Why Life Should be Like the Movies! (Men, this one’s for you…)
Hey guys, ever wonder what’s behind your wife’s anger? I’m not talking about the anger she shows because some careless driver cut her off. I’m talking about the anger that comes out towards you! You know, when you your wife is angry with you for some reason or another. Maybe you know that reason or perhaps you don’t have a clue. Most importantly, how does she let you know she’s angry? Does she yell? Attack? Criticize? Maybe she uses words that would make even the most uncouth sailor blush. Or perhaps she freezes over and becomes so icy and distant that you wonder if she will ever thaw out.
My goal is to help you understand what’s really behind your wife’s anger so that you can respond in a way the helps her to feel safe, secure, and loved. I also want to help you have more confidence that you can navigate these types of conflicts without totally being consumed by them.
To help us understand, I defer to a medium that most of guys know very well: movies. There is a classic scene that has been depicted in many movies where the lead female character is angry at the leading man. It typically unfolds with her angry and defensive and pushing him away. He, seeing that while she is angry it is because she is afraid and/or hurt, begins to slowly move closer. He recognizes that she needs to feel safe. As he moves closer she resists and continues to push him away. He persists and gets so close that by now he has arms wrapped around her. Amazingly, her fight slowly gives way to her fear. Instead of anger there is acceptance of his love. There they stand holding one another in a mutual embrace.
I love this image from the movies because it so clearly illustrates what often lies beneath anger. Anger is often a surface level emotion that masks hurt, pain, sadness, and above all fear. The next time you wife is angry keep in mind her deeper emotion and need to be loved and comforted. What she really needs in moments of anger is for you to be there in a way that not only validates her anger but also her deeper emotions and emotional needs. You may be asking yourself, “How can I do that?” Chances are it will not unfold perfectly like in the movies. However, if you can keep in your mind and heart that anger is a often a surface level emotion that masks deeper pain and fear you will be able to stay emotionally engaged.
I bet many of you are thinking that my advice to draw closer to your wife when she is angry is crazy. It just seems so counterintuitive, right? Your natural reaction is to defend, attack back, or get the heck out of there. I get that the last thing that crosses our mind is to draw close. However, we have to remind ourselves that embedded in anger is hidden call for us to be emotionally present. In fact, I like to make the argument that if you were not so important to you wife she would not react with such powerful emotion. You matter! She needs you! Her anger is an attempt (albiet an ineffective one) to reach out to you for support. Anger is her (and yours) defense mechanism when she is not feeling emotionally safe. It is a cry for more loving attention, comfort, care, and connection with you!
When you respond defensively or indifferently it will more than likely make matters worse. It will lead to a power struggle rather than understanding. My challenge to you is the next time your wife comes at you with anger remember to look and listen for the deeper emotions (fear, hurt, loneliness) and the deeper emotional needs (support, care, reassurance). Respond by reaching out to her with your words of comfort and your loving touch. To borrow and modify a phrase from Nike that we all know, “Just be there!”