Anger and Marriage

Glen O. Jenson, Ph.D. Family and Human Development Specialist Utah State University Extension


Can anger in a marriage be managed more effectively? David and Vera Mace, pioneers in the Marriage Enrichment movement, have outlined a way of coping with anger feelings that surface in most every marriage relationship. The Mace's indicate that anger is a healthy, normal emotion and one that is present at different times in all marital relationships. Couples should give each other the right to be angry.

When either of the spouses feels angry feelings coming on, those angry feelings should be expressed in words, but the words should be expressed calmly and with love. Extensive nonverbal gestures need not be made. Rather, the angry spouse should be able to put their feelings in words in much the same tone that they would say "I feel hungry," or "I am very hungry," or "I am very tired."

Couples who effectively manage their anger agree that anger can be expressed and acknowledged within a marriage relationship. They agree never to attack each other in anger. They share their anger, but they do not attack. Couples should agree with each other that they will not yell at one another unless there is an extreme danger. A firm non-yelling policy within the marriage will remove the need for a spouse to feel defensive or to develop any type of retaliatory anger. By expressing feelings of anger in a very calm fashion, both partners in a relationship are able to find out how and why the anger is present in their marriage.

The Mace's have developed an acronym to help couples remember a better way of solving anger. The acronym they have selected is AREA. The A stands for Admitting your anger to your spouse; R stands for the desire to Restrain your anger and not let it get out of hand by blaming or belittling your spouse; the E stands for Explaining in a very calm fashion why you are angry; the A stands for Action planning or doing something about the cause of the anger.

Generally, if anger is handled in the above fashion and a calm approach is taken to identify the cause and what can be about the anger, couples usually find that the anger was based on a misunderstanding or misinterpreted words or deeds, or that the anger was based on one partner being pushed beyond a level of tolerance, all of which are quite easily solved when approached in a very calm fashion.