Anger: Living in the Minefield

I’ve had several requests to post about anger. Specifically his anger.

Before we go any further, anger should never turn to abuse. If his anger has ever pushed him to hurt anyone, you’re in a very bad place. He needs to know you have a zero tolerance for abuse of you or the kids. He needs to know abuse will land him in jail, and you will get a restraining order until such time as he has really dealt with the problem. If your husband is abusive, please go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Anger, a Man’s Emotion 

Obvious anger is more common in men than women, and it’s far more likely to result in violence in men. In part, this is because testosterone fuels anger, but it’s also more culturally acceptable for a man to be angry and to act badly because of it. 

Anger is a powerful and “manly emotion”. Being angry feels better than feeling sad or mad. Some men never learned to deal with most other “negative” emotions because they drown them all with anger. Feel sad? Get angry. Feel lonely? Get Angry. Feel rejected or wronged? GET ANGRY!

Anger is a choice

Not just what we do with it, anger itself is a choice. We can’t just turn it off, but we can choose to gain control over it. When a man chooses not to control his anger at home it’s because he’s getting something out of it and is unwilling to learn a better way.

What’s Not Anger

  • Some families yell… ALL. THE. TIME. I don’t understand it, but I’ve experienced it. Happy, sad, or mad, they yell. If your husband is this way and it eats at you, then deal with it. But don’t call it anger if it’s not.
  • Passion is not anger, even if it gets loud or energetic. Feeling strongly about things is common for men. Your discomfort about this is worth noting, but it doesn’t mean he is wrong or needs to change. 
  • Short term anger is anger, but if it’s occasional, for good reason, and goes away it’s not a big deal. If he deals well with his anger, don’t get all over him about it.


Emotions don’t happen in a vacuum. A long hard day increases the urge to response with anger. Lack of sleep, stress, and frustration are anger triggers. Low blood sugar can also push anger (see Learn To Identify Hangry). Sexual refusal is a common trigger for men, but it’s often subtle and difficult to tie to an anger event. 

Love dictates we give our spouse a bit of space and TLC when they’ve had a rough time. This does not mean put up with anger, but if he generally has anger under control a bit of discretion when he’s been poked by anger triggers might help him stay in control.

A Personal Confession

Once, early on when we were having significant problems, I once got so angry I hit and broke a thin plywood panel on the side of a bookcase. Lori had left the room and did not witness this. It scared me bad to have lost control to that degree. It forced me to look at my anger and deal with it. A one-time escalation like this may be a wake-up call for a man. If it’s not, it should be a wake-up call for his wife.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and anger does not control me, I control it!

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8 Comments on “Anger: Living in the Minefield

  1. Great post. In the past few years, as I have faced issues that I avoided for decades, I experienced anger so powerfully it frightened me. I had a relapse of this about six weeks ago and had to sort out what triggered it. Something that seemed acceptable in my logical thought process was unacceptable in my emotional state.

    I dreaded the thought of returning to counseling (even though my therapist said this was to be expected–we need a “tune-up” from time to time) because that meant I was incapable and incompetent and unable to handle life on my own. In short, I was angry that I was angry.

  2. My husband is strange like that. He grew up in a family of explosive, angry people, but he always retreated away from it because he’s a shy introvert. He generally has it under control, but it terrifies me when he gets mad and throws something (never at me). Oddly, he’s never mad at me when he does that. I grew up in an alcoholic home, so I don’t even know how to address that because of my past. I’m currently in therapy and he needs therapy for anger, but he’s closed to it right now. The saddest part is that his biggest trigger is our toddler, who is just a normal 2-yr-old. He can’t be around her if she’s whiny or difficult (again…a toddler), and it’s to the point that I think he hates being a parent. I always feel like I have to deal with her when she’s misbehaving because he doesn’t have the patience. It’s exhausting to parent my toddler and my husband.

      • For what it is worth, I don’t think he hates being a parent so much as he hates how he is parenting. He likely feels helpless because the toddler behavior triggers his nerves. He needs to recognize the damage of this to himself, you, and the child. And he needs to understand child behavior, development, and to not take it personally.

        Yes, he probably will withdraw more than you in early parenting, but he may need to. You may be the stronger parent, and that is ok.

        Don’t fight him about your child. Work with him. Gentle truth and firm boundaries. Maybe counseling isn’t an option, but a sit down with the pediatrician might help in understanding and dealing with toddler behavior.

  3. Anger is not just a male problem. It surfaces differently. Male anger tends to show itself physically and frightens wives. Female anger tends to show itself verbally and belittles and emasculates their husbands.
    Either way the anger most often springs up out of issues that the receiving spouse sees as no big deal. They are usually either surprized by the outbreak or they walk on eggshells because everything is fodder for the anger. Everything is fodder for the anger because the angry spouse has a warped sense of what is important. Where they got it from is anybodies guess.

  4. “Everything is fodder for the anger because the angry spouse has a warped sense of what is important.” I would not agree I have a warped sense of what is important. I had a reasonable expectation but expressed it in unreasonable ways. Paul’s paragraph about triggers applies. I had more than enough stress going on already and one more thing put me over the edge. I chose my words carefully, but my body took on a power that could have hurt another. Scary.

    • I think what Ken means is that the weight is warped. Like something may be wrong, and legit be wrong, but it’s a 3/10 and then the angry spouse explodes like it’s a 10/10. Sometimes. And then other times, they respond appropriately like it’s a 3/10. It’s taking something out of proportion — and, worst, out of proportion sometimes but not all the time — that is really unsettling. Because there is no way to assess in advance what emotional state the spouse is going to be in.

    • @IntimacySeeker – Being one more thing from losing it scary. The trick is learning to deal with things so we’re never that close to the edge. Doing that will usually mean finding a way to be less busy.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Anger Is A ChoiceMy Profile

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