Break cycles of arguments, put downs, withdrawal and pursuit.

Anger FAQ's

What is the difference between ANGER & AGGRESSION?

Anger is a feeling while aggression is a behavior. Anger is a normal feeling simply like joy or disappointment. We don't choose our feelings. They are hardwired into a person as a signal that something changed in one's life. Usually, a nger just means that you have found something worth fighting for. Everybody feels angry once in a while. However, numerous individuals deny that they ever feel angry. For others, they have a tendency to wind up being angry because they struggle to connect with the different emotions that they are experiencing. Anger can motivate change and lead us to making necessary change in your life or the world. Anger also discharges endorphins, which are very powerful chemicals inside the body. This rush of energy can help individuals take actions and suppress feelings sad or hurt. Nonetheless, covering these very basic and fundamental feelings with anger is not a healthy long-term coping strategy. By sitting with the softer feelings under the anger can actually release the anger. Aggression, on the other hand, is a behavior and a decision. Just because you feel angry and furious does not give you the right to treat others poorly. Aggression often has the following results:

  • it creates space and results in a partner backing away and becoming distant.
  • it leads the non-hostile partner to do something whether he or she may not feel comfortable with; thus, having one's needs trampled on.
  • it may result in a forceful response that then escalates the aggression.
The key to managing anger is to pause when feeling anger so the partner can consider:
  • what the underlying feelings are
  • to figure out what he/she is really fighting for
  • to consider if there's a better way forward than aggression.
Taking the "pause" is often the hardest step. I provide couples with concrete tools to work on this together.

How can we turn our FIGHTS into INTIMACY?

A conflict/fight pattern of pursuing and withdrawing is inevitable in a couple's life, but partners can develop skills to reduce frequency, duration, and damage, and even transform them into connection. In couple therapy, I model different ways of speaking to your partner, translating your fighting or withdrawing into intimate conversations. STUCK IN THE FIGHT: Couples typically come to a therapy session either:

  • fighting (quietly or loudly) or
  • withdrawing (not talking about what mainly concerns them).
One way I disrupt the conflict is to move next to one of you and speak as if I were you talking to the other. If you are:
  • fighting, I try to convert your angry and defensive comments into confiding ones.
  • withdrawing—(not talking about your feelings)—I guess about what these feelings might be and ask if my guess is correct.
​The result is often that the fight or withdrawal turns into an intimate conversations. The very thing that was hurting your relationship now helps to deepen it. WHY WE FALL INTO THE PATTERN: Fighting is a stuck pattern in which both of you feel:
  • too unheard to listen,
  • too misunderstood to be understanding, and
  • too hurt by what the other just said to do anything other than hurt back.
Withdrawing is a painful relationship position in which partners don’t talk about what most concerns them and may not talk much at all. Intimacy, the alternative to fighting and withdrawing, occurs when partners reach out to each other with what they need in a loving way that makes their partner their teammate, not the enemy. You strive to be closer rather than acting angry, defensive, or distant. To achieve this level of intimacy, you have to learn how to have a "recovery conversation" in which you:
  • share feelings,
  • acknowledge mistakes,
  • reach out to the other with comfort, forgiveness and acceptance, and
  • look at the situation from the other’s point of view.
In these recovery conversations, you learn to first take care of the relationships, putting it at a higher plane (meta-level) than the fight of the moment. By being able to jump to this meta-level, you are able to recognize when you slip into a fight and return to what is most important. In summary, in my work with you, I will:
  • help you transform fighting and withdrawing into recovery conversations
  • show you how to put the relationship ahead of the current issue, and
  • enable you to transform problems into intimate connection.
FOOTNOTE: This approach is based on Emotional Focused Therapy. See Sue Johnson's book, "Hold Me Tight".

Anger Management for Couples



Intimate relationships can be a fertile ground for dysfunctional anger. Love relationships often create unrealistic expectations for how our partner or spouse should make us feel, on one hand, and what kinds of behaviors will be tolerated or forgiven, on the other.

Dysfunctional patterns of anger from earlier relationships or one's family of origin may get automatically repeated. External sources of stress, psychological issues, or dysfunctional habits can result in anger that deeply damages an intimate relationship.

Sometimes anger gets so out of control that regular counseling cannot take place and we have to focus exclusively on Couples Anger Management therapy.


The first step in anger management is admitting that it has gotten out of control and is having a negative impact on your life. It also requires a willingness to change your old, destructive way of responding to situations, and a commitment to responding in more positive, life-enhancing ways. You may never be able to completely rid yourself of the things or people that enrage you, but you can learn to control your reactions.




Couple treatment for problematic anger involves:


  • Developing a better understanding of what anger really is and how it developed in your life and in your relationship.


  • Understanding the symptoms of anger in your relationship and breaking down the symptoms into physical signs (fast heartbeat, sweaty palms…), mental signs (confusion, concentration problems…), and behavioral signs (pacing, swearing…).


  • Identify where in your body you are experiencing the anger (burning in the chest, knot in the stomach…).


  • Developing a rating scale that you can use in real time when angry. This helps you keep perspective on what is happening to you.


  • Learn a set of anger management tools (how to walk away, breathing techniques, distraction strategies, identifying primary emotions, exercise…).


  • Keeping an anger diary.


  • Creating and committing to an anger management plan for you as a couple.

Once the anger is brought under control, we can address the emotions that underlie anger, such as fear, betrayal, abandonment and hurt. You will feel tremendous relief and a sense of accomplishment once you gain positive control over your anger. I would love to help you achieve this.



Books: The Anger Control Workbook, The Anger Workbook (Christian approach), and The Dance of Anger


Here are some simple steps to take:

  • Talk to your partner about your desire to improve your relationship and to meet his or her needs,

  • Take the Anger Questionnaire, and 

  • Fill out the form below to set up a Consult Call with me.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Book- Anger Workbook Les Carter.jpg
Change begins by taking the first step.
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Dr. Harry Motro is part of the Couples Recovery Center which provides specialized couples counseling and includes the following professionals:


If you are interested in joining our team, apply here.

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline at 1.800.273.8255.  If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.  Dr. Motro does not offer crisis counseling or emergency services.


Dr. Harry Motro, Marriage Counselor, is an employee of Harry Motro, Psy.D., Marriage and Family Therapist, P.C., (a Professional Corporation), which does business as the Couples Recovery Center. Dr. Motro practices at 3880 South Bascom Drive, Suite 216, San Jose, CA,95124, is Licensed as a Marriage Family Therapist MFC 53452 and authorized to act as a Psychotherapist providing Psychotherapy. He specializes in Couples Counseling. In addition to dealing with couples and relationship issues, Dr. Motro is trained to treat anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, bi-polar, ADHD, Asperger's, sex difficulties, anger regulation issues, affair fallout, divorce recovery, self-esteem, addiction, co-dependency, trauma, abuse, eating disorders, and managing grief and loss. These issues often arise in couples counseling and will be dealt with as part of your therapy. If you search for counseling San Jose, marriage counselor San Jose, couples counselor San Jose, psychotherapy San Jose, psychotherapist San Jose, therapist San Jose, counselor San Jose, couples therapist San Jose, couples counselor San Jose, marriage therapy San Jose, life coach San Jose, career coach San Jose, executive coach San Jose, you can find Dr. Harry Motro's web site. In addition to serving San Jose, Harry serves clients in Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Willow Glen, Milpitas, Mountain View, Monte Sereno, Cupertino, Scotts Valley, Felton, Sunnyvale, Morgan Hill, Fremont, Los Altos, and Gilroy, California. Dr. Motro also provides  Mountain Bike Therapy. The recommendations on this website do not constitute professional advice, substitute for professional treatment, or establish a therapeutic relationship.

Harry Motro, Psy.D., Marriage and Family Therapist, P.C.,,, 408 823 2822.

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