Q: My wife never gets angry or rather never vocalizes her anger. She also is frightened when I express anger. I always try to hold it in, but then the littlest thing will set me off like a volcano. I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. What should I do?
A: You’ve described a very common way that many people try to use to handle their anger – to deny or hide it. Unfortunately, as you have found, that leads to a buildup of old anger that from time to time tends to spill out inappropriately in an explosion. This is often referred to as a “slush of anger.”
Paradoxically, people who constructively express their anger often are much less likely to build up the “slush fund of anger.”
Rather than having to express major anger, the goal is to be aware of your feelings of minor irritation early and deal with them at the moment. Anger is not an all-or-nothing feeling.
There is a lot in between wild destructive rage and absolute passivity. Perhaps as you are able to assert your mild feelings of irritation to your wife and negotiate for change or creative problem-solving together, she will see that anger doesn’t have to be dangerous.