Recently a friend asked me what act contributes the most to creating marital problems. It took me about 30 seconds to reply, “Collecting anger coupons.”
• When you or your spouse allow anger to simmer, without identifying the anger, it allows anger to flourish just below the boiling point. The controlled anger really isn’t controlled at all. It’s growing in a silent world of denial. Just because you deny the anger doesn’t mean it isn’t there or that that it has gone away.
• I suspect most collected anger coupons happen at an unconscious level. Your spouse has made you angry, but you do not admit the anger or deal with it. The anger seems to go away, but in reality it is festering, and the anger coupons are being collected until one day you decide to cash in all the coupons … that’s when the anger explodes.
• It is important to deal with anger when it occurs, not later. If you believe your spouse or someone else has “put you down” or insulted you, don’t let it ride. Confront the situation whenever the “put down” occurs. Do not collect the anger coupons to be cashed in at a later date. Anger not dealt with in a marriage creates a “get even” environment. “I’ll get even later” may not even be conscious behavior, but it is real behavior.
• Let’s look at a minor example of collecting anger coupons. Your spouse corrects you often, in public, when you are describing something that happened or when you tell your version of an episode. The spouse says things like, “Honey, that happened in July, not August,” or “You are
not telling the facts accurately.”
The constant corrections irritate you and embarrass you, but you keep your mouth shut to avoid a verbal confrontation in front of others. The anger coupons are growing until one day you tell her, “Why don’t you tell the story, and I’ll shut up?” When you finally blow up, your spouse and everyone else is surprised at your angry outburst … they were not aware how many anger coupons you were collecting.
• The problem with coupon collecting is that, when you decide to cash in your coupon book, your anger is too much for the final incident that puts you over the edge. You should have talked about the constant correcting attitude weeks, if not months, ago.
• Now, let’s look at a major example of allowing denied anger to ruin your marriage. Most of us have witnessed a marriage where an addiction, alcohol or drugs, have caused severe problems for the family. If your spouse is drinking to excess or using drugs, the problem must be addressed. Watching a spouse waste money, embarrass you, or neglect you and the kids can create lots of anger.
Often the addiction is the “elephant in the room” that everyone, including the addict, wants to deny. The spouse or the family knows what is going on. They may be furious, but the anger is suppressed to avoid arguments or maybe even to avoid a divorce.
• Coupons are collected and “get even” becomes a way of life. The “get even” revenge occurs in denying affection — emotional or sexual affection. Kids quit obeying or respecting a parent they don’t respect.
• Collecting anger coupons can also occur at work. A co-worker often irritates you or “puts you down” in front of others. Instead of confronting him/her each time the put down occurs, you finally cash in the coupons for a minor incident, and others think your explosion is excessive or immature. They don’t know about the anger collected.
• Life should be fun and relaxing. Don’t walk around with anger boiling inside you. You are smart enough to recognize when you are starting to collect anger coupons against someone. Confront them before you want to knock them out. The earlier you talk to them, the calmer you will be. They may not realize that they are making you angry.
• Do not allow outside sources to determine your anger level. You are in charge of your inner peace and harmony if you are willing to step up to the plate.
• More often than not, anger does not result in positive results. To enjoy life, get rid of emotions that create negative results. If you find yourself angry daily, you don’t really have a life … do something about it.
Bob Billingsley is a columnist at the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.