“You used to be MADLY IN LOVE, but now you’re JUST MAD!” (Gary and Carrie Oliver) Does that describe how you relate to your spouse? You used to see so much good in each other; but now you can barely see beyond the things that irritate you? Instead of enjoying a loving relationship, you’re now living in an angry marriage. And that is the last place you want to be!
So, how can you balance the good and the angry parts of your marriage relationship? There’s no doubt that sometimes you will get angry with each other. Stuff happens! Differences rise to the top. But does it have to erase your ability to see the “good” in each other? No; it doesn’t.
Let’s face it; after the wedding and “newness” of the relationship eventually wears off. Differing habits and ways of approaching life, then become glaringly noticeable. That is only natural. You know these issues HAVE to be addressed so you can live peacefully together; but the problem is HOW to address these issues without damaging your relationship. THAT’S where most couples get into trouble. And that’s why they live in an angry marriage.
WE certainly have encountered this …many times! And we still can get there if we aren’t careful.
But can you make a “good” approach even though you’re angry? Yes, you can; we know it’s possible. You just have to know “how to” once you have the “heart to” do it. (Plus, you have to apply it.)
Dealing with Angry Marriage Issues
So, we’ll be sharing a few principles we’ve learned throughout our marriage that have helped us. They have taken us from living in an angry marriage to a loving, healthy one. We pray these principles will help you too (as you apply them).
For some of you this list will supply you with good, friendly reminders. This list will supply you with a time of reinforcement. To others, it will be eye-opening to things you haven’t considered before. But we hope you will prayerfully consider them now.
At the very least, look to see if there is at least one “thanks Lord, I needed that” tip amongst these. And then follow through and apply what you learn. Gaining wisdom does not do us any good unless we apply it.
So, here goes; how can you work through angry marriage issues in a “good” way?
1. Be RESPECTFUL in how you deal with each other.
First off—the reason you do this is NOT necessarily because he or she deserves it. It is because God’s word tells us to do so. Read Ephesians 5 to see what God says about this matter.
I (Cindy) regretfully confess that for a long while in our marriage, I didn’t do that. I applied the faulty reasoning of treating my husband with respect when I felt his actions were worthy of my respect. If they weren’t, I viewed treated him with disrespect. He had to earn my respect. But that’s not what we’re told in the Bible.
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 our words or actions have to also be demeaning. We can be stern; and yet we can still be respectful. We don’t have to dole out or return “unwholesome talk.” (See: Ephesians 4:29.)
We are to “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” That means we are to say things in respectful manners. We don’t excuse or ignore their disrespectful behavior; but we don’t have to return it. Sometimes I/we can forget that. And when we do, we’re not acting like a “child of light” who reflects the character of Jesus; we’re instead imitating and entertaining the enemy of our faith. And who wants to do that?
2. Remember: your spouse is not your enemy.
That may seem like a simplistic statement. But we’ve seen many people TREAT and SPEAK to their spouses like they are the enemy. And this is NOT good. No wonder they’re living in an angry marriage! This type of behavior breeds and grows anger.
You may not like what your spouse is doing or saying. But he or she is still not your enemy. Please keep that in perspective. When you want to blast, instead, it may help to try a little kindness. We know that’s difficult to consider; but it can sometimes bring better results in an angry marriage situation. We know that from personal experience.
Remember what we’re told; 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)
God’s “ways” may not be our ways of approaching matters, but they are wise. Again, your spouse is not your enemy; don’t treat him/her as such. This could very well turn your relationship around in a positive direction. And if it doesn’t, you are still honoring God.
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 your words pierce like a sword? You may want your words to pierce like a sword; but is that what God would have you do? Even if your spouse says words he/she shouldn’t, does that justify your stooping as low? We’re told:
“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)
“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. And then do what He says when He prompts you to stop. That’s the harder part in all of this.
4. Don’t be quick to jump into an argument when you’re angry.
Sometimes we can become too reactionary to something our spouse says or does. And then, out of anger, we attack! Remember: “A fool gives full vent to his anger; but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)
Cindy: Sometimes I allow anger to lead me to say things I shouldn’t. And that does not go in a good direction. So, I’ve had to learn IF and WHEN to say something. Also, I’ve had to learn when to “take a break.” Afterward, I can revisit the problem after a time away from my husband. That gives me the opportunity to cool down first.
I go into another room, take a walk, or whatever to cool down. During that time I ask the Lord to help me sort out my thoughts so they are healthy. I need and want to be wise in my responses. It may prolong the conflict when taking a break; but it’s for a good reason. It gives us time to line up our words and emotions they 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. Be aware that conflict is normal.
When Cindy and I got married, I (Steve) thought that conflict should never happen. Now, (50+ years later) I know that’s impossible. 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 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. And we have found that to be so very true. We hope you will experience this in your marriage too.
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. Have you found this to be true for you?
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. Cindy and I often tell spouses to work to build bridges to better communication, rather than walls of contention. This takes intentionality and a never-ending commitment to this mission.
7. When you encounter conflict, remember, take it to the Lord.
After all we’ve learned about marriage you’d think we’d do better with conflicting issues by now. You’d think that when an argument starts, the first thing we’d do is go to the Lord in prayer. That would be wise. But we don’t always do it.
Let me (Steve) illustrate this from something that happened to us. Cindy pointed out that I sometimes put away dishes that aren’t always clean. She then quietly showed me an example. Rather than say, “You’re right; I’ll work harder to look over the dishes before putting them away” I got defensive. I shot back with an unkind “barb.” And that was not good or wise. Our whole “conversation” just escalated from there. Can you relate?
Eventually the Holy Spirit convicted me. I should not have reacted that way; my actions were wrong. I asked the Lord, and then Cindy to forgive me; we talked it out, and then prayed together. I asked the Lord to help me to be less defensive, kinder, and also, to be more attentive to cleanliness details. Cindy also apologized for her part in the argument, 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: Take every marital concern to the Lord. It works out better if you take it to Him first (you can avoid a lot of tension that way); but if not, don’t hesitate to take it to the Lord afterward. The principles for loving each other well, are the principles for living that God wants to teach us.
God tells us in His Word:
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)
And those are our prayers for you. We pray you will conduct yourself in wisdom and overlook offenses when it’s possible. If not, we pray you will apply yourself to resolving your conflicts in godly ways. We encourage you, in all of your conflicts, to look to the Lord to help you “conduct yourself” in Christlike ways.
May yours be a grace-based marriage! And may God bless your marriage all the more as you apply these Godly principles.
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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