Why Your Tears Might Make Your Partner Angry (2024)

Why Your Tears Might Make Your Partner Angry (1)

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There’s nothing like needing a good cry and finding solace in the arms of someone close to you—a friend, a parent, a sibling. Something about feeling connected to another human being in our suffering makes us feel less alone and gives us hope that perhaps everything is going to be okay.

There’s also nothing like crying in front of your partner and watching them completely unravel at the first sight of your tears, their anger and frustration on full display. “Oh, great, here we go again,” they say, as they throw their hands up in the air. “You’re crying? What’s wrong with you?” Or better yet, hearing them say, “You’re too sensitive! You need medication or something!”

It's a puzzling and often hurtful experience that can leave you wondering why your tears evoke such a strong negative response such as anger. The truth is, there’s no one reason; there are various underlying reasons why someone might get angry when faced with your emotions.

They’re terrified of their own emotions. For some, seeing you break down in tears can trigger all kinds of discomfort. They might be overwhelmed because they’ve never been taught or given permission to accept and process their own feelings; they have no frame of reference. This is especially true for individuals raised in environments in which emotional expression, especially tears, was discouraged or viewed as a sign of weakness. As a result, they may react with anger when faced with your tears because it challenges their ingrained beliefs about emotional expression.

They feel manipulated. Another common reason why someone might react in anger may be rooted in their past experiences. For them, seeing you cry might trigger memories of situations where tears were used to sway their opinion, or gain an upper hand in arguments. As a result, they might automatically assume that your tears are an attempt to manipulate or control the current situation, even if that's not your intention at all.

They can’t fix it. Their reaction may be coming from a place of caring mixed with frustration, especially if they were raised to believe their role in a relationship is to be a “fixer." They may happily change your flat tire or get the groceries out of the car, but somehow, your emotions take them down. When faced with your distress, it’s likely they genuinely want to make things better for you, but when they realize they can’t “fix” your emotions, it hits them hard. Their anger is a way of expressing the powerlessness they feel in the moment; it’s more about their own struggle with not being able to help rather than being angry at you for crying. It's a complicated mix of emotions in which their love and concern might not come across the way they intend.

This pattern inevitably hurts your relationship because you feel less and less comfortable being open and vulnerable, both of which are crucial for trust and intimacy. Not feeling able to cry or express emotions creates a barrier that prevents deep, emotional connection, leaving you feeling alone in times when comfort is what you most need. This can lead to a persistent feeling that something is missing in your relationship.

The emotions you don’t feel comfortable sharing then become the source of internal turmoil. You might begin to second guess yourself and feel guilty for having emotions in the first place, constantly shutting them down because you think they cause trouble and/or burden your partner. Hiding what you feel to avoid conflict or discomfort creates a cycle in which you deny yourself the right to be honest, a pattern that can erode your confidence in a relationship. Over time, you may end up deeply resenting your partner, which will manifest as ongoing conflict, and/or you will seek solace or understanding from other people who are more supportive.

Lastly, this kind of pattern may also impact the children in your household. Children watch how adults navigate emotional situations and conflict, and if they always witness anger or rejection in response to your emotional vulnerability, they may internalize these responses as normal/acceptable behavior, impacting their adult relationships later in life. Modeling healthy emotional expression and empathy in relationships sends children a message that it’s okay to be upset and cry, and what’s more, that it’s important to support someone when they’re upset.

THE BASICS

  • How Can I Manage My Anger?
  • Take our Anger Management Test
  • Find a therapist to heal from anger

What you can do

Give yourself permission. You can’t expect someone to give you what you don’t give yourself. If you have doubts about your emotions, cast them aside. You’re a whole human, and all of us experience the full range of emotions throughout our lives. At all times, give yourself permission to feel whatever you need to feel: anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration, fear, all of it.

Set the tone. If you’re upset about something unrelated to your relationship, be clear about what you’re needing from them in that moment. “I’m feeling really sad, but I don’t need you to fix it, and you don’t even need to say anything. I just need you to be here with me and let me have a good cry.” You’re letting them know they can still be useful and supportive without having to do anything concrete.

Anger Essential Reads

The Best Ways to Manage Anger

Mastering Irrational Anger—Yours and Others'

You can also set the tone if the matter at hand has to do with your relationship. Rather than say, “You made me feel this way,” try saying, “I’m upset about something that happened.” Using words like “You made me…” may be triggering for someone and may automatically put them on the defensive, which rarely ends well. Accusing someone of making you feel a certain kind of way is not entirely accurate because nobody makes you feel anything; you feel things all by yourself.

Be persistent. If the only thing that happens when you get upset is that your partner gets flustered and angry, do it anyway. Suppressing your feelings to keep someone else comfortable creates a cycle with consequences not just for you but for everyone in your home. Remind yourself that other people’s emotions and reactions are not your responsibility; managing their emotions is exhausting and will derail your own growth. If you have children in the home, continually encourage them to identify and express their emotions, regardless of your partner’s discomfort.

Trust the process. You might switch your approach and feel frustrated because nothing seems to work, but don’t give up. Their discomfort is their deliverance, and trust that whatever distress is triggered within your partner is an open door to growth through which they may eventually enter, and perhaps you will be there to greet them.

Why Your Tears Might Make Your Partner Angry (2024)

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