Witnessing and containing a lover’s anger is rare gift few can give, but the potential for healing is remarkable.
Have you noticed how anger can transform your lover into a tempestuous 3-year-old or a belligerent teenager? Unlike sadness, lust, joy, grief, or confusion, anger seems to have a special ability to destabilize relationships. While other emotions are often healed in the presence of a friend or a lover, anger is blind and usually cannot see nor receive the care that is being offered.
Should your partner become angry in your presence, first check to see if you are angry as well. If you are both angry, find the clarity in your raging heart to separate yourselves. In other words, gently and courageously remove yourselves from each other’s presence. No good resolution that will come from two angry people trying to work it out together.
Separate as lovingly and carefully as you can, and tell your partner that you will return to the conversation when you have worked out your own anger. Please remember this: Tell your beloved that you will return. Then gently walk away.
Now take your anger elsewhere. Go somewhere alone and do the thing that you know how to do that demands the most physical exertion from you. Alone.
If, however, you are not angry and you can calmly recognize that it is only your partner who is angry, then take this opportunity to love them more deeply than you may have ever loved them before. Become curious about their anger. It is a great gift of the skilled in heart to stay calm and loving in the presence of someone’s anger.
If you want to give this gift to your lover, be clear and confident, soft and steady. Be quiet. Your curiosity has the power to heal anger that has been burrowing in your lover’s heart for years, or perhaps even their whole lifetime.
Bring your honest interest.
Stay quietly near them and become lovingly fascinated with their storm.
You may witness the most glorious awakening in a human being.
It is also possible that, despite your efforts, your partner’s rage will grow stronger, wilder, and perhaps turn to physical or verbal aggression. An angry person wants freedom from pain and thus is tempted to blame anyone or anything around them. It is the desperate effort to rid oneself of anger that causes one to take it out on another.
If this happens, tell them you will be back, quickly exit, and do what needs to be done to ensure their safety if necessary. Do this apart from them. Afterwards, consider whether your partner might need support from someone other than you in this process.
Anger presents unique challenges to a relationship. It is more volatile than all other emotions and therefore requires more tact to navigate. But with self-awareness, courage, and curiosity, you and your beloved can work through anger in a powerfully healing way.
Kate Niebauer is a dancer, writer, and painter living in Oakland.