You never married an screaming man, did you?
Oh, no, your boyfriend was a normal, caring person talking to you with respect...that is why you married him! So now, why is he transformed into this raging man? What happened to him that now you are shocked by his anger explosions?
To begin, we can say that part of the abuser’s mind frame is that he is always right (and if he has a suspicion that he’s not, it’s your “fault” and you’re “just out to get him”). If he perceives you as confronting or criticizing him, (or worst, putting him down!) his insecurity will demand a show of anger to put the sacred order of marriage in place again. He is always right, remember?
If confronted, he will transform a conversation in an offense, and will resort to yell and fight in messy anger explosions in order to get what he wants, especially when it seems like he is losing the battle to get it.
It is important to keep in mind that you may encounter this type of loud and angry attack, when trying to confront your abuser for the first time, setting some limits to his behaviors in order to preserve your integrity, or when trying to take a break from the relationship.
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Many women are shocked the first time their husband screams, name calls or insults them. He is angry, shouting and facing her down with his entire wrath. Let’s remember this shock; it is the first indication that the promise of marriage (“to be together to love and respect each other”) was not taken seriously, but was only words.
As a spouse, you have to feel shocked, hurt and totally blindsided by his attack. There is no way we can cover up and deny the total effect of this aggression on us. It is sudden, unexpected, and leaves us with a sour taste afterwards. But how do we make sense of this aggression in the midst of a marriage we deem happy? How do we recover the lost sense of security being with him, when you don’t know if this terrible anger episode will repeat itself? Unfortunately, almost by mandate, we immediately run to forget the incident or make excuses for his behavior. We do this either because we fear the unknown aspects of his anger, or are unable to address them, and so we choose denial by saying: “he was stressed out; too tired; under a lot of pressure, etc.”
This is the first mistake: not taking this violation of interpersonal limits seriously, and so, absorbing rather than deflecting the abuse. Remember that you must respond to his anger, and never ignore it as if it is “ok.” If you ignore it and make excuses for your abuser, he will succeed in controlling you. An anger attack on an unsuspecting partner is abuse, and qualifies in the same line as either emotional or physical abuse. It is experienced as a violation of boundaries: as an abusive interaction. When crossing this boundary, your automatic trust in your partner is gone. It’s true that you get deeply emotional hurt with verbal violence, but there is not outside bodily mark of his anger on your body… “only” on your soul, which is a lot to suffer!
There are many ways that you can respond to an abusive and screaming man. Of course you can scream back, but this does not help you communicate past his defense of “make noise and hope it scares my enemy off.”Responding in a healthy way means being able to recognize his “anger cues”:
Physical: tensing muscles, clenching fists, jaw tightens, agitation;
Behavioral: raise voice, stand up tight, fix his eyes on you, breathe short and shallow, leave the room, yell, pound the walls, slam doors.
Emotional: feelings of being abandoned, discounted, disrespected, guilty, humiliated, impatient, insecure, jealous, afraid, or rejected.
How do you react after seeing an anger attack coming (watching two or more of the above cues)?
1.- Leave the situation and/or house
Remember that if he has your undivided, scared attention, then he can go full blown into the attack: nostrils flaring, screaming and cursing you for all his problems, fixing his eyes on you so as to see how scared you are (meaning that he is successful, and you will not leave), and if you seem not scared enough, then escalating into slamming doors and pouncing against walls. He can make also a show of breaking things, probably the most cherished household things as to teach you a lesson and avoid having you “enraging him” in the future.
2.-Leave emotionally (detach)
You need to have a special mantra to protect you along this trial by fire. You need to repeat to yourself:
“He is choosing to have now an anger attack. It’s his decision and nothing of what I have done to him warrants this attack, directed to me but triggered by who knows what from his past. I can stand here, and wait until he is finished, because this is the safer spot in the house now. Once he is finished, I will make better plans to protect myself and the children.”
Meanwhile, if you have to hear his ranting along… try to detach yourself of his words and the content of the words he is saying. Keep repeating:
“Nothing of what I have done to him warrants this attack, directed to me but triggered by who knows what from his past,” several times.
Breath deeply and detach, trying to look at this unleashed fury as it you were in a theater watching a powerful, but alien performance. It’s not with you, has nothing to do with you and you’re better off watching without engagement. Watch out to any guilty feelings you can have, and decide to ignore them...you are not guilty of enraging him; he is doing it by himself.
3.- Stand up to him (if it’s safe)
There are varying opinions on whether to fight back (meaning confront/take a stand, not shouting back). Some people feel that it is important to stand up for yourself and show that you won’t be pushed around. Others claim that this may subject you to greater violence. You can say, in a normal voice:
"Please, lower your voice, I need to hear what is bothering you; if you shout, I can't hear you."
Knowing your own strength and your husband’s personality will tell you whether fighting back will benefit or harm you. Avoid screaming back or shouting back, because that will endanger you, and can prompt more violence.
There is no big win here, so select the behavior that will you help you be safer, not the most heroic. Remember, your aim is to survive this outburst with minimum damage, so let it go!
4.- Take care of the children
If you have kids pay attention to their behavior. Every child reacts differently to anger explosions. You could have even one imitating such behavior. It’s highly recommended to seek for professional help for them immediately. It’s not just your personal security and health which is at risk, but theirs as well. The impact on their emotional well being of being scared by anger attacks will not be activated perhaps until adulthood, but it will be there. And the consequences for them will be a general fear of life, and/or a permanent sense of insecurity in the world.
What is that you want for yourself:
- A place of honor and respect?
- A way to be appreciated and understood?
Only you can use the energy of that repressed wish to crawl from under abuse and recover your life! Do you want help with this life-saving project? Here is my book: Healing Emotional Abuse
And remember that you can get connected here, tell your story and get responses also, because we care about you! Wishing you the best in life!