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Imaginary Chalk Board
When you've decided you're ready to let something go, imagine writing down your old hurts or angers on a chalk board and choosing to erase them. Erase each hurt--- letter by letter until they are all gone. Starting with a clean slate can be very healthy for your relationship.

Hot Air Balloon
Another approach I suggest is to visualize placing the hurts into the basket of a hot air balloon and let it drift into space. Watch it become a speck in the sky until it is out of sight.

The Melting Popsicle
If you're a good visualizer, imagine your hurts as an ice-cream cone or popsicle melting in the sunlight. As the hurts melt away, breath in the warmth of the sun and the clean fresh air. With each exhale say, "I let this go." If your anger persists, you may need to use the Anger Inventory LoveTool to recognize some self defeating communication patterns, begin to take more responsibility for your own behavior, and recognize some positive alternatives to arguing.

Anger Inventory

  1. You and your partner take two sheets of paper apiece and tape them together (length-wise). Divide your sheets into nine columns. Title the first column, "things that make me angry." Work separately on each of your lists. Be specific. Don't make a global statement like, "when the house is a mess." Instead say, "I'm angry when you forget to wipe your feet when you walk in the door."

  2. Then, in a second column, list the "expectation" that has been violated. To use the above example you might say, "I expect that I don't have to tell you to wipe your feet and that since you've been asked you'll comply."

  3. In a third column write the "hurt and other feelings" that emerge out of having unmet expectations. For example, "When I ask you to do something repeatedly and you don't I feel hurt, frustrated, and unimportant."

  4. In the fourth column, write how you usually deal with your hurt or disappointment. Again, be specific about what you might say or do.

  5. In the fifth column "enable empathy." This is difficult. Put yourself in your partner's position and imagine how he or she feels when he hears your comments or experiences your behavior.

  6. In the fifth column ask yourself, "What am I trying to accomplish with my behavior?" Am I trying to vent my feelings, hurt or punish my partner, or gain understanding?

  7. Next ask yourself, "What am I actually accomplishing with this behavior?"

  8. In this column, consider some "NEW options." List alternative behaviors and ways of dealing with your frustrations.

After each of you has completed this exercise privately, take turns sharing what you have written. As always, use the Stop, Look and Listen LoveTool.

Some Hints to Deal with Anger Productively:

  1. Blaming never solved anything. Would you rather be right or happy?

  2. Try to hear your partner's point of view. Don't nod, pretend you're listening, and wait for a lull in the conversation to make your convincing argument.

  3. Don't use words like" You always" or "you never." In a multiple choice exam, every good student knows that a question with "always" in it is usually false.

  4. Remember that attentive listening to your partner doesn't mean you agree with their point of view. It only means that you understand what they're saying given their particular assumptions, feelings, and perspective.

A list of don'ts:

  1. Don't roll your eyes or laugh to undermine or distract your partner when they are speaking.

  2. Don't interrupt.

  3. Don't demean, resort to name calling, or try to get leverage by dredging up some sensitive information from your partner's past.

  4. Above all, don't threaten verbally or physically.

  5. Don't say something you'll regret later. Words matter and once uttered are impossible to retract.

  6. Stop the negative spiral. Just because your partner is acting inappropriately doesn't justify your hurtful retaliation.

  7. Remember what you love about this person and why you married him or her. This is difficult to do when you're angry, but no one told you this would be easy.

  8. It's OK to use some humor, but using humor doesn't mean laughing at your partner.

  9. Don't sweat the small stuff. Arguing about who last emptied the dishwasher or why he controls the television remote control isn't worth going to war over.

  10. Enable empathy--the most important ingredient of all. It's human nature to be self-involved and think of "me, me, me." It takes incredible self-control to consider your partner's feelings in the heat of an argument, but it is the most helpful thing you can do.

(Excerpted from Dr. Scantling's Extraordinary Sex Now: A Couple's Guide to Intimacy, Doubleday, 1998)

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