I’ve been writing about angry men for some time now. That’s because I recognized how destructive anger can be in our relationships, but also how common it is. In my book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well I describe the experiences that many people have living with an angry and abusive male:
“For about a year now (it could be even longer, it’s hard to know exactly), I have gradually felt my husband of twenty-two years pulling away for me and our family,” Martha told me in an anguished phone call. “He has gradually become more sullen, angry, and moody. His general life energy is down and his sex drive has really dropped off. I’m sure he’s depressed, but he takes his pain out on me.
“He blames me for everything these days. If his socks or underwear are missing, I must have put them somewhere or done something with them to piss him off. I’m not kidding, that’s what he tells me. The thing that bothers me the most is how unaffectionate he has become. I don’t even get the hugs and kisses I used to get, and when he does touch me, I feel grabbed rather than caressed. My husband used to be the most positive, upbeat, funny person I knew. Now it’s like living with an angry brick!”
I found I was hearing from more and more women like Martha, who were hurt and confused about the changes they were seeing in their husbands. If this sounds familiar to you, here are some things you can do.
1. Understand that this journey is first and foremost about you.
Even though I call this problem “irritable male syndrome,” it is not just a problem that men have. If IMS has come into your life, it is an opportunity for you to engage in your own healing. Although, my own irritability and anger had been causing problems in our relationship for years, it wasn’t until Carlin began to work on her own issues that things began to change.
For many women focusing on themselves seems selfish. But, in fact, it’s the only thing that can make things better for you, for him, and for the relationship. I would ask you to write out this phrase or put the sentiment into your own words and put it where you can read it every day. “I am committed to my own health and well-being. In order to help my man and help the relationship, I must first help myself.”
2. Make a commitment to your own physical and emotional safety.
If you are being physically abused, that must stop. You must treat yourself like you would a precious child who was in danger. You must do whatever it takes to keep that previous being from harm. If you have to move out of the house, you need to do that. If he needs to move out of the house, you need to insist on it. You must create a safe place for yourself.
This must include emotional safety, as well as physical safety. Some us believe that if we aren’t being physically abused then we are not being abused. But anyone who has been the recipient of rage, whether the rage is expressed with over anger or covert contempt, knows how destructive that can be. In many ways emotional abuse is even more damaging than physical abuse. You need to commit to getting yourself out of emotionally abusive situations.
You may not be able to accomplish this immediately, but you must be willing to make the commitment to bring this about. Nothing will improve until you feel safe. If you grew up in an abusive family where you were abused directly or witnessed abuse, abuse will feel familiar. Feeling safe will feel foreign. In spite of whatever resistance you have, safety is where you must be.
3. Reach out for support.
When IMS comes into a relationship, many people find themselves withdrawing from friends and family. Consciously, or unconsciously, we feel ashamed. We don’t want others to know about what’s really going on with us. If the man is frightened and threatened he may not want you to talk to others. He may try and convince you that this is a private matter between you and him and no one else should know about it.
You need to be willing to reach out in spite of your shame or his fear. Talk to a friend, tell a family member. Let them know that things are not OK at home and that you’re committed to making things better. You don’t have to violate confidences between him and you. But you do need to reach out to someone, friend, family member, or therapist. You can’t heal by yourself.
4. Learn to understand your co-dependence.
Most people that are involved with an IMS male (and many of us who aren’t) are co-dependent. The term was first used to describe people who were in relationship with a drug addict or alcoholic. However, it really goes way beyond that. Charles Whitfield, author of Co-Dependence: Healing the Human Condition, says “Co-dependence is a disease of lost selfhood. We become co-dependent when we turn our responsibility for our life and happiness over to our ego (our false self) and to other people. Co-dependents become so preoccupied with others that they neglect their True Self—who they really are.” Does this sound at all like you? If so, make a commitment to reconnect with your true self.
5. Release your belief that you can fix your man.
Your man can get better. Your relationship can improve. But you can’t fix him. In order for things to improve you have to accept that you are powerless to change him. You are powerless over his beliefs, his thoughts, his feelings, his decisions, his choices, and his behavior.
As you admit your powerlessness over his life, you will begin to recognize that you have total power over your own life. We have total control over our beliefs, our thoughts, our feelings, our decisions, our choices, and our behavior. You won’t feel your power immediately, but little by little you will find you are re-claiming your own self-hood. It’s a great feeling.
What you’ll also find is that as you change your own life for the better, his life will change for the better as well. Although you can’t fix him, you can create the conditions that will help him to fix the problems that are causing his irritability and anger. Many women worry that if she can’t fix him, then there is no hope for their future. Many also feel guilty for focusing attention on themselves. But as you will find out, there are many ways to engage a man in a healing process and it starts with your willingness to heal yourself.
What has been your experience? Please share below as together we can heal.