An angry girlfriend is unpleasant, especially if she is angry with you.
But anger is a normal part of the human experience. It doesn't help you to dismiss her anger or worse overreact to it.
A key relationship skill is learning how to deal with each other's negative emotions.
Dealing with each other when you are angry should be right at the top of the list.
If you can let her vent and calm down, while at the same time not allowing yourself to absorb too much of the negative energy, then your relationship will be happier and smoother.
1. Don't Become Angry Yourself
When your girlfriend is angry, whether it is at you are about something else, there is a risk that you will become angry yourself and escalating things.
Perhaps you will be defensive if she is angry with you, or perhaps you will be frustrated if she is angry about something else but takes it out on you.
The key is retain your composure and your control.
If you don't then you allow yourself to become reactive to her moods and emotions.
If you keep your composure and deescalate the anger it demonstrates emotional strength but will also make your life less dramatic.
2. Empathise With Her Feelings
Instead of becoming angry at her for being angry you should try to empathise with whatever it is that is upsetting her.
Your girlfriend wants to know that you are on her team and that you will try to see things from her point of you. She wants to know that you are making an effort to emotionally engage with her and understand her.
Research even shows that a woman's satisfaction in her relationship will improve if her man can read her negative emotions. It isn't even about necessarily reading them accurately. Rather it is about making an "empathetic effort." 1
What this means is that your girlfriend getting angry gives you a chance to recognise her negative emotions and make an effort to empathise, which in turn can actually improve your relationship.
The only way you can really go wrong is if you are too obstuse to recognize that she is upset, or that you notice but can't be bothered engaging with her.
The best advice when she is angry is to drop whatever you are doing and just talk to her.
3. Set Effective Boundaries
While you should make an empathetic effort when your girlfriend is angry or upset, you do still need effective boundaries.
You shouldn't write a blank check to let her use you as an emotional dumping ground.
It's perfectly normal in a relationship to offer a shoulder to cry on, but you have to draw a line somewhere. You can only empathise to a point and ultimately she needs to find a way to deal with the anger on her own.
Don't ever let her anger be a reason for her to treat you badly or to direct anger at you that is unjustified.
4. Don't Make Her Happiness Your Responsibility
There is a tendency when you girlfriend is upset or angry to want to make everything better again.
This can result in white knight behavior where you start taking on too much responsibility for her emotional wellbeing and start acting like her savior.
She and only she is responsible for her own happiness. As a partner you be an empathetic supporter (within reason), but don't make it your responsibility to fix the issue or make her happy again.
Let her vent, see things from her point of view, empathise but leave it there.
5. Don't Try To Convince Her Not To Be Angry
As a logical man dealing with an emotional woman, there will always be a tendency to attempt to overcome the emotion with logic.
If what she is angry about seems illogical, all you have to do is explain the logic and she will stop being angry right?
Wrong. Never try to do this as it will only make things worse.
Remember you aim is to empathise and that means giving validation to her emotions even if those emotions appear illogical to you.
Let the anger run its course. When she has calmed down she may be open to a more logical discussion. But even if she isn't, then you have to just let the illogical lie. It's hard, I know, but it is what you have to do.
6. Go For A Walk
Going for a walk with your girlfriend when she is angry has a number of benefits.
Physical activity can be calming and will help her let out her stress.
Talking out her issues while you are on the move can be easier than having a discussion in the kitchen or living room.
By stopping what you are doing and going for a walk, you girl knows that she has got your undivided attention and she will thank you for that.
Most importantly when you return from your walk you can set a boundary and say that the discussion has gone far enough and you can get on with your day. This way you avoid an emotional angry discussion that goes on forever and you can't quite seem to escape.
7. Hug And Hold Her
Giving physical affection is another calming strategy. She will still be mad and still be angry but it will soothe her and it shows that you are making that all important empathetic effort.
Holding her close will stop her ranting, allow her to cry it out if neccessary and eventually calm her down. When she is ready she will pull away in her own time.
Anger is a part of life and if you are going to be in a relationship you need to learn how to deescalate an angry girlfriend.
Instead of getting frustrated at her anger, see it as an opportunity to be there for her and show emotional empathy.
This will ultimately make your relationship stronger.
- Cohen, S., Schulz, M., Weiss, E. and Waldinger, R. (2012). Eye of the beholder: The individual and dyadic contributions of empathic accuracy and perceived empathic effort to relationship satisfaction. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(2), pp.236-245.