Hey homeschoolers! Today’s topic isn’t a lighthearted one: how to manage anger in marriage. In fact, it’s a tough one to tackle, even for a psychologist like me. You may wonder what it has to do with homeschooling. While I do know single women who homeschool, there is no greater threat to your ability to homeschool than divorce which can be the end result of not managing anger well. Of course, divorce can make homeschooling difficult financially. But HSLDA also reports that most homeschools are scrutinized in court because of a divorce and associated custody battle. We’ll dive into discussing anger management in a few minutes.
First, I’d like to invite you to pick up your free copy of Pillow Talk printables. I created them for women to give to husbands who aren’t confident in starting romantic conversations. They’re cards with conversation starters like “One thing you do that makes me feel loved is…” I share tips for how to use the cards in case you’re worried your husband won’t be receptive.
Teaching Tip of the Week
comes from Christina of ThankfullyHome.com. She introduced me to the excellent unit-study based curriculum, Moving Beyond the Page. Integrating social studies, science, and literature activities, Moving Beyond the Page offers online and printed curriculum for a whole year as well as individual units. It was originally created for gifted students, but is accessible to students of all levels. The samples available on the website are very thorough and will help you determine if the curriculum is a good fit. Users share ideas for enhancing the various units and you can even join or start a Moving Beyond the Page learning center. I plan to try an individual unit for my three youngest students. High school curriculum is not yet available. Learn more at Moving Beyond the Page.com or use the link at ThankfullyHome.com.
The Organized Homeschool Challenge of the Week
is the Organized Computer Challenge.
Anger in Marriage
Now for this week’s topic. There are two reasons this is a difficult topic for me to address. First, I’ve struggled with anger in my own marriage. You would think that a Christian psychologist would have a handle on anger in relationships, but I didn’t. When my husband and I were first married 23 years ago, we had the nickname the Bickersons. We resembled the Honeymooners TV couple in many respects. But God has also been good in patiently teaching us how to manage anger over the years. I’m looking forward to sharing some of what we’ve learned.
The second reason this is a challenging topic for me is because I believe that I was wrong about the best way to manage anger in marriage for many years. In fact, I think I may have done a disservice to women I’ve known both personally and professionally who are married to angry men. I’m hoping I can rectify that in this episode.
I’d like to begin by stating what should be obvious, but probably isn’t in Christian homeschooling circles: Every marriage has anger. My husband I led premarital weekends at our church for many years and when I later became friends with one of the attendees and mentioned an argument we’d had, she was shocked. If you have a problem with anger, if your husband has a problem with anger, or if you just have angry conflict, know that you’re not alone.
Maybe you think you don’t have a problem with it. You may be right! But you may also just be ignoring real issues in your marriage. When I was young, my mom told me how lucky I was that my parents never fought. They didn’t. But they also never resolved anything. They later separated and divorced. Stuffing anger and subtly spewing anger can be every bit as destruction to a marriage as venting it.
If you realize that anger is something you need to manage better in your marriage, you may be wondering where to start. I have some suggestions.
First, read the book Personality Plus for Couples by Florence Littauer.
I had studied personality, of course, but no one had explained to me before Florence that my husband wasn’t really trying to make me miserable. The four types of personalities Florence describes are easy to understand, even if you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I learned that my husband was a Powerful Choleric personality. Most of all, he wanted control. If he didn’t feel in control, he would get angry. He may have found out that he just lost a potential sale, thus losing control. If he came in the house and discovered that something else wasn’t the way he wanted it, he might explode. I didn’t understand.
I learned that although I was part Powerful Choleric and liked control too, I was primarily Popular Sanguine. I wanted approval. When I was criticized by my husband instead, I got mad. It was a volatile combination. The Powerful Choleric and Peaceful Phlegmatic combination is another opportunity for anger in marriage. Powerful Cholerics not only want control, they want to achieve. A Peaceful Phlegmatic is happy with the status quo and just wants peace. The Phlegmatic is often unwilling to help the Choleric do everything they want to do. When the Choleric gets mad, the Phlegmatic withdraws and stuffs anger. This is one more thing a Choleric can’t control which leads to even more anger. Another common combination that leads to anger in marriage is the Popular Sanguine and the Perfect Melancholy. The Sanguine wants compliments and approval. The Melancholy wants perfection. Because the Melancholy doesn’t see the Sanguine as being Perfect, no praise is given–making the Sanguine mad. Likewise, the Sanguine is all about having fun and often doesn’t notice the Melancholy’s need for sensitivity and thoughtfulness. The Melancholy gets angry when the Sanguine causes hurt or disrupts the order that gives the Melancholy peace.
That’s a very brief synopsis of information that can change your marriage. The point of learning personality differences is a statement we were asked to share in a Family Life Marriage conference years ago: You are not my enemy. Your spouse is not your enemy, but IS different than you are. Understanding that can help you manage anger in marriage.
Renew your mind.
You both need to renew your minds with God’s truth about love, marriage, and anger. Did you know that couples who pray together daily are the least likely to get divorced? Pray daily for the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in your marriage. Consider doing a Bible study as a couple, in a group, or at your church on marriage. We have done a number of excellent studies, but Love & Respect is at the top of the list. You will learn in practical terms what the Bible means when it says that women need their husband’s love and men need their wive’s respect.
But reading a few Scriptures, praying together a few times, or even doing an amazing Bible study like Love & Respect isn’t likely to solve all the anger problems in your marriage. It takes much time to change the sin nature in each of us that leads us to respond angrily to our spouse. It requires personal prayer, repeated confession, and meditation on Scripture. My husband posts Scriptures about anger in his office. I’ve memorized Scriptures about anger with the kids during school time. I highly recommend The Renewing of the Mind Project by Barb Raveling to help you as well.
Finally, I suggest creating and signing a kindness contract.
It is amazing what churchgoing men and women will say to one another in the heat of anger. We know how damaging cursing one another, name calling, and threatening divorce can be. But you may be shocked to realize that it’s a part of your marriage.
Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s something else that is just as upsetting. Maybe it’s saying that something that was done was stupid. There was no name calling, but it may as well have been. Or one of you says that you would never have done what the other did. That’s a glorified way of saying your spouse is a loser.
One of the other destructive things we can do in marriage is mind read. We tell our spouse what he was thinking or why he did something when we can’t possibly know. We were getting ready to take our two little boys to the mall to have our Christmas pictures taken. I wasn’t dressed yet, but I wanted to keep the boys happy and clean so the picture would be great. I started reading to my toddler in my lap. In the middle of the book, he suddenly reared his head back, colliding with my cheekbone. I felt like my eyeball had exploded. It was excruciating. I kept trying not to cry so I wouldn’t ruin my makeup for the picture. I iced my cheek and prayed that I wouldn’t have a black eye. Meanwhile my husband came in and asked what on earth I was doing? Why wasn’t I dressed? He was mad. I was mad. And all because he thought he knew why I wasn’t ready. In his mind, I was just loafing around.
That’s a funny example of a habit we have in marriage that’s not so funny. We need to sign an agreement with our spouses not to say the obviously hurtful things and also not to mind read. When something is said that our spouse has agreed not to say, we should say, “What did you say?” We can also encourage our spouse to say what they meant to say or to take it back with an apology. It takes time to change the communication pattern, but it does work. I have a form that I created for siblings for this purpose that will work just as well for verbal communication in marriage that I will link to in the show notes.
But now you may be wondering what I was talking about when I say I was wrong about anger in marriage. I read and listened to Christian teachers who suggested that the only appropriate way to respond to an angry man was with quiet submission. The problem is that some men are verbally and even physically abusing their wives. Some men have personality disorders that do not respond to quiet submission. Some men’s anger destroys marriages and families. Some women’s does too, but most of my listeners are women. If you are married to an angry man, get help. Seek out a godly counselor who is experienced in dealing with abuse and can help you be objective. Talk to godly friends about what is going on and get their support. While I can’t advise you on your individual marriage, know that I am praying for you and God sees you.
With Christ’s help, there is always hope for managing anger in marriage. The difference in my own marriage is astounding.
Today’s Action Steps Are:
Learn your own and your spouse’s personality types. Recognize that your spouse is not your enemy. Renew your mind about anger and pray together about managing anger in marriage. Finally, sign a kindness contract.
Thanks so much for listening to the podcast and sharing it with your homeschool friends.
Have a happy homeschool week!