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Don’t Let Anger Sabotage Your Marriage
Anger is an emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. It is built into our system and has a purpose for our lives. Thomas Fuller called it “the neurosis of our soul,” as long as it’s expressed constructively and doesn’t sabotage our marriage.
Charles Darwin was of the opinion that human behavior contains remnants of reactions found in animals or primitive man, required for their survival. Humans having become involved with higher beings, these residual responses are hidden in the subconscious and are only activated when provoked. However, not all scientists agree with Darwin. The theory of perceptual motivation is more balanced and accepted. It suggests that when a person evaluates a challenging stimulus as pleasant or unpleasant, it feels according to their judgment.
Anger is a distinct feeling of resentment for a real or imagined wrong. It causes adrenaline to flow, blood pressure to rise, face to be flushed and breathing labored. It is an extremely powerful emotion with the potential to destroy marital bliss and interpersonal relationships.
Different ways of expressing anger:
• Open hostility towards the spouse. Men who beat their wives are said to be angry, resentful, suspicious and moody. While they may behave well in public, the home is the arena where they display their dark side.
But anger is not exclusively a male trait. Women can also be angry. Although they may not be physically strong enough to beat their husbands, they can be abusive and abusive. Verbal abuse is very high in urban situations. Its effects last much longer than physical abuse. Many families have a “hot temper” problem.
Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, is believed to have had a fiery temper. Not only was she abusive, she would physically abuse her husband with firewood or hit him with potatoes. On one occasion, she even chased him into Springwell’s backyard, with a kitchen knife. Even after she became First Lady and moved into the White House, staff were terrified of her sharp tongue.
Anger can even take a subtle form of stifled love, where the husband pampers his wife and does things for her while completely isolating her and stifling her ability and creativity.
• Crying or crying when angry is sometimes a woman’s way of expressing her anger.
• Staying silent, suppressing anger and letting it build up inside like a smoldering volcano waiting to explode. This will manifest itself in altered physiological function and consequently poor health. A study done by an independent research firm in Wisconsin analyzed marital discord and its effect on heart disease and overall mortality. They found that those who continued to suppress their anger activated stress hormones that negatively affected health. Heart attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension may occur. Surface symptoms of gastric ulcer in persistent anger suppressors. One surgeon said that 97% of his ulcer patients were angry people.
Prolonged emotional tension can also cause changes in behavior. Adolf Meyer describes the role of emotional factors in physical and mental health as psychoparallelism.
• Harmful behaviors such as withdrawal, poor job application, inability to get along with colleagues and also difficulty holding down a job.
Results of uncontrolled anger.
1. Marital conflict: Anger threatens the unity and stability of families. In some families fighting is a habit. Both spouses may have short fuses. Children begin to ape their parents.
2. Strained relationships: Anger patterns can become destructive and ugly.
3. Child abuse: Angry parents can violently attack their children. The incidence of child abuse by parents escalates and is not limited to lower socio-economic groups. Children raised in such an atmosphere turn into angry adults. They react in three ways – passive resistance with silence and non-cooperation, retaliation or open rebellion.
What causes anger?
• Frustration: Feeling misunderstood or taken for granted. Needs are not being met. Sometimes the anger can be out of proportion to the real challenge.
• Fear of violence, illness, loss of job or loss of a loved one.
• Hurt by the indifference of the one you love. It can be emotional, physical or relational.
• Burnout: Overwhelmed with work, stress, lack of appreciation and injustice.
Anger management at home.
1. Understand Anger: It is an inherent component of all relationships. In their book Pressure Point, Oliver and Wright say that “disagreements in relationships are inevitable and a fundamental part of achieving intimacy.” So one must find healthy ways to express anger. Spouses must understand and appreciate their differences. Such an attitude will lead to intimacy.
2. Fight constructively: Couples need to learn to vent their anger without destroying each other’s self-esteem. Those who learn to fight constructively will ensure the longevity of their marriage. However, frequent arguments are sure to weaken the bonds of love.
3. Honesty: Admit that you are angry. Analyze the reasons for your anger. What triggered it?
4. Avoid arguments in the heat of the moment. Sort things out when you’re in a better mood. Ask yourself if it’s your fault too. Denying your role in the dispute makes it harder to resolve the problem. Healthy arguments testify to a strong marriage. But the blame game is dangerous. Disagree without hurting each other.
5. Check your language. Breathe deeply and psych yourself up to relax. “A fool gives vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11) Sometimes, stepping away from the scene gives a better perspective of the problem. Yoga and meditation have helped people take control of their temper.
6. Listen to each other. It is very important to understand the other person’s point of view. “Couples who vent their anger and do nothing to overcome the cause are committing marital suicide,” says Broderick.
7. Sublimating anger through physical exercise, creative activity, or some other form of recreation helps to diffuse anger. Such activities take the sting out of that explosive emotion and help one discuss matters in a calmer spirit. Then negotiation and problem solving are possible.
8. Resolve never to sleep with anger in your heart. Get ready with your spouse before you deliver the night before. As the Bible says, “Do not sin in your anger; do not let the sun go down when you are angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27.)
9. Forgiveness will lead to the restoration of broken relationships. Holding a grudge puts a heavy burden on the heart. The wound becomes bigger and unbearable. By forgiving, we stop hurting ourselves and others. Abraham Lincoln was able to live with his abusive wife because of his spirit of forgiveness. It made him patient and tolerant.
Forgiveness must also mean letting go of the insult and promising never to use it as a weapon in any future quarrel. Forgiveness is hard. It can only be done by the grace of God. “Forgive as the Lord forgives you.” The feeling of peace that follows is indescribable.
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