He’s mad at you.
You just know it.
He barely talks to you.
He won’t meet your eye.
He doesn’t smile.
He’s shutting you out, and he won’t tell you why.
You’ve spent ages racking your brain. Was it that thing you said? Did you offend him accidentally? What did you do wrong?
You can think of a half-dozen minor offenses, like a joke that didn’t go down very well, or that evening you spent with your friends instead of staying home with him…
But nothing seems to deserve this level of anger.
If he’s mad at you, why doesn’t he say something?
Why doesn’t he tell you what it is, so you can fix it?
It’s driving you crazy…
And you’re worried that you’re losing him.
How Men Deal with Feelings
You don’t need me to tell you that men aren’t always great at dealing with difficult feelings.
As a woman, you are used to talking things out when feelings get hurt.
You know instinctively that the best way to fix a ruptured relationship is to discuss what happened and apologize where appropriate.
Men, on the other hand, tend to stuff their feelings down and act like nothing happened.
As a man, he believes that he’s not supposed to feel hurt. He’s not supposed to feel. He’s invincible—nothing can hurt him. Certainly not a few careless words from his girlfriend.
Many men believe that the only feeling a man is permitted to show is…
If a man feels hurt, he expresses anger.
If a man feels disappointed, he expresses anger.
If a man feels vulnerable, he expresses anger.
No matter what he feels, it comes out as anger.
To make matters worse, all those churned-up feelings don’t stay directed at the person or situation that caused them.
A man who’s frustrated at his boss knows that he can’t risk showing any emotion at work.
So he holds it in until he gets home…
Where he explodes at his girlfriend for no reason at all.
It’s Not Your Job to Manage His Emotions
It is really, really hard to be with a man who doesn’t manage his own emotions very well.
You can feel like you have to tiptoe around him, walking on eggshells, gauging his mood.
It would be so much easier if he would talk to you when he was mad. Then, at least, you’d know why he was upset.
Instead, you’ve got to play this guessing game. Did you do something wrong? Did something happen today to make him upset? Will it blow over by morning? Do you dare ask what happened?
You end up feeling stressed and anxious and overthinking your every move, which, not surprisingly, makes things worse.
Here are three tips that can help you deal with the situation without losing your sanity.
1. Don’t join him.
When you’re a naturally empathetic person, you pick up on the feelings of the people closest to you.
If your boyfriend is mad at his boss, you feel mad at his boss, too.
Mirroring emotions is a way of showing support.
But sometimes it’s better not to join your partner in his darker moods.
When he’s angry and upset, you can take a step back and empathize without taking on his feelings as your own.
This requires good internal boundaries, the ability to keep a firm boundary between your own feelings and the feelings of the people around you.
2. Don’t center yourself.
When we are with an angry partner, and his anger seems to include us, it’s natural to assume that we are the cause.
We center ourselves in the situation. He is angry because of us. His anger feels like an accusation.
Some of us find ourselves responding like a child being yelled at by a parent. We get defensive, or shout back, or curl up, or start to cry.
This is an entirely natural reaction…
But it doesn’t serve us.
When you de-center yourself in the situation, you can see that your partner’s anger is mostly about him.
It’s about his frustration or overwhelm, his triggers, his story, his lack of a healthy release valve.
You can accept responsibility for whatever you did or didn’t do without accepting responsibility for his anger.
3. Talk it out at a better time.
Yes, talking it out helps.
But when someone is overwhelmed by strong emotion, they’re flooded. Their heart rate races to over 100 beats per minute. They’re incapable of thinking clearly.
Avoid conversations when your partner is flooded.
Instead, let him do what he needs to do to get that racing heart back down to baseline (as long as it doesn’t hurt himself or others).
Get some space of your own. A brisk walk or listening to music or cuddling a pet can make you feel grounded again.
When you’re both feeling calm, you can say something like:
- “I’m sorry if I did something to upset you. Can we please talk about it and work it out?”
- “I care about you and our relationship. Can we talk about what’s been bothering you?”
- “I don’t want to push you, but I really want to understand what’s going on. Can we please talk?”
Don’t be surprised if you find out that his anger wasn’t really about you at all.
One last thing…
This can be emotionally draining. So make sure to get your own emotional support. Call a friend. Visit family. Make a date for a girl’s night out. Lean on the many people who care about you.