Do you walk on eggshells around your angry husband? Telling him how you feel will only make things worse. But you can you use boundaries to help him get over his anger issues. All of your family members will benefit–including your husband. Love him enough to help him change.
Your husband is getting angry with you in order to: 1) motivate you to do what he wants, 2) to create emotional distance in your relationship, and/or 3) to feel a sense of control or power. How angry your husband is depends on how motivated he is to get what he wants, how comfortable he is with being close to you, and how much he is able to control you with his anger.
Many women unsuccessfully try to explain to their husbands how they don’t like their anger and how it bothers them. This kind of communication will not result in your husband changing. Because angry people externalize blame, he is not going to take responsibility for being angry. He will blame you for it.
If you want to change his angry behavior, you need to make anger stop working for him
You can do this by showing him (not telling him) that he is not going to change you with his anger. You can refuse to be controlled by his anger, thereby not rewarding it. You don’t do this by being angry back, but by using good boundaries. Although he will not like your doing this and will temporarily be more angry, the end result will be a better relationship for both of you.
Make an angry man ineffective in getting what he wants
Husbands, like children, learn quickly what works and what does not work in attempting to get what they want. If a child can get you to give him what he wants by having a tantrum (or threatening to), he is going to tantrum more and more. The more you give in to him, the more likely you make it that he will tantrum again, and soon.
The exact same principle applies to husbands. Just like the child, he has to learn that becoming angry and shouting, withdrawing, threatening, or holding his breath, is not going to get you to give him what he wants.
If your husband tries to get something reasonable using anger
You need to consider if what he wants is reasonable to want or not. For example, if you have an angry husband because you won’t have sex with him, you don’t want his anger to force sex from you. On the other hand, it is appropriate for your husband to want to have sex with you. If so, you need to be sexual with him when he is behaving well rather than when he is behaving poorly. And, never have sex with him within one hour of his being angry.
Be careful not to use sex as a way to make up after a fight. Men can easily learn to fight just to get to make up afterwards. This would be like giving candy to your child after he stops having a tantrum. He would quickly learn to tantrum in order to then calm down and get candy. This would make him tantrum more, not less. This example used sex, but it could be anything reasonable. There are better ways to make up after a fight.
If your husband tries to get something unreasonable using anger
In this case, you must make sure not to give him what he wants at any time, whether he is behaving well or not. He must learn that he cannot coerce you to do what is not reasonable by being an angry husband. If you give in just one time, it will be a long time before you can get him to give up using anger as a tool for manipulating you. Sometimes women say things that actually encourage men to persist in trying to obtain what their wives don’t want to give.
One such thing is saying , “I don’t feel like….” For men, a feeling is not a decision and is subject to change. So,it just encourages him to try to get you to change your feeling. What you need to say instead is something like, “I have decided that I will never ….” This is viewed by men more as a decision and many men will stop simply because of that. Compare:
I don’t feel like doing that (encourages husband to persuade)
I have decided that I will never do that (discourages husband from continuing to persuade)
For men who won’t stop even with the decision format, you can use the broken record technique. This means repeating your decision whenever he mentions it, using the same words, and refusing to turn it into a discussion.
Example: The Broken Record Technique
Husband: “Did you think about doing what I asked you about last night?”
Wife: “I have decided that I am never going to do that.”
Husband: “Why not? It will be fun.”
Wife: “Because I have decided that I am never going to do that.”
Husband: (Getting angry, raising voice). “I asked you a question.”
Wife: “And I answered it. I have decided that I am never going to do that. Is there something you don’t understand about that?”
Husband: “Yes, why you won’t do that.”
Wife: “Because I have decided I am never going to do that. That is my decision and I have nothing more to say about it.”
Does this sound like a bad example to you? This moody spouse: 1) did not get what he wanted, and 2) the time in conflict was fairly short. If you are living with a man who uses anger to control you, you know that turning it into a discussion would not be a peaceful, loving connection. It would be long, drawn-out arguing and debating and in the end you would either give in or he would storm off, as in this example.
Being firm, while refusing to argue helps to put the issue to rest so that you both can get back to other things that build your relationship. His giving up and going off is a clear indicator that you were successful in preventing his anger from working for him. Children will also storm off when they don’t get what they want, but if you argue with them and give in, they will argue with you every time. Just let them storm off and when you next see them again, be friendly and pretend like nothing ever happened.
“Isn’t there a way to get him to stop being moody without making him more angry?”
Sadly, there is no easy way to get him to stop being angry. The example above is only one of several good methods for getting a man to no longer use anger to control you, but they all have on thing in common–they make his anger no longer work for him. And that will make him angry. The only way I know to stop him from using anger to control you without making him more angry is to separate from him. Rather than make him angry, this is likely to make him scared. Many men will then work on their anger.
It is not my preferred method to deal with an angry husband, but it is still one to have in your toolbox if the other methods do not work. I have worked with many men whose wives have separated for this very reason. These men are very motivated to change. Not all men will, however. The ones who won’t are scary. Also, never threaten to separate. Threats are counterproductive because they will be tested. And, if you don’t follow through, your relationship will be worse than before.
“I want to be able to discuss my reasons and concerns with my husband”
Discussion can be a good thing–if done at the right time. That time is not when his anger is trying to force something from you. At that time, you must not give him the satisfaction of a discussion. You can offer to discuss it later, when you are both calm, but at least one hour from the time he is angry. And, if in the process of discussing it, he becomes angry again, then stop right away. You can once again reschedule your discussion, just as long as you do not reward his anger with discussion. In my book, What to Do When He Won’t Change, I offer women a 5 step process for stopping an angry presentation from their husband and turning it into a way to improve their marriage.
“I think my husband uses anger to create emotional distance”
Creating emotional distance signals preparation for leaving the relationship. It usually happens before affairs and separation and is a clear divorce warning sign. In this case, the most important thing is not addressing his anger, but creating connection. This will not happen by your sitting down and talking to him about it. That is most likely just to create an argument or denial of problems from your husband. Instead, you need to focus on using good connection skills to help him be attracted to you, enjoy being with you, and look forward to being with you in the future.
Many of those skills are the same ones you probably used when you were first dating him, but have long since stopped doing. I have a free download that can give you a refresher on how to build a good connection
with your husband. If he has become very resistant to all attempts to connect with him, I recommend you get coaching for reconnecting your relationship. This is something you do as an individual to learn to re attract him.
Talking about marriage problems does not fix them
I am a licensed psychologist and have been since 1994. I spent years doing marriage counseling and consistently found that more progress could be made when working with one person than when working with a couple. This is because couples tend to explain, defend, attack, and sometimes reluctantly make changes their partners want. But those changes do not tend to last.
However, when working with individuals, we were more focused on what to do and could often create lasting change. This is the model that has been used in parent training for years–teach the parent how to deal with the child’s behaviors. Relationship coaching uses the same model for “spouse training” to get the same positive results. Whether you have a selfish, unhappy, avoidant, or angry spouse, you will find that just talking to him about it does not create the change you are hoping for.
In order to create those changes, you will need to learn both how to connect with him when he is not this way, and how to deal with him when he is this way. That combination will create a new pattern of interaction in your relationship and get you out of a rut you may have been entrenched in for years. I have been very gratified to help thousands of women to improve their marriages by making changes in the way they interact with their husbands.