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Q: Marriage counseling - anger management ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Marriage counseling - anger management
Category: Relationships and Society > Relationships
Asked by: knowledge007-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 03 Jun 2003 14:38 PDT
Expires: 03 Jul 2003 14:38 PDT
Question ID: 212636
I seek marriage relationship advice.  I am a 40+ male small
businessperson (10-30 staff) married to a 40+ female who runs her own
freelancing business.  Married 10-20 years.  I am logical, analytic,
optimistic, finds good in things.  She is emotional, anger mgt issues,
often finds the bad in things or people or situations.  Opposites
attract and then seem to repel.  She wants out, I want to work on
things.  Already counseling with not much progress.  Open to books,
audio, weekend workshops.  Most interested in RADICAL IDEAS TO CHANGE
PATTERNS OF COMMUNICATION and especially, reduce her anger and pattern
of using anger.  Nice challenge huh?

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 03 Jun 2003 15:08 PDT
If counseling seems to be at a stalemate, a "marriage retreat weekend"
might be just the thing to help shake things up and reopen the lines
of communication between you and your wife.

See whether this sort of thing sounds good to you:

If this idea interests you, I'm sure one of the Researchers can help
you find a suitable marriage retreat in your area and price-range.

Request for Question Clarification by byrd-ga on 03 Jun 2003 20:06 PDT
You've received some suggestions from others that may work well for
you.  However, if you're looking for something really radically
different, how about some real-life step-by-step instructions on how
to fall in love with each other again?  Seriously.  It's real, it's
practical, and it really works.  Remember being in love with your
wife?  Sure wasn't hard work to get along then, was it?  Well you and
she *can* be in love again -- and stay that way. Check out and READ what's there.  All of it.  Then
try it.  Really try it.  If you really give it a fair trial, I'll bet
neither of you will want to give up then.  But I wish you best of luck
in whatever course you choose.  Heaven knows relationships can present
some of the greatest challenges we ever face.
Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
Answered By: mvguy-ga on 04 Jun 2003 10:11 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

First of all, a disclaimer: I'm not a marriage counselor and don't
pretend to be one. My degree isn't in psychology, and I don't have any
bankable credentials in this area. In fact, in some ways I am like
you: I'm analytical, usually optimistic, and I tend to be
uncomfortable with my outward displays of emotion, even anger. I am
also an imperfect husband and father. But my wife and I will be
celebrating our 20th anniversary this summer, and I have done quite a
bit of independent study on how people interact. I also have made more
than my share of mistakes in life, and they say that's the best

OK, now for the nitty-gritty: You say you're open to "radical ideas"
to change patterns of communication. Here's one:

Tell her you've been wrong. Tell her you've been overly judgmental of
her. Tell her that you've had a self-righteous attitude because you
believe you're better than she is, because you believe your analytical
prowess is better than the way she handles emotions. Tell her that the
problem with the marriage isn't her "anger-management problem," but
the way you've been putting her down. Ask her for her forgiveness.

And mean it.

Then act like you mean it.

Listen to her. Don't discount what she says because it's reflective of
her "anger-management issues." Quit being so damn analytical and open
up to her emotionally. Respect her opinions. When you have even the
slightest feeling that you may be wrong about something, tell her so.

Is that radical enough for you?

The fact is that going to counseling _can_ be just a way to avoid
dealing with the real problem. It _can_ be a way of convincing
yourself that you're doing your part. Communication is more than a
technique; even the best types of communication can be a way of
manipulating someone. Unless you're prepared to deal with what YOU
have done wrong, this marriage is going nowhere. Counseling can be
effective, even essential, but it will do you no good until YOU are
willing to change.

I'll say that again, in different words. If you really want to save
your marriage, YOU have to realize that the problem with the marriage
isn't your wife's failure at anger management.  You can't do anything
about that anyway. That's her problem, not yours. YOU need to clean up
your own act.

I don't know you. All I know about you is the few words you've written
above. *****But those words speak loudly.***** You believe that you're
right and she's wrong. You believe that your way of dealing with the
world is better than her way. You believe that she's the one who has
to change. How would you like to live with or work closely with
someone who believes that?

I'll repeat that to get my point across: How would you like to live
with or work closely with someone who believes he or she is superior
to you and that most problems are your fault?

To your belief that you're superior to her, I say, "Poppycock!" You're
the one who has to change. Maybe she'll change as a result, and maybe
she won't. But I can guarantee you one thing: If you change, she'll
find that the way she deals with you won't work very for her any more.
 If you're kind to her, if you respect her, if you treat her like you
want her, she won't be able to live with herself unless she responds
with respect of her own.

You can go to all the workshops you want, all the Marriage Encounter
weekends, and you can read all the books you want. But things aren't
going to change unless YOU change. It's not up to her to change, it's
up to YOU. Yes, if she had posted the question here, I'd tell her the
same thing, but you're the one who asked the question. So if you
really want this marriage to work, you need to take the first step,
and probably the second and third and fourth, and be prepared to take
the fifth and sixth as well.

Then when you become the perfect husband, feel free to start
criticizing her. But not before.

All that said, I'm going to recommend two books and provide you with
the links where you can buy them at  Of course, you can
also buy these books at other bookstores as well, although the first
may be difficult to find unless you special-order it.

The first is "Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships,
Coming to Ourselves" by C. Terry Warner. I think you might like the
author, who's a psychologist who has done a lot of work relating to
helping business managers accomplish their goals. The same
philosophies that are in this book are ones he has taught business

Amazon page

Here is the basic premise of the book, which I'm taking from the

"Why then, if we are able to change fundamentally, don't we do it? Why
do we get and keep ourselves stuck in anxiety, suspicion, resentment
or anger if we all have the power to do otherwise?  The answer to this
extraordinarily challenging and fascinating question is that we devise
and hang on to our emotional problems _for a purpose_, a purpose more
important to us than our happiness. And we deceive ourselves about the
fact that this is what we're doing. We participate in the creation of
our emotional troubles and deny we've had any part in it. In regard to
our trouble emotions and attitudes, we are our own worst enemies."

Warner writes at length about this self-deception. Time after time, he
says, we do what we inwardly know isn't right because we give
ourselves excuses to do it. Meanwhile, we get frustrated because other
people don't always treat us the way they should. And in our minds
that justifies the way we treat them, so the cycle continues.

With ending self-deception comes forgiveness of the other person. As
you might guess, forgiveness is a big thing with Warner.  Here's a
small part of what he says (pp. 294-5):

"We need to note one more element of genuine forgiveness. Just prior
to forgiving someone, we will have been finding her or her offensive.
But with forgiveness comes a realization of the offensiveness of this.
How accusing we must have appeared to that person! Whatever he or she
may have done that we previously found offensive has changed in our
memory of it... Recently we wondered whether we could forgive that
person. Now we wonder whether he or she can forgive us!
"This is our new attitude toward having previously refused to forgive.
We feel a desire to be forgiven for it. _Genuine forgiveness includes
a desire to be forgiven and, if it is fitting, to seek that
"Of all the initiatives people can take who feel a devastating wrong
has made them miserable, one stands above all others in effectiveness.
It is actually seeking forgiveness for having refused to forgive."

In his book "Life Strategies," popular psychologist Phil McGraw also
places a strong emphasis on forgiveness, and many of his views
complement those of Warner. Here's an except (pp. 204ff):

"Ultimately -- and this may be extremely difficult for you to accept
-- forgiveness of those who have transgressed against you, or those
you love, is not about _them_; it's about _you_. ... Trust me when I
say that the only escape is forgiveness. The only way to rise above
the negatives of that relationship in which you were hurt is to take
the moral high ground, and forgive the person who hurt you. ... Their
judgment will come from a higher power, not from you."

But it's not that McGraw book I'm recommending (although it is a good
one). It's his book "Relationship Rescue."

Amazon page

McGraw takes his philosophy about forgiveness and about accepting
responsibility for your own actions and puts it in a book aimed at
helping people improve their relationships.  This book is less
philosophical than Warner's book and is aimed at providing a guide to
action. But like Warner, he emphasizes that the person you have to
work on is yourself, not the other person:

"This journey does not begin with you and your partner, it begins with
you. You have to ... become the kind of person who commands quality,
inspires respect, and settles for nothing less than an active and
abiding love. ... The fix, the rescue, depends upon you. To proceed
with any other mind-set is to guarantee failure, miserable failure."
(page 2)

This book is filled with exercises designed to help the reader
understand him/herself and his/her spouse better. The book is designed
so you can proceed without your spouse's cooperation. Again, you are
the key to making your relationship work.

Best wishes in your marriage,


P.S.: The commenters below (or at least the ones that came before I
wrote this) also gave good advice. If you haven't done so already,
please check out what they had to say as well.
knowledge007-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
All the answers and comments were very useful.  I bought the Bonds...
book and read it and I agree it has a good message.  It is clear that
the only thing you can change is how you act or react - and that is
the thing to focus on.  Thanks for perspectives.

Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: justaskscott-ga on 03 Jun 2003 15:21 PDT
I ask this in all seriousness, without intending to criticize you:  Do
you think that your wife sees you as having good qualities and herself
as having bad qualities, which is the perspective you have?

I would suggest that you both read "You Just Don't Understand" or
perhaps something else by Deborah Tannen.  That way, you might see
each other's point of view a little better.

"You Just Don't Understand"
Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: cynthia-ga on 03 Jun 2003 15:56 PDT
Additionally, I'd like to recommend this book:
Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: wlk115-ga on 03 Jun 2003 16:45 PDT
I realize that you are trying to save your marriage and I mean no
disrespect with this question. But…

If a real, live, flesh, and blood counselor has not helped, do you
really think a book will?

I say this as someone who has been there and spent a great deal of
time, effort, and money trying: Some times a marriage just can’t be
saved, particularly when one partner really wants out. It takes both
partners working very hard to work through their problems and if both
are not giving it 100% it is doomed to fail.
Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: sgtcory-ga on 03 Jun 2003 16:58 PDT
She may just be flattered that you care enough to ask. Point her to
this question after it has been answered, and see what her reaction

Radical ideas? Here's one :

- Make a website. Something like If
you can't build it ; web design is rather cheap, and she would be very

Especially if you did something like make a button that says :

'Click here for your Reward for listening'

Upon clicking, the next page offers details to the retreat that
pinkfreud might suggest ;-)

Best of Luck -

Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: aceresearcher-ga on 03 Jun 2003 18:52 PDT

You ask how to fix what's wrong with your wife's attitude. You will
under no circumstances be able to do this, because the only one who
can change a person's attitude is that person themself.

Instead, I encourage you to spend some time in deep introspection,
examining your own personality, attitude, and actions, and asking
yourself whether anything you are doing might be part of what's
triggering what you perceive as your wife's bad behavior.

I am a very strong, opinionated personality, and I am married to
someone who also has a very strong, opiniated personality. I can tell
you this: the only thing that has enabled us to work through our
differences to some sort of good mutual relationship (and avoid filing
for divorce in the process) was to each start worrying about what in
ourselves we needed to work on, instead of continually telling each
other what is wrong with the other person.

I can guarantee you that if I were always hearing what was wrong with
MY attitude, and how *I* was the one with all the problems, and how
everything would be great if only *I* changed, I'd be filing for a
divorce, too.

Until and unless you accept equal responsibility with your wife, and
work on improving your own role in the problems in your marriage, it
is highly unlikely that the two of you will be able to resolve your
differences and avoid divorce. If, however, you are willing to do
this, it may result in exactly the outcome for which you are hoping.

You have all my Best Wishes that the two of you will be able to work
through this difficult time, and come to a better relationship because
of it.

Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: apteryx-ga on 03 Jun 2003 20:20 PDT
Hi.  A book may not be able to help with your problem, but it very
well might help you think about things.  Here's one that could do

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-By-Step Guide to Helping
You Decide Whether to Stay in or Get Out of Your Relationship
by Mira Kirshenbaum

Plenty to think about there.

Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: mvguy-ga on 03 Jun 2003 20:52 PDT
I was just going to say more or less what Aceresearcher-ga said, but
s/he said it better. It isn't your job to reduce your wife's anger!
The best you can do is be the best person you can be, then hope and
pray that you wife will respond positively to whatever changes you're

If you're looking for a radical book, I suggest this one:
I don't agree with everything in the book, but I do agree with its
major premise: the person to work on is YOU, regardless of what your
wife may or may not do.
Subject: Re: Marriage counseling - anger management
From: jrl-ga on 13 Aug 2003 14:04 PDT

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