Dear Dr. Romance:
I have been together with my wife for about 3 years now. We have worked on many issues in our marriage and resolved most of them; however, there is still one issue that has not been resolved.
It seems that little mistakes I make, such as not taking out the trash when it smells after I come home from work, make her so angry that she shrieks at me, and I mean shriek, not yell. During these times I refuse to yell back, and it makes me feel like a door stop. I have read several books on that matter that say to not yell at her in anyway and walk away from her and tell her that I am not walking away because I am ignoring her but out of respect for myself and her. This does not seem to make a difference.
Afterwards she does apologize, but it seem misplaced and half-hearted. We talk and she says that it will not happen again, yet only hours later it happens again. I just want a way to resolve the yelling. I am afraid that when we have children her anger will be directed at them like it was in her childhood. I am just looking for some answers. Thank you so much for taking the time in reading this.
I'm very proud of you for not yelling. Just because your wife throws temper tantrums, it doesn't make it a good idea for you to do that. Don't stoop to her level. You need to act in such a way that her bad behavior doesn't work. Definitely don't have children until your wife learns better behavior. Apparently she learned this behavior from her family and doesn't realize how destructive it is because she herself survived it.
I strongly recommend you go to couples therapy and talk about this problem. A good therapist will back you up in telling her that her anger is dysfunctional and over the top. "Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely" will help you find a good one.
Watch this "How Not to Fight" video with your wife:
You can both benefit from Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About The Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and from reading the following articles together: "Anger: Cleansing Squall or Hurricane" and "Stop Reacting and Start Relating"
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., "Dr. Romance," is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Long Beach, Calif. since 1978 and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again and Lovestyles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She publishes the Happiness Tips from Tina email newsletter, and the Dr. Romance Blog. She has written for and been interviewed in many national publications, and she has appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live and many other TV and radio shows.