Sometimes I get angry…or to Cheryl it looks like anger.
Your right to cry is my right to be angry!
It’s usually not a major issue, it could be a car that pulls out in front of me or a reaction to a ballgame. Sometimes it’s even disappointment in myself, but at times I have to remind Cheryl that I have a right to be angry…or at least to express the emotion I feel, which to her looks like anger. (It’s usually not what I would even term anger…maybe frustration…but my definition and hers might differ.) I have as much right to feel my emotions of anger, as Cheryl has a right to cry.
Let me be clear. I have rarely been angry at her. Thankfully that has only happened a couple times in our marriage, but as a man, I have as much a right to be angry as Cheryl has a right, as a woman, to cry. I don’t usually express emotion in tears. Instead, the same emotions that Cheryl feels when she sheds tears are often expressed by me in what appears to her to be anger. Anger in its simplest form is an emotional release as a reaction to a situation; much like crying. (As some women have pointed out to me before, this can be personality driven, so the roles can be reversed in a relationship also.)
Please don’t misunderstand. My right to express anger is never an excuse to throw things, hit someone, or even be verbally abusive. I never have that right. You don’t either. None of us should allow our emotions to turn into times of violence. There is never an excuse for that. Learning to control our emotions is a key to establishing healthy relationships. (If your emotions are uncontrollable then I encourage you to seek help. Addressing serious emotional problems for the male or female is not the purpose of this post.)
In Ephesians chapter four, it is clear that we should not sin in anger. We are also told not to go to bed in anger, and, thankfully, Cheryl and I have a commitment not to do that in our marriage. Further, in the same passage, we are told to get rid of anger. The passage, however, clearly allows a place for anger in our lives.
The dilemma between couples is not to limit a person from feeling, or even expressing, emotions. Bottled up emotions are dangerous. The real issue is to better understand the differences in our makings and learn to adapt who we are in a mutually submissive response to each other. In my relationship with Cheryl, as an example, when I get angry at something when I’m with her, which is again often my natural response to things that upset me, I must control that anger to keep it from becoming harmful to our relationship. I still reserve the right to feel and express the emotions, just as Cheryl has the right to cry when she is upset while in my company. The goal in any relationship is to create a healthy environment where both parties are free to be emotionally open with each other, while maintaining the strength and integrity of the relationship.
In order to accomplish that, I have to guard against my emotional expressions causing a wedge between us. Most women don’t like to see anger displayed. When a man gets angry, even with controlled anger, the woman may feel threatened, intimidated and uneasy. That’s a natural reaction to a misunderstood emotion. Two things need to happen, therefore. First, Cheryl has to understand when I’m angry, it’s an emotional release, that may or may not be aimed at her, but is normal for my wiring. Second, I need to limit my emotional release to the point where her understanding can process my emotions. When I cause her to shut down in fear, for example, because of what she views as anger, then I’ve crossed the line in what is an appropriate emotional release.
What needs to be equally understood is that the same thing often happens to a man in reaction to a woman’s tears. When Cheryl, or any woman, begins to cry I immediately shut-down, become defensive; perhaps even a little afraid. I don’t know how to respond adequately to a woman in tears, just as most women don’t know how to respond to a man in his displayed anger.
This is a paradox that exists in the male/female relationship because we are so different. It is part of the mystery that in the end causes attraction between the two sexes. This post is also not an excuse for a person’s refusal to mature in areas such as growing in patience or offering forgiveness. As we mature, our emotional highs and lows should flare less about things that matter less. (Explaining all that would need another post.)
The next time your man gets angry at something, give him time to unwind, help him process through it if he wants you to, but let him be a man. Guys, let your wives cry without trying to fix the thing she is crying about! Then, both the man and the woman should use the experience to learn from each other and have a stronger, more emotionally open and healthy relationship.
I’m fully confident this post will cause some anger to raise among my women readers. That’s okay. I can handle anger. Just please, don’t cry!
You may now want to read:
5 Tips in Communicating with Men
5 Tips in Communicating with Women
(Also, read the comments to this post. I’ve expanded some thoughts there.)