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Married to an Angry Man

3 Mistakes Wives Make

Being married to an angry man is scary because it’s unpredictable.

It’s only natural to make like a turtle and retreat into your shell because it can really hurt to get the brunt of his anger. Your brain works overtime thinking of ways to protect yourself, which is exhausting and stressful.

It can also make you feel like you need to figure out how to keep him from getting angry. Or that you need to be a buffer between him and the kids.

Or it can make you feel that you need to just get out!

It seems like the only solution is for him to work on his anger issues. Until then, nothing can improve. You just have to wait for that to happen and encourage him to definitely get some therapy or something.

If that’s not happening, it can make you feel powerless and hopeless.

That’s what I used to think too, but it turns out I was making some mistakes that actually made the problem worse, not better.

And I’ve discovered I’m not the only one. Lots of well-meaning wives have made these same 3 mistakes.

Here they are, along with what to do instead so you can make your home peaceful, calm and safe.

Mistake #1: Walking on Eggshells

What do you want from your marriage

I know this one probably seems like we’ve just landed in Opposite World because walking on eggshells, or going out of your way to make sure he doesn’t get angry, seems like what you absolutely SHOULD do if you’re trying to keep things peaceful, right?

I know! I thought so too!

But trying to “walk on eggshells” means you’re trying to control how he reacts. And anytime I’m trying to control someone else, it’s pretty irritating.

So irritating that it could actually make them mad! It’s like trying to put out a fire with gas.

Whenever I’m controlling, it’s because I’m afraid, so if I’m afraid he’s going to blow up and I show up with that fearful body language and look on my face, it’s a message to him that says “I think you’re going to be upset.” Which, ironically, can be very upsetting.

So what should you do instead of walking on eggshells? (Which, let’s face it, can’t be done anyway.)

One idea is to ask yourself these two powerful questions:

1. How do I feel?
2. What do I want?

The answer to “How do I feel?” might be “scared.” Or “nervous.” Or “afraid.”

The answer to “What do I want?” will depend on you. Only you know what you want right then. Maybe it’s to do something to care for yourself, like take a bath or a walk, or maybe it’s to get takeout for dinner or shop for shoes online.

Sometimes when I’m scared it’s because I’m trying to get my own attention.

Fine, you might be thinking, but then what if he does blow up and I’m browsing shoes? Isn’t that going to make him even madder?

That leads me to the next common mistake.

Mistake #2: Depriving Him of Oxygen

Express your desires in marriage

I thought my husband was angry because he just had problems, probably from childhood that he would have to work on for a long, long time in therapy.

But it turns out, I was depriving him of oxygen, by which I mean respect. I thought I was respectful, but I wasn’t. I was picking at him all the time without realizing it.

Comedian Steve Trevino does a bit that explains this really well.

He talks about how he didn’t want to get married. He says, “No man woke up one day and was like ‘You know what? I’m tired of making my own decisions. I would like to be questioned all the time about everything I do.’”

Then he mimics his wife saying, “Why did you park there?” And Steve says, “I can’t take it. I lose it. ‘FINE! Tell me where you want me to park, boss!’” Then she says, “Oh my god, you’re mad. You have anger problems.”

Steve says he parks that car by himself all the time and never gets mad. He never asks himself why he parked there when he’s by himself. So he thinks it must be her!

And this is a great example of what my marriage used to look like, where I’d question my husband and think it was harmless, but really I was questioning his competence.

These days, instead of questioning how he does things, I figure out what I want and express that, as in, “I would love to park close to the store.”

I’m not questioning his judgment, which would be disrespectful, but just giving him the information about what I desire. (Why do I care about where we park, I sometimes wonder! Who knows! But if I do, it’s up to me to communicate what I desire instead of questioning his choice.)

Mistake #3: Trying to Get Him to Stop Being Angry

How to control your husbands behavior

When you’re scared because you know your husband is angry, it’s the most automatic thing in the world to try to get him to stop by interrupting him, walking away or rolling your eyes.

You always have those options and you’re the expert on your own life.

But what if you mixed things up the next time he gets angry by just…listening? Listening without interrupting, even if he’s yelling.

It can be scary, especially if he’s mad AT you. But listening can be a powerful tonic for anger. Sometimes people get mad because they don’t feel heard.

I did this with my dad, who had a habit of getting worked up about politics. He’d yell and pound the table and go on and on. I’m not proud to say that my reaction was to dismiss him. I’d interrupt or try to change the subject, but he just got louder and more determined to make his points.

Until the day I decided to just listen. I still wasn’t interested in his political points, but I am interested in him, so I just sat there looking at him attentively, and when he paused I said, “I hear you” or “uh-huh.”

That was it.

And then something amazing happened. He stopped. All by himself. He calmed himself down.

He hasn’t gone on a political rant since. But if he did, I’d know it means he just wants to be heard, and there’s nothing I need to do about it but listen.

He just wants to be heard and seen and understood, like all of us.

Of course listening is easier said than done, especially if he’s hurling insults or swearing at you or the kids! When that happens, a powerful response is to honor yourself by simply saying “Ouch!” and leaving the room.

Or just “Ouch!” if you’re stuck in a car, for example.

It feels ridiculously vulnerable to say “Ouch,” but if you are courageous enough to say it, without defending or offending in the process, you give him the space to hear only his own conscience and see that he has hurt the woman he loves.

That is not what he intends, and your vulnerability is a powerful reminder that he loves to be your protector, not your antagonizer.

You have the power to remind him to be the best version of himself when you show up as the best version of yourself.

How will you be your best self today: by getting in touch with your feelings and desires? Expressing those desires? Just listening or saying “Ouch”?

I can’t wait to hear which you experiment with.

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

New York Times Bestselling Author

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

9 replies on “Married to an Angry Man”

I started reading the book empower wife two days ago and listening to the podcast a week ago . My husband was away for work and returned today. I started to practice some of the intimacy skills and didnt harass him or text him a lot while he was gone or even called , when he came home I listened without interrumpting of how his work trip went.

He was happy, said how beautiful I looked and even asked me to play wiffle ball /baseball with him in our yard !!! He bought the ball and bat 4 years ago and we have never played it even though he has said he wanted to playbefore. It was so fun and ligh hearted and enjoyable acting like kids in our yard .

He has anger issues and did not get upset with me all week , I am trying the respect and self care for now and so far so good . Thank you so much

Stefanie, amazing results! I give you all the credit for creating instant results–congrats! So inspiring.

I’m curious if the six skills will work if I have no desire to have a relationship with him, I just want him to be a good dad to our kids. He currently only talks to them when he’s angry and wants to drag them down too.

I don’t leave because I know that would mean he would never see them again, so I would be taking away their father. I know this because he has children from a previous marriage he has no contact with and any time I’ve tried to send a birthday card he tells me not to, that they don’t deserve it.

He has also promised many times he would quit his job if I left and only work for cash to make sure I would never see a dime of child support. I have not worked in 11 years and could only get a low wage job, which would mean my children would live in poverty.

So I don’t leave because it seems like it would be worse for my kids if I do. But I don’t want a relationship with him. He is a narcissist and addicted to prescription pills. He has hurt me so many times and so badly I could care less about him. The thought of him even touching me makes me want to vomit. I don’t care if he cheats.

So, again, I’m curious if your skills will help him to be a good father. I don’t want anything else.

Stacy, what you’ve been through sounds so hurtful. Absolutely, practicing the Skills is an ideal way to inspire him to be the dad your kids deserve. As the expert on your own life, you always get to choose your vision. I would love to support you in that and invite you to join us in the Ridiculously Happy Wife group coaching. Your commitment to your family is admirable.

I just finished reading: Married to an Angry Man (3 Mistakes Wives Make)! Absolutely LOVED it. Thank you so much! Perfect article and so timely. My husband is suffering from an over active thyroid and has had family anger issues from his abusive father and family members. He always fights to control himself but growing up with a mild father myself…it’s always still a shock when that anger bubbles forth. Understanding his inability to always control himself has helped me but it doesn’t always stop the immediate pain in feeling that anger and certainly doesn’t give me proper responses! This article did! Thank you!

I love this blog. Thank you so much ! When anger happens with my husband I get very tense. I try very hard to remain quiet and listen, it is hard. When I do say ouch and walk away it does put some space betreen us. Thanks for all you do Laura !

You’re welcome, Cindi! I’m so glad this resonates and is empowering for you. Kudos to you for choosing intimacy!

I love the awareness that walking on eggshells is just another way of trying to control and is disrespectful! Getting in touch with what I feel & want is so much more empowering!

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