I would call that ironic, if it weren't so tragic.
This is what I call Relational Anger, and I've seen it destroy marriages, ruin parent/child relationships, drive addiction, and create a lot of misery -- for the offender as well as his victims. All the while, these men will express to me their confusion as to why their partners sent them in. Why their partners are leaving them. Why their kids won't talk to them.
So why do they do it? And how can they stop?
It can be a relational dynamic.
Maybe this is how strong emotions were shared in your family growing up, or maybe the hurts have piled up and you've entered negative sentiment override. In either case, learning some new skills by way of Gottman Method Couples Therapy is a great way to create some positive change.
But this is only part of the picture.
Anger is a protective emotion.
Other emotions that don't feel so good: hurt, sad, disappointed, disrespected, undervalued, unimportant, unwanted.
This may especially be true for men who have been conditioned, through family and culture messaging to not express those emotions--to not feel those emotions. So let's throw some shame on top of those other icky feelings.
It's not surprising that anger (with it's accompanying vigor, power, or superiority) would be a more palatable choice. So why only at home? Why aren't we all getting mad at work?
Men are trained from a young age to compartmentalize.
This strategy works to get them through their day, but that anger doesn't go away. It just sits there, eroding their sense of well-being, ratcheting up their stress level.
This compartmentalization plays a large (detrimental) role in male psychology and can explain why some guys can be so nice, until they're aren't.
"Here is the box where I put all my nice thoughts and feelings about you, and here is the one where I keep all of my anger and resentment. Play along and you get box A, challenge me and you get box B."
This isn't just an unworkable strategy. It is a legacy of the routine trauma that young boys undergo as they are trained out of their emotions. I will have a further entry on this subject after 9/23/15
Anger and aggression are about power and hierarchy
There is a social and sexual hierarchy that underlies all of our relationships. It's there whether we want it or not. And, unfortunately, shit rolls down hill.
Men can feel okay, or at least justified, in unleashing their anger at their partner, or their children (or their parents) because deep down they feel superior. Their aggression is a tool of domination. Anger shouts: I can tell you what you can't do, I can tell you what your place is.
Often, men with relational anger are on the receiving end of this kind of domination in other parts of their life. They may feel insecure in their position in the hierarchy (either in their relationship or in the world at large).
Even when there is no hierarchical insecurity, even if they are successful by most social measures, they are angry because their success hasn't made them happy.
"But that's not why I get angry! I'm mad because I'm mistreated!"
Resentment is a common driver for relational anger, but resentment doesn't mean what you think it does. Check out my entry on The Resentment Trap.
How can they change?
Second, by developing an intentional practice of Curbing Aggression and Physiological Self-Soothing and learning practices of Relational Conflict Management (9/16/15).
Third, by doing the really hard work of getting in touch with those underlying emotions and needs, developing a solid sense of self worth, independent of context or hierarchical standing and learning how to positively set boundaries and hold them firmly and with compassion.