same room at the same
time. Therefore, focusing your conversations on identifying the
truth isn’t useful for solving problems and will create more
distance between you.
What you are trying to do when you communicate with
your spouse is share an experience with him or her, and
develop a deeper understanding between you.
Understanding your spouse’s experience is, in this context,
more important than nailing him or her down on the
If your spouse changes his or her position, seemingly
contradicts himself, or even starts out saying one thing
but ends up saying something else, simply try to follow
the train of thought instead of condemning your spouse
for being inconsistent.
This entire process is intended to help you help your
spouse develop his or her ideas. You are most helpful
when you are trying to understand and validate your
spouse’s position, not your own.
Which leads me to the next tip .
Tip #2: Set Aside the Idea that the Listener Has to Like
or Agree With What is Being Said
Neither is true. The listener only has to come to an
understanding of how the speaker came to think or feel
the way he or she did.
As the listener you do nothave to like or agree with
your spouse’s position.
However, it is your responsibility to keep this
disagreement private while listening, and to make logical
sense, out loud, of how your spouse would end up with
the thoughts or feelings being expressed.
In order to make logical sense of your spouse’s feelings,
you have to include the entire context of your spouse’s
Your spouse is a rational person who has his or her own
reasons for feeling the way he or she does. These reasons
and feelings are legitimate in and of themselves. Even
if you don’t agree with them, and even if they don’t fit
reality as you know it, it is still your job to validate
They are legitimate when you consider your
spouse’s entire context-including internal feelings,
and the things that your spouse noticed, ignored,
Tip #3: Remember that Your Spouse is Your Friend
and Not Your Enemy
When you speak you don’t want to scare, intimidate,
or attack your spouse, particularly when you have a
message that includes critical feedback.
When you listen you don’t want to argue, debate,
editorialize, or try to take the spotlight off your
spouse. Instead you want to be open, and try to understand
your spouse’s position.
In short this goes back to what I was saying in my last
article. As you communicate with your spouse keep
in mind that you are not talking and listening to an enemy
but the person who is your best friend in the world.
If you can do these things, then every communication
can be a blessing-no matter how difficult the message is
to say or hear.
I know that might sound like pie in the sky to you if
you are struggling in a marriage where the love has died.
This article, of course, is meant as an overview and not
a step-by-step method.
You can achieve this goal. With commitment and
the right skills, you can rebuild the love and create
a marriage that is better than ever.
Let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about
your marriage. Post a comment to this blog by clicking the comment link below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,