Dealing with an emotionally explosive spouse is not easy. One minute you’re fine and you feel like you know your partner, the next, you feel like you’re married to a stranger.
While every marriage has its ups and downs, emotional explosions and angry outbursts really take a toll on your relationship and will cause shut down and distance.
These five tips may be just what you need to help you manage these outbursts in your marriage.
1. Set boundaries
People feel guilty about setting strong boundaries in their marriage, but every relationship, whether romantic or otherwise, will require some amount of boundary setting. Setting clear limits that are hopefully respected will help ensure that your relationship is healthier.
Boundaries might feel complicated, but they’re the best way of keeping a relationship healthy. If you’re dealing with an emotionally explosive spouse, determine in advance what you’re willing to handle. For example, tell them you will not accept certain tones of voice, name calling, etc. If they push this boundary, feel free to leave the conversation; the room; or the house if needed.
Tell them you’ll be willing to talk once they settle down. Encourage them to speak with you differently. Most of all, keep in mind that your boundaries deserve respect. It’s important that you hold your ground. It is up to you to leave the situation and when things settle down, to reiterate your boundary.
2. Stay calm
Not always easy of course and in fact, can feel impossible when your spouse is overreacting. No good will come from you matching your spouse’s angry or dramatic tone.
Of course, you have every right to feel angered by their outburst, but it’s generally best to take a mental or physical step back. Breathe. Pay attention to your thoughts and body, slow them down.
Wait until both of you are in a calmer state before addressing the problem at hand. Once our body is over aroused we lose our ability to think rationally. When you’ve both had time to collect yourselves, you’ll be better equipped to have a mature conversation.
3. Try to be compassionate
Clearly, your spouse struggles with managing their emotions. Instead of attacking or accusing them, try approaching them from a place of curiosity.
A statement like “Can you help me to understand what you’re feeling when you get this angry” might help them open up to you without feeling guilty. If you seek to understand you can try to see anger-triggering situations from their point of view.
There are many reasons for your spouse’s overreactions: their upbringing, past relationships, current stressors, unresolved problems, that might trigger anger in your partner. Use compassion before attacking back.
4. Don’t take it personally
One of the most important things to remember is that when your spouse lashes out at you irrationally, it likely has nothing to do with you. This can feel especially hard to remember because you are the person on the receiving end of their outburst.
Remember, whatever the source of their anger, this is not all about you. They might make remarks that aren’t intended for you or that they’ll regret later. It’s important to not take all the blame.
5. Consider counseling
Both individual and couples counseling is important if you have an emotionally explosive partner before their behavior goes too far. Your spouse needs to explore their anger with the help of a professional and recognize the toll that their emotional outbursts take on you. It might also be helpful for you to go to individual counseling on your own, because your spouse’s actions may be affecting your life more than you realize.
Before considering any of these tips, it’s vitally important that you look out for your safety. Your own welfare must come first. Your first firm boundary will be to remove yourself from any potentially harmful situation or relationship immediately if these outbursts get too out of control of get physical.
Nancy Ryan, LMFT specializes in working with individuals and couples who want deep, satisfying relationships with themselves and their partners. She works with couples who are ready to stop the destructive patterns and want to build the love, friendship and romance back into their partnership.