Conflict in relationships is inevitable. Put two men together with their own sets of needs,
values, personality traits, and life histories/experiences and you have a fertile ground
for potential differences to cause clashes. For OutUK counsellor and coach Brian Rzepczynski
looks at ways to defuse that anger.
Anger is a common emotion that emerges during conflict. While conflict and anger
are normal aspects of building and maintaining a relationship with someone,
there are right and wrong ways to manage them. This article will address some
ways to defuse anger in your disagreements with your lover to ensure a more
positive environment to go about negotiating your differences.
It’s important to realise that when two people are angry with each other, very
little of productive significance will come from these interactions because
emotions are high and listening skills tend to be overshadowed by defensiveness.
Though very much a cliché, the statement “Anger is ok, it’s what you do with it that counts”
is very pertinent here.
During conflicts with your partner, you are ultimately
responsible for your own feelings and anger. Your partner does not make you angry;
you choose how you are going to react, regardless of the contributing factors. The
goal is to create an atmosphere where you and your boyfriend can have a constructive
communication session free of volatile emotions and where you each can feel heard equally.
No More Drama
One of the most effective ways to defuse an angry situation is to call a Time-Out. In much
the same way that children are disciplined with Time-Outs to calm down and regain behavioural
control, we adults also benefit from this type of cool-down period as well. The strategy is
simple, but only works if you and your partner agree to its execution beforehand and follow
through with it to completion.
Whenever you feel your anger flare-up to the point where you are unable to be attentive
to your partner or be fully present, announce your need for a Time-Out. Before
leaving, schedule a time that you and he can reconvene to address your issues
then. Reactivity can damage relationships, and by postponing your response until
after you’ve had a chance to regroup and centre yourself, you’re increasing your chances
for being able to communicate more effectively. You’re also not avoiding the problem,
just delaying it until both of you can more readily attend to the issue at hand. It’s
also important not to follow each other once a Time-Out has been called because this
defeats the purpose; respect your partner’s need for space and feel reassured in
the knowledge that you will discuss your issues at a later time. In essence,
when you call a Time-Out, you are really saying to your lover, “I care enough about you
and our relationship to discuss this issue at a later time when I’m able to really
listen to you and hear your needs and concerns. My anger right now interferes with
that ability.” This communication technique, which is commonly taught in couple’s
therapy, works best when applied consistently.
Anger Coping Tips
Identify your personal triggers to anger. Pay close attention to the body signals
you receive that alert you to anger arousal, the situations that upset you to help
highlight patterns, and the thoughts you have that fuel anger and emotional upset.
Practice relaxation techniques (deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle
relaxation, meditation, etc.) and don’t forget the importance of regular exercise in managing stress.
Distraction techniques can be helpful during your Time-Out, such as journaling,
reading a book, listening to music, playing video games, talking to a friend,
taking a hot bath, going for a walk, etc. Do something self-soothing.
Develop affirmations and positive self-talk to help coach yourself through difficult
Try writing your partner a letter before you have your talk to discharge negative
emotion and perhaps develop a better perspective on the situation that upset you.
Destroy the letter when finished.
Photo from Rawpixel
Get in the habit of expressing your needs and feelings directly and assertively
in as close to the moment as you can. Stuffing feelings only leads to a stockpiling
effect of “unfinished business”; this, in turn, creates hidden resentments and can
take a toll on your health and relationship.
Anger and conflict are a natural part of any relationship and must be handled carefully
to protect the trust and intimacy of your partnership. The important thing to remember
is to avoid reactivity and to stop and think before acting to help cultivate a more
responsible and focused dialogue with your partner. Anger is commonly the result of an
unmet need, a perceived threat, or a symptom of depression, among other things. Trying
to uncover its origins first, avoiding placing blame, and viewing your disagreement
as an opportunity to work together as a team in creating a win/win solution to your
challenges will go a long way in helping you to accomplish your relationship goals.
Brian Rzepczynski is a counsellor and personal coach: "I work with gay men who
are ready to create a roadmap that will lead them to find and build a lasting partnership with
Mr. Right." Find out more at