Why is my husband so angry? Here’s the bottom line. Men are different. When men are in a conflictual situation, they tend to get overwhelmed more easily than women, and these physiological changes, despite their best intentions, literal impair their ability to be their best selves. Men are evolutionarily designed to fight or flee and have a nervous system that is finely attuned to perceived threats.
Men who don’t explicitly learn how to calm themselves down will typically respond to criticism with the other three horsemen; stonewalling, defensiveness, and contempt. It takes a little psycho-education to understand that a man’s nervous system is often his greatest enemy.
Why is my husband so angry? Because when your husband feels like he is under attack, his body starts to change. His heart rate is over 100 beats a minute (or over 80 beats a minute if he is in superb athletic shape), his brain begins to release adrenaline and cortisol, his hearing and peripheral vision become impaired, his sense of humor evaporates, and he…well…talks kinda stupid. He repeats himself. Endlessly.
Please understand I am speaking about ordinary marital fighting. I am not speaking about the other end of the bell curve of men who take no responsibility for themselves and commit domestic violence.
Getting physiologically aroused is no fun. You can’t be creative, or empathetic. And you certainly can’t see things from your partner’s point of view. Here are some science-tested ways to get out of the flood zone and change your fighting style once and for all.
Why do couples only fight… or revive old dead fights as Franken-fights? Is there another way?
Why is My Husband So Angry? He Doesn’t Have Flood Insurance!
Douglas and Rachel Abrams, MD, used the term “flood insurance” in an entertaining book they co-wrote with John and Julie Gottman, “The Man’s Guide to Women.” Flood Insurance is a perfect metaphor for the self-awareness and psycho-education that is required of men to gain mastery over these needless blowups.
When you are calm and connected (not during or just after a fight!), it would be a good idea for the two of you to have a conversation about acquiring skill in de-constructing your fights.
Fight autopsies are a relational skill that you both build together, and it will help you break your bad habits and stop what I call “Groundhog Day fights.”
Fight Autopsies are all about carefully taking fights apart, and cleaning up your side of the street. If you’re a wife who gets nasty when she criticizes, you need to admit that. If you’re a husband who says mean and hurtful things when flooded, you need to fess up to that too.
We hear a great deal about vets and war-related PTSD, and the impact it has on their intimate partners. But there is another issue with men and trauma that we are far less comfortable talking about. Many men have Developmental Trauma from childhood neglect and sexual abuse.
As in the case of the veteran struggling with adult-onset PTSD, Developmental Trauma can be a force-multiplier for these men, provoking waves of intense rage, sadness, and paradoxically, dissociation. Working with male survivors of childhood sexual abuse is a key focus of mine, and I will be writing about more about men and Developmental Trauma in a future post.
James R. Averill, “Studies on anger and aggression: Implications for theories of emotion,” American Psychologist 38, no. 11 (November 1983): 1145-60.
Call us for more information 844-926-8753 to reach me, Daniel Dashnaw, use option 2.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. using EFT, Gottman Method, and the Developmental Model.