What Are You Really Angry About?
Updated: Mar 27
Often couples come into session demanding their partner to be "fixed." He does this, and she does too much of that. Neither sees the other's deeper needs when upset, and what they see they do not like. When we reach an impasse, we focus on the disagreement and not on what or who may be influencing our partner's behaviors. What is often found during couples therapy is that anger, frustration, or sadness is often a more profound sign of unresolved trauma.
Couples issues range from a variety of factors, too many to name, so for this article, I will use a few examples of how conflict, when taken a deeper look, maybe a reflection of trauma a partner carries into the relationship. How do you know what is conflict and what is trauma? Time and reflection. Couples need to be open to -the therapy process, taking the time to listen and recognizing that perhaps their partner's behaviors reflect past influences. As adults, we expect our partners to act responsibly and be accountable for their behaviors. We want to be loved, accepted, and treated with dignity. It's a real and deserving goal. So why don't our partners treat us how we want to be treated?
Placing aside abusive behaviors, our partners may be reflecting trauma that occurred in their childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
Let's take a look at two general disagreements that underneath may carry the elements of traumatic influences:
Finances: An argument regarding finances can range from overspending, budgeting, life insurance, name on a deed, parenting expenses, sharing of expenses etc.
Finances can be one of the more stressful and likely indicators of unresolved trauma.
Here are a few examples:
A former relationship where a spouse's dependency on alcohol created misfortunes and financial loss for the family
A single mother who struggled to work three jobs to keep her family afloat while the father abandoned all of his responsibilities as a parent;
A partner that lived off of the other's hard work without any show of gratitude or love;
While married, a divorcee gave up financial power to her partner and, as a result, lost her voice and personal control in the relationship.
Lack of affection: Emotional connection is essential to maintaining and growing the emotional bond between partners. It seems easy, yet often couples find that their partner cannot meet their version of emotional connection. For example, your partner arrives home from work, and you expect a big hello, kiss, and a loving welcome. Instead, your partner barely glances your way, grunts hello, or walks past you to unwind.