A few years ago, I promised my children that I would not yell and storm at them when it was time to do their chores. After a bit of trial and error, I successfully reigned in Mommy Mean. I felt relief when I no longer saw my boys’ tear-stained faces staring at me in fear. I felt like I was a better person after taming my temper.
A couple of years later, while married to my abuser, I extended my “no yelling” policy to my husband, too. Although I wasn’t quite as successful when it came to him, my participation in our once habitual yelling matches dwindled significantly. I still felt the pain and anguish, but I no longer fought fire with fire (that never worked anyway).
On the night I left, during the build-up to the main event, my husband quietly asked me, “Why don’t you get mad no more?” as he traced the vertical line etched from anger between my eyebrows. I think he missed my displays of anger. I think he missed having someone to out-yell, someone to conquer, someone to reduce from hell-fire to tears.
In hindsight, I do not believe that fiery temper was ever mine. I feel I created it in reaction to his abusive anger antics. His intimidating temper worked on me; I was afraid of him. I transferred his temper’s effectiveness to my innocent boys.
In the back of my mind, I thought that if the children obeyed me better, maybe my husband would respect me. My memory could be wrong after all this time, but I think that my wrath flew out of me when I was trying to accomplish something my husband wanted: a clean house, a duplicate of the mother that he remembered from childhood, a “good wife” on whom he could rely.
I take full responsibility for the damage I caused due to my actions and rage. I worked hard to remove abusive anger from my motherly repertoire and worked to replace it with something calmer, something more my style. I remember on purpose what it was like to unleash that fury onto my children because I never want to see that look of pain and betrayal on anyone’s face ever again. I try so very hard to not express myself in any ugly or intimidating manner.
Please re-read that last sentence and ask yourself, “If she’s got her anger under control, then why is she still trying to not be abusively angry?” If I’ve truly solved my anger problem, then I would not fear it boiling over, and I wouldn’t have days like last Saturday.
Last Saturday I woke up seething. I was fed up with my kids seeming refusal to do any chores; sick to death of asking them to perform the simplest tasks. Fortunately, my new anger behaviors allowed me to approach them with my frustrations in a calm, collected manner.
The problem with last Saturday wasn’t in how I approached the children, but in how I reacted to Max (my best friend). Max empathizes with me when I come home to a house that looks like a tornado ripped through it. He sees my frustration over my inability to completely control the household mess. Yet it was Max who endured my testiness and sharp tongue. I was angry with myself! Angry with the children! Angry with everything!
I hurt Max’s feelings by cutting him off mid-sentence, telling him to leave me alone, and generally acting like a caged wild animal. The more empathetic Max became, the angrier I felt.
Even so, I know what created Saturday’s problem. I’ve overlooked a hundred little things and told myself I was controlling my temper when I was actually ignoring it. I am making the mistake of thinking that because I’m not yelling, I’m not angry. I’m wrong about that.
I’m disappointed that now, years after ending my temper tantrums, I’ve replaced them with comments designed to inflict damage so everyone will leave me alone. I quietly, subtly, hurt people whom I’m not angry with because I know better than to do it out loud in the faces of those with whom I am angry.
I can look at this one of two ways. 1.) I continue to have an anger problem. The only difference is that I don’t yell (boo-hoo, poor me) or 2.) I realize I have an anger problem and can now work to solve it for real.
My anger issues no longer evolve around an abusive marriage. I will not hide behind a victim facade angrily screaming, “You did this to me!” Abuse did a number on me, for sure. But now that I’m free of that relationship, it’s my responsibility to face my shortcomings and accept responsibility for them. My anger isn’t my abuser’s fault, it’s mine. Fortunately, I no longer look to him to “fix” me. I am perfectly capable of fixing myself.