Slowly, I pieced together the events of the past hour of her life which clearly made her tears understandable. It seems that she had arrived home after a typical day of teaching high school. As she pulled into her driveway, oddly enough there was a note taped to the garage door. Opening the note, she quickly recognized her husband’s handwriting.
The words on the note brought disbelief, confusion, and a flood of tears. “I’ve taken all I can. I’m leaving.”
“Did you have a clue?” I gently asked.
“No. Not a clue. He never complained about anything.”
It took three weeks, but I finally managed to get the estranged husband in my office. When his wife challenged him as to why he had never complained in their 13 years of marriage, why he had never even hinted that he was dissatisfied, he simply shrugged his shoulders. I challenged her question to him, “You have never complained about anything in your 13 years of marriage?”
“That’s not fair,” his wife cried. He said nothing, rose from his chair, and walked out of her life for good.
She was right. He wasn’t fair. Whatever his motivation for keeping silent might have been, only he will ever know. That’s not fair. Relationships are based on trust — trust that your partner will be open and honest with you concerning what he might be feeling, good or bad. Without honest communication genuine intimacy isn’t possible.
This is why stuffing anger is so destructive. By refusing to acknowledge or communicate our anger in a constructive manner, we block any hope of a healthy relationship and set ourselves up for an eventual explosion resulting from pent-up feelings of resentment, frustration, and anger.
Stuffing our anger is like putting a pressure cooker on the hot eye of a stove with the valve closed. For the longest time it looks like nothing is happening. But inside that pressure cooker, steam is beginning to build. Gradually, the pressure from the steam becomes so great that an explosion is inevitable. When the pressure cooker finally explodes, it’s best not to be in the kitchen. The shrapnel can be deadly.
For humans, the explosions always inflict both internal and external damage. Internal damage results in numerous physical ailments such as ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and headaches. External damage shows up in repeated failed relationships, bitterness, detachments, resentments, and combativeness. Even though major damage is inflicted on anyone within range, ultimately the worst damage is suffered by the person who chooses to stuff his anger.
Do yourself and those who care about you a favor. Refuse to stuff your anger. Find constructive ways to communicate your anger and enjoy healthier, more intimate relationships.