Why Is My Husband So Angry?

Although anger has a negative impact on men, I learned that it is often the women and children who suffer the most.  “Recently, he has begun venting, to anyone who will listen, about how horrible we all are,” 53 year-old Jennifer wrote me.  “If our adult-children aren’t living up to his standards, it is my fault.  If he can’t find his socks, he accuses me of misplacing them, just to piss him off.  I’m not kidding—that’s what he tells me.  What hurts the most is that he has withdrawn all affection.  It’s like someone transformed him from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.  I want my husband back!”

This is typical of the thousands of letters and e-mails I have received from women all over the world since The Irritable Male Syndrome:  Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression was first published by Rodale in 2004.  I get the question, why is my husband so angry?, a lot. More and more women are feeling the pain of living with an angry male and want help for themselves, their children, and for the man they all love.

Anger is an increasingly serious problem in our society today according to Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and former President of the American Psychological Association. “Out-of-hand anger ruins many lives,” he says.  “More, I believe, than schizophrenia, more than alcohol, more than AIDS.  Maybe even more than depression.”  Seligman’s research also shows that when couples fight, it can damage their children, often in lasting ways.

Anger Manifests in Different Forms 

Paul Ekman, Ph.D., one of the world’s experts on emotions and author of Emotions Revealed, says that anger is expressed in many ways.  “There is a range of angry feelings, from slight annoyance to rage.  There are not just differences in the strength of angry feelings, but also differences in the kind of anger felt.  Indignation is self-righteous anger, sulking is passive anger; exasperation refers to having one’s patience tried excessively.  Revenge is a type of angry action usually committed after a period of reflection about the offense.”

We often perceive anger as a negative emotion that can damage people and their relationships, yet anger can also lead to emotional and spiritual growth.  The practices readers will learn in the book can deepen and enrich their ability to be more loving to their partner and to others.  In his book Anger:  Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn says, “In the past, we were allied in making each other suffer more, allied in the escalation of anger.  “Now we want to be allied in taking good care of our sorrow, our anger, and our frustration.  We want to negotiate a strategy for peace.”

Stressed Out Men Become Angry

Most of us recognize that stress is increasing in our lives.  We notice it as we drive to work, when we feel rushed and overwhelmed, when we come home to relax, but find more and more things at home that demand our attention.  In my years counseling men and women, I have found that men and women often express stress in their lives differently.  Women often “act in” their stress and feel sad and depressed.  Men, on the other hand, often “act out” their stress and become irritable and angry.

Women often internalize their pain and blame themselves for their problems.  Men often externalize their pain and blame the women in their lives.  When I counsel men, I often hear a litany of complaints that often focus on their wives.  After listening and empathizing I begin to help them recognize that it isn’t their “wife” that is the problem, but rather their “life” that is out of balance.  I also help them see that the stress isn’t just coming from their internal state of being, but also results from the world around us.

We are living at a time of major earth changes.  We have moved beyond the era of peak oil and are reaching limits of all our natural resources, what author Richard Heinberg describes as “peak everything.”  Our economy is changing rapidly and more and more people are out of work or worried about losing their jobs.  Global warming is real and we are all feeling the effects of a planet that has an increasingly “high fever.”

 Healing Ourselves, Healing Our Planet 

Most of us are tired of war and would like human beings to get along with each other.  But it seems that wars go on and on.    The truth is that we can’t stop wars until we learn to stop fighting with our mates.  If we can’t learn to get along with the one we love, how can we expect to get along with people we don’t know and don’t understand?  The good news is that we are learning how to become more peaceful partners.  We are learning the skills of non-violent communication.  We are learning how to listen with a more open heart, to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person.

Here’s a little exercise that developed by the folks at the Institute of HeartMath and it’s guaranteed to reduce stress in your life and help you feel more loving:

  1. Put your attention on the area around your heart.  Place your hand there to feel the life pulsing through you.
  2. Imagine that with each breath you breathe in you are taking in healing energy through your heart and with each breath you breathe out you send that loving energy out to someone you’d like to feel more loving towards.
  3. Think of a time when you felt deep gratitude.  It could be a memory of one of your children, or when you first fell in love, or the time you were overwhelmed by the beauty of a sunset.
  4. Continue to breathe while you hold this memory of gratitude.

Think what it would mean if everyone in the world did this exercise three or four times a day.  Are you willing to start?  It’s easy and you have nothing to lose but your anger.

You can also take the Quiz to learn more.

What do you think? What tools have been effective for you in dealing with your, or your mate’s, anger?

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Comments

  1. Mikul says:

    Greetings Jed,
    I have followed your musings, ideas and approaches to the male condition over the years and much appreciate the insight I receive in respect of the self and the process of evolving. I’m a 61 year old Australian male who has displayed a fare share of anger over the years and who now finds himself single and embracing the company of a dog and a cat (no woman). Notwithstanding the social marginalisation that occurs with aging in countries like Australia and the US I think a pressure that is often overlooked in respect of contemporary men is the pressure that arises in respect of the women’s movement and its pursuit of social equity. While I laud the notion of equity between the sexes I do believe that the cohesion of women has left men displaced and disoriented. Women are superb at engagement amongst themselves while men tend to more insular and alone which has allowed for a decline in self esteem and self respect. If the notion of social equity was balanced by the notion of interdependence as between the sexes and that the achievement of a common and symbiotic plane was the common pursuit I believe that we, men and women, would achieve greater harmony both as individuals and as a community. The often needful but unexplained expression of male violence would I believe recede as that harmonic is achieved.
    Cheers,
    Mikul

    • Jed Diamond says:

      Mikul,

      Thanks for the note and appreciate your interest and support of my work over the years. I have found that women banded together (and yes, its more natural for women to connect emotionally than it is for guys) in order to get and give support for the challenges they face in life. I think men need to do the same. That’s why I’ve been in a men’s group that has been meeting regularly for 34 years. As men give and get support, they develop the security and sense of self that enables them to reach out and connect with women as equals. If a man isn’t comfortable with himself and other men, he will often connect with women and act like a boy, either angry and aggressive or needy and passive.

      I’m planning to develop a support network for men, worldwide, who want to heal themselves, develop passionate relationships, and find their life-calling in support of humankind. Stay tuned for more information.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I agree that men often internalize their pain and anger comes out instead. Some gentle caring digging, coupled with understanding and space is what I use to diffuse these situations. Usually I let him rage and try to withhold all judgement. Once he calms down, then I ask gently what the real issue is, by using some careful mirroring statements like “I hear that you’re angry. Did you want to discuss the reasons why?” If that doesn’t really work, then some space, even a short trip to the restroom on my part can break the cycle. I’m not talking about avoiding, or storming off, just a little second for everyone to reframe and calm down can work wonders.

    • Jed Diamond says:

      Elizabeth, Good suggestions. Its important to stay involved, but set good limits and not
      get caught up in blaming or shaming, either him or you. It sounds like you’ve learned to do
      that and to keep love flowing, even in the face of an angry man. Accepting the anger, and then
      doing deeper usually uncovers feelings of hurt, fear, guilt, and shame, and then finally the love that is wanting to be expressed.

  3. Phil says:

    Jed I wish to thank you for this forum. In your quiz I answered a # 9 out of 10. I just wish to say something here that I am really embarrassed to say out loud. I am 58 years old and my wife is a very strong feminist. I love her very much, but I have just recently admitted to myself that I wish she was this strong equal partner in the world, but at home when its just us two I long for her to be more like a ’50s wife. I can’t open a door for her because that means she is weak. Can’t ask her for a cup of coffee because she is not my maid. I can’t compliment her body because thats sexualizing her. Plus much more.. we have great marriage when it comes to intellectual issues, politics,religous topics and we enjoy golf together. We have been together for 38 years, now alone at home I was longing for some touch time..not necessarily sexually just caring for each other hugs,holding hands etc. for whatever time we have left in this corporeal form we possess. Perhaps I was just born 20 years too late.

    • Jed Diamond says:

      Phil, Thanks for your honest sharing. No need to feel embarrassed. I think we are all wanting to fee” greater sense of love and connection in our relationship. I know what you mean about a “feminist wife.” I’ve felt some of those feelings. I think what we really want isn’t a return to the sexism of the 50s, but a move ahead to time when we can be ourselves, feel our power as men and women, but also to acknowledge our vulnerability and dependency on each other. I used to think that dependency was a bad thing. Now I know that we’re human. Humans depend on each other. And those of us fortunate enough to have a partner need to learn to go deeper, open more fully to our own vulnerability, let ourselves be touched and held and caressed. Keep the faith. It can happen. Thanks for being part of our community here.

  4. vanessa says:

    i am married to my husband it has been 8yrs and i can’t well won’t approach him in a serious way…to get help and i know its way over due. we have two kids boy and girl…..please should i leave him? and for us to go marriage counsel that i will get blow up for too!

    need help….need some brave to tell him stop and see what hes doing
    scared and lonely wife and mom!

    • Jed Diamond says:

      Vanessa, Thanks for commenting here. Too many women keep silent, even though they are in great pain. Men also suffer, but when they’re down and depressed, some of them take their pain out on others. Since many men who need help don’t seek it, I’ve developed a counseling approach where I can help women help themselves and at the same time help the man, even when they feel that he is unwilling to listen. If you would like to consider counseling, contact me. I can tell you more.

  5. coconut says:

    I have been going thru a lot with my husband lately. Really, it started early on (about 4 years; 2 of which we have been married). Silly me, I was in denial and overlooked a lot of these problems early on. They were so subtle at first but things have been escalating for some time. It goes in a cycle-like the cycle of violence-things will be good for a time, then things get tense for a time, then it reaches climax. He blows up and suddenly, everything is OK for a time. Well to keep this brief, I’m just learning about IMS. I answered yes to every question. This really concerns me. My hubby is all this and passively aggressive/vindictive to boot. Sometimes I thinik he has just become whiney, insisting on always getting his way (but I know there are deeper issues). Sometimes he is very calculating and manipulates situations so he can blow up and tell me how I ridicule him, etc. Sometimes I feel it is also ‘how dare I question his authority’. He never used to be like this. But I can’t ask him, in the nicest possible way, to put his clothes in the hamper (as opposed to scattered all over the house) or not to leave sharp knives hanging off the counter for our toddler to grab (and I often opt to constantly scan the house for dangers instead of saying anything) without him turning it into a personal attack, ridicule, insults. He wants me to openly communicate with him. But doing so turns into the same personal attack. Even my own unrelated feelings become a personal attack. He even has started waking up in the middle of the night to pick a fight.

    I do have a question. Is it possible that pornography could be related to the anger and rage? I won’t even get into it, but want to say that I have noticed the anger, rage, overly sensitive, becoming a source of his annoyance increases with increased ‘use.’ Thanks so much, I can’t wait to start reading your books.

    • Jed Diamond says:

      I know how difficult this can be. Its not always clear what’s triggering the anger, but certainly pornography can figure into the mix. It sounds, from what you say, that this situation is getting dangerous. I encourage you to get help. I counsel by phone as well as in my office in California. If I can be of help, let me know.

  6. Julie says:

    I did a quiz and my husband is a 10!
    He is very irritable and can go from total happiness to anger in one second. I feel I am walking on egg shells all day. We had been married 17 years, so he should trust me by now, but he doesn’t trust me and accuses me of lying for no reason. He is ok with me working out of town, but he doesn’t want me to go for dinner or anywhere else with coworkers. I keep insisting that he should meet them, but he prefers to accuse me and pick fights about it. He get jealous of my female friends too, and get obsessed checking my emails and messages, and burst in a tantrum if I tell him to stop.
    He can be great, but in a second turns into a monster. I can’t live in a roller coaster anymore, and I talked to him about it many times. According to him he is a happy guy and does nothing wrong, so he refuses to do counselling, but tells me he can’t imagine life without me. It’s very confusing and makes me feel guilty, but I can’t live like this. Last week was his last burst, and he didn’t talk to me ever since. I want to leave him, but I’m scare of his reaction. We have two teen boys that are seeing all this, so I want it over! Is there any way I can avoid confrontation?

    • Jed Diamond says:

      Julie, Men act out and get jealous when they feel insecure. There are ways to connect more deeply without compromising your own life. It may take some counseling to get you two back on track, but it may be a better choice than confrontations or endings. If you want to explore counseling with me, drop me a note and I can give you more details (be sure and respond to my spamarrest filter if its the first time you’ve written).

      Jed (Jed@Menalive.com)

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