Relationship Fitness

S10: Anger E5: Avoidance Anger Play

In “Relationship Workout for Men” Season 10 Episode 5 titled “Avoidance Anger Play,” Vince tackles the subtle yet impactful realm of avoidance anger in relationships. He describes avoidance anger as the act of denying anger and pretending all is well, despite underlying frustrations. Vince outlines common manifestations of avoidance anger, such as withdrawal, denial, and diverting conversations, which serve to suppress and sidestep direct confrontation. Through this episode, Vince aims to shed light on the cycle of avoidance anger, from initial suppression to eventual explosion or resurfacing of unresolved issues, highlighting the importance of acknowledging and addressing anger directly for the health and growth of a relationship.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 10, Episode 5: Avoidance Anger Play

In this episode, we discuss the weak anger play: Avoidance, which can block and create barriers to having open and collaborative communications.

So, what is Avoidance Anger?

Avoidance Anger is all about the person denying he or she is angry, and pretending nothing’s wrong (when really, deep down the person is fuming mad). Put another way, Avoidance anger is a form of anger expression where individuals avoid confrontation or direct expression of their feelings. Here are fifteen common ways in which avoidance anger might be displayed:

1. Withdrawal: Deliberately distancing oneself from situations or people that are the source of anger.

2. Refusing to Discuss Issues: Consistently avoiding conversations about topics that are anger-inducing or problematic.

3. Denial of Anger: When asked about their feelings, individuals might deny feeling angry, even when it’s apparent.

4. Diverting Conversations: Changing the subject or steering conversations away from topics that might lead to the expression of anger.

5. Engaging in Distractions: Busying oneself with other tasks or activities to avoid addressing the source of anger.

6. Emotional Shutdown: Becoming emotionally numb or indifferent, refusing to engage with one’s own feelings or those of others.

7. Physical Avoidance: Staying away from people or places that might trigger anger.

8. Excessive Politeness: Overcompensating with politeness or agreeableness to avoid conflict.

9. Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Indirectly expressing anger through actions that are subtly obstructive or uncooperative.

10. Internalizing Anger: Holding in anger and not expressing it outwardly, which might manifest as resentment or bitterness over time.

11. Minimizing Issues: Downplaying or trivializing problems that are actually causing anger.

12. Over-Compensating in Other Areas: Trying to excel in different areas of life to distract from the unresolved anger issues.

13. Emotional Displacement: Directing anger towards unrelated issues or people because it feels safer than addressing the real cause.

14. Over-Focusing on Rational Analysis: Intellectualizing or analyzing a situation excessively as a way to avoid dealing with the emotional aspect.

15. Reluctance to Acknowledge Conflict: Avoiding recognition of any conflict, even when it is clear and present.

Put another way, the Avoidance Anger strategy is all about suppression. In this case, you try to deny that something’s wrong, avoiding that big pink elephant of anger roaming the room.

Avoidance Anger is considered a weak anger choice because by suppressing your anger, you block possible communication. You can’t talk about what you’re not willing to talk about. As a result, you and your partner can’t even start to deal with whatever issue is causing anger in the first place.

Like the other weak anger plays, avoidance Anger also has a feedback loop cycle. Actually, there are two potential cycles:

Since the anger is suppressed, and therefore not dealt with, it will either fester until it explodes into another Anger Play, or it will be temporarily submerged only to re-surface when something else triggers the original, unresolved issue. 

The explodes into another anger play cycle might look like this:

  • Stage 1: An issue happens, but the resulting anger is suppressed; therefore, the anger is kept festering inside.
  • Stage 2: Anger builds until it cannot be tolerated anymore.
  • Stage 3: The anger shifts into another anger play like passive or aggressive anger.

On the other hand, the cycle where the suppressed anger submerges only to resurface cycle might look like something this:

  • Stage 1: An issue happens, but the resulting anger is suppressed; therefore, the anger is kept festering inside,
  • Stage 2: Anger is submerged deep inside, but not resolved.
  • Stage 3: A new symptom of the old unresolved issue emerges, and anger is triggered all over again.

The profile of a person who uses Avoidance Anger Plays looks something like the following:

  • Even when angry, the person will often say everything is fine when asked. That said, you’re likely to hear about it later often through Passive, passive-aggressive or aggressive anger!

Taking A Deeper Look at Avoidance Anger, here are three possible reasons someone might choose to avoid his or her anger: Either the person feels all anger is bad, is being controlled by ego, and/or is behaving out of fear.

First, Believing All Anger is Bad

The idea that all anger is bad anger could have come from a number of places. This person might:

  • Have learned from a mother, father, or other important person that one shouldn’t feel anger.
  • Interpret religious teachings in such a way that they believe all anger is bad. 
  • Have had past experiences that have shown that anger always results in bad outcomes. 
  • Be resigned to the idea that nothing’s going to change anyway, so it’s just better to be quiet and deal with the anger internally.

Second, Ego

The thought that one is “above” being angry talks a lot about ego. For instance, this person might:

  • Think that only “lower” people become angry.
  • Seek approval from a group of people who seem important and worries that showing anger will result in a lack of approval.
  • Have a high position, making them think it’s too dangerous to show anger to those in lower positions.
  • Not want to appear out of control.

And third, fear

Another reason motivating avoidant anger plays is the thought that it’s somehow dangerous to be angry. This person might:

  • Feel paralyzed when dealing with conflict.
  • Question his or her self-worth and is afraid that his or her feelings, opinions and/or preferences are just not worth mentioning.
  • Be afraid that showing anger will ruin his or her reputation and/or self-image.

In summary, Avoidance anger can lead to unresolved issues and emotional distress over time. It can be beneficial for individuals displaying these behaviors to seek help from a mental health professional to learn healthier ways of acknowledging and expressing their anger.

Remember, you can also complete the Relationship Workout program at relationshipworkout.com to self-identify if avoidance anger is contributing to drama in your relationship. If it’s discovered that avoidance anger may be an issue, the Relationship Workout AI coach will then provide insights to suggest how to address this weak anger play in your relationship.

In the next episode, we turn our attention to the last weak anger play, Defensive Anger, the topic of our next episode.

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