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What Stages of Relationship is ANGER?

Now I know what every hippy-dippy, peace-loving Oakland healer, whether it be through chakra alignment, dialogue, acupuncture, exposure, chanting, yoga-ing or good old-fashioned beating the shit out of a pillow, is thinking- there is no role for anger in a relationship, and anger is a secondary emotion- but just hold your judgements for a minute. I am not disagreeing that anger can be destructive. I am not saying that underneath any fire, there isn’t a deep well of sadness. Neither am I advocating that people take to the streets, burn down their ex’s houses or make a mess of their bank accounts. All I am saying is anger has its place.

I do work with a therapist.  I see it as necessary maintenance: I wipe my ass, brush my teeth, eat three meals a day and go to therapy.

In this therapy, I often hear, what is underneath that anger? And I know the answer. Sadness.

I did this intensive 20-week program for adults who want to improve their relationships. It was the most horrendous thing I ever did. By horrendous, I mean growthful, eye-opening, cleansing and a word so beyond tiring it doesn’t exist. I felt that layers of my skin were peeled back every week so I could go out into the scorching sun and be burned the fuck up until I came back the next week to do it again. We delved into family dynamics and identified our inner children. Hokey shit I  never thought I’d be doing. But it was powerful. I have never felt more validated or seen.

The twenty-week gave me more compassion for where other people may be coming from and  confidence in my innate ability to read people, to know things about them on an emotional level that they themselves haven’t yet figured out.

However, what it didn’t do, was teach me how to use this new found compassion and confidence in service of myself and not to further perpetuate the loop I had found myself in time and time again: I look for a man to tell me I am okay, to tell me I am good enough, and perch my whole existence on that pinnacle, until I fall from it, crashing back to a reality where no one can externally make me okay with an internal disjunction I have held to be true, regardless of its initial components’ origins.

Previously, I knew when a relationship was over because I got really angry. I learned in therapy that anger was a good indication of a boundary being crossed. When I got to a point of “hell fucking no that shit isn’t enough” or as one of my best friends likes to quote me as saying, “that may be the best you can do, but it’s not the best I can get,” I knew it was over. There was no looking back.

However, now, my anger isn’t as pure or as clear cut. I am angry and then I am aware of being hurt. I want to be vulnerable and tell the truth, to be exposed and healed through that exposure. And in there is this mechanism still at work, wanting to make everything okay if I am able to be vulnerable and truthful, wanting to strike an agreement because we are talking calmly. The part of me that knows it is over when there is yelling and throwing things is quite confused at this muddled trickle-off of an ending. Where’s the finale? How do I know that I can’t make it work? There isn’t the edge of that anger to say, “you know this isn’t want you want” and to make it a clean, one-time break.

I guess that is what happens when you grow. Things get more complicated, more complex. It isn’t quite clear where an end to things is, if it is an end. A part of growth they don’t tell you about is this ambiguity. After anger, comes ambiguity. This stages needs a lot of hands. There is a lot to hold at once. My advice? When you see the anger start to fizzle, call up all your friends. You’re going to need help holding this one.