Male anger ranks high on a woman’s short list of relationship issues. Irrational, uncontrolled male anger devastates a woman’s sense of safety and well-being. It is particularly frustrating because the reasons behind the anger and the potential for resolving it are mostly out of her control. Women are not responsible for male raging, no matter how much an angry man insists otherwise. What’s behind male anger? How can men learn to control it? What can women do to help?
What I have gleaned from decades of working with men is that male anger is nearly always linked to painful past events in a man’s life that he mistakenly believes he has resolved simply because he stuffed the pain deep into his psyche and never consciously thought about it again. There is no magic act for making past pain vanish, however; and stuffing it simply keeps it just beneath the surface, where it simmers and is easily triggered.
Peter was in our men’s group for several years before he finally told his story which explained everything about his relationship issues. His heart had been shattered by a woman decades before. Instead of working through his pain when he first felt it, he convinced himself he could simply make it disappear by never thinking about it again. His unresolved heartbreak affected his relationships with every woman he met afterwords. Since his heartbreak was never resolved, his attitude towards women grew into mistrust and anger for all women, including his wife, who he had married on the rebound. He developed a chauvinistic sense of humor about women and disparaged them whenever the topic of women arose. After telling his story a few times he admitted that it no longer held as much charge and that his attitude about women had softened.
What Women Can Do to Help
Men can’t be pushed to do their emotional work—either in therapy or in a men’s group. A man has to want to end his angry cycle and has to realize that only comes with facing the damage his behavior is causing him and everyone around him. What women can do is to encourage their partners to unload the baggage that interferes with their lives together. Listening without judgment or opinion will facilitate this process and make a man feel more comfortable about sharing his feelings. This is the time for a woman to be her partner’s best friend. This is the time for unconditional love.