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Could anger management rescue your relationship? THE RECESSION HAS PUSHED COUPLES TO THE LIMIT, AND THE NUMBER BREAKING UP DUE TO STRESS?RELATED ANGER ISSUES IS ON THE RISE. COULD SPECIALIST THERAPY BE THE ANSWER?

Byline: Nilufer Atik

We often hurt the ones we love the most - especially in relationships. And when you spend virtually all of your free time with the same person, it's inevitable that you'll have the occasional row.

From who left the toothpaste top off to whose turn it is to take the bins out, most couples would agree the odd tiff is unavoidable and is in fact, a natural part of a healthy relationship.

Even the experts agree being angry with your other half can help get rid of tension and is a sign you're comfortable enough to truly be yourself. But what happens when tiffs become daily screaming matches? According to research by the British Association of Anger Management, one in five people has ended a relationship because of how their other half behaved when they were angry. And 19% of people say their domestic relationships are the most stressful thing in their lives.

But surely a relationship is supposed to make you both happy and calm, not miserable and angry - so where are we going wrong? "We have this notion of romantic love, which has been fed to us through films, books and media from an early age," explains Mike Fisher, founder and director of BAAM. "We put a lot of pressure on each other to make one another happy. But really :U we're responsible for our own happiness."

Mike is a leading expert in the field of anger management.

He's worked with more than 14,000 people in his 14-year career as a specialist therapist and has helped hundreds of couples. But in recent months he's noticed a marked increase in the number contacting him for help.

"I'm seeing, on average, about one new couple a month," Mike explains. "In the last year I've counselled at least 16 couples on a regular basis but the number of hits on our website generally has shot up to almost 15,000.

"Couples can't understand why they react the way they do towards someone they love. But how can it be love if all you do is hurt and abuse each other?" A particular problem Mike has noticed are 'rageaholics' - people who are addicted to the intensity of anger and the adrenaline released.

"An alcoholic's behaviour will cause about 17 people around them to suffer. Rageaholics are similar, 80% of our callers are people who are in a relationship with a rageaholic. They are desperate for their partner to realise they have a problem."

The current recession and financial worries many of us are facing, aren't helping either. Work-related stress has soared by 40% and sadly, it is often our nearest and dearest we take it out on.

"Stress fuels anger, and at work we can't express that anger for fear of the consequences," explains Mike. "If your boss has undermined you, then all that resentment builds up. When you go home, you take it out on your partner.

"It takes a person who has good self-esteem to feel confident enough to address their boss with a workplace issue in a calm and assertive manner, telling them how they made them feel and why. That person can then let go of their anger and go home in a good state of mind."

At BAAM, Mike's team of anger management therapists teach that it's OK to feel anger, but it must be expressed in a healthy way that doesn't cause damage to ourselves or the ones we love. "We need to find the language that enables us to become sensitive to each other's needs," he says.

According to Mike, there are two different types of angry people - exploders and imploders.

Exploders will happily unleash their fury verbally and physically, leaving others to suffer the fallout, whereas imploders hold it all in, causing more harm to themselves. They often develop depression or reach boiling point until they too explode.

This is what happened to Shaun and Luciana Parker, who were about to finalise their divorce when they sought help through BAAM. The couple recently celebrated their nine-year wedding anniversary, but say it could have been a very different story.

"We were a week away from our decree nisi coming through," explains Luciana, 34, a housewife. "It was that serious. I'd had enough of dealing with Shaun's anger, but now we're back on track."

The couple, who have twins, aged 12, met in 2000.

"We'd only been together for about a month when we moved in together," recalls property developer Shaun, 36. "And then three months later, Luciana was pregnant. Despite friends' concerns, we were completely in love."

The pair, who live in Surrey, rarely argued and their relationship was good. But then, in December 2010, things started to go wrong.

"Shaun received a massive tax bill for pounds 50,000 and was under a lot of pressure at work," recalls Luciana. "He was getting more and more angry and frustrated and would take it out on us at home. Whenever he lost his temper I tried to make things better. But afterwards I felt angry at his behaviour too. Instead of showing it, I bottled it all up."

The more angry she felt, the more down Luciana became.

"I became depressed and even had to take medication. We'd stopped supporting each other and I felt very alone."

Tensions came to a head in May 2011 when Shaun came back from a short break and Luciana told him to pack his bags.

"Not having to tiptoe around him had made me realise just how unhappy I was having to deal with his anger," she says.

Devastated, for months Shaun begged Luciana to take him back. They even tried conventional couple's therapy but it didn't work.

b tebI "The therapist seemed to say we weren't suited to each other and should break up," says Shaun. "But I knew there was something worth saving."

Finally, in September 2011, after Luciana told him it was his anger that was the biggest obstacle, Shaun signed up to an bbv s 2hwS intensive three-day individual anger management therapy course at BAAM.

"It opened my eyes to the effect my anger was having on those around me," he says.

"There were a lot of issues I hadn't dealt with from my past and had bottled up over the years. I realised my wife and children were more important than money or my business - I needed to learn to relax a little more about things."

Luciana couldn't believe the difference in him.

"He just seemed to let go," she explains. "He went from begging me to be with him, to saying, 'If I don't make you happy then I need to let you get on with your life.' That's when I knew he'd really changed."

Slowly, their relationship began to improve.

"Shaun had always been the one in charge and I'd never really felt like I had a voice," says Luciana. "But now he listened to me and I felt much more valued."

Luciana even agreed to go to anger management counselling with him the following month. There, BAAM therapist Linda Bolland put them through a Beating Anger programme and they learnt to sit down and talk about their feelings properly.

"We discussed how to express anger safely, by not blaming each other," Linda explains, "We focused on taking responsibility for your own feelings, using words like, 'I feel' rather than 'you make me feel'."

Since getting back together in February, Shaun and Luciana's relationship is stronger than ever.

"Of course we still row now and then, but it's on a much more equal playing field now," says Luciana.

"He listens to me, and now we have the tools to enable us not to let things go too far."

By Nilufer Atik A FIVE-POINT PLAN FOR MANAGING YOUR ANGER G YOUR ANGER 1 Say "I" instead of "you" One of the first things we do when angry is blame and shame the other person for our feelings. By saying "I feel" instead of "you make me feel" we take ownership of our own feelings.

2Stick to the facts It's very easy to mix up facts, feelings and opinions when bringing a complaint to someone, resulting in an argument. By stating the facts first - such as "we agreed to meet at 8 and you arrived at 8.30" - you can keep the matter clear.

3 Don't take it personally When we realise that 99% of what others say em and or do to us is actually all about them and not about us, we can start to let people resolve their own issues instead of allowing ourselves to believe the put-down.

4 r Deal with past-tense anger Rage is most often the result of unfinished business between people. Stop 'sweeping' anger under the carpet. It's real and will eat away at you and your relationships if you don't learn how to express it clearly. der s 5 Look at the 'big picture' There's no sense in stressing about things that don't matter in the long run. Learn to say how you feel in the moment, then make time to discuss things that are important to you when you're NOT angry.

Lo Th about the lo feel into disc to you Lea ot op F COU WWW Learn to have empathy too - in other words, listen with an open heart.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE COURSES RUN BY BAAM, GO TO WWW.ANGERMANAGE.CO.UK

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EXPERT: Mike Fisher NEAR DIVORCE: Shaun and Luciana
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 23, 2012
Words:1583
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