What to Do if Your Partner Yells at You When You Disagree

What lies behind the kinds of people who are unable to air their differences without yelling? What can you do if the person using such aggressive forms of communication is your partner? Here's some advice.
What to Do if Your Partner Yells at You When You Disagree
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 29 October, 2022

They say that the animal that screams the loudest is the black howler monkey. Its cry can travel over five km through the dense South American jungle. However, when it howls, it’s for several reasons. The first is to protect its territory. The second is to alert its group to any possible risks and threats. Everything has a purpose in the animal world.

However, when it comes to human beings, the same doesn’t happen. So why do we yell at others? In general, the shout is an expressive function with which we convey surprise, fear, anger, or indignation. We also use this mechanism to alert others to danger, just as happens in the animal kingdom. Beyond these mechanisms, yelling is out of place.

Nevertheless, some people seem unable to speak without yelling.  When they’re losing an argument, they go on the attack, raising their voice by a thousand decibels. This kind of behavior is harmful to those who are on the receiving end. It destabilizes, hurts, and worries them. In fact, there can be little that’s more negative than having the kinds of caregivers or partners who yell at us.

What can be done in these circumstances? Many will consider that the best strategy is to leave these people as soon as possible. However, it’s often a good idea to take other, less radical strategies into account.

Behind the yelling lies a poorly regulated emotional attack. It always ends up affecting those who least deserve it

scene to symbolize when symbolizing when my partner yells at me
Continuous yelling puts the brain under a high level of stress.

Communication and emotions: the collapsing of the mind

If your partner yells at you when you disagree, you probably think their behavior isn’t normal. This is understandable as nobody likes to be yelled at. Indeed, we’ve all internalized these ideas since childhood. Therefore, when the volume of whoever’s speaking to you rises, you experience stress, fear, or anger. But is it really unusual that during disagreements we often raise our voices?

In a relationship, it’s not uncommon to raise your voice in the middle of an argument as your emotions become more intense. As would only be expected, you don’t address your loved one in the same way when you’re calm as when you’re frustrated with them. As a matter of fact, yelling is a form of emotional catharsis, and sometimes it’s difficult to regulate it.

Research conducted by the University of Zurich (Switzerland) states that there are at least six types of screams in humans and they’re all mediated by our emotional charges. Therefore, yelling is classed as ‘normal’ behavior. There are times when, in a timely manner, our emotions ‘kidnap’ us, and the most reflective area of our brain turns off momentarily.

A problem arises when we share our lives with those who use yelling as their form of communication. In these cases, a form of abuse is evident that should be addressed and stopped.

Behind those who use yelling as a vioent form of communication, there may be different factors, from educational reasons to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Why does your partner yell at you when you disagree?

“Could you talk to me without yelling?” is a phrase often heard. However, the perpetrators usually avoid answering. In fact, instead of taking responsibility for their behavior, they attribute the responsibility for what happened to the other person. That’s because those who use yelling as a form of communication don’t always see a problem with it.

The reason for not wanting to be aware of this destructive dynamic in a relationship can be due to several factors. For example:

  • Having grown up in a family that also resorted to constant yelling.
  • Having had violent parents. This increases hypervigilance and the risk of ‘exploding’ at any moment. It’s due to their latent and unaddressed trauma. In fact, sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder are far more likely to react in ways in which reflexive or rational filtering is completely overlooked.
  • Low resistance to frustration and intolerance to being contradicted. They see discrepancy as a form of threat and react with violence. This is highly problematic.
  • Emotional mismanagement. This is present in multiple mental problems, such as borderline personality disorder.
  • Sometimes, people with an extremely low level of empathy are used to taking their anger out on others. Their yelling becomes a resource with which they invalidate and impose their power on the other person.

Constant yelling when comminicating exposes the brain to a highly stressful stimulus. It’s necessary to seek self-regulation strategies so that these situations are no longer a constant.

Couple arguing loudly
There are couples who yell at each other, causing really self-destructive situations.

What can you do if your partner yells too much?

If your partner yells at you when you disagree and this practice is a constant, your relationship is in crisis. After all, no one can live with or tolerate so much stress, exhaustion, and emotional aggression. Constantly raising their voice to you is a form of psychological aggression and, therefore, something that you mustn’t tolerate from them.

However, does this mean that you should distance yourself and immediately break up? Not necessarily. If your partner ordinarily behaves well and only loses their temper during disagreements, it’s worth addressing the problem. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Yelling doesn’t communicate

The moment your partner raises their voice in the middle of a disagreement, refuse to continue. Make them see that this dynamic is neither valid nor permissible. The last thing you should do is imitate them and shout louder. Avoid that situation at all costs. In fact, use silence when their tone is aggressive and disproportionately loud.

2. Ask them why they yell

“Did they yell at you when you were little?” “Why do you need to raise your voice when you’re communicating?” “How do you feel when we disagree?” “Do you see the differences between us as a form of threat?” Ask them these questions to find out the reason why they need to resort to yelling at you. Try to make them carry out an exercise in self-awareness.

3. Ask for changes in the way they communicate and encourage their empathy

No one deserves to live in a relationship where yelling is a constant. Occasional raised voices during a disagreement are normal but if it recurs frequently, you must demand change.

Explain to your partner how you feel when they yell at you, and try and get them to empathize with you. Make it clear that you can’t continue in this way and that they have to start communicating in a better way.

If they get overwhelmed in these kinds of situations and don’t know how to handle their emotions, encourage them to go to therapy.

4. If you don’t see changes, be decisive

If your partner yells at you and doesn’t respond to your requests for change, or empathize with how you feel, you’ll have to come to a decision. Understandably, it’ll be difficult for them to leave behind the form of communication they were brought up with. However, sooner or later, they must realize the harmful effects of this habit.

If they don’t want to do anything about managing their harmful behavior, you need to think about what you want in your life. Avoid reinforcing the kind of magical thinking that suggests that their behavior will change. If you don’t do it now, you never will.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

    • Amaladas, S. (2022). Facilitating listening for understanding through the use of stories. Journal of Leadership Studies, 15(4), 46–51. https://doi.org/10.1002/jls.21795
    • Holz, N., Larrouy-Maestri, P., & Poeppel, D. (2022). The variably intense vocalizations of affect and emotion (VIVAE) corpus prompts new perspective on nonspeech perception. Emotion, 22(1), 213–225. doi: 10.1002/jls.21795
    • Holz, N., Larrouy-Maestri, P., & Poeppel, D. (2021). The paradoxical role of emotional intensity in the perception of vocal affect. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 9663. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88431-0
    • Frühholz S, Dietziker J, Staib M, Trost W. Neurocognitive processing efficiency for discriminating human non-alarm rather than alarm scream calls. PLoS Biol. 2021 Apr 13;19(4):e3000751. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000751. PMID: 33848299; PMCID: PMC8043411.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.