The Key To the Men’s Room: “How Do I Deal with His Anger?”
By Ken Solin
“My boyfriend is always sullen. He has a negative perspective on life, and that makes me sad. If he gets angry—which he often does—it takes him a while to cool down. Before it breaks us up, is there something I can do to help him manage his anger?” —Lily P., Syracuse, NY.
To deal with male anger, you need to understand its origins. The reasons a man rages are rarely connected to the events leading up to his outburst. In a relationship with an angry man you are faced with his unpredictable demon. It fills you with fear, and threatens your sense of self-worth and personal safety.
You may try to imagine how you provoked such abusive behavior; but, in fact, you probably did nothing. An angry man’s smoldering fuse was lit years or even decades before and flares up each time his painful past is triggered. You will suffer from his dysfunctional emotional behavior until he becomes aware of the source of his pain and resolves it. Many men never do.
For over a decade and a half, I have heard stories from other men startlingly similar to my own. Some men’s anger stemmed from issues with their fathers; others had been abandoned as boys or had their hearts broken by women in adulthood. Regardless of the cause of the anger, however, I learned that there’s only one solution: men must help heal other men. Our pain is deeply personal, and most men don’t have the emotional vocabulary to discuss it with you. It’s far safer and more productive for men to share it with other men who understand that pain and are striving to move beyond it themselves. Men can offer each other what I call collective male wisdom. This is a vast font of useful knowledge, since it’s rare that one man’s issues have never been experienced by other men. Most of us benefited greatly from this wisdom and were able to leave our pain and anger behind once we understood where it came from.
You can help a man begin to deal with his anger by encouraging him to look at and unload the baggage that interferes with his life. Here’s how:
1. Let him know your willingness to stay with him is contingent upon his seeking help for his anger issue.
Tell him that this process may take a while and that his absolute dedication to identifying and working through the cause of his anger is required. There is no quick fix for male anger and your partner needs to acknowledge that.
2. Direct him towards men he knows who you feel he has an intimate enough relationship with that he can talk with them openly and honestly.
Male anger is difficult for men to discuss because there is usually shame involved, so only men he is close to and trusts will work.
3. If he doesn’t have any close men friends suggest he join a men’s group in his area.
Groups can be found on CraigsList.org, and local newspapers. Alternatively,
4. He can start his own group.
If he knows one fellow and that fellow knows others it won’t be long before he has eight men dedicated to working through their issues.
That said, if a man refuses to examine his anger, you should take yourself out of the line of fire. Why? Because your options are limited because you can’t do the healing work for him.
And no matter what he promises you, his anger will continue until he does the emotional work.