Clarity, Openness, Kindness: How to Communicate with Your Spouse when You're Angry and Upset

It can be tricky to talk to your spouse when you’re angry. Whether you’re having marital conflicts or just having a bad day, you might find it hard to control your frustration or say the “right” thing. Anger doesn’t need to lead to arguments and shouting matches, though. By staying calm and tuning in to how you feel, you can figure out how to talk to your spouse about what’s bothering you, and find a resolution.

Steps

Method 1 of 13: Take a moment to collect yourself.

Clarity, Openness, Kindness: How to Communicate with Your Spouse when You’re Angry and Upset

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It’s important to respond level-headedly. A knee-jerk response tends to be angry and harsh, and can upset your spouse. Instead of responding instantly, focus on staying calm: take a few deep breaths, and picture a calm environment. This will help you avoid snapping at your spouse.

Method 2 of 13: Take a break if you’re too angry to talk.

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If you’re finding it hard to control your temper, it’s time to step away. If you’re struggling to explain why you’re angry, or if you’re too angry to talk to your spouse calmly, you won’t be able to have a constructive discussion. Instead, tell your spouse that you need to take some time to calm down, and agree to come back to it later. You don’t need to fix every problem in the moment.

  • “I’m really upset right now and I need to take a break to cool down. Can we come back to this in an hour?”
  • “I don’t think we’re in the right frame of mind to have this conversation right now. Let’s sleep on it and talk about it tomorrow.”

Method 3 of 13: Identify the source of your anger.

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Sometimes it’s not always clear why you’re angry. Check in with yourself and determine what’s really bothering you. Are there any underlying feelings: fear, sadness, isolation, or something else? Were you already frustrated or upset about something your spouse was doing, or were you upset about something else and took it out on them? If you can figure out what’s actually bothering you, you’ll be able to better communicate about it.

Method 4 of 13: State clearly why you’re angry.

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It helps to calmly share the cause of your anger. If you hold in your emotions or give your spouse the cold shoulder, you won’t be able to find any kind of resolution. But you don’t need to yell at them to get the point across, either; that will put the focus on your anger, rather than the reason for it. In a level voice, say why you’re upset: “I’m angry right now because __”.

  • As an example: “I’m mad because you didn’t salt the walkway even though I asked you to do it. I had to carry in the baby, and if I’d slipped and fallen, we both could have gotten hurt.”
  • Monitor your voice and body language; these will influence how your spouse reacts. If you catch yourself raising your voice, stop. Take a deep breath, or excuse yourself to calm down.

Method 5 of 13: Be as specific as possible about it.

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It’s vital to mention all of why you’re angry. “I’m angry because…” often only scratches the surface of the issue. If there’s an underlying problem or some kind of pattern that’s bothering you, it’s important to bring that up too, so that your spouse knows the full reason behind your frustration.

  • For example, “I’m angry because you invited your mom over” isn’t very clear. “I’m angry because you invited your mom over, even though she insults me in front of you” communicates the underlying problem.

Method 6 of 13: Express your feelings using “I” statements.

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Openness will help your spouse understand how you’re feeling. Statements like “You should know why I’m upset” only bottle up your emotions, and can upset your spouse too. If you use “I” statements, though, you can express how you’re feeling or why your spouse’s actions bother you, without making accusations or lashing out. You can use an “I” statement by saying, “When you __, I feel __, because __.”

  • For instance, you could say, “I’m really hurt that you invited your mom over. She’s made it very clear she doesn’t like me, and when you invite her to family events, I feel like you don’t really care how she treats me.”
  • If your spouse did something that upset you, talk about the behavior, rather than your spouse. For instance, instead of, “You’re disrespectful”, say, “I feel really disrespected when I get home and you don’t look up from the TV.”
  • All-or-nothing language, like “I always” or “You never”, can make your spouse feel shut down. Try to avoid these phrases.

Method 7 of 13: Speak kindly.

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Your spouse still deserves kindness when you’re angry. Sarcasm, insults, and the word “divorce” are verbal weapons that will hurt your marriage. Always be kind when you’re speaking to your spouse, no matter how angry you are.

  • You don’t need to tolerate unkindness from your spouse, either. Set boundaries if need be: “Please treat me with respect. If you call me names, I’ll have to end the conversation until we’re both calm.”

Method 8 of 13: Ask for your spouse’s perspective, too.

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Your spouse needs to be able to share their side. When you’re angry, you might just assume your spouse is trying to annoy you. Ask yourself: do you genuinely know what your spouse felt or intended, or are you drawing conclusions based on your own anger? Ask your spouse for their perspective, and listen without interrupting or cutting them off. This will help you understand each other better.

  • For instance, maybe your spouse throws away food rather than keeping leftovers. Instead of assuming they’re wasteful, ask them why they do it. Maybe they just hadn’t thought to keep leftovers.
  • Be patient and gentle; avoid accusatory questions. The difference between “I want to understand why you do this” and “Why do you keep doing this?” goes a long way.

Method 9 of 13: Be open to criticism from your spouse.

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It’s important to listen if your spouse brings up an issue. They need you to listen and address what they’re saying, and jumping to “I couldn’t help it” or “You’re too clingy” will make them feel ignored. Take the time to really listen to what your spouse is telling you, and validate how they feel rather than brushing it off or assigning blame.

  • For instance, if your spouse says that they don’t like how close you are with a friend, don’t immediately jump to, “You’re being jealous and controlling”. Instead, ask why they’re concerned.
  • If what they said struck a nerve, ask yourself why. Maybe you feel like you’re being hovered over, for instance, or know you’re in the wrong but don’t want to admit it.

Method 10 of 13: Focus on solutions.

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Marriage is about working together. You and your spouse won’t agree on everything, and you won’t always be on the same side. But you should make it your goal to find a workable solution for both of you. Find and agree on a common goal, have an open discussion about what solutions you’d both be okay with, and figure out how you can get there.

  • For instance, if you’re frustrated about how much your spouse spends on groceries, agree on a budget and look for coupons or discounts together. Or, if you’re mad because they never remember the chores, discuss putting up a chore list, building a routine, and setting reminders.
  • That being said, don’t push a solution onto your spouse. Work together to find something that benefits you both.
  • Remember to compromise. You don’t need to “win”. If you feel like you’re getting stuck on being “right” or getting the last word in, take a break from the discussion.

Method 11 of 13: Apologize if you’re harsh or snippy.

Clarity, Openness, Kindness: How to Communicate with Your Spouse when You’re Angry and Upset

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Marriage isn’t a free pass for rude behavior. It isn’t unusual to lose your temper with your spouse sometimes, but if you do, you should acknowledge that you did the wrong thing and say you’re sorry. You just need to say something like, “I’m sorry. I’m really stressed out and frustrated right now, and I took it out on you.”

  • Don’t say something like, “Sorry you feel that way” or “Sorry for all of that”. It’s a non-apology, and your spouse will feel blown off.

Method 12 of 13: Continue to address issues directly.

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Dropping hints or acting coldly doesn’t help. Passive-aggressive behavior will make your spouse feel alienated, and the silent treatment (quite literally) says nothing about why you’re upset. Make it your goal to discuss your feelings, get your spouse’s side, and find solutions in a constructive way.

  • Don’t dredge up the past or things that can’t be helped. There’s nothing you can do about those, and it doesn’t resolve what’s happening right now.

Method 13 of 13: Talk to a professional if anger is harming your marriage.

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Intense, explosive, or violent anger is too much to handle on your own. If you find yourself regularly angry with your spouse or having screaming matches with each other, or if you have an urge to physically or emotionally hurt your spouse, it’s time to get outside help. There are professionals specializing in anger management who can help you learn to cope with how you’re feeling. You can also visit a couples therapist with your spouse to work on repairing your relationship and communicate more effectively with each other.

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