Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.


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photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Do you feel strong when you express your anger at a loved one and then immediately regret it?

Is there a voice inside your head that knows you don’t want to apologize and have no need to? The stark choice between standing up for yourself and making sure the relationship survives can coerce you into apologizing even when you don’t want to and see no need to.

What if you could express your justifiable outrage without worrying that the fire you breathed out turned your loved one into ashes?

Wouldn’t it be a big relief to know that you can have your big feelings of anger without destroying an important relationship?

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photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

All her life Vanessa held her tongue when she was chastised and accused of things she thought were unfair.

She walked away, escaped into music or got busy on one of her projects to control her rage. She wanted to let her parents know just how angry she was when they give her credit, when they didn’t hear her side of things and when they just took out their stresses on her. She wanted to let her husband know how angry she was when he came home late and expected her to be awake and perky. She wanted him to know how angry she felt when he cheated on her by having an affair. But she never did.

Vanessa cried, withdrew or just became a robot. She never showed her anger until one day when the dam burst and her anger came spewing out in torrents of hot words. Her husband Jethro was shocked at his meek wife using such forceful language and making a stand.

“Stop treating me like a door mat! Stop using me as maid. Stop, stop, stop………..!” Vanessa put down her boundary lines and as she did she felt vindicated. Jethro’s face and cringing posture made her feel validated.

Taking on the role of the aggressor to Jethro’s victim was an exhilarating experience, and one that she had been fantasizing about for years. She never had the courage to do it with her mother, but now at last, she was letting out the pent up anger at her husband.

As Jethro walked away stunned, Vanessa’s feelings of vindication turned into fear.

Scenarios of abandonment of her own making raced through her mind, just like these:

“What if he never talks to me again?”

“What if he leaves me?”

“I shouldn’t have said all that. I ought to have been more tactful.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel so bad that I just want things to be the way before, and I’ll do anything to get back to that place.”

Before she knew it Vanessa was apologizing to Jethro, eating her words and soothing his ruffled feathers. She told him she had “lost it” and that she really didn’t mean it!

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photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

The marriage survived but with some important changes after Vanessa realized two important things.

1.    She realized that Jethro didn’t disintegrate into a heap of ashes when she let her anger out.

2.    She had meant every single word uttered in anger. That was in not in doubt. The apology came from her unfounded fear that he would dissolve and with it their relationship.

So do you really need to apologize after you have exploded in anger?

Vanessa’s story suggests that you don’t need to take back your words or disown your feelings expressed in anger. What you can do is to check in with your loved one and begin a dialogue about their reaction in order to test the strength of the relationship. Engaging in a conversation about mutual feelings forges new bonds that absorb big feelings and solidify the connection.

Later you can share how you would like to be treated and how you want love to be shown. But you never have to apologize for saying things that were true and heartfelt. Nor do you have to apologize for being angry. Focus on the quality of the connection which is the source of the anger and fear of loss for successful intimate relationships.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

You may also like:

 Why 9 out of 10 apologies fail to improve relationships

Feeling insecure in your relationship makes you more prone to angry outbursts

How to make up after a fight and regain intimacy

Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.