Abusive Anger: Abuse Victims Struggle with Anger Issues Too

October 31, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly


I've used abusive anger to attempt to get what I wanted from my abuser (Anger Is a Symptom of Abuse, But Managing It Is Your Responsibility). But then I realized the abusive anger didn't end with him, but extended to my innocent children. Years ago, I promised my children that I would not yell and storm at them when it was time to do their chores. After a bit of trial and error, I successfully reigned in Mommy Mean. I felt relief when I no longer saw my boys' tear-stained faces staring at me in fear. I felt like I was a better person after taming my temper.

A couple of years later, while married to my abuser, I extended my "no yelling" policy to my husband, too. Although I wasn't quite as successful when it came to him, my participation in our once habitual yelling matches dwindled significantly. I still felt the pain and anguish, but I no longer fought fire with fire (that never worked anyway).

One night, my husband quietly asked me, "Why don't you get mad no more?" as he traced the vertical line anger etched between my eyebrows. I think he missed my displays of anger. I think he missed having someone to out-yell, someone to conquer, someone to reduce from hell-fire to tears.

In hindsight, I do not believe that fiery temper was ever mine. I feel I created it in reaction to his abusive anger antics. His intimidating temper worked on me; I was afraid of him. I transferred his temper's effectiveness to my innocent boys (What Are Abuse Victims Responsible for In Abusive Relationships?).


I Offer No Excuse for My Abusive Anger

In the back of my mind, I thought that if the children obeyed me better, maybe my husband would respect me. My memory could be wrong after all this time, but I think that my wrath flew out of me when I was trying to accomplish something my husband wanted: A clean house, a duplicate of the mother that he remembered from childhood, a "good wife" on whom he could rely.

I take full responsibility for the damage I caused my children due to my rage. I worked hard to remove abusive anger from my motherly repertoire and worked to replace it with something calmer, something more my style. I make myself remember on purpose what it was like to unleash that fury onto my children because I never want to see that look of pain and betrayal on anyone's face ever again. I try so very hard to not express myself in any ugly or intimidating manner.

Controlling Abusive Anger Doesn't Mean You Don't Get Mad

I find myself revisiting my abusive anger habit these days. If I've truly solved my anger problem, then I would not fear it boiling over, and I wouldn't have days like last Saturday.

Last Saturday I woke up seething. I was fed up with my kids seeming refusal to do any chores; sick to death of asking them to perform the simplest tasks. Fortunately, my new anger behaviors allowed me to approach them with my frustrations in a calm, collected manner.

The problem with last Saturday wasn't in how I approached the children, but in how I reacted to Max. Max empathizes with me when I come home to a house that looks like a tornado ripped through it. He sees my frustration over my inability to completely control the household mess. Yet it was Max who endured my testiness and sharp tongue. I was angry with myself! Angry with the children! Angry with everything!

I hurt Max's feelings by cutting him off mid-sentence, telling him to leave me alone, and generally acting like a caged wild animal. The more empathetic Max became, the angrier I felt.

I Used Abusive Anger to Control My Environment and the People in It

Even so, I know what created Saturday's problem. I've overlooked a hundred little things and told myself I was controlling my temper when I was actually ignoring it. I am making the mistake of thinking that because I'm not yelling, I'm not angry. I'm wrong about that.

I'm disappointed that now, years after ending my temper tantrums, I've replaced them with comments designed to inflict damage so people I love will leave me alone (How Abusers Gain Control by Appearing to Lose It). I quietly, subtly, hurt people whom I'm not angry with because I know better than to do it out loud in the faces of those with whom I am angry.

I can look at this one of two ways. 1.) I continue to have an anger problem. The only difference is that I don't yell or 2.) I realize I have an anger problem and can now work to solve it for real.

My anger issues no longer evolve around an abusive marriage. I will not hide behind a victim facade angrily screaming, "You did this to me!" The abuse did a number on me, for sure. But now that I'm free of that relationship, it's my responsibility to face my shortcomings and accept responsibility for them. My anger isn't my abuser's fault, it's mine. Fortunately, I no longer look to him to "fix" me. I am perfectly capable of fixing myself.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, October 31). Abusive Anger: Abuse Victims Struggle with Anger Issues Too, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Norm Miner
November, 2 2011 at 10:14 am

Hi Kellie,
The commitment you have made toward working through your anger is inspiring and commendable. You have made an important leap by standing in your truth no longer hiding behind a "victim facade". I have also found that it is pivotal that I blame no one especially myself. A compassionate learning approach is a wish meant to bear fruit for every one. Thank you Norm Miner

November, 17 2011 at 11:41 am

Hi Kellie,
I too have anger but I manage to control it contain it. I also find these days that I have to be calm at the same time as I am feeling angry. That sounds odd. But the effort to contain my anger is now causing me to have headaches and pressure in my head. I feel that if I don't manage to have a calmness flowing through me I won't survive.

November, 19 2011 at 7:09 pm

I am 8 years into a second marriage with 16 years in between them. I still here trying to figure out how both times I married an abuser. My first husband would beat me because he gambled and I was "bad luck"
My current husband has never hit me but he is a monster with his mouth and I can no longer take it. I have become someone I don't know at all anymore and wonder why I continue to stay.
With the housing market, the house will not sell so if I walk it means financial ruin for me but I am feeling that my sanity is worth it all

April, 15 2012 at 5:58 am

I really appreciate this article in particular, and the comments that follow. I have not had contact with my abusive ex since February of this year and have beeb succeeding in the detachment area but am still suffering from a lot of his anger which I continue to feel, and which has ruined my relationship with one of my best friends. I realize that in many ways i was abusive towards this friend in some of the ways that I had been abused by my ex. My friend no longer wants contact with me and I don't blame him...My question is, how do you prevent creating friendships based on a power-control dynamic and how do you escape the anger that fuels them?

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