My wife and I are newly married, and I feel she is always angry with me. During the planning of the wedding, I thought her moodiness was due to the stress of the wedding. However, her frustration has continued into our marriage. The smallest of things that I say or do, which in my mind appear to be innocent enough, make her angry to the point that she refuses to speak to me. For example, if she calls me while I’m at work and I don’t respond immediately, she gets angry. If we don’t spend enough time together, she gets angry. If I don’t wash the dishes the right way, she gets angry. I try to explain to her that I am just busy and not trying to offend her or upset her. She even refuses to acknowledge that I don’t get angry with her when she does the same things to me. I have tried to talk to family and friends for help, and everyone advises me to just give her space when she gets angry. I love my wife and want her to be happy, but I am at a loss of what to do to make our relationship better. Please help.
It sounds like you and your wife are having problems connecting. The expression of anger in a marriage can be very hurtful. With each expression, there is damage to the emotional safety between the spouses, leading to distance, loneliness, resentment and anxiety. Your wife’s anger may be stemming from a desire to be closer to you emotionally. When she feels “rejected” by you, she responds with anger to protect herself from feelings of vulnerability. This type of dynamic is common in newly married couples who have yet to understand the emotional needs of each spouse. While men often seek closeness through physical intimacy, women tend to seek it through emotional intimacy. Your wife probably feels lonely and is seeking emotional closeness and safety with you. Her expressions of anger are an undeveloped way for her to express her needs and frustration. Only through the process of growing interpersonally will you both be able to express yourselves in a healthier way.
Having your wife angry with you all the time is difficult for you to comprehend and probably brings up feelings of helplessness and fear of the future of your marriage. When she is angry with you, your initial response is probably to try and fix it or defend yourself, but ultimately neither response invites more intimacy. Instead, see the conflictual moment as an opportunity to connect to your wife. So during those angry moments, do something completely “unnatural” — turn to her and truly listen to what she is expressing to you.
For example, you just got home from a long day at work, and you’re stressed and exhausted. Your wife shows you that she made your favorite meal for dinner. You respond by telling her that you just want to go upstairs and change and will eat after. She explodes with anger. You feel bewildered. What do you do now?
You are going to do something “unnatural” – walk up to her, take her hand, and look into her eyes and have the following conversation:.
Husband: “Honey, I love you and feel so loved that you made my favorite meal. I can see you are feeling frustrated, please share with me what is bothering you.”
Resolve to listen to whatever she tells you. Your challenge is to listen to her and truly hear what she is expressing. You don’t need to defend yourself, explain yourself, attack her, or walk away angry. You just need to maintain eye contact and find the feelings behind what she is saying.
Wife: “You don’t appreciate anything I do for you. I try and do something nice and you don’t even care!”
Husband: “Ok, I can see why you are frustrated. Tell me more about how you are feeling.”
Wife: “I’m angry that you don’t appreciate when I do something nice for you. It makes me not want to cook for you next time.”
Husband: “Ok, I can see that – you don’t feel appreciated, you have had a tiring day too and you just wanted to spend time with me when I got home. Is that it?”
Wife: “Yes, that’s it.”
Husband: “Honey, I understand now. I am sorry for not expressing to you how much I appreciate what you do for me. I have been looking forward to seeing you all day.”
Wife: “Aww..you did? That’s really sweet. I’m sorry for getting angry so quickly and I really just want to have a nice dinner with you and just catch up on our day.”
Husband: “Thank you for telling me how you are feeling.I appreciate your openness.” How about I quickly go upstairs and wash up so that we can talk about our day over the lovely meal you’ve prepared for us?
A dialogue of repair will do wonders for your relationship! When your wife feels that you understand her feelings, she will automatically grow closer to you emotionally while reducing the tension. This is how emotional connection is built in a marital relationship. Even when you don’t want to “deal with a conflict,” you do it for the sake of your relationship.
This type of intimate connection can be challenging and this is why seeking a professional counselor for support is necessary. A counselor will help the couple feel safe to express their feelings and teach them how to truly listen to one another. If a spouse is constantly unhappy, they also may need a professional assessment for the possibility of depression. This may require a spouse to take medication for depression to alleviate the symptoms and help the spouse regain hope in the marriage. Repairing the hurt and anger in a marriage is possible if both spouses are willing to work on their communication skills and seek to build emotional intimacy.
WebbCounselors is a collaborative advice column produced by two WebbAuthors, Amal Killawi, a Clinical Social Worker with a specialization in mental health and marriage education, and Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine, a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in premarital counseling. Please note that our counselors are not religious scholars and will not issue religious rulings.