Look past the anger to strengthen your relationships


A new study from Baylor University shows that married couples have intimate “insider” knowledge about each other’s emotional expressions, but they have more difficulty reading the hard emotions like anger. Furthermore, anger can distract from underlying soft emotions like sadness. Getting at those softer emotions can further strengthen a relationship.

“I found that people were most likely to express anger, not in the moments where they felt most angry, but rather in the situations where there was an overall climate of anger in their relationship – situations where both partners had been feeing angry over a period of time. This means that if a couple falls into a climate of anger, they tend to continue expressing anger regardless of how they actually feel… It becomes a kind of trap they cannot escape,” stated Keith Sanford, PhD, an associate professor psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University’s College of Arts & Sciences.

The most typical triggers for an argument are money, in-laws, chores, affection and time spent on the computer. Usually a partner is very good at perceiving the other’s anger, but often misses underlying sadness. “When it comes to perceiving emotion in a partner, anger trumps sadness,” explained Sanford.

If the sadness is expressed and recognized, often a couple will grow closer as a result. “A take-home message is that there may be times where it is beneficial to express feelings of sadness during conflict, but sad feelings are most likely to be noticed if you are not simultaneously expressing anger,” said Sanford.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Family Psychology


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