Living with an angry husband is like living at the base of an active volcano. It can keep you in a constant state of hyper vigilance—always on the alert, anticipating the next eruption. Even a small emotional outburst can cause you to fight back, freeze up, or shut down. Here’s how one wife described her experience with an angry spouse:
My husband has an explosive temper. Every few months, he’ll go into a screaming rage, and it scares me. When he is depressed it’s more frequent. It’s always over something small and insignificant. . . . He will yell at the top of his lungs, swear at me, and intimidate me into backing down. Just the look . . . on his face is enough to completely freak me out. . . . It’s like he’s a different person when he gets angry.
Thankfully most of us, unlike this woman, experience only minor eruptions when our spouse snaps at us under stress or when he’s had a bad day at work. But if the man you promised to love, honor, and cherish spews molten lava at you regularly, it can be terrifying—especially if a normally godly man transforms into a monster. So how can you defuse your husband’s anger and encourage him to deal with it in a healthier way? Here are some guidelines:
Never accept responsibility for your husband’s anger. You don’t “make” your spouse angry. He chooses to react in anger because your words or behavior triggered some deeper emotion or issue. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to accept responsibility for your words and actions. But you’re never to blame for how he expresses his anger. This is entirely his responsibility. He can choose to talk about his hurt or frustration in a healthy manner or he can lash out in hurtful ways.
Set effective boundaries. It’s important to set a boundary when your husband allows his temper to get out of control. You might say something like, “I would love to better understand what’s bothering you, but if you choose to yell or threaten me, I’m going to walk away. I’ll return when you’re willing to speak in a way that honors us both.” You must be prepared to follow through. Whenever you set a boundary like this, realize it can take about twenty minutes for the adrenaline to diminish enough to your husband can engage in a healthy conversation. Remember, a Christlike boundary will always draw you toward your husband rather than drive a wedge between you.
Try to understand why your husband is angry. Empathy isn’t about enabling your husband’s anger; it’s about keeping your heart open. Understanding the reasons behind your husband’s behavior can keep your heart from hardening toward him. It can also help you pray for him with greater insight and compassion.
Love the man; hate the sin. Your husband needs to know you love him and are still his teammate, even though you disagree with the way he chooses to express his anger. Keep in mind he probably inherited this legacy from his family of origin. Ask God to help you see your husband through his eyes. Only God can break the sinful patterns in his life and help him learn healthier ways to deal with his anger.
If you ever feel physically unsafe and your husband’s anger crosses the line into physical slaps, pushes, shaking, or shoving, get help immediately. It’s never okay for your husband to rage, scream, throw things, threaten you, or hit you. Seek Christian counseling. If your husband refuses to go with you, don’t let that stop you from getting the help and support you need.
Forgive your husband for his hurtful reactions. Next to your relationship with the Lord, the most intimate relationship on earth is with your husband. But your husband is human, and he can say or do things that hurt your feelings, even without realizing it. At times my husband, Greg, gets angry with me and may not handle it well. No matter how Greg behaves, my job is to love him wholeheartedly, set appropriate boundaries, and always be willing to forgive.
Unresolved anger can have a detrimental effect on any relationship, especially an intimate relationship like marriage. That’s why the Bible tells us not to let the sun go down while we’re still angry (Ephesians 4:26). The reason is clear. When you don’t work through your anger, Satan gains a foothold in your lives and can use it to drive you apart (v. 27).
Unresolved anger can cause you to become more cautious, mistrusting, and fearful of relationships not only with your spouse but also with God. That’s why it’s so important to honestly acknowledge your anger, learn to express it in healthy ways, and encourage your husband to do the same. If you want a more loving relationship with your spouse, defuse the ticking time bomb of anger!
Taken from The Wholehearted Wife by Erin, Greg, and Gary Smalley. ©Copyright 2014 by Erin Smalley, Greg Smalley, and Gary Smalley. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
get the book