angry wife

Why Is My Wife Always Mad at Me?

I’m an angry male. O.K., I’ve said it. There is a lot to be angry about. Gun violence continues. Too many of our children live in poverty. Our environment is deteriorating. We are heating the planet beyond its capacity to support human life. Our country is divided. The political system is broken. Families are falling apart and kids are growing up without the loving support of two parents. What’s worse, we take our anger, hurt, and fear out on the ones we love the most.

Anger can be good when it rallies us together to fight oppression and support ideals of love, care, compassion, equality, and abundance. It can be bad when it turns into aggression, blame, and shame. I’ve written a lot about angry men. I’m still getting comments from my 2013 article “Why is My Husband So Angry.” An article I wrote a year ago, “Why is My Husband So Mean to Me?”expressed a lot of the pain, confusion, and fear I am hearing from women.

Two best-selling books, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship From The Irritable Male Syndrome, offered men and women guidance about the underlying causes of the Irritable Male Syndrome or IMS and how it could be addressed so that it didn’t cause permanent damage to the relationship.

Male irritability, anger, and violence are in the news. We hear about the latest school shooting and women are rightly concerned when they are living with and loving an angry man (See my article, “How to Love and Angry Man”). But now I’m hearing from more and more men who are reaching out and addressing their concerns about women’s anger and asking questions such as, “Why is my wife always mad at me?” Here’s a sampling:

Bob, age 46, married, two children says:

“I feel I can’t do anything right. No matter what I try and do to please my wife, she’s always got some complaint. I feel like I’m a pretty good guy, husband, and father. But my wife just treats me like a hapless child. I’m sick and tired of being blamed for everything.”

Roger, age 53, married for the third time, three grown children says:

“My wife is downright violent. She’s hit me, bitten me, destroyed things I love in a fit of rage. She’s even threatened to kill me. She appears sweet an innocent when she’s with friends, but behind closed doors, she’s abusive. I’ll be honest, I’m ashamed to tell people how bad it is. It makes me feel even less manly. I’m feeling hopeless and alone.”

George, age 28, two young children:

“I love my wife. I really do, but her words cut me to the core. I know she grew up in a home with an abusive father and she takes her anger out on me and the kids. I do my best to keep her calm and stand up for the kids, but at times her anger triggers my own and I’m afraid I’m going to blow it. When do I stopped being blamed for her past wounds?”

What is going on with women? Why are so many of them angry at the men in their lives? First, I want to acknowledge as I did in my articles on angry men, that in the world of couples there is no way to understand the anger of one member without also understanding what the other partner is doing.

In my own marriage, I found out that I was becoming increasingly irritable and angry. But my anger didn’t arise in isolation. It was usually triggered by something my wife said or did. I began to recognize one of many “anger cycles.” I would get angry and my wife would withdraw. But when she would withdraw, I would feel isolated and lonely, which would make me more depressed, which would cause me to become more irritable and angry.

So, the cycle of anger-withdrawal-anger-withdrawal, would go on and on. From my point of view my anger was caused because my wife withdrew her love and affection. From her point of view her withdrawal of love and affection was a natural consequence of my anger. “What do you expect,” she would tell me. “When you get that beady-eyed look, cut me off, or yell at me, of course I’m going to withdraw. I’m like a tender clam who closes her shell to protect herself.”

From my point of view, she was the instigator and I was reacting to her. “What do you expect,” I would tell her. “When you withdraw your love and affection, of course I get angry. I’m like a wounded sea-gull, longing for love. I squawk, fly off the handle, and flap my wings in reaction.”

We can head off a lot of angry fights we have if we could recognize that we each trigger reactions in the other. Rather than looking for who is right (God, I have a hard time with this one. How can I not react when I know she’s wrong?) we need to ask how can we break the cycle of “I’m right, no, I’mright,” and look for common ground. One of the things I ask my clients (and try and ask myself) is this: Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy? It isn’t easy giving up our need to be right, but its necessary if we want to have real, lasting love with a partner we can trust.

After I wrote the book, The Irritable Male Syndrome, I began to get letters from men and women asking if there was an Irritable Female SyndromeI said there was and that the same four things that cause IMS in males can cause women to become irritable, angry, and depressed:

  1. Hormonal fluctuations.

In the The Irritable Male Syndrome, I reported our research that showed that decreased testosterone levels can cause irritability in men. In women, the reverse is true. Higher levels of testosterone contribute to women’s anger and irritability. As we age our hormone levels change.

Hormone levels decrease as we age, but for women their estrogen levels drop more precipitously than their testosterone levels. I’ve said that women get more “testy” as they age. Men are the opposite. Our testosterone drops more than our estrogen. Men get more “esty” and become softer (literally) and gentler.

  1. Changes in brain chemistry.

Most people have heard of the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin.  When we have enough flowing through our brains, we feel good.  When there isn’t enough, we feel bad.  What most people don’t know is that our serotonin levels are influenced by what we eat.

Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can cause serotonin levels to drop. People that go on low carb diets and reduce or eliminate things like rice, corn, squash, wheat, etc. can become more irritable and angry. Many women, trying to lose weight, end up becoming pissed off, without knowing why.

  1. Increasing stress.

It’s no secret that stress levels are going through the roof.  Our economic system seems on the brink of collapse.  We worry about whether we will have a job tomorrow and how we can support our family while prices on everything continue to rise.  World population has reached 7.4 billion.

According to the UN population division 216,000 children are born each day.  They won’t all come to our town, but we all feel the pressure and our stress increases, along with our irritability and anger.

  1. Role confusion and overload.

In the past, women’s role was to take care of the home and children, while men were required to be breadwinners. Now we’ve expanded our roles, particularly for women. Now women are often trying to juggle multiple roles, which can leave them feeling inadequate, frustrated, depressed, and, yes, testy.

There is one cause for women’s and men’s anger that has been hidden from sight. It took me years to recognize it in my own life. It results from growing up with a father who was absent physically or emotionally. In my new book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father WoundI describe my own healing journey and help others who are ready to address their own father wound. If you’d like a pre-publication copy of one of the chapters, drop me an email to and put “father wound” in the subject line.


This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

Photo by Morgan Basham on Unsplash

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