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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5824
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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We have an excellent loving marriage 99+% of the time.

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we have an excellent loving marriage 99+% of the time. Unfortunately small things can trigger an excallation that ends up out of control. We need help to halt these episodes of verbal and physical abuse.
Something will trigger a reaction in my wife, who feels unable to speak about the issue for hours or days. The exclusion and barriers leave me feeling isolated, frustrated and manipulated. This builds and builds until I react, sometimes lashing out.
We need to prevent these terrible episodes from spoiling what is otherwise a perfect loving relationship. HELP

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

It sounds like your wife either feels hurt very easily and reacts by protecting herself with anger or she has an anger management issue.

If she does have an anger management issue, you will see evidence of it throughout her life. She will lose her temper not only with you, but with others who hurt her as well. She will be short tempered with anything that bothers her.

But if her anger is about feeling hurt, then she needs to get in touch with why she acts this way and what triggers her feelings in order to solve the problem.

Either way, withdrawing and refusing to talk is a control issue. Your wife has learned a unhealthy way of reacting to her hurt and takes it out on you by taking away your ability to work it out through communication.

Usually when someone has a reaction like your wife's to small incidents, it is because the person feels things very deeply. People develop this kind of deep hurt from past injustices that happened to them. For instance, someone who has been abused during childhood will have learned to protect themselves by withdrawing from the person they perceived hurt them. As an adult they will react the same way, even if the hurt was small or unintentional.

In order to resolve this, your wife should see a therapist. She needs to work on not only the reason she reacts this way, but how to stop herself from lashing out. She needs to relearn a better way to express her feelings about her hurt. She can find a therapist through asking her doctor for a referral. Or she can search on line at or

Some of the ways you both can work on this issue include:

1. When your discussion starts to escalate, agree to leave the room. Do not come back until you feel calm.

2. Use "I" statements only. For example, when you express a feeling, say "I feel it wasn't fair when you.....". Saying "you" makes the other person feel defensive.

3. Agree to a set time to come back and continue the discussion. So if your argument starts at 3:00 pm, stop the argument and agree to come back at 5:00 pm. Then go out and find a way to burn off the frustration.

If your wife shuts you out, calmly let her know you care about her but that you are hurt by her treatment and when she is ready to talk, let you know. Then leave her alone. It is hard, but this prevents you from continuing to try to connect only to get rejected which, as you said, leads you to become angry.

Both of you can also work on this issue at home. Here are some resources to help get you started:

The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life by Les Carter and Frank Minirth

When Anger Hurts Your Relationship: 10 Simple Solutions for Couples Who Fight by Kim Paleg and Matthew McKay

Letting Go of Anger: How to Get Your Emotions Under Control by Annie Chapman

From Anger to Forgiveness: A Practical Guide to Breaking the Negative Power of Anger and Achieving Reconciliation by Earnie Larsen and Carol Larsen Hegarty

From Anger to Intimacy Study Guide: How Forgiveness can Transform Your Marriage by Dr. Gary Smalley and Mr. Ted Cunningham

You can find these books on or your local library may have them for you.

Let me know if I can help in any other way,


Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for the advise so far. Communications between us is excellent except when my wife starts to feel angry. Her personality is to become highly introverted and pushing for a conversation creates more frustrations for her. No matter how much she wants to speak she cannot get the words out and feels she needs quite and reflect alone before engaging.

I become frustrated by the inability to address any issues or communicate, as I want to resolve the matter, and feel shut out and out of control. I also feel I need to curb my temper and the tendency to physical abuse, as this is abhorant and further worsens the situation. What can I do to prevent the spiral into rage?

It sounds like you both create the perfect storm by how you react to one another. One withdraws and the other wants communication. The spiral of feelings this creates somehow triggers a storm between you both and it escalates with physical abuse.

At this point, if anger management techniques are not working for you and you are still losing control, then looking deeper into why you resort to abuse when angry is warranted. There is something that is triggering deep seated anger for you and causing you to lose control. It could be your past (possibly witnessing abuse between your parents or other important caregivers in your life, or experiencing abuse yourself) or an inability to regulate your anger in healthy ways.

Have you tried talking to others about your problem? If you can give yourself someone to call when you start to feel out of control, you may be able to prevent yourself from acting out. Also, designate a safe place you can go to when you start to feel out of control. Friends, family, or other safe area that makes you feel calm and where you can collect yourself. These options give you ways to check yourself and help you from lashing out.

It is important that you also consider therapy. Getting to the bottom of why the arguments between you and your wife reach the level of abuse is important. But in the meanwhile, start working on this issue now by learning about domestic violence and how to stop it. Here is a link to help (it is a US link but the basics apply):

Consider the books as well. They will help you find ways to stop the abuse so you both can work on changing your reactions to each other and rebuild this part of your relationship.


Customer: replied 6 years ago.

That is great...............

My wife's tendency is to go silent and bottle things up inside rather than talking. She seems to prefer to withdraw and sort out her thoughts and may never open up. This then surfaces weeks or months later after another trigger. She feels frustrated at not being able to talk of these issues, and would like to know what steps she can take to develop a more open communication style?

Since she cannot verbalize how she feels, then other creative ways of expressing herself should be explored until the reasons behind her inability to verbalize her feelings can be found. Writing out her feelings is one great way for her to express herself and not have to verbalize.

She can also try a diary, a blog, talking to a friend or family whom she trusts, and even talking to the family dog. Any way she can express her feelings is good practice to help her eventually learn to express them verbally to you.

She should also find a way to work out her frustration at her problem. Her frustration may be what is blocking her ability to communicate. Exercise, a hobby or something she feels helps her work off her feelings may assist her in expressing herself better.

In the meanwhile, she should consider therapy to get behind the problem. Once the root of the issue is dealt with, it is just a matter of relearning the correct way to communicate so she can explain her feelings in a healthy and productive way.


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