Anger and Stress Management Tips for Satisfying Relationships
Jackson just found out that his partner Stacey has been keeping a secret about a friendship with a past romantic friend. It all came spilling out when he saw a text message on her phone while she was in the bathroom and he was getting ready for bed. Stunned, he gave Stacey the cold shoulder when they got into bed. But inside he was smoldering. The lightest touch from Stacey ignited his rage, setting off a cascade of accusations that he wanted her to plead guilty to.
Enraged and humiliated about being duped, Jackson wanted to get back in control. One part of him wanted to beat the truth out of her and feel strong doing it, while another part of him wanted a denial so the relationship remained secure. It was hard to know which part of himself he should fight for.
Furious at his audacity, Stacey yelled that he was overreacting
Jackson went ballistic. He just saw a text that made it clear that something is going on between them. It looked suspicious. How could she pretend he made it up?
Hiis head throbbed and he felt his heart racing as he began interrogating Stacey. He imagined all the ways he had been kept in the dark and made a fool of. His imagination ran riot, and he wanted to get every last drop of “admission ” out of her.
Desperate to calm him down and get to sleep, Stacey decided to answer his questions directly hoping it would do the trick. There was no risk for her since she had nothing to hide.
But each time she answered him Jackson’s fire got stoked again. To him, it was as if she was proving that there was no smoke without fire!
How did those angry fires get started?
He was taken back to a place where his parents and grandparents had played with his mind, making him question what he saw, felt and knew with his own senses. They would mock his mind, destroy it and then put their own minds into the spot where his belonged. It was a form of cruel obliteration. He had no way of fighting for his right to his own thoughts, his own feelings and his own interpretation of events.
But now, as an adult, he wasn’t going to allow that anymore. He was going to fight tooth and nail for the truth of his own reality, even if he had to take his relationship to the brink of destruction.
Stacey on the other hand was taken back to a place of being a ‘naughty girl’ and getting spanked by her dad when she broke a rule and tried to hide it from her parents. Getting caught was humiliating and negated her as a person. When Jackson accused her of keeping secrets about her other romantic partners, it felt as if she were being treated like that naughty girl who should own up to her bad deeds, take the punishment, feel ashamed and behave!
Both were experiencing the destabilizing feeling of having their minds messed with.
Both got furious and wanted their reality and truth to win out. But they reacted differently. Jackson went into offensive mode and Stacey responded in the defensive mode.
After a while exhaustion set in. Jackson couldn’t keep up the desperate attempt to have his experience verified, and Stacey failed in her quest to defend herself. They went off to their corners until the next bell of suspicion brought them back into the boxing ring.
Name calling and labeling cooled them off
Stacey sloughed it off by calling Jackson jealous and paranoid.
Jackson stepped back by thinking of Stacey as ‘out there,’ without appropriate standards of behavior.
Then they would miss each other and start talking again, enjoying the exciting connection they enjoyed when they first met – until Stacey’s interaction with a guy from her past started the whole ball of suspicion rolling again. Jackson threatened to leave and Stacey tried to appease him. They couldn’t go on like this for much longer.
Couples therapy helped tease out the addictive quality of their relationship
Jackson couldn’t rage at his family members when they messed with his mind, BUT HE CAN NOW, when Stacey‘s actions push those same buttons.
Stacey couldn’t rage at her father when he spanked her and made her feel humiliated, BUT SHE CAN NOW, when Jackson pushes provokes her in the same spot.
Each of them felt powerful when they got enraged, and that was addictive. It made them want to continue the cycle so that they could feel the surge and ‘high’ that rageful power gives. After a respite to recharge their physical batteries, they were at it again.
Once they realized how this addicition kept fueling each other’s dormant fires, they began to feel less personally persecuted, and humiliated. They learned to understand the triggers for one and other and make allowances, without fighting to the death for their version of reality to prevail. Both were real and valid and important.
Couples therapy helped calm the rage as they processed their experiences of having their minds messed with, allowing them to have a more authentic relationship.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
AUTHOR OF:’ Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: Ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationship.
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Disclaimer: this article is for educational and informational purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have when reading the material or following the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.