Monday, March 21, 2005

Anger Management

Speak when you are angry--and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret. Laurence J. Peter US educator & writer (1919 - 1988)

My husband was hot tempered, quick to anger, rapid to wound, so I am careful how I use words and what force I put behind them. During the first twenty years of my marriage I took to heart every word said and shrunk to atom size inside, but after my awakening the rules changed. His temper did not improve overnight, and my heart did not stop feeling agony for things said either, yet we came to a place of comfortable compromise that worked most times. Without simple guidelines I doubt very much if we would have stayed together long enough to adjust into a lasting friendship.
He was allowed free minutes to vent any way he saw fit. I rarely listened while he chanted, although I was certainly within earshot at all times. I mostly just paid attention to its rhythm, ignoring content in self defense, since things said during that time were always regretted by him and forgiven by me anyway. Durning free minutes I often hummed a tune to myself to the rap he was performing.
Near the end of the free time I would warn him if necessary. Once I began listening I believed every word said, but the exercise always seemed to give him enough venting space to use up all the word weapons. And each time the venting was briefer, and quieter. It was a perfect example of our different natures. He was vocal, I was silent. He was a screamer, I was a slammer. He yelled as habit mostly. I rarely slammed, but when I did he knew better than to yell about anything.
When his time was up I was always calm, because I had not ingested any of his poison. I spoke with a gentle voice and he was forced to lower his or fight on alone. I smiled at him the same way I would at any beloved frustrated friend, and his face always soften even if he could not smile back. I touched him as I spoke to show that our connection had not been destroyed by his outburst. Once we got to the touching place it was always a short journey to a sane discussion of real issues.
Time is a precious gift. While he was learning to control and direct his anger I allowed him the time to unlearn old habits. And without my tears and pleas he was forced to hear some of what he was saying as it was said. Reasons to fight were rare after we formed a real friendship. Every day ended the same way. Alone, candles burning, music playing, during long talks about everything under the sun. Like real friends only better.