Verbally Put Down My Spouse? Frustration often leads to harsh words and later regret. Understanding why helps to keep things positive. BY DR. SCOTT HALTZMAN
Anytime I get angry towards my wife, I find myself cutting her down verbally. Can you help me put a stop to it?
When a man and woman exchange rings on the altar, they do so with the hopes of a marriage filled with joy and satisfaction. As they turn and walk through the aisle, they anticipate a storybook ending of a life filled with only good things. And for a while, that’s the way things are…then the words fly.
In all relationships, we seek happiness. We often look to our partner as the main conduit to our piece of mind. We figure that if our wife or husband were wise enough, strong enough and resourceful enough, they’d figure out what we need and meet them without hesitation. After all, he or she did that when we were dating, right?
Feeling angry in your marriage is a sure sign that your needs aren’t being met. You assume that your desires are reasonable and frankly, any reasonable person should be able to meet them. In some cases, you may have a need to be heard. In others, it might be the need for words of support or appreciation. Sometimes you might need physical touch. These are things you can’t give yourself and as far as you're concerned, if your partner isn’t up to the task, he or she has let you down.
This type of disappointment, especially if it happens repeatedly, leads to resentment. And resentment is the birthplace of anger. As you get more and more upset, it’s only a matter of time until it affects the way you treat your spouse. Putdowns are an expression of anger. Not only do you hurt your spouse, but being nasty ultimately boomerangs back toward you—you end up feeling ashamed and angry with yourself for your behavior. This starts the cycle all over again: as you feel the anger mounting, you blame your partner for it, leading to more resentment, more anger and more putdowns. Ironically, when you resort to putting down your mate, you end up getting less of what you want out of the relationship because he or she pulls away.
There are ways to stop the cycle of anger and resentment, though:
Adjust Your Expectations: Studies show the happiest couples in marriage go into it with realistic expectations. Anticipating that your partner will meet all of your needs all of the time is a sure way to fuel resentment.
Give: Instead of seeing marriage as a place to get all your needs met, learn to view your relationship as a place where you can learn how to give generously. The odds are, if you selflessly focus your attention on pleasing your partner, over time he or she will work vigorously to make you happy.
Demonstrate Compassion: Empathic caring is the antidote for resentment. When you are filled with loving and nurturing thoughts for your partner, it’s virtually impossible to intentionally hurt him or her. By giving the gift of compassion, you can form stronger bonds and a more loving, life-long connection.
Accept Responsibility: When you lose it and say hurtful things, it’s human nature to blame someone else for "making me feel this way." You, and only you, are responsible for your actions, and your reactions in marriage. You’ve got the power to make your marriage spectacular, don’t permit yourself to make it anything less than that.
The road from wedding day bliss to long-term happiness has many bumps, but when you treat your partner with compassion and refrain from spitting venom when angry, you’ll make it through the rough times with dignity, respect and a deeper love for each other.
Dr. Haltzman is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University. He is the author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wife’s Heart Forever." You can find Dr. Haltzman at www.DrScott.com