When your boyfriend has anger issues, it's important to communicate with him about it early and often.
People are often unaware of how their anger impacts those around them. Your boyfriend may take what you have to say personally or see it as criticism. But most likely, he needs to hear it.
Here are four tips to help you cope with a boyfriend with anger issues.
WARNING: If your partner is physically violent with objects, others, or you, proceed with caution. If any tips in this post are likely to escalate harm to you, ignore them. Use your best judgment and seek additional support.
1. Use “I” Statements
Statements like “You always yell!” or “if you would just control your anger…” immediately put the other person on the defensive.
“I” statements help you express yourself in a way that’s more likely to de-escalate the situation, rather than escalate it. The key phrase being “more likely” – there are no guarantees!
Examples of “I” Statements
- “I feel scared when you throw things.”
- “I feel anxious when you yell because it feels like I have done something wrong.”
- “I feel triggered when you use that language because my dad used to when I was a kid, and it scared me.”
2. Be Direct
When people are angry, they cannot hear passive or subtle requests. They often need directives in order to interrupt the fight-or-flight response.
So when your boyfriend is out of line, be clear and concise about what you want him to do differently.
While making a direct request, look him in the eye, speak audibly and clearly, and appear confident. This will make him more likely to take the request seriously.
Examples of Direct Requests
- “Please lower your voice.”
- “Step away from the door.”
- “Put that plate down.”
3. Give Consequences for Behavior
People do not change unless they have a good reason to. If your boyfriend’s behavior is not changing, you need to give him a reason to stop in the form of a consequence.
The purpose of a consequence is not to punish. The purposes are a) to protect yourself and your boundaries, and b) to facilitate effective communication rather than arguing that is pointless at best, abusive at worst.
You must follow through with your consequences for them to be effective.
Examples of Consequence-Giving
- “I’m going in the other room until we’ve both cooled down, and then we can continue this conversation.”
- “If you don’t stop yelling, I’m hanging up the phone.”
- “If we can’t stop arguing, I’m staying with my mom tonight.”
4. Ask About Motivations
If your boyfriend has anger issues, you likely have a thousand reasons on deck why he should fix them. Unfortunately, your reasons don’t matter to him.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, people don’t make lasting changes for others. They only make lasting changes when they themselves are motivated to do so.
So instead of trying to convince your partner to change, ask them how they feel about their anger. Do so during a time when you can calmly discuss it, not in the middle of an argument. Use open-ended questions that invite more than a yes-or-no answer. Adopt an attitude of genuine curiosity.
If your partner says they don’t want to change their anger, believe them. Assume the current level of anger will persist for their rest of the relationship with you.
Remember that in abusive relationships, violence tends to escalate over time, not get better.
Examples of Open-Ended Questions
- “What would you change about your anger, if you could?”
- “What bad outcomes have occurred as a result of your anger?”
- “What would your life be like if you felt in control of anger?”
Four steps you can take if your boyfriend has anger issues:
- Use “I” statements
- Be Direct
- Give Consequences for Behavior
- Ask About Motivations
If your boyfriend wants to change their anger issues, excellent! Working with a therapist or in a therapy group is a good place to start. Long-term, the two of you may also consider couples therapy to work through some of the harm and improve communication.
If your boyfriend says he does not want to change his anger, believe him. Assume his current anger issues will persist (or possibly escalate) for the rest of the relationship.
About RebeccaRebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social worker and therapist in Chicago, IL.
Rebecca provides therapy to people with anxiety, low self-esteem, and people pleasing tendencies. She uses a feminist and social justice lens, and interventions based in CBT, mindfulness, and motivational interviewing.
For helpful, free content, follow her on Instagram @rebeccaoglelcsw or go to her website.