Anger doesn’t always look like anger. It comes in many different forms, including crying, silence, yelling, keeping score, stubbornness, sarcasm, pouting, guilt tripping, being overly sweet, physical violence, biting your tongue, leaving, avoiding, blowing up, nagging and criticizing. Luckily, almost all angry expressions are preceded by some kind of physical signal, making them easier to recognize in yourself and others.
Some physical signals of anger are: clenching, rapid breathing, looking/feeling flushed or warm, muscle tightening, increased heart rate, rolling eyes, sighing, wringing hands, rubbing head, desire to leave, interrupting and more. Think about your own anger signals. Once you learn to spot these you can choose to interrupt yourself and stop the anger from escalating before it causes damage to you, your partner or your relationship.
Most commonly we get angry when we think things are unfair, we are being disrespected, or someone has violated what we believe to be the rules. We get even angrier if we believe someone has done one of these things on purpose.
For example, your partner takes extra helpings of food when you have not had any yet, or they don’t clean up after themselves. If this continues to happen, you may start to feel like they don’t respect you or they are purposely trying to make you angry. That is usually when people engage in unhealthy behaviours that drive a wedge between them.
Remember to watch for anger’s early warning signs and its many disguises. It is harder to control yourself once you are already angry so you have a better chance of success if you stop yourself from getting angry in the first place.