Me cry, he yell.
May 29, 2014 12:59 PM   Subscribe

My partner gets angry when I cry sometimes and I don't understand why.

Let me start off by saying that he is a very kind and thoughtful person who I love very much, and this isn't typical behavior for him. He doesn't become angry every time I cry, such as if I cry during a movie, or cry while I'm venting about something work related. And to be fair, while I don't think I cry very often (< 1x month), I tend to cry in situations where I am feeling frustrated more often than when I am feeling sad, and alcohol tends to bring on the tears as well.

He has only ever become angry when I cried a couple of times, and all of them have been when we have been arguing. The handful of fights we've had in our two year relationship tend to look extremely silly in hindsight because we realize that the reason things ever escalated is usually due to both of our inabilities to accurately communicate what we want. We start talking in circles and both end up very frustrated, but normally things don't progress to this point--often we mutually agree to drop the point.

Three times I have started crying out of pure frustration during an argument with him, generally because I feel like he's not understanding what I am saying or how I am feeling. Usually he keeps his cool during a fight, but when I start to cry his volume increases and his becomes increasingly more angry and I start to cry even more. Vicious cycle. Sometimes I point this out to him and ask him why he is yelling at me suddenly, which then turns into an argument over whether or not he is yelling. The fight in these cases either ends in one of us leaving, or one of us going to bed early. The next day everything is cool, we have a rational conversation about why the fight started in the first place, and things are usually resolved. However, I don't know how to process this behavior, and I don't understand why he gets angry when I cry.

To be fair, I am no angel, and I'm not interested in advice to DTMF. I'm looking for suggestions for how I can discuss this with him, as well as suggestions for how to deal with it when if it happens again.
posted by gumtree to Human Relations (35 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience (I'm female), there are some men who think that the tears are an attempt at manipulation (aka you can't make your point in a rational way and are trying to guilt them into agreement with you). I've tried to explain my tears are just because I hate conflict (particularly conflict that devolves into shouting/yelling) and it's an emotional response and there's no higher level intent behind the crying, but I'm not sure they ever really accepted this explanation. As to how to deal, if I know it's going to be a weepy subject area and the guy in question is touchy about tears, I try to have those conversations by email. (But to be honest, my relationships with men that could not deal with my tears have never lasted, probably for the best.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:05 PM on May 29, 2014 [18 favorites]

One possibility is he feels you are being emotionally manipulative. He might feel he is trying to express his feelings, and you're trying to make him feel guilty about them.

I know that when I'm arguing with my wife, and she starts to cry (which is rare), I feel like I've automatically lost the argument because I've made her cry. If I feel the crying is unfair, then I might feel resentful. I might then have the impulse to yell, though I might not follow through on it. Maybe something similar is going on with him.

Or, he's just a jackass.
posted by musofire at 1:05 PM on May 29, 2014 [15 favorites]

A lot of people (mistakenly) think that crying is manipulative. It's definitely a trope among men, regarding female crying during relationship arguments.

Have you guys talked about this, at all? Does he know you're crying out of pure frustration? Does he get that this is an earnest thing, from you, and not a ploy of some kind?

Also, you mention that a few times, alcohol has been involved. Has he also been drinking? That might be a factor in escalating his emotions about this.
posted by Sara C. at 1:06 PM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

He's angry because crying is perceived as manipulative.

Why are your fights (discussions, disagreements) getting so far out of hand? Can neither of you back down and say, "We're talking at cross purposes here, I'm getting frustrated and upset. Until I calm down, I don't want to continue on."

FWIW, I don't argue with my partner, because he's my partner. He has my back, I feel safe with him. I show him respect and love in whatever way I can.

Frankly, if your arguements are getting to this's a problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:06 PM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

He get angry when you cry because he doesn't know what to do or how to process it. Crying is like a foreign language to a lot of men. Also, our normal response to a partner's crying is to comfort them...protect them. But, when the crying happens in the course of an argument, a man can become confused as to what to do and how to respond. That inability to process it leads to anger born out of frustration.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:06 PM on May 29, 2014 [24 favorites]

I'd bring it up during a neutral time, and explain how you feel, and give him a chance to respond.

Remember that you're working towards understanding each other so that you can properly face obstacles together.
posted by magdalemon at 1:09 PM on May 29, 2014

Three times I have started crying out of pure frustration during an argument with him, generally because I feel like he's not understanding what I am saying or how I am feeling. Usually he keeps his cool during a fight, but when I start to cry his volume increases and his becomes increasingly more angry and I start to cry even more. Vicious cycle. Sometimes I point this out to him and ask him why he is yelling at me suddenly, which then turns into an argument over whether or not he is yelling. The fight in these cases either ends in one of us leaving, or one of us going to bed early. The next day everything is cool, we have a rational conversation about why the fight started in the first place, and things are usually resolved. However, I don't know how to process this behavior, and I don't understand why he gets angry when I cry.

The crying isn't what's making him angry.

When you hit a breaking point during these arguments and the frustration has escalated beyond a manageable point, you react by crying. He, on the other hand, reacts to that same moment of frustration by externalizing whatever internal anger he's feeling.

A lot of people just don't respond well to crying, especially very emotional crying. For a lot of people, crying during an argument is the moment when Things Have Gotten Real. Again, it reads to some people as escalation. It may make his frustration worse.

I'm not saying it's okay that he's doing this - it's not, because anger is never constructive. What I'm saying is that no one is at their best when in the middle of a heated, frustrating argument in which communication has become difficult. We don't do the smartest things, and there are a lot of different emotions that well up. We are not reasonable when we fight.

Just ask him about this tonight, or whenever you see him. Have a sit-down of an evening and ask what the two of you can do better when you have fights. Explain that the yelling is kind of an issue for you. Remain physically close. Hold hands. Don't let the discussion become heated - stay calm. Be a team.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:10 PM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

So here is a thing that happened a lot when I was a kid (older kid, tween/teen):

Thing would happen. My mom and I would start arguing about it. I would get frustrated simply by the act of arguing (sounds like you) and start crying. My mom would get mad at me for crying, and yell at me about it.

It always felt terrible, because oh my god I am crying, why are you yelling at me for crying.

But then I realized that there's this dynamic between my mom and my grandmother, where when they argue, my grandmother will do this escapism thing where as soon as she starts to lose the argument, she starts crying, and shifts it from being an argument about a misplaced garage door opener to being a "you're a bad daughter for not loving me enough" thing.

Now that I've seen this thing play out between my mom and grandma dozens and dozens of times, I've realized that when I'd start crying during an argument, my mom would see it as the same sort of thing my grandma does, and as an emotionally manipulative tactic rather than an idiosyncratic response to stress which, for me, is all that it is.

Consider perhaps that your partner has a similar dynamic somewhere in his emotional history, and is reacting based on his learned experience.

During a quiet, calm moment, explain to him that this is a thing that happens to you, and what his reaction to it looks like, and discuss the ways that you can work together to notice this stuff as it happens so you can both take a time out from the argument and not fall back into these patterns.
posted by phunniemee at 1:13 PM on May 29, 2014 [15 favorites]

Hmm. To me this reads like your response to feeling emotionally overwhelmed in the fight is to cry and his is to rasie his voice but not necessarily yell out of anger. Maybe the best solution would be to step away from the argument when you realize it's about to reach that point. If you legitimately resolve the fights later, when things have cooled down a bit, figure out away to skip the needlessly messy and emotionally draining parts.

He might see this as emotionally manipulative but I don't really get that from what you've written. I can raise my voice in arguments or even friendly/fun debates without realizing it. I just get caught up in the moment or frustration (different from anger) builds up and I find myself talking very quickly, very loudly. It is very distinct from when I yell in anger, which is something I've rarely done. In other situations, I'm like you and will start crying just because I'm feeling emotionally overwhelmed and my body thinks it'd be a good release when usually it just makes the situation more complicated. Both the raised voice and the crying feel very similar to me when they happen and don't necessarily mean I'm as upset as I sound or look.

Does he actually yell at you about the crying?
posted by AtoBtoA at 1:16 PM on May 29, 2014

People crying drives me into a rage. I can't even describe how strongly negative is my response to people crying - it's blind wrath. Why it occurs is that I grew up with people who used tears to get their way at my expense. To me tears come off as a cheap trick, even though I know it's not always true.

It's not an excuse, but you might want to find out if your boyfriend had similar experiences. I don't know how to tell you to work through it - I have to leave when people start crying and take up the issue later when we're both calmer.
posted by winna at 1:30 PM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

My husband gets angry when I cry because he comes from a family that does not show any emotion. I mean seriously no emotion, mother going into hospital for brain surgery that may kill her, husband and kids all went to work/school like nothing was up and thought I was weird for wanting to be at the hospital. So he has no idea what to do when I cry and so he panics thinking he's made me feel bad.

If that was in the middle of a fight I could see it making him angry, because it would confuse the issue for him completely ie he thought we were having a logical fact based discussion and now feelings have reared their ugly head and, in his mind, derailed and confused the conversation. Just another idea to think about.

I would be curious about how previous gfs or his mother was prone to using tears to get what she wanted. That could make him suspicious of your motives for crying. You both might like to sit down and work out what to do next time this happens, you are allowed to cry for strong emotions, there is nothing wrong with it so maybe you agree that once the tears start the arguement has gone to far and should be left for the next day and clearer minds.
posted by wwax at 1:30 PM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why he gets angry when I cry.

Have you asked him? We can guess, and he might not be truthful if you do ask, but that is the only way you might find out for certain. If he is forced to articulate what makes him so upset during a rational conversation, then he might realize what is happening the next time you cry during a fight and try to de-escalate things rather than yelling.
posted by gatorae at 1:30 PM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm with those who say that, in the same way that your frustration leads to crying, his frustration leads him to anger. His frustration only increases when your crying begins.
posted by BurntHombre at 1:31 PM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I cry during arguments or because I'm frustrated or angry, it's because I have been taught from a very young age that this is the appropriate way to express my anger and frustration as a female. The men I grew up around would yell, the women would cry. I could go into all kinds of sociological analysis of that, but I won't, because in this instance it doesn't matter: it's more like, does he understand that when you cry during arguments, it's because you're frustrated and that's how you express it?

Lots of people associate crying with sadness and (argh) manipulation and guilt-tripping (could also write a sociological treatise on how female-coded behaviors are read as manipulation, but won't.) I would sit your partner down and say, "Hey, when I cry during arguments, it's not 'cause I'm expecting you to do anything about it. You're not required to shift from argument to caretaker mode, that isn't even what I want. I am not crying to get out of taking responsibility or continuing discussion. It's just how I express frustration. When you're frustrated, you [raise your voice, swear a lot, whatever he does] and I cry. It doesn't make me incapable of doing what needs to be done, it's just a frustration symptom. And I need you to not yell at me about it, because when you raise your voice to me about crying when we're having an argument, it feels like you're punishing me for my feelings, and that's not productive."

If he can't respect what you're telling him, you need to start stopping him in his tracks when it gets to that point. If you start to cry during an argument, and he starts to get angry and yell about it, say, "I'm not going to have this discussion at the moment because I don't feel either of us are capable of handling it well right now. Let's come back to it later," and then walk the hell away. You really don't need someone, intentionally or not, punishing you for your feelings.

If it turns out his gf/mom/sister/whoever used to cry just to get their way, it's understandable that his prior experiences may have conditioned him to react to crying as a manipulation ploy, but it doesn't fundamentally change things. He needs either trust you when you say it's just an expression of frustration, or recognize that he is programmed to HATE HATE HATE crying, and take responsibility for himself by leaving that situation before he reaches an anger trigger-point.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2014 [8 favorites]

My mom can cry at will and has a history of using her crying in a manipulative way. (I see people above saying that crying as manipulation is a myth. It may be way overblown, but it certainly has happened in my family.) So, I often react angrily when someone starts crying in the middle of a fight. I think something like, "oh, now I'm supposed to be the bad guy who made you cry? You get the moral high ground when just a moment ago we were both being shitty?" I know it is my issue (and one I try to work on), but that's my first reaction and maybe your partner has a similar reaction.

I have two suggestions: (1) talk to him about this, get his take on why he reacts this way, and explain your crying and that it is a response to frustration, and (2) realize it is okay for the two of you to sometimes take a break from a fight to cool down.
posted by Area Man at 1:38 PM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Was he allowed to cry as a kid? Maybe the typical response during his childhood when someone started crying was that someone else got angry and started shouting. Sounds very familiar to me. We typically repeat what was done to us, unless we truly get over what was done to us on an emotional level.

Something else that might help is to restructure your own use of language. When I was in the beginning of my relationship (married now), we had a lot of silly (but sometimes heated) arguments. Through relation therapy I learned to make "I" sentences. So instead of saying "You're always doing this and that" (a sentence with two mistakes in it, i.e. focusing on the other AND exaggerating) I learned to say "I can't stand it when I blah blah blah and I then get the feeling you blah blah etc.". It takes a lot of practice, but it works out great. It's also staggering how hard it is for most people (including myself when I'm tired) to make a well formed request, or criticise someone in an open and honest way.


Although that book is about raising children, lots of it is still applicable to adults. Or at the very least it explains some things about adults because of their upbringing. For instance, in a relationship (like mine), we too have stupid arguments that Aletha Solter describes as "a broken cookie moment" (an argument about something small when something else bigger is too hard or complicated to surface). In my opinion it is important to notice when this happens, because it's then better for me and my wife to back out and say "We'll discuss this another time" or "Let's agree to disagree".

Good luck!

Hens (male, 47)
posted by hz37 at 1:40 PM on May 29, 2014

I hear those of you saying that anger is just another outlet for the same frustration as crying. That may be true. However, yelling at someone out of anger is not the same as crying. Getting angry is one thing, but expressing that anger by yelling at your partner is not the only result.

I cry really easily about things I feel strongly about or strike a certain tone, including, for instance, the Supreme Court, ASPCA commercials, and certain types of relationship discussions. I cannot stop it any more than I could stop myself from blushing or sweating due to stress. I do however tell people "Sorry, I'm an easy crier" or "sorry, I just feel strongly about it" and try to minimize the conversational impact.

Similarly, OP's partner could say "I'm getting really frustrated and that is making me irrationally angry - I need to take five minutes to walk around the block and cool down."

It's one thing to feel the emotions you feel and their physiological results. It's another to refuse to try to control or mitigate the impact of those emotions on the people you love.
posted by mercredi at 1:44 PM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

My guess would be that his reaction to frustration is anger and yours is crying. You want to have a productive discussion, and it's going to be upsetting to realize nope that's not working, regardless of how that's expressed. Crying or shouting might strike a particular nerve, but any way of communicating this would be rough.

My experience is that I get the most frustrated when I feel like I'm not getting through - either the other person isn't listening, isn't understanding, or doesn't care what I'm saying. So maybe you could (both) focus on making sure that the other knows that even if you don't agree you are listening. And arguably the crying and shouting both kind of convey "productive discussion failed, try again later", which something that's extra-important to hear when it's being said.

But this is a lot of guesswork because I'm neither of you two. So you should try to talk about it when it isn't happening. I'd frame it like "here's a lousy pattern we've gotten into a few times, and let's see if we find some ways to avoid it"
posted by aubilenon at 1:53 PM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

It bugs me when people cry, so I feel sort of obligated to try to answer.

I understand that most people are not trying to be manipulative when they cry, but the fact is that it is manipulative. Crying changes the dynamic. It can completely shut down a necessary if difficult discussion, drawing focus away from the topic at hand and onto the crying person's emotional state. It means that, if I want to make any progress ever, if I have anything else I need to say, I have to start all over again later and hope they don't do it again. I also feel sort of obligated to 'comfort' the crying person regardless of the circumstances, even if I'm justifiably angry with them. It puts me in a position where I either have to comfort someone I'm actively pissed off at, or act like a jerk by walking away and leaving a crying person to their own devices.

I have a similar reaction to angry outbursts like yelling or foot stomping.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:13 PM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

The time to talk about it is when you're both calm and there's no active disagreement. Then you can make a plan for what to do when it happens again, because it will happen again. If it were my relationship, I'd suggest we each agree to take a break as soon as we see it starting. I'd even plan out what distracting activity each of us could do -- read/take a walk/go to the gym/take a shower, etc. You can always talk about the issue later.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:24 PM on May 29, 2014

Sorry, just to clarify, when I say, "When you're frustrated, you [raise your voice, swear a lot, whatever he does] and I cry," what I mean is that you're comparing his frustrated behavior (swearing or whatever) with your frustrated behavior (crying) to help him understand that you're doing the same thing he's doing, just in a different way. NOT that his frustration makes you cry. That was a weirdly worded sentence.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:51 PM on May 29, 2014

I have never understood this assumption.

Yeah, it's a bizarre assumption all around. Crying to me is like an asthma attack - it very very rarely happens but when it does it's incredibly fucking traumatic, I don't want it, it's happening wholly against my will and I want it to fucking stop immediately. At least 1/3 of the people I've dated, both men and women, have assumed it was manipulative when it happened during an argument, and it is always a dealbreaker for me.

OP, I'm sorry but I think he assumes you are doing it on purpose to manipulate him. And from my personal experience, it is very difficult to convince people otherwise once they have this prejudice, as it seems to be something absorbed from a very young age.
posted by elizardbits at 2:56 PM on May 29, 2014 [22 favorites]

I have never understood this assumption. If I (or most women) could or would cry on cue just to be manipulative, we'd all be famous actresses. Most men can't cry on cue; why do they assume women can?

Yeah, I said that. I am a woman, and the two intentionally manipulative cryers in my life right now are both male.

I was perfectly clear that I don't think that most people who cry do so intentionally to manipulate others. But it is a fact that when someone in a discussion becomes overwhelmed with emotion, even if they can't help it, the act itself manipulates the situation, changes its dynamic, and diverts attention away from the topic at hand. Even if it's not intentional, it can be frustrating.

The asker wants to understand why someone might get irritated or angry when she cries during an argument, and I know one reason that happens.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:10 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's a bizarre assumption all around.

What makes it even worse is that when I have been reduced to tears by conflict, or criticism, or frustration, the one thing I am trying with all my body, heart, will, and soul not to do is cry.

The asker wants to understand why someone might get irritated or angry when she cries during an argument, and I know one reason that happens.

Maybe the OP should ask him if he gets angry and yells at her to be manipulative, or if he feels that he just can't help it. Because getting angry and yelling also manipulates the situation, changes its dynamic, and diverts attention away from the topic at hand. Even if it's not intentional, it can be frustrating.

Ya think?
posted by caryatid at 3:16 PM on May 29, 2014 [12 favorites]

Add me to the people who suspect for you frustration boils over into crying and for him frustration boils over into shouting. I think for a lot of people crying, shouting and frustration are all tied together. Have you ever put Ikea furniture together and the first several attempts fail and someone ends up in tears and someone else is angry? It's the same sort of thing.
posted by hoyland at 3:18 PM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

The thing that made my most stubborn ex finally realize that it was a wholly involuntary experience for me was the fact that my occasional crying outbursts during crazy intense arguments were also accompanied by unfortunate gastrointestinal outbursts. Having someone projectile puke on the floor right in front of you and then run to the bathroom to poopsplode is apparently very eye-opening.

If you can get him to understand that sometimes it is pretty much the exact same thing as an allergic person sneezing at a cat it might be helpful.
posted by elizardbits at 3:24 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

My misophonia is occasionally triggered by high-pitched crying or wailing. I get panicked and, without meaning to, raise my voice sharply to drown out the sound. It might be more or less involuntary on his part.
posted by milk white peacock at 3:44 PM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

[Please just answer the question, don't debate other commenters. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:45 PM on May 29, 2014

I shared this dynamic with my husband a couple of times during the early part of our marriage. It baffled me and left me feeling like shit (mainly like my marriage was doomed). Insecurity (by my own admission) was the root cause for the argument. Afterwards, I know that I sort of detached from him for quite awhile. This dynamic isn't a *thing* with us anymore. As a survival strategy, I learned to toughen up. It does suck because I feel like I'm missing out on a deep emotional connection in my marriage. But I don't know if I can really fault my husband for this one because,'s apparent to me that it runs in the family. He was basically shamed by his father for reading a book I had suggested that dealt with emotional intelligence.
posted by okay-quiet-time at 4:54 PM on May 29, 2014

I am a frustration cryer too. Both my mother and my husband have objected that they find this unfair because my crying basically shuts down the argument - they can't very well go on arguing with me while I'm sobbing.

I think the key thing is that both of them felt an automatic duty to comfort me if I cried. Like they had to "do something" about it.

I have told both of them that yes, of course we can go on fighting. I can't stop the tears but I want them to basically just ignore the crying (or, well, treat it like they would treat someone yelling or expressing frustration in other ways).

As far as I can tell they do this. My husband and I have had lots of arguments since then, some few of them heated, but he hasn't let my crying stop him from saying what he wanted to say. And that's good, because then I feel like I can cry when I want to and it doesn't ramp up the drama.

That said, once a month does seem a lot. Crying for me is a sign of helpless rage and if that happened so often I would think about how I can get agency back - how I can stop feeling helpless.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:31 AM on May 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I get angry when my girlfriend cries. I don't really know why, though it's not because I think she's manipulative. The very fact of her crying just provokes some instinctive extreme irritation in me. It represents an insolvable problem.

Sometimes I get angry because she wants to talk about something at the same time as crying about it, e.g. relationship issues, or how she just did badly in a job interview. My position then is that I'm fine with crying as a way of letting out emotions, but it feels ridiculous to try to seriously discuss problems and attempt to solve them when someone is crying. It's obvious that somebody crying isn't thinking straight - it's like trying to negotiate with a drunk person.
posted by cincinnatus c at 6:06 AM on May 30, 2014

Some people have mentioned how crying can be a result of an aversion to conflict, but I want to add my anecdotal evidence to deepen the nuance of that perspective:

In my immediate family, techniques for conflict and debate are very sharply divided along gender lines: the men in my family can be hard and combative, and the women can be passive and conflict avoidant.

I think that crying can be a last ditch effort at an appeal to emotion and a search for balance in the face of feeling steamrolled by aggressive arguing tactics. I don't think I've ever wanted to cry in an argument, but because my preferred discussion style gets thrown overboard pretty quickly, I am put on the defensive until finally, perhaps crying is all I feel I can do to say "You aren't LISTENING to me."

Besides feeling upset because maybe he sees your crying as manipulative, there may be an aspect of it, well, being effective: it could be that with his conflict style, if HE doesn't get what HE wants, your crying is finally a signal to him that he is "losing" the battle so to speak.
posted by lady3bird at 6:07 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think it doesn't really matter why.

Or rather, it only matters that he is NOT doing it out of a desire to hurt you. Beyond that, there are probably all sorts of emotions and history and gut instincts that he's not entirely aware of that cause him to react this way.

The end result, though, is that after you cry and he yells, you both take a break to cool down and end up feeling better after you get some rest or space from each other, right? So just skip straight to that. You can both agree that you process things differently, and that your natural reactions are anathema to each other, so next time you get the urge to cry or he gets the urge to yell you can both agree to walk away immediately and to try to keep any in-the-moment reaction to yourself.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:47 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Coming late to this, but:

It's obvious that somebody crying isn't thinking straight - it's like trying to negotiate with a drunk person.

That isn't necessarily true in all cases. As we've seen, crying functions very differently for different people. For some, it's an expression of extreme frustration, but for others it isn't an "expression" of anything at all. As elizardbits points out, for some of us it's simply an involuntary physiological reaction to an emotional trigger.

I've written two comments about this about this already, so rather than reiterate them, I'll just point out that if you're like me, it can be useful as soon as you start feeling sniffly and constricted to remind your interlocutor that those symptoms are just that. There's no crisis, you're still paying attention, and there's nothing the other person needs to do.
posted by tangerine at 3:30 PM on June 1, 2014

For the asker's partner, though, it sounds as though the crying is an emotional trigger for him. If one party to a discussion can't help crying when they're frustrated, and the other party gets frustrated with the crying and can't help raising their voice, it is unlikely to be a productive discussion.

She says it's not a common occurrence. It's only happened three times, and she just wants to understand why he would react by raising his voice and getting angry. And the reasons for that are very likely the very same reasons that she cries. He's frustrated, he doesn't think he's being heard, and he feels like he's going around in circles.

Some seem to be attributing a logical, ideological reason for his reactions and expecting him to be able to control his emotions even as she can't. But yelling and getting angry is, if anything, a less rational choice than crying. It's an emotional reaction too, and it's unfair to put the entire onus of controlling the situation onto him.

If it were happening regularly, that would a pretty big problem, and anger and yelling are a whole lot scarier than crying, but as long as it's infrequent and he's not getting too angry, it's probably sufficient for both parties to step away, cool off, and try again later; and for both to understand that their emotional responses are simply different manifestations of the same types of feelings.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:12 PM on June 1, 2014

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