How would you finish this sentence: “I get so angry when my partner…”? You may know that we all have a roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter in our brain: the center that is involved in the experiencing of emotions. So when we feel angry, it means that center, the amygdala, has been triggered. Based on how we were raised, what we were taught about feelings, and what our inborn temperament is, this emotion is expressed, or suppressed. Some of us may deny we are angry. Some may fly into a rage. However you experience it, and however you express it, anger is part of life and as such, affects all of our relationships, family, friends, partners, or colleagues.
It is important to recognize that we do not have control over whether we “feel” any of the emotions. What we do have control over is how we express them. I often hear people say: I know I shouldn’t feel this way. Well no, it is not a matter of you shouldn’t feel; in fact, when your feeling is denied, it is even more annoying. Many a conflict starts that way. What is important is how you express it. Name-calling? Not good. Whataboutism? More conflict. The silent treatment? Guaranteed to increase the temperature.
So how could you defuse the conflict but also express what is going on within you? The fact is that if feelings are not put on the table in some fashion, they fester. Here I am not referring to minor matters, things you forget about when a day goes by. I am talking about what you think of even after two or three days. So the first step is to acknowledge to yourself that you are ticked off. Check if you can discuss the matter with civility. If not, take a break till you both cool off. But do set a time to talk about it. Late day or evening discussions usually mean one is tired and adds a level of external complication. Second, avoid the one communication sin and do not start a sentence with “you.” That immediately brings on a defensive response. Use the “I-statement.” (“I feel upset” versus “You upset me.”)
For a relationship to strengthen, it is important to recognize each other’s vulnerable spots, and this is where anger can work for you. If you know what bothers your partner, you can guide your own behavior to keep the love and caring grow. Same goes for your partner. By knowing your own triggers, each of you can take care of the other by trusting to share the vulnerability, and to avoid aggravating one another. It takes two (or more) to work, repair and develop a bond. If you are afraid of sharing your frailties, how can love blossom?
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.
Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577