Q . My husband and I argue frequently. But lately he’s begun to shove me. He claims it’s just in the heat of the moment. While I’m certain I’m being overly sensitive to my husband’s anger, I’m not sure his physical actions are okay. Am I overreacting?
A. While you may be oversensitive to aspects of your husband’s anger, you aren’t overreacting to his shoving you. There’s never, ever, under any circumstance, due to any real or perceived provocation or slight, any reason for a man or woman to push or shove each other. That’s a line that cannot be crossed.
In your situation, we’d encourage you not to wait until more shoving, pushing, grabbing, hitting, or any other behavior that exerts abusive control occurs, but to let your husband know his behavior’s unhealthy, unacceptable, and will no longer be tolerated. You need to set unequivocally clear boundaries.
Let him know that if he pushes you again, you’ll ask him to leave the room and/or leave the house for a short time-out. If he refuses to do that, then you should leave. Leaving provides time for the angry spouse to calm down and focus on healthier ways to communicate his concerns.
If this doesn’t help, then you may need to take stronger steps by involving your pastor, a licensed Christian counselor, and, if it continues, the police. Being proactive in setting clear boundaries now can help prevent escalation.
But dealing only with the shoving is like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. You and your husband are at a relational crossroads. You can either continue to do more of what obviously doesn’t work or you can choose to see this as a valuable opportunity, reach out for help, and cultivate healthier ways with which to express your anger.
The process of becoming one in Christ involves learning how to understand our differences and deal with conflict in ways that heal rather than hurt. This is an opportunity for you to learn how to apply the principles of 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.“
Also apply Colossians 3:13-15, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” to the day-in and day-out issues in your marriage.
We encourage you and your husband to read those two passages at least once a day. As you read them, ask yourself, What is one way I can apply this to my life today? We’d also encourage you to contact a licensed Christian marriage and family counselor who can help you find practical ways to chart a new course for your marriage.
HE SEEMS TO HATE ME
– Couple Counsel – by Gary and Carrie Oliver
Q. How much verbal abuse is a woman supposed to take from her husband? We have been married for ten years, and even before the marriage my friends and family would tell me about the horrible way he spoke to me, but I was deaf to it. Now I am getting more and more depressed. I confront him with it and he says he doesn’t know what I am talking about.
He’ll be okay for awhile and then goes right back to his sarcastic, hurtful ways. He claims to love me while acting like he hates me. He always wants to be with me and is always home. I don’t want a divorce, but I don’t want to take the abuse any more either. What should I do?
A. The old saying “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” just isn’t true. We’ve worked with many people whose broken bones have healed but whose broken hearts and spirits are still hurting from wounds inflicted many years earlier. Verbal abuse cannot be tolerated and is never something to be accepted. If it isn’t dealt with, it will only get worse and may lead to physical abuse.
An important first step is to get clear about what behavior is healthy and unhealthy, what is appropriate and inappropriate, what is acceptable and unacceptable. If you’ve lived with this for ten years, you’ve probably become desensitized to what healthy and appropriate look like. Dr. Grace Ketterman’s book, Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound (Servant), will help clarify what healthy looks like and give you practical suggestions for new ways to respond.
The next step is for you to state to your husband what you will and will not tolerate and then have a specific plan as to how you will respond the next time your boundaries are crossed. If he calls you names, leave the room or leave the house. Set specific boundaries for what you will tolerate and how you will respond to him. Retreating in silence, crying, yelling back, or threatening aren’t healthy responses and won’t produce positive results. Actually, nothing will guarantee positive results from your husband. However, there are things that you can do to protect yourself and increase the probability of change in your marriage.
In our early years of marriage we can give into unhealthy patterns that become unrecognizable to us. Over time they appear to be “normal.” We may not understand that we can do things differently and sometimes get better results.
As the wife, know that you can learn new ways to respond to your husband. If he puts you down, you can refuse to allow that to be truth for you. Many women don’t understand that there is a place for healthy anger in a marriage relationship. Consider telling him that you both need counseling to get through this hindrance to your marriage’s growth. Let him know you are willing to take responsibility for whatever you bring to the relationship that is not helping it become all it could be.
If he isn’t willing to go, there’s no reason why you can’t. Finally, find some support from other women. God didn’t design us to walk through life alone. Reach out and find some women who will pray with you and for you. Regardless of what he chooses to do, you can grow, learn, deepen, mature, and become more of who God designed you to be. Remember that all of his promises still apply to you.
The articles featured above came from past issues of Marriage Partnership Magazine.
— ALSO —
The following web site link takes you to an article written by Sheila Wray Gregoire, featured on her web site Tolovehonorandvacuum.com, which you may find informational and enlightening as you read it (along with the comments below the article):