Anger is a trigger for me. As much as I work on healing and resolving my trauma, it’s still there. Always lingering. Waiting to embarrass me, or make me feel like a shitty partner. It’s fun stuff, really. See, like many of us, I grew up in a shitty home, with shittier parents. My father was an angry person. Always upset about something — the car wouldn’t start, the dog pissed him off, I hadn’t done something I was supposed to have done, or did something I wasn’t supposed to. There never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to it, it just was what it was.
I learned quickly to walk on eggshells. My mother made sure of that. The overall motto of my childhood was “don’t make him angry.” Which never worked. If he wasn’t angry about something that actually happened, he would make up something to be upset about. He would hide things in my room and then wait to “find” them when my mother came home so he could punish and shame me.
Deeply rooted trust issues, party of one?
I lived this way right up until the moment I left that disgusting trailer when I was fifteen. Then I moved in with my aunt and uncle, who also had an anger problem. Though his weapon of choice was yelling. He was a large man, six foot-something and would hover over you yelling as his face got redder and redder. His wife and kids didn’t fear him, they were annoyed by it and would mock him when he wasn’t around, but I found it terrifying and would hide in my room for hours avoiding him when he was home. I didn’t like him. And the feeling was mutual. I didn’t stay there long.
Fast forward a decade you’d find me married to a spoiled, immature, angry manchild who punched holes in the walls of our home and even broke my dog’s leg when he found her, as a puppy, on a table and got so pissed about it he threw her down. The difference was I was never afraid of my ex husband. His anger didn’t make me scared, it made me livid. I fucking hated him. I use to wish so hard that he would just punch me in the face so I could finally have a valid* reason to leave.
*I want to take a second and address this validity shit immediately. Being unhappy is a VALID reason to leave. Period. My feelings were the result of gaslighting, fear, and a complete and utter lack of self-esteem.
Once he directed that rage towards our son, I was done. That was enough for me. I was perfectly fine taking the verbal abuse but when he called our nine year old a “pussy” for falling down and crying at soccer camp, that was it. I couldn’t control the way he talked to him when I wasn’t around, but I sure as fuck could reduce the amount of time he spent around him.
Years into my new relationship with my partner I found myself uncomfortable every time he got angry about something. It wouldn’t have anything to do with me, he wouldn’t be yelling. Just visibly angry. And it triggered me. Every time. I would try to make myself small and quiet and just want to do anything to keep him happy. Which, as one would imagine, did not make anything better. It confused my partner, I think, at first. And made him feel like a monster, because it had to appear like I was afraid of him. I wasn’t, of course, but I can’t imagine what that must have felt like for him. It didn’t really get any easier. For years.
Finally, I started therapy, got diagnosed with PTSD and really started to address these fear-based responses. That’s when I learned that any man’s anger is triggering for me. I remember the therapist telling me multiple times that it was pretty damn normal for me to have these responses based on how many years I lived a certain way in the past. “Of course you feel that way!” she would say, “how could you not?”
Not only dealing with triggers, it turns out I’m an empath as well. (I hesitate to even type that, as I’m not sure I dig the term, but I suppose that’s a thread to unravel another day.) That means I struggle to not let others’ emotions affect my own. For most of my life, I didn’t realize this was a thing.
My reactions to my partner’s anger have nothing to do with him. At all. But that doesn’t keep me from feeling guilty when I’m triggered. It’s this double dose of suck. I catch myself trying to feel small to cope with the anger, then I feel small because I feel guilty for reacting to his anger. He’s a human being who’s allowed to get mad. He doesn’t throw things, yell, say mean shit, or punch holes in our walls.
I can’t imagine the burden it must be to live with someone who gets triggered every time I get angry. But it’s certainly no walk in the park from my end. I know I have a lot of work to do on my mental health, and dealing with controlling my habitual fear-based responses, but I long to be one of those people who don’t let the moods of those around them affect theirs in the slightest. Just being secure enough to know they deserve to be happy, no matter the outside stimuli. They let that shit roll right off their shoulders. That’s my goal. I want to be a leaf on the mother fucking wind.