Marriage typically tends to produce more anger than other relationships. Perhaps this is because spending so much time with another person naturally generates more opportunities to become angry. We also put down our guard with our spouse — the person we love most. While being vulnerable and unguarded allows for greater intimacy, it also opens the door to more anger and frustration.
Although every married couple will experience anger toward one another, it should still be kept in check. After all, how we manage our emotions directly affects our relationships, particularly the closest ones. Add disappointment, unmet expectations, and other common marriage stressors to the mix, and you have a simmering powder keg.
Anger can be useful when properly channeled, handled, and controlled within your marriage. But it shouldn’t get free reign over your life, because unchecked anger can create devastating damage in your relationship. If anger is a repetitive issue in your marriage, there are some steps you can take to better manage it.
1. ADMIT HOW YOU’RE FEELING.
Although many people avoid conflict and prefer not to say when they’re angry at their spouse, it can actually be helpful to admit how you’re feeling. Don’t put yourself in denial or try to suppress your feelings. Instead, acknowledge them. Shoving your anger down will only make it roar back with a vengeance later, where it may manifest at an inappropriate level.
Feeling angry toward your spouse doesn’t make you a bad husband or wife. It makes you human, and it’s totally normal to feel this way from time to time. Once you are fully aware of your anger, you can start putting it in check by admitting how you feel. If you need help putting your feelings into words, try starting with something like, “I’m feeling angry because…”
2. DON’T FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE.
In Ephesians 4:26, the apostle Paul wrote, “In your anger, do not sin.” In Romans 12:17, he also wrote, “Never pay back evil for evil.” That perfectly sums up how we should handle our anger in marriage–and in life.
Even when we’re hurt and angry, we should never try to get even by hurting our spouse. When we let ourselves fixate on how to cause pain to our spouse in return, anger that might have been momentary can take root and grow into a monster of epic proportions. When that happens, we make ourselves vulnerable to harboring resentment and even contempt toward our spouse.
3. MAKE EMPATHY YOUR PRIORITY.
Trying to truly understand where our spouse is coming from when we’re angry can help us to cultivate empathy. That means we’re walking in our spouse’s shoes before we jump to conclusions and follow our anger to a place that causes more harm in our marriage. Understanding what’s going on from your spouse’s perspective will help you to calm your own reactive feelings and determine how best to respond.
If you’ve acted in hurtful ways toward your spouse as a result of anger, then you’ll need to take time to reflect and offer an apology. When your spouse apologizes to you, be receptive to what they are trying to communicate. And don’t forget, you can always pause in the middle of a conflict to regroup, gather your thoughts, and get to a calmer place before you continue.