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Managing Anger Styles to Build Healthier Relationships

Talk to any couple and chances are you’ll hear the same story. There are plenty of good times, but once in awhile, things go sour.

Every relationship has its ups and downs. The ebb and flow through good and bad periods is natural. When an argument ensues, how can you communicate with your partner to move past the concern and back into a healthy state of happiness? That’s a challenge for most couples.

Relationships are complex. Each person enters the relationship with his or her own set of issues and communication style. And it makes sense. Each family has its own style of communicating during conflict. As a child, you’re surrounded by this communication style during arguments between your family members. You’re raised to believe that it’s a normal way to react. So when your spouse (who likely grew up around a different style of communication) reacts differently, you might feel concerned, worried, and unsure of how to respond.

As a couples therapist, I have seen this a lot. One person might feel like they are being yelled at, while the other person simply believes they’re communicating in a way that’s normal because that’s how his family spoke to each other.

What is your style when you are feeling angry during an argument? Anger is expressed in countless ways. However, there are three core communication styles when it comes to anger. Understanding these can help you communicate better during an argument and establish a mutual understanding to help you work through the issues and tough times.

  1. Passive-aggressive.
    This style of anger happens when you withhold something from your partner by failing to do what he or she wants. For example, you might be purposely late to date night. Or, you might hold back your thoughts and feelings during an argument. You tend to minimize or deny anger when others express frustration or question your actions.

    This style of anger might seem harmless on the surface, but in actuality, it can be extremely damaging. It prevents straightforward communication and makes it difficult to empathize with your partner.

  2. Cold anger.
    This style of anger happens when you are upset but refuse to talk about the matter at hand. You withdraw from your partner. You might even get secret pleasure out of punishing your partner while making him or her work to get you to respond.

    This kind of anger creates disconnect and can be very difficult because couples may go from hours to days without speaking.

  3. Hostility.
    This is when you often act anger out with a loud, forceful voice. You express disapproval when people or situations do not meet your expectations.

    This style of anger creates more anger, which can escalate and inevitably take on a life of its own.

Knowing your partner’s anger style makes it easier to tame your temper and revitalize your relationship. Once you understand how each person communicates during an argument, the improvement process can begin.

It’s important to identify the differences in how you and your partner express anger. Then, with those differences in mind, try to change your style so that you can avoid escalating issues when they arise. Instead, focus on ways that’ll enable you to quickly reconnect and rekindle the communication with your partner. Doing this isn’t as easy as it might seem.

After having an argument, it is essential that each person tries to communicate with the other within the hour. Give yourself a cooldown period of 30 minutes to one hour, but never let it go beyond that. If it does, you might trigger other, or even deeper issues that haven’t yet been resolved. This should be acknowledged and given adequate time to work through but separate from the current argument.

Once you reconnect after an argument, talk about what happened openly and honestly. Recognize the misunderstanding, create room for compromise, and agree to disagree. Do not hold grudges. Do not contain your feelings or shut down. Do not act out in a way that could create resentment.

Let go of your pride and anger, and give your partner the benefit of the doubt. By doing this, you might be amazed at how much your communications improve and how quickly you get back to having a healthy, happy relationship.

Angry couple photo available from Shutterstock

Managing Anger Styles to Build Healthier Relationships

Rachel Moheban-Wachtel

Rachel Moheban-Wachtel is a licensed multilingual individual and couples psychotherapist and founder of The Relationship Suite where she offers free audio guides for couples. Claim your free gift by visiting her website and signing up for her newsletter with more tips to build a successful relationship. For more information go to:

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APA Reference
Moheban-Wachtel, R. (2018). Managing Anger Styles to Build Healthier Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 9 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.