Why your wife is so angry all the time
We discuss three reasons.
Ah, that wonderful period in a marriage when neither partner can do no wrong. It's called the "honeymoon period" for a reason, after all. But eventually, reality sets it and that rose-coloured tint wears off. Husbands might find themselves asking this question more often: "Why is my wife so angry all the time?"
Even the tiniest things tick her off. Kid drops crumbs on the floor - anger mode enabled. You forget to bring milk - death glare on. Helper missed a spot while dusting - fury! You cannot understand why she goes ballistic over such "tiny" issues.
Husbands, we understand your confusion and that's why we're here to help. Why is my wife so angry all the time, you ask? We explain why, including the differences in how women experience anger, and what you can do about it.
Understanding anger in women
Husbands, before you learn about why your wife seems to be angry all the time, you need to understand some key differences in this strong emotion between males and females.
It's commonly accepted that men get more angry than women. But this is not true. Research shows that both men and women experience anger at the same frequency. However, it's how they express it that is different.
In a nutshell (and across cultures), generally, men are encouraged to display their anger openly, while women are encouraged to hide their anger.
Psychologist Sandra Thomas explains. Traditionally in men, anger is seen as a "masculine" quality, and so physical fights are seen as "manly" and a sign of virility.
But, "for girls, acting out in that way is not encouraged. Women usually get the message that anger is unpleasant and unfeminine," she explains. And because of this, a woman's anger is often directed into other channels, like sulking.
In 1993, Thomas conducted the Women's Anger Study, which involved 535 women between the ages of 25 and 66.
This study revealed three roots to women's anger: powerlessness, injustice and the irresponsibility of other people.
Women also experience and show their anger differently than men. Another study found that women:
- stay angry longer,
- are more resentful, and
- are less likely to express their anger
Now that you understand these important facts about the emotion of anger in women, let's answer the burning question of the day: Why is my wife so angry all the time?
"Why is my wife so angry all the time?" Three valid reasons
1. She is exhausted from things that might not cross your mind
Not just tired. EXHAUSTED - mentally and physically.
Perhaps she's been running after the kids all day. Maybe she's come home from work and has been running after the kids.
Has she been up most of the night with the baby? Or your child is going through a clingy phase and refuses to be put down.
Or, she's just so tired of dealing with your toddler's tantrums with patience and calmness (as parents are supposed to)... of keeping her cool.
Your wife could be sick to death of your sassy tween's even sassier behaviour. Did you irresponsibly forget to pick up the groceries she texted you about (and now she has to dash to the supermarket?). Maybe she's just over telling the helper for the millionth time to wash her hands before cooking.
Now here's where the anger comes in. Exhaustion leads to stress, and stress leads to anger. In fact, a survey revealed that stress was seen as a major factor that leads to anger in women.
So it's no wonder that an exhausted, stressed wife is angry all the time.
What husbands can do:
- Offer to help, even in small ways. If your wife has settled down to breastfeed, bring her a glass of water and a snack. Watch over the toddler if she's with the newborn. If the tween (or threenager) is giving out sassy vibes, step in and discipline them. Don't forget the shopping. Even better, look in the fridge or pantry and if you see that you're out of milk, bread, eggs or anything else, bring it. Remember that historically, women have been "trained" to hide their anger. So prevent that simmering pot of emotion from boiling over by remembering to help.
- Find ways to ease her stress. This could be as small as a neck and shoulder massage (without her asking for it) to ease some of the tension, or giving her a day off -- even better is a week -- to do whatever she likes, minus the kids. Be creative -- you know your wife the best.
- Acknowledge her tiredness. Don't shut your eyes to her exhaustion or just sit there playing games on your phone while she's almost passed out from exhaustion. Sometimes, just asking, "You must be so tired. Is there anything I can do to help?", helps bring calmness.
2. The injustice of invisible labour
Office work, the kids' homework, lunch/snackboxes, groceries, doctors' appointments, fever readings and medicine dosages, when baby last breastfed, birthdays, birthday parties, vaccination schedules...
Are you tired just reading this list? Well it's only the tip of the iceberg in many women's worlds. This is what is called invisible labour.
It's true that the division of labour in the home between genders is gradually equalising. But it's also true that women (wives, mothers) in general still take on more household and parenting chores.
Invisible labour doesn't just take a toll on your wife's body. It bears a cognitive and emotional burden, too. And that can be as devastating as physical exhaustion.
Along with this unseen work naturally comes a sense of tiredness (accumulated over years, even), resentment, and yes, you guessed it, anger.
What husbands can do:
- Appreciate the invisible labour your wife handles. Make it visible to your eyes and tell your wife how much you appreciate everything she does. Understand why she might feel so tired even though she's just woken up from a nap, instead of wondering how this is even possible.
- Take it one step further, and share that invisible labour. Take some of the load off your wife's shoulders. Give her confidence that you too can manage the shopping list and the kid's doctor's appointments (and more) as efficiently as she does.
- Teach your children to help. Even children as young as toddlers can help around the house. Here's a handy guide. Importantly, assign household chores to your sons and daughters, ignoring traditional "guidelines" like, "girls should learn how to cook and boys, to fix a broken tap". Teach both how to do these things.
3. The powerlessness that motherhood sometimes brings
Now, don't get me wrong. Becoming a mother is an incredibly powerful experience.
But motherhood gives power and takes away power at the same time, which is what men don't always understand. It is empowering physically, mentally, even spiritually, and we talk about this in other articles.
However, becoming a mother can also take away a woman's autonomy to do what she pleases, when and how she wants to. She loses her self in many ways, because her life now revolves around your children.
Your wife loses control over her own body. Her breasts don't belong to her, her stomach is a stranger's. She cannot even eat, poop and pee when she wants to. She may feel bitterness, even disgust when she sees herself in the mirror.
Every little decision your wife takes now is determined by the well-being of the kids. If she is heading back to work, then perhaps she loses the power she once had to work late hours, more hours, maybe even accept that promotion. Let's say she still works long, late hours or accepts the promotion. But there's the mum-guilt to deal with.
If she decides to stay at home, then she loses the ability to head out when she wants to, eat what she desires on time, even drink a cup of tea while it's still hot.
Some women take all this in their stride. But others don't. They might even resent the injustice of it all, and this gives rise to a slow, simmering anger... which is what you, her husband, sees and experiences.
What husbands can do:
- We understand, you cannot give birth or breastfeed. But you can be by your wife's side as she births your child, you can change diapers, you can bathe your baby, learn how to soothe him, put him to bed, give him a bottle... there's SO much you CAN do to help. And when you actively play a role in parenting, this empowers both you and your wife.
- Support your wife in her decisions. Please don't make her feel bad if she decides to go back to work. If childcare is an issue, actively work with her towards a solution: daycare, employ a helper, or perhaps even consider staying at home yourself.
- Ask her about her. We tend to focus on the wellbeing of our children. But what about their mother... your wife? If your child is sick while you are away, of course you would be concerned about him or her. But remember that your wife must be worrying her head off. She must be up every four hours to monitor your child's temperature. She is definitely tired. So ask about her too.
Women seem like complicated beings, but honestly, we are not. Acknowledge your wife's visible and invisible labour, appreciate her and support her. Be a team. And eventually, you won't ever have to ask Why is my wife so angry all the time. We promise you.
*The purpose of this article is in no way to generalise or discount men. There are innumerable husbands and fathers who contribute equally to parenting and managing households. We love, honour and appreciate you and are grateful to have you in our lives.