Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Picture This: My husband is always angry and yelling about everything, when I just want peace in my life. My spouse makes our household feel very chaotic and I am losing my mind. I just want calmness but haven't been able to get that for over a decade. Instead of speaking in a normal tone, he always has an angry tone. He is always raising his voice, even over the tiniest things. He gets irritated over the dumbest things and doesn't know how to communicate in a calm manner. I feel like it is taking a toll on me. He isn't violent, he just communicates in an angry way that puts stress on our entire household. I've talked to him and he will stop for about a day, then he is right back to it. Are there any steps I can take to make him realize I just want a more calm/quiet environment? The older I get, the more I want peace and tranquility and the more this is driving me crazy.
Alright my Blissful Blue Jays, I had to reach out to an expert for this one. I approached Cindy Cartee, owner of C. Cartee Counseling LLC in South Carolina. Cindy has over 30 years of experience in the field of Counseling and Psychotherapy. I knew she took her job seriously when I saw her seriously extensive website. She has created loads of amazing helpful videos. She offers many therapies for couples, she is top rated by third party review companies and has great testimonials from her clients.
I reached out, and she jumped to help immediately! She has put together an amazing answer that I know will help anyone dealing with their husband or wife constantly yelling or communicating angrily!
Take it away, Cindy!
We know that we can’t change anyone. Your partner will have to do the work for deep personal change. You cannot change him/her, no matter how hard you try.
All couples have conflict, but it is not healthy to have yelling communications. No one deserves to have someone yell at them. Anger triggers the feeling of danger and the brain reacts to the signs of danger. If your partner is yelling and often angry, then he/she may need to seek professional help. Yelling is not ok. It’s mean! Of course, we all may have a moment of yelling because we stub our toe or something, but it’s different from yelling in an angry way at your partner.
Healthy ways to communicate are so important in a healthy relationship. Sadly, many people are living in unhealthy relationships because they don’t know how to have conscious conflict. Anger is a natural emotion. It’s ok to be angry. Learning how to express anger in healthy ways is the goal. Some people grow up with angry parents and learn unhealthy ways to express anger. They may have learned to yell so they have to unlearn it. Children learn by how you treat them, talk to them, and what you role model. It’s so important for parents to change their communication patterns so that they can imprint their children with healthy ways to express feelings. If you are in relationship with someone who is often angry and yells, then you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. Using a loud voice, name calling, yelling out in anger are all forms of verbal and/or emotional abuse. Through intimidation, bullying, fear tactics, attempts to control, the partner’s aggression is often an attempt to dominate or be “right.”
For some this is an issue of problems in self-regulation, learned behavior, emotional or psychological problems, and for some they require professional help. Never tolerate abuse! Stress can be a factor in yelling behavior or anger. Often anger has an underlying emotion. For example, someone may be stressed about work and then displace that anger onto the partner. There is a difference in venting TO your partner and yelling AT your partner. If you catch yourself yelling at your partner, immediately stop, and assess what you are feeling and how to better manage the emotion and express it without yelling. Stress management is always a good idea. People who yell and are often angry lack coping skills, sometimes they want to feel in control or they feel threatened, they feel unheard or neglected, or somehow believe they will be heard by yelling. Yelling will never work. It’s a vicious cycle. They yell, the partner becomes defensive, shuts down, fearful, angry, and/or reactive. Conflict is growth trying to happen, but most people don’t know how to have conscious conflict. If you yell at your partner you are hurting the relationship in so many ways. Yelling is not respecting your partner. Yelling hurts the trust in the relationship. It is not cherishing and honoring your partner. It does not demonstrate love. Intimacy is not going to be what you want it to be if you are yelling at your partner. Emotional and sexual intimacy is difficult to create when a partner doesn’t feel safe and connected. Yelling triggers fear and it’s hard to think when we are afraid. It’s hard to do anything when we are afraid. Let’s not get too technical biologically. The brain is an amazing organ. If we separate the brain into 3 parts: the old brain, new brain, mid brain. Old brain is also referred to as reptilian brain. It’s instinctive and primitive. It tells us within a millisecond to run if there is danger, to blink, to breathe. New brain is referred to as mammalian brain. It’s relational and teachable. It’s our executive functioning, our conscious brain. Mid brain is like a processor between the old and new brains, discerning what is safe or unsafe. You’ve probably heard about fight, flight, freeze responses. When there is a sign of danger we react instinctively. Some people will freeze in silence. Some will become defensive and argue back, fight. Some will leave the room or withdraw, flight. There are many ways to react, these are simplistic examples.
To break the vicious cycle of conflict and to use conflict for connection, we must live in new brain and communicate consciously. When we are triggered, our brain has a story it tells itself. If your partner sighs you may think he/she is not interested in what you have to say. When in fact, they may merely be taking a deep breath. If the story is, “you don’t care about what I’m saying” then you are reactive. If you shut down and get quiet or if you get a tone of frustration then your partner may have no idea what just happened. It’s important to check out the stories we tell ourselves. That takes a level of consciousness. We need to question why we are feeling reactive, what is the story my brain is telling me about what is happening. The initial story our brain tells us is usually faulty in some way or way wrong. But we tend to believe our own stories. We could avoid so many conflicts if we would check things out with our partner and respond instead of reacting. Reacting is old brain. Responding is new brain. Ok so back to the subject of yelling. If the yeller could stay conscious, calm, and check out the story he/she tells him/herself, they could avoid a lot of upset. Talk things through. Imago intentional dialogue is a tool to help people learn to communicate in new brain. It helps turn conflict into connection and helps in understanding yourself and your partner. When someone experiences conscious conversation and feels heard and understood they will hopefully be motivated to continue to dialogue and thus stop the yelling and reactive behaviors. If your partner is yelling: stay calm, give them space, ask for a dialogue, don’t give into the yeller. You don’t want to positively reinforce the behavior of yelling. Use your quiet voice, be silent, ask for a break, leave if needed and stay safe. Call 911 if the yelling becomes threatening and you feel unsafe. If children are present, they will be terrified, you may be terrified too. Some yelling is a sign of aggression and you must discern between what is yelling in a way that creates an unsafe situation. Children do not need to hear yelling at all! It’s all scary for them. And you don’t want to imprint your children with fear, anxiety, abusive behaviors, and role model unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict. The yeller probably has some core issues that need to be addressed in counseling. Remember it’s not about you and that you do not cause it. Yes, you may be a trigger to a frustration, but you do not cause someone to yell at you. We are all responsible for our own behaviors. We all want to feel heard, understood, safe, and loved. Even the yeller wants to feel connected. To get the love we want, we must communicate from new brain, relational brain. Mammals can learn and love. Reptiles are not relational. We can create new neural pathways and change our brain. If mid brain were a muscle, I’d be telling you to exercise it and let it help you hold on to the new brain responses. For a deeper understanding of how conflict is growth trying to happen, I encourage you to read Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. Your home will be more peaceful when you learn to cope with conflict. If your yeller seeks help and learns to express anger in healthy ways, he/she will feel better too. The whole family benefits. If your yeller is unwilling to seek help and does not work on stopping the yelling and angry behavior, you may have to seek help in how to move forward to protect yourself. Remember you can not change your partner, but you can change yourself.
More About Cindy Cartee
Cindy Cartee, LPC is passionately committed to helping people in their relationships. Whether it’s about you or another, we’re all about love and relationships, right?
Cindy has over 20 years of experience in the field of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Providing private practice for over 20 years, she specializes in helping individuals and couples enhance their lives and relationships.
Cindy is a South Carolina Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, Nationally Board Certified Counselor, South Carolina Clinical Addictions Counselor, Certified Brainspotting Therapist, and Certified Getting The Love You Want Couples Workshop Presenter. You can visit her website here.