“My wife is always upset about something. It might be that I left my socks on the floor, for example. This morning it was that I forgot to pick up avocados when I did the grocery shopping. Last night it was because I didn’t say whatever it was that she wanted me to say to our son when he wasn’t behaving. It’s always something. I know I’m not perfect; I make lots of mistakes. But it seems that EVERYTHING I do is wrong, and she’s never happy with me. So honestly, I just try to avoid her as much as possible.”

My wife is always upset about something

Dini isn’t wrong in her complaints. It’s just that she has too many of them. In fact, she’s always mad about something. Her husband does mess up a lot. He either completely ignores their children’s inappropriate or dangerous behaviors, or he corrects them in a fit of rage. He has a poor memory, and he doesn’t listen well in the first place. It’s possible that he has some undiagnosed attention deficit issue, but Dini takes his behavior personally.

“He doesn’t even try. I have to say everything a hundred times, and then he still gets it wrong! Yes, it’s infuriating and yes, I’m annoyed at him a lot of the time. It isn’t fair; I can’t do everything myself. We’re both working, and we have two kids. He needs to grow up and step up to the plate!”

It’s all true. Dini can’t carry so much on her shoulders. She needs a partner. And yes, it’s stressful and exhausting to have to ask her husband over and over again to do something that he should probably be figuring out for himself in the first place. No woman wants her husband to be just one more child in the family (although so many women seem to feel this way). But no matter what, the marriage is simply not going to work as long as Dini is always in a funk. No one wants to be criticized or snarled at all the time. It’s no wonder that Dini’s husband avoids being around her.

Chronic Negativity

What makes Dini, and others like her, so mad? Sometimes, people who are chronically angry are the children of angry parents. As children, they experienced an angry way of being and learned to behave that way themselves. If they thought about it, they would realize that this isn’t the kind of “gift” they would want to pass on to their own children. Other times, people have inherited a streak of negativity—a touch of depression or anger that is embedded in their genes. This tendency may intensify under internal or external stress (health conditions, hormones, money problems, marriage problems, etc.), but it is always running in the background, even when conditions are more favorable. Sometimes, chronic anger is a reaction to keen disappointment or hurt. People who have experienced betrayal and other forms of intimate wounding may react by shutting down, blowing up, or simply by maintaining a low simmer of bitter resentment.

However someone acquires an angry attitude, it must be healed if one is to enjoy a healthy family life. Children of chronically miserable parents are at risk for acquiring the trait of negativity themselves, and are also more likely to experience a rupture in the parent-child bond. Spouses are at risk for pulling back, or pulling out of the marriage entirely. Continual rejection doesn’t nurture the bonds of love in any kind of relationship. While sporadic expressions of anger can be tolerated in family life, regular bouts of anger wreak havoc with individual family members, as well as with family members’ interpersonal bonds.

Overcoming “Always Mad”

A “bad eye”—an attitude of negativity—does not heal on its own. However, there are many, many roads to creating positive change. Recognizing one’s anger and the need to address it is the first and most important step. From there, one can undertake a study of the many sources of wisdom and healing available to us today.

An attitude of negativity does not heal on its own

There are numerous Jewish writers today who share Torah-true strategies for reframing our experiences and bringing a perspective of faith to the faulty thinking that triggers anger. For instance, as soon as we recognize that G‑d sends us difficult people and circumstances in order to provoke a positive, spiritual change in us, we are on the road to healing ourselves from anger.

Until we learn how to accept imperfection in people (and family members in particular), we will suffer from the negative effects of anger (stress, unhappiness, illness and impaired relationships). When we learn how to be compassionate and forgiving, our own bodies and minds begin to thrive, and, of course, our relationships improve.

We need to begin to judge others positively, and even more importantly, we need to be able to see ourselves in them. We all make the same kinds of errors, because we are all human. We need to look for these similarities, and, once we find them, let ourselves—and others—gently off the hook.

At other times, the lesson we need to learn is not about acceptance, but rather about personal boundaries. When our anger comes from a sense of helplessness, we may need to learn effective and respectful communication tools, or we may need to learn how to ask for outside help. Personal or relationship therapy is often helpful.

If our anger is the result of childhood issues, then we need to heal it at its roots. There may be interventions that can address the physical underpinnings of anger: medicines, lifestyle changes, alternative healing strategies and more. However, no matter what we choose to do in order to address our anger, it cannot include waiting for the world around us to improve.

Whether others change or not, we have to help ourselves find ways to feel calmer and happier in the imperfect world in which we live. When we do this, we can hope to increase peace within ourselves and within our most important relationships.