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  What hurts the most is that he has withdrawn all affection.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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  1. 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.

    • 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. 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.

    • 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. 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.

    • 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.

    • Hi Phil, I’ve read your letter with great interest. This problem you’re having with your wife isn’t connected to your having been born at the wrong time in history~ it’s connected to your having been born with a penis. As a romantic, thoughtful man with traditional male role values, aspects that would be celebrated and cherished by a (real) woman who’s comfortable and at ease with her feminine identity, are being punished and impugned. It’s tragic that you can’t feel and act naturally, without it triggering a cataclysmic reaction from your spouse. You can learn how to stop betraying yourself, and surrendering the very essence that is uniquely You.

  4. 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!

    • 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.

      • Hi Jed. I would be interested. Interestingly enough I am in the same boat as Vanessa. Two kids, boy and girl, and 8 years of marriage. Fear of his anger keeps me quiet. I tend to text him when I want to talk and express my feelings that way telling him that his anger and reactions scare me .

  5. 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.

    • 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. 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?

    • 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)

  7. I have been married for 27 years and have noticed that my husbands anger comes and goes in cycles. It seems as though every 4-5 months he goes through a horrible period of 1-2months, where he takes everything out on me. Before the children all moved, as far away as they could, they also were fair game. Initially I would try to help him but he became extremely verbally abusive so I simply started to (self preservation) listen, take it and offer no comment. If I commented it generally became much worse, and lasted much longer. He will no longer sleep in the same room with me because I make noises. It has been 5 years now. Just when I am about ready to pack up and leave his cycle changes and he becomes my friend again. I have thought long and hard about what, if anything, I could do differently to change this horrible cycle he goes through. My children all want me to leave I just want a normal marriage.

  8. My husband fights,being rude to me,gets angry with me often.never respect me
    I dont whats wrong with him,i do not know what to do.i love him please help me

    • Ashu,

      Everyone should ask for and be given respect even if they disagree. If you aren’t getting that and are having trouble working things out, you may need a good counselor who can help. I do counsel by phone as well as in my office here in California and there may be someone good close to where you live.

      • Daphne Sylvester says:

        Hello Mr.Jed,
        I was just reading your reply and I really need counsel and by phone is what I have been wanting please send my the phone number.
        Daphne S

  9. Ashley Little says:

    My husband and been married for 3 years. One thing I learned is give your husband space! Show him you love him even when hes angry! And show him its ok to express yourself and let him know how much you appreciate him. Also tell him you dont expect him to perfect and hold his hand and hold him. That all it takes. A man has a lot of responsbility to take care of the family. Its tough. Dont nag him. Do your roles as a wife. Stop complaining and show love anyways. But keep reassuring him everything will be ok and your be there for him. I know you might think you dont deserve to treated bad but thats how men handle stress. Encourage him to get with the guys but dont let his anger pull u down or let it effect you.

  10. My current husband is very irritated all the time, and he snaps easily. He can be happy go Lucky and then the next minute snap over really little minor things. I am brunt of his anger.he is critical and constantly stating everything I do “wrong”, and if I do it different than what he states, he gets enraged almost. I try not to indulge him, i try to walk away and leave him alone. I try to be calm and rational. We have talked candidly and he realizes these behaviors and doesn’t understand why he snaps. He understands its not healthy and says he cannot control it and can’t say when or what will trigger him. He said money stresses him out, and though we are a touch behind, we are no where close to broke. I’m at a loss on what to do. My ex husband was mentally, verbally and physically abusive with rage issues. It took me a long time to heal and be strong and whole. I don’t want this to happen again. My current husband wasn’t always this way. Its been since we had our 2 year old
    I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to set a healthy boundary with him..Just very critical and sometimes manipulative. He will use guilt to try and make me do what he wants or becomes mean. He will say things because he know they will hurt my feelings. I don’t know what to do.

    • Jessie, These are difficult issues and I understand your concern. Often men have a vague sense that their irritability and anger are not appropriate, but they don’t know what to do. Their fear and confusion often gets put on their wives and partners so that any expressions of help may be set him off. I’ve developed a program for the women to both help them help themselves and also how best to work with a man who is experiencing irritable male syndrome. Feel free to contact me if you’d like help or more information.

  11. Thank you for your article! My husband has alot of anger towards his mom and his father, since he cheated on his mom and walked out on them when he was very young. He has physically and mentally taken his anger out on me when i have done nothing wrong. I guess since we live together he thinks its ok to hurt me. He has these periods when hes fine and happy then he just snaps again.he has even been arrested before since his anger got out of control. I feel like i am just loosing my heart and soul because i keep being herew him trying to understand him. I am 23 and hes 26. He shouldnt have to be so angry all the time..he has also naughty chatted with people on skype, which i consider cheating, and he just cant stop sex talking other men when im at work…im running out of patience w him.

    • Renee,

      I know how difficult these things can be. Anger and distrust can ruin a relationship in short order. It sounds like you are recognizing that your husband’s issues are related to some of the trauma he experienced growing up. This is often the case. Yet, that’s not an excuse to take his anger out on you or to be seeking out sexual connections on the internet. Clearly you both could use some good help and counseling. I’d recommend you ask him if he’d be willing to go together, but that you want to go even if he’s not ready. Let him know you love him, but you can’t continue to live this way and you believe he also wants things to get better.

      There’s like someone good close by where you live. I also counsel people by phone from all over the world. If you’d like to contact me, feel free.

  12. Hi, please note that women do not want to be ridiculed, verbally or physically abused, treated like a child, embarrassed in front of family and friends or feel unappreciated or unloved. Husbands are supposed to be the protector and priest of the home in which the wives should not feel like they are threat because they make more money or more educated. Wake up or there will always be someone else who can appreciate a good wife.

  13. Hi, please note that women do not want to be ridiculed, verbally or physically abused, treated like a child, embarrassed in front of family and friends or feel unappreciated or unloved. Husbands are supposed to be the protector and priest of the home in which the wives should not feel like they are threat because they make more money or more educated. Wake up or there will always be someone else who can appreciate a good wife.

  14. I have been married for three years to my husband, he blames me for all that goes wrong in the house. If a child makes a mistake like he poopoed in the trouser that`s my fault or if i have to read a bed time story for our toddler that is one big mistake. When he snaps, he start telling me off in front of our toddler and that hurts me a lot, a child wants to play games with his laptop or camera for pictures he questions if the child dont have enough toys. For me i know the child wont damage the stuffs and he is just curious and needs to be given the opportunity to even explore cause you never really knows what talents the child has. I am even expecting and when he is stressed he takes it out on me especially through the phone. I am exhausted and makes me wonder if i made the right choice to be with this man. I also spend alot of money on the household, children and contribute to the rent. I at times asks myself what type of men i have married.

  15. Joy, Its good to examine what’s going wrong when things aren’t going right. It may be you two are not the right partners for each other. On the other hand it may mean that you’re both under stress and expressing it in ways that are not helpful. When we’re stressed we often, unconsciously, fall back on behaviors that we may have learned growing up in dysfunctional families. The result is a downward spiral until the relationship looks like a trap and we just want to get out. In counseling I help people sort out what is really going on and what they can do. If I can help let me know.

  16. we lost our daughter in 2011. my husband has problems with older brother he talks to himself all the time angry he acts like he hates me what do i do

    • Connie, This is a sign that the results of the stress have not yet healed. He still needs help to resolve the pain. I often work with women to teach them how to take care of themselves, while helping the man, even when he is resistant to help.

  17. Jane Ashley
    My life is back !!! After eight years of marriage, my husband left me with 3 kids. I felt that my life was about to end, and was falling apart. I contacted you and after I explained my problem. In just three days, my husband came back to us and I and my children love and show apologize for all the pain you have to take the family. We solved our problems, and we are even happier than before’re the best caster Dr. Akim really appreciate the love spell that you cast for me to get the man I loved back my life I will continue sharing people’s testimonies about thanks to the good work, again Dr. Akim, if any problem you can contact with this man for help that is always there in his temple to help solve your problem contact Email is (aidamenbordgreat@yahoo.com) thanks for your time. .God Bless

  18. Why would you create a guidance site and a stream of comments w/ o allowing share functionality.

    Whatever helpful advice you are offering cannot be shared with those relevant to the situation

    It is an easy and inexpensive way to grow your outreach and business

  19. Help!! My husband is cranky and rageful up to 24 hours a day!! He suffers with type 2 diabetes. He takes all sorts of medications for this and pills to sleep at night. I especially am concerned when we are driving in the car and he blows his top at “rude” drivers. I fear that sometime he is going to go off on someone and they could hit him or worse. I can’t talk to him about anything serious, even in a gentle way. His angry moments raise my blood pressure. He can scream at me at times. I am walking on a bed of nails with him. Please help us. Thank you.

    • Georgia, This is a good indicator that he needs help. Often taking the IMS quiz on my site http://www.MenAlive.com can help a man recognize that this is a problem. Other times helping a woman to understand what is going on and being supportive in a way that is self protective and also healing can help. If you need more support or information feel free to contact me.

  20. Douglas Mezyl says:

    MARRIAGE RESTORED! My wife pack out of the house with my kids and said she was no longer interested in me anymore. She said all the abusive words and said am not a good husband because I wasn’t working, instead I was wasting her time, so i contacted this Strong spell caster DR OLO’R’UN a week ago after reading Miracles about his spell over the net, I consulted him for a love spell, crying not knowing what to do. He told me that he will cast a lover spell for me so my wife will come back to me. After 4 days of casting the spell, my wife call me apologizing and begging me to come home. Am thanking DR OLO’R’UN for the Faith and Trust he showed me. if any body is out there passing through any relationship difficulties should kindly contact him via email: OLORUNODUDUWASPIRITUALTEMPLE @ G M AIL. CO M

  21. Hi.. I love my husband very much.. He is the best person in my life.. The only issue with us is that he is very short tempered. He gets annoyed at little things and its difficult to handle. He also doesnt listen to me. He always does what feels right to him however wrong it may be or harmful too.. And then i get angry and we fight like mads..
    I just need ur comments on this as I love him so much and cant stay away from him… And one more thing i am not married yet… we have just done Nikah. I live with my parents because the RUKSATI has not been done… please help me how to handle this situation

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