Do you know which of the four motivators is making your husband be so angry? Figuring that out will help you deal with him effectively.
When your husband is angry, it forces you to focus on his emotion and his words. At that time he will either be blaming you or criticizing you.
His behaviors damage your marriage without really making his life any better. So why does he continue to be that way? And, how can you turn this around into a win-win situation?
It’s really important to create win-win solutions. Defensiveness or retaliation will only make your marriage worse.
Two steps to working on his anger problem
In order to create a win-win solution, you need to first put his behaviors and words aside. Thinking about his words again and again may lead you to do things that don’t really help. If you just respond to his words, you may find that no matter what you do, your husband is still angry.
Memorize this: Men use words as tools to get what they want. Never take their words at face value.
Next, you need to consider which of the four basic motivations are driving him. His damaging behaviors happen for a reason. Helping him to get what he is after, while not rewarding his destructive behavior, can strengthen your relationship.
The four motivators for men’s anger
Men are goal oriented. The difference between a healthy man and an unhealthy man are his goal choices. The difference between his success and lack of success is his ability to accomplish his goals.
Your husband’s behavior is an attempt to accomplish one of four goals.
These goals are either:
- To get something done,
- To get something right,
- To get along, or
- To get attention.
These are the four basic motivations found by psychological researchers Brinkman and Kirschner in their 2003 study. Although we all have these four motivations to some extent, at times of stress we care about one of them much more than the others. Which one we focus on most depends on our personality.
When your husband is angry, he is very stressed. And at that time, because of his personality, he is concerned with one of these goals more than the others.
Determining which goal is motivating his anger the most
As an example, let’s suppose that your husband is trying to fix the car. But, instead of fixing it, he is getting increasingly upset. We can guess that in this situation, he is probably motivated both to “get it right” (get the car to work right) and “get it done” (so he can move on to something else).
Unless you have some way to help him get it right and get it done, you had best stay out of his way. Interrupting him at this time may be a nuisance to him—an interruption of his goals to get it right and get it done. His frustration with not being able to fix the car will then come out at you in the form of anger.
Match your communication to his motive
If he does get angry at you, then you can direct a question directly at his motives. For example, if you ask, “How can I help you to get this done?” or “What do you need to get it working?” he is likely to tell you.
Other questions which emphasize his difficulty, such as “what’s wrong with it?” or “why can’t you get it working?” will provoke anger. Pointing out his difficulty achieving his goals is something like pouring gas on a fire because it intensifies the frustration he feels.
Although you may be trying to show interest or be emotionally supportive, he won’t experience it that way. Either leave him alone to do it, show confidence in his ability, or do a helpful action. Helpful actions could be as simple as bringing him a cup of coffee. Or it could mean doing one of his chores so he has more time to accomplish his goal.
Your husband’s anger may be caused by a motivation “to get along”
If he is trying to get along with you, the kids, or someone else, but it doesn’t go so well, he may become very angry. A clue of this is if he talks about how things are “not fair” because he does so much for others and he just gets grief in return.
People with poor social skills often have this kind of anger because they are not good at getting others to respond to them in a positive way. They then blame others for not getting along with them. It’s really a kind of self protection. They blame others for their failure to create good relationships.
Anything you can do to help him have more social success will help him be less angry. Be sure not to tell him that he is doing things that harm his relationships with you, others, or the children. That would add to his frustration and provoke more blame and anger.
If you marry a stupid man, make him feel smart. If you marry antisocial man, make him feel like he is a gift to others. Then, you will help to bring out his best. You will never bring out the best in a man by pointing out how bad he is.
Your husband’s anger could also be a result of a motivation to “get attention”
Some people only get attention by being angry. Others get angry because they don’t get attention. Either way, the anger comes from the same goal of getting attention. Children will do the same thing. Everyone needs a certain amount of attention from others. That amount will vary from person to person.
Although you don’t want his anger to force attention from you, it is important to be making time for him when he is not angry, and on a daily basis. When he is demanding attention, you can remove it at that time so as to not reward him, but make sure to restore positive attention soon. Otherwise, he will escalate more and more to get attention.
Any attention at all is better than no attention for people who need it
How you can start to address your husband’s anger and make your relationship better
If your husband has been an angry man ever since you met him, then a lot of it is his personality. It is the way that he has learned, since childhood, how to get what he wants. No amount of trying to get him to understand will ever change anything. You will need to learn how to use good boundaries while also helping him to get what he wants in a good way.
Understanding does not create change. Only actions can do that.
If your husband has become an angry person, and didn’t used to be that way, I recommend a different approach. Many times men’s anger has resulted from not being able to get what they want. Their anger protects them from further failure by justifying their reasons not to try. Starting with boundaries can add to their frustration and make them totally give up on your relationship.
Jesus’ counsel in Matthew 7:5 is to first remove the log from our eye before we try to remove the splinter from the other person’s eye. I have found the same principle applies if we only have a splinter in our eye and the other person has a log in theirs. I have found that women, who have a husband who has become angry, are themselves doing at least a little damage to the relationship.
With such women, I use a three step approach, that is useful for building relationships with anyone:
- Stop any damage that you are doing to your relationship regardless of how much damage your husband is doing.
- Use relationship building behaviors to help your husband look forward to seeing you and being with you, and
- Use boundaries for any remaining damage your husband is doing.
This biblical approach can completely change your relationship from a hostile, conflict-filled one, to a very enjoyable one. Most women first work to stop their husband’s angry behaviors before they stop their own damage. Unless he has abusive and unfaithful behaviors, that is not a good approach and typically will just make him more angry.
Which type of angry husband do you have?
If he has always been an angry man, is abusive, or unfaithful, then stop trying to get him to understand how his behavior is damaging and hurts you. That will not create change. Instead learn the correct boundaries to use and how to help him to get what he wants in appropriate ways.
If your husband has become an angry person and that is not his character, help him to enjoy being with you again before working on boundaries. If you use that approach either all of his anger will stop or you will have far fewer angry behaviors to deal with.
If you would like to work with me on boundaries and relationship building skills, I invite you to view the relationship coaching package options on my website, coachjackito.com.