Anger is a dark emotion that can destroy even the firmest and most cordial of relationships. Anger is known to mess up a good atmosphere in an instant. If not dealt with, anger can serve as a poison, killing the relationship. It is alright to get angry, but just how do you express your anger? Then again, do you let go of it, or cling to your angry feelings? Holding on to anger simply eats at you – and your relationship – just like acid on a delicate surface. It is important to stop anger before it begins to take control of your relationship.

A relationship with unresolved anger may be smooth on the surface, with the occasional ripple, only showing signs of trouble when one partner finds passive-aggressive means of expressing their anger. This may become a vicious cycle, with both partners playing tit-for-tat to get back at each other. This way, you end up destroying your relationship slowly but surely, with small issues building into mammoth conflicts.

To effectively deal with anger in a relationship, make sure you and your partner know you can safely communicate feelings, needs or fears to one another. If you find yourself feeling resentful or angry over something your partner is doing – or has done – then take the steps necessary to communicate your anger or resentment without placing blame on, or attacking your partner.

The following ideas will help you avoid causing further anger during a conflict with your partner:

Communicate with “I” statements

You may say, “I was hurt and angry today, I felt like you did not care when I asked what you wanted us to do for the holidays.” Avoid saying “Always” or “Never” while at it. Negative statements directed to the other person will only build up resentment and anger, causing your partner to feel defensive, which is counterproductive to working through anger issues.

Acknowledge the anger

Angry people don’t want to be ignored. When dealing with an angry person, make sure he or she knows that you are listening and taking the matter seriously. Don’t interrupt; let him or her vent their anger. Show empathy and your understanding of the situation.

Don’t be angry over trivial issues

You should be able to deal with small matters that nag you without necessarily involving your partner. This way you have more time enjoying each other than solving petty problems.

Be discerning and conscious of your feelings, thoughts and actions. You should also be willing to tell when you are angry at a situation and not your partner and be willing to communicate verbally to your partner why you feel angry. Sometimes anger builds up when a person is feeling disappointed or hurt. If you are not ‘in touch’ with your feelings or aware that you are angry in the first place, then you will not be able to figure out what caused it.

Keep your cool when you realise your partner is angry

It will not do you any good to get into a fight. When you respond in kind to anger, you will most often regret it. Do not let another person goad you into saying something you do not want to say.

Talk. You can calm down an angry person by asking questions

Let your partner vent for a reasonable amount of time. Then get specific. Ask questions to find out exactly why he or she is angry, and what he or she wants you to do. You will be surprised how often all an angry person really wants is a listening ear.

Move the conversation away from the anger and toward a solution

Once the angry person has calmed down, get constructive. Help the other person come up with constructive ideas for dealing with the situation that has caused the anger. If he or she is having a difficult time coming up with ideas, suggest something helpful of your own. The idea is to help the person move away from non-constructive anger to constructive ideas for dealing with the source of the anger.

Finally, try mediation

If either of you cannot seem to let go of anger, see a professional counsellor or therapist who specialises in couples’ therapy. Having a third party act as a mediator can give a couple greater insight into their relationship.