Doing Life Together

anger2#AngryInNYC Another stupid person runs in to me. Sorry doesn’t cut it. Look up from your phone you idiot.

This is just one example of Sara’s tweets that regular fill her Twitter account. It doesn’t take much to anger Sara. If someone does something she doesn’t like, or seems insensitive to her place on the planet, Sara tweets about it. A cursory look at her Twitter account makes Sara a candidate for an anger management group! Yet she thinks her angry tweets allow her to vent pent up feelings of frustration.

But is Sara’s anger more of a problem than she realizes? Yes, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, venting anger doesn’t release it and make a person feel better. Actually, the opposite occurs. Venting anger doesn’t work. It just fans the flames. Anger is actually more destructive when it is full-on expressed. Expression releases the same hormones that are produced under stress and does damage to the body. A hostile attitude may even lead to heart disease, according to Duke researcher Dr. Redford Williams.[i] Intense anger wreaks havoc on the body.

Feeling angry is one thing, but letting it all out in unchecked ways is worse than repression. Venting damages relationships. Giving someone a piece of your mind can destroy the rest of the pieces of the relationship!

Second, Sara might be surprised to find out that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and other schools decided to look at the language of tweets for expressions of love, boredom and anger. In the 1300 counties they studied, they found a remarkable predictor of heart disease. You guessed it! Angry tweets.

In fact, angry and hostile tweets were such a powerful predictor of heart disease that they did a better job of prediction than 10 leading health indicators.

Do we understand this connection between angry tweets and heart disease? Not really. Maybe Twitter reflects deeper frustrations and the carrying of stress. Maybe angry tweeters create bad feelings in others and themselves. Maybe all that venting is simply raising stress hormones and wreaking havoc on the body.

Whatever the case, perhaps Sara should rethink her tweets and focus less on what angers her,  try to give people a break or focus on the positives. So Sara, here is how you can change that angry tweet:

#WorkingOnMyAngerinNYC. Please look up when you walk the streets. Consider others. It’s a crowded city!


[i] Redford Williams, Anger Kills: Seventeen Strategies for Controlling the Hostility That Can Harm Your Health (New York: Harper, 1994).




angry1Anger is triggered by expectations, perceptions, and things people say and do. These hot buttons are triggers that cause the feeling to rise.

Knowing your hot buttons can prepare you for future conflicts. To deal with hot buttons, think about how you respond.

Is your response effective in keeping you calm and dealing with the problem? If not, you may have to change your reaction.

To do this, focus on what you do or say that might keep the anger going or calm it down. Notice what the other person is doing so you can identify what sets you off. Then, think about what you want to accomplish for the moment. For example, do you want to be less angry, calmer, or more able to respond to negativity without blowing up?

Sometimes you can avoid anger hot buttons completely. If certain situations or people cue anger, and those people are not important in your life, you can avoid them or the situation. For example, you can avoid drinking if that arouses anger. You can avoid playing in a basketball league if losing sets you off. You can avoid a neighbor who insults you. You can avoid that obnoxious co-worker.

In these cases, avoidance is like avoiding temptation—don’t put yourself with people or situations that will trigger your anger if it isn’t necessary. This strategy doesn’t get at the root of the anger problem, but it will help you maintain your cool.





bedAaron and Jill feels distant in their relationship. Because of the lack of closeness, their sex life has suffered. Aaron came to therapy wondering how to change this dynamic in their relationship.

Sex is so important to a man’s emotional well-being that when it is withheld in a marital relationship because of problems, he can become withdrawn and depressed. His sense of feeling loved is at stake because his way of communicating with his wife is blocked. This can result in feeling lonely and inadequate.

Researcher Helen Fisher tells us that when sex is withheld, men do not have the chemical stimulants to give them that sense of well-being. Having sex and regular orgasms make them feel better due to the testosterone boost. Basically, sex assures a man that he is loved.[i]

In terms of desire, men want to feel desired by their wives. Initiating sex is one way a wife can say she desires her man. And when a man feels desired, his confidence grows along with a sense of well-being in other areas of his life. Sexual rejection or lack of response to a sexual move is often interpreted as rejection of him as a person.

According to For Men Only, women lead with their feelings, not their anatomy. A woman needs to feel attractive and desirable. Desirability is greatly helped by men expressing heartfelt compliments. Compliments and understanding a woman’s inner life, her wishes, desires, intentions, etc., bring intimacy.

Men and women must realize that their sexual wiring is different. Because women have much less testosterone than men, they are not turned on simply by looking at a man, even when he is attractive. But just because women have lower sexual desire due to less testosterone doesn’t mean they aren’t attracted to their husbands. Wives are usually receptive to having sex under the right conditions, but may not initiate. Remember, she isn’t thinking, Let’s have sex to reestablish our closeness.

So in terms of sex and affection, differences do abound and can lead to conflict if not understood or addressed directly. The bottom line: Don’t give up on your sex life. Make it a priority. Get rid of distractions and make time to focus on each other. Both men and women need to feel validated and loved. They just go about getting their needs met differently.



Adapted and except from We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle (Baker Books, 2015)

[i] Helen Fisher, “The Realities of Love at First Sight,” O, The Oprah Magazine, November 2009,

2 teensRita, like so many daughters, came to therapy because of a tense relationship with her parents. Rita feels her parents’ expectations are too high and she can never measure up.

Expectations, when too high or out of line with a child’s true desires and goals, can cause anxiety and unnecessary pressure. I often see this in daughters who have eating disorders. Either they believe they must be perfect in all they do or they have received that message from their families. These girls are highly anxious, constantly worried that they may fail and never measure up to the self-imposed or family imposed standards of perfection. Expectations are unrealistic.

As children become more independent and autonomous with their parents, some discover that the push for autonomy is not always welcomed. Their desires may be met with resistance. In fact, children may act out or become disobedience in order to test their emerging confidence and autonomy.

As children look to parents to confirm their sense of self and growing independence, they expect to be reinforced in their efforts. When moms and dads don’t do this, children may try to please their parents by living out their dreams in order to receive approval. In the long run, this creates resentment and restlessness.

Parents have to be so careful not to force their dreams on their children in small, subtle ways. There is such a fine line between motivating a child to new things and pushing the parents’ expectations.

So parents, reassess your expectations. Are you asking your children to live up to your dreams and ideals? Or are you helping them sort out their own desire’s and fulfill their dreams?