“You used to be MADLY IN LOVE, but now you’re JUST MAD!” (Gary and Carrie Oliver) Does that describe you, in how you relate to your spouse? Do you find that before you got married, you used to see so many things that you loved about him or her? But now you can barely see beyond all the things that irritate you. Instead of a loving relationship you are now living in an angry marriage. How can you balance being good and angry?
Steve and I have been in that place in our marriage many times. After the “newness” of the relationship wears off, and you live together day in and day out, you start to “see” things in a whole different way. Differing habits and ways of approaching life, become glaringly noticeable. You feel they HAVE to be addressed in order for you to live in any sort of peaceful existence together. But the problem is HOW you “address” the issues that are bothering you! THAT’S where most couples get into trouble. WE certainly have many times! But can you be “good” and “angry?” We think so.
Dealing with Angry Marriage Issues
We’d like to share a few things we’ve learned along the way in our marriage that you may find helpful. To some of you this list will just be a friendly reminder. To others, there are things you might not have considered before:
1. Be RESPECTFUL in how you deal with everyone —ESPECIALLY YOUR SPOUSE!
And the reason is NOT necessarily because he or she deserves it. It is because God’s word tells us to do so. Just read Ephesians 5 and you will see what I mean. I (Cindy) have to admit that for a while in our marriage, I neglected to do that. I listened to the reasoning of the world to treat someone with respect when I felt they acted worthy of my respect. But that’s false information.
I am to treat my husband with respect “as unto the Lord” —not as unto his behavior. He is created in the image of God (even if he doesn’t act like it). And I am to be mindful of that. No matter how he treats me (or how your husband or wife treats you) that doesn’t mean that your or my words or actions have to be demeaning. I can still communicate, without getting into “unwholesome talk.”
We are to “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” That means we are to say things in a respectful manner. Sometimes I forget that. And when I do, I am not acting like a “child of light” who reflects the character of the Lord Jesus. That is a goal all of us should keep before us.
2. Keep in mind that your spouse is not your enemy.
That may seem like a simplistic statement. But I’ve seen many people TREAT and SPEAK to their spouse like they are the enemy. You may not like what your spouse is doing or saying. But he or she is still not your enemy. Try a little kindness.
The Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 9:17)
“When we are cursed, we bless. When we are persecuted, we endure it. And when we are slandered, we answer kindly.” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13)
3. Don’t call your spouse demeaning names.
The Bible says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) When you call your spouse demeaning names, does that bring healing or do they pierce like a sword? Even if your spouse says words he/she shouldn’t, does that justify your stooping as low?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
By calling your spouse degrading names, will that build him or her up and pave the way to peace and compromise? Or will it stir things up? “Put away perversity from your mouth. Keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” (Proverbs 4:24) Ask the Lord to help you to place a guard over your mouth so that you will not say what you shouldn’t.
4. Don’t be so quick to jump into an argument when you’re angry.
Sometimes we can become too reactionary to something our spouse says or does. And as a result, out of anger, we attack! “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)
There are times when my anger leads me to say things I shouldn’t. I’ve had to learn WHEN to say something and when to “take a break.” Afterward, I revisit the problem after a time away from my husband, so I can cool down first.
I go into another room or take a walk, or whatever, to cool down and ask the Lord to talk to me. I ask the Lord to help me sort out my thoughts so they are healthy, and help me to be wise in my response. It may prolong the conflict when taking a break, but it can also help so your words and emotions don’t escalate into ungodliness.
“Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly. At the end they are wicked madness —and the fool multiplies words.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12-13)
“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
“When words are many, sin is not absent. But he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)
5. Conflict is normal.
When Cindy and I got married, I (Steve) thought that conflict should never happen. Now, (45+ years later) I know that’s virtually an impossibility. Any two people in very close relationship should expect that there WILL BE conflict. And while we don’t set out to irritate or offend, it is just bound to happen.
Accepting conflicts as a fact of life helps us deal with it better. Plus it’s important to remember that conflicts are not destructive in themselves. It’s the way we handle them that determines how destructive they may become. I’ve heard it said that if we handle conflicts well, we tend to draw closer to each other.
6. Be honest with one another.
Ephesians 4:25 says, “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully…” Frankly, this is an area I (Steve) have struggled with because being transparent can be painful at times. Often what it boils down to is that when Cindy and I get into an argument, if I do not intentionally determine to respond from a Biblical point of view, I can find myself easily falling back into a “fleshly” response of condemning or blaming Cindy. I do this, rather than looking at my faults or my sin.
It isn’t easy to accept others’ feelings, especially when they reveal our failures and weaknesses. We may have to continually work at keeping a wall from being built between us which blocks open (and honest) communication.
7. When you encounter conflict, remember, take it to the Lord first.
Even after all these years of marriage and thousands of conflicts you would think we would have this down pat by now. You’d think that when an argument or conflict starts, the very first thing we’d do is go to the Lord in prayer. But there are times when we forget to do this.
Let me (Steve) illustrate this from something that happened to us. Cindy pointed out that I have a tendency to put away dishes that aren’t always the cleanest. Rather than say, “You know honey, you’re right. I’m sorry and I WILL WORK HARDER to be more observant of the dishes before I put them away”, I shot back with my own “barb.” And then we were “off to the races” in fighting with each other. We both then, escalated the argument.
Then the Holy Spirit convicted me. So I took Cindy by the hands, I prayed, and asked God to forgive me. I asked the Lord to help me to be more attentive to these kinds of details. Then Cindy apologized, and we both “lived happily ever after.” Well, not exactly. But it did improve how the rest of the day unfolded.
I hope you understand the point here: Ask the Lord to show you where YOU might be wrong. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A mans wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)
May God bless your marriage as you apply these principles, as God speaks to you,
Steve and Cindy Wright
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