My young neighbors were having an argument on their back porch yesterday afternoon. I was sitting on my porch, enjoying the afternoon when I began to be aware of the angry voice. The angry voice was the husband’s; the wife was speaking softly but intensely. He was dominating the argument, as he dominates all conversation with everyone, telling her that she was “fucking wrong and stupid,” and that none of this was his fault. Finally I heard the intentional slamming of the back door as first she walked out on the argument, and again when he followed her, still continuing his harrangue.
Anger. It makes me anxious.
My ex-husband was an angry person, but it wasn’t until after we were married that the full effect of his anger manifested. Hideous, angry tirades that would go on for hours would occur when he drank too much. Shoving and grabbing happened less often, but was forceful enough to leave bruises. I hated the yelling and the emotional attacks the most.
The effect of domestic arguments on women’s health has been well-documented. Levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are released in higher concentrations of women than in men during marital arguments, one of many factors in metabolic syndrome. Marital discord also results in poor outcomes in women with coronary heart disease. In general, women tend to fare much worse than men when interpersonal relationships are in discord.
So when exposed to the arguments of others, a certain degree of post-traumatic stress reaction happens to me. My brain immediately recalls the destructive anger of my marriage and the aftermath of the divorce proceedings, which in some ways was even more harrowing than the marriage itself. I was stalked, had my home broken into twice and vandalized, my life was threatened – all in spite of a restraining order – which caused me to fear for my life daily. This went on until he was finally jailed and put on probation for violating the order to stay away from me.
My domestic life is now quite harmonious. Due to each of our previously disastrous marriages, Ken and I do not intentionally react angrily to each other. Disagreements are handled in a kinder, gentler fashion and stress rarely enters our communications. Voices are never raised and doors are never slammed for effect. My life is now exactly the way I need for it to be. I can no longer tolerate angry outbursts because I’m emotionally spent from them. When I hear my even normally loud neighbor raise his voice to his wife, it makes me feel physically ill. I relive it. I live what she’s living.
It’s beyond disturbing to me.