Anger And Sexless MarriageThe Role of Anger
What is the role of anger in sexless marriages?
Lately I’ve been considering the different ways that anger is demonstrated on this forum and wondering exactly how this relates to sexless marriage.
Anger is a logical response to abuse – and sexless marriages ARE emotionally abusive. Anger can be a great motivator for the Refused person – it is often the catalyst for action. Anger may be the last emotion to resist numbness and despair, and is thus a survival mechanism, a final attempt to make good. So it definitely has its place in sexless marriage.
But if anger is to be productive, it needs to be harnessed and used appropriately. The scatter-gun approach in which the Refused person sprays their anger indiscriminately is unlikely to reap good results for that person – or for anyone else.
On ILIASM this seems to be revealed as sarcastic comments on posts where the person does not see eye-to-eye with the original poster (OP), or as criticism of any viewpoint that does not reflect their own. (And I’m NOT talking about the trolls or the obviously nutty comments from those with no understanding of sexless marriage. I’m talking about the genuine posters who are struggling with their own situations.)
Examples include those who belittle others for what they perceive to be naïve or uninformed perceptions. When OPs first come to ILIASM they are (almost) always at the early stages of facing the true reality of the long term effects of their sexless marriages. Some (like me!) take years or decades to reach this point. When these OPs are met with scathing remarks, sarcasm or patronising posts, it is devastating. It is hardly surprising that some posters never return and therefore miss out on the true value of this forum.
Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. clinical psychologist says: . . . anger makes you see the world in simplistic, absolutist terms. Everything looks either black or white--as in "I'm good and you're bad," or "I'm completely right and you're totally wrong."
And “behaviours performed in this impassioned emotional state can be rash and imprudent.”
When anyone gives reign to their anger and does not attempt to understand it or control it, then the anger controls her/him. Instead of seeing how this anger can be used to change their life, the person is actually FURTHER disadvantaged by the anger they feel. This person takes on the victim persona – “I am badly done by and it isn’t fair”. “Everyone else is wrong - only I know the real truth”. “Other people whose opinions vary from mine are AGAINST me.”
The triggers for your anger are usually found in the unresolved anger of your past. If you have previously suffered abuse of any sort (and we all have!) then your “stored up” anger will exacerbate your angry feelings in current situations. If you fail to recognise this, you will lay all the blame for your anger on the current environment (person, situation) and that is both unrealistic and unreasonable.
Dr Vesna Grubacevicsays: It is important to take responsibility for the anger you feel because you are the one feeling it, rather than blaming your partner, family or friends for making you feel angry.
I’m not saying you have no reason to feel anger – you do! And feeling angry is normal and a natural response to feeling disempowered or discriminated against. But blaming the world for how you feel simply externalizes the issue and fails to give YOU any opportunity to benefit from the feeling.
Anger that is blamed entirely on the catalyst of that anger is likely to be inappropriate.
Leon F. Seltzersays: When you vigorously--and misguidedly--let out your anger with others (rather than more calmly communicate your frustrations), your unconscious motive is to defeat them, triumph over them, bury them. For you assume that they, not yourself, have caused your anger. But the fact is that no one has the power to make you mad independent of your own negatively biased appraisal of their intentions.
A different response to anger, but one that is also ineffective, is to bury it or deny it. Sometimes this is done for fear of the outcome of expressing the anger – and I think this is probably very common in sexless marriages. Numbness and despair may be the outcome here – and neither of these feelings is productive. Suppressing anger also results in a range of unhealthy outcomes. Some are physical (such as migraines, stomach upsets, sleep irregularities) whilst others are psychological in nature (depression, resentment, moodiness and self doubt).
The person whose long term anger is not dealt with appropriately (whether inappropriately expressed or suppressed) often exists in a consistently “angry” environment. Bitterness is "anger that is retained" and hatred is “anger that is hardened”.
Timothy Quek says: “. . . chronic anger chokes out other feelings and becomes a solution for most problems. If there is an awareness of chronic anger, then the person goes into a guilt-binge cycle, that is, unsuccessfully suppressing anger because of guilt feelings, then getting intensely angry without reserve, and then returning to anger suppression. This cycle prevents the person from learning other ways to express feelings.”
And “the chronically angry person nurtures a social and emotional environment that promotes anger”. (Note: the emphases are mine.)
How should we handle anger then?
Anger serves an important purpose in our lives. It alerts us to the fact that “something is wrong”. It acts as a spur for us to act to change the situation. Once anger dies, it is replaced by apathy or indifference, so for some people, it is one way of keeping a relationship alive – albeit at a negative level.
Positive handling of anger requires hard work on our part.
Figure out the source of your anger - know why you feel angry. (Note: this involves looking into yourself and your past, and recognizing the ways in which your current situation triggers old grievances.)
Be willing to release your anger.
Be compassionate with your self.
Let go of what is beyond your control.
Change your environment.
Evaluate what kind of a person you want to be.
Dr Vesna Grubacevic says: You can learn to deal with anger and to manage it as it comes up. This is only a temporary solution because the underlying anger will still be unresolved and will still be pushing your buttons and causing you to overreact. A more lasting solution is to deal with the underlying anger. The best way to be free of the anger once and for all is to address it in a safe and comfortable way, without having to relive the anger or the trauma of the past in order to let it go.
Sexless marriage is a rich source of anger. Anger in this situation can be a force for good if it is harnessed appropriately and used to stimulate change. But if it is denied or allowed to over-ride everything else, it will be destructive. Unfortunately no drugs, hypnosis, or cognitive restructuring will make your anger go away. There are no short cuts to doing the hard work yourself. But if you DO undertake it, you can . . . transform any destructive anger into a wonderful, much needed life-force. (Gudrun Frerichs)