Put an end to your rage with these five helpful tips for young couples
Advice for Partners Struggling with Anger
An increased propensity toward wrath is not always a flaw in a marriage. It’s a natural result of the things that make marriage so special. In part because of the increased potential for closeness inside a marriage, the ability for rage is also increased. When we’ve let someone into our innermost world and trusted them with everything, the consequences of their betrayal sting much more. The closeness and exposure may make even minor transgressions seem like acts of war.
When couples argue, how can they finally put their frustration to rest? While many people (rightly) look to Ephesians 5 for a vision of marriage, the passages before that chapter also provide powerful tools for cultivating healthy love relationships.
1. Although anger is a healthy emotion, it is frequently expressed in a bad way.
It’s okay to be furious. As the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26
Those two phrases seldom appear in the same sentence during marriage preparation (or any counseling, for that matter). It’s important to keep in mind that anger is a normal and even heavenly reaction to evil before trying to tuck it away for the night.
“Many relationships fail because we think anger is always terrible, or because we think our anger is always justifiable,” author unknown writes.
Many of us have drawn up an emotional road map in which rage never appears. In general, we believe that anger is unjustified and inappropriate, particularly when it is aimed against us. And this was my inclination before I got married. On the contrary, God tells us to “Be furious, and do not sin,” not to “Never be angry.” Does your marriage allow for you to feel justified in being angry at someone who wronged you? How often do you admit, “I was mistaken. You are the victim of my sin. And you have every right to be upset by it.
The assumption that anger is always evil, or that our anger is never justified, is harmful to many partnerships. Assumptions of the former are common while thinking about our partner’s anger, whereas those of the latter are common when thinking about our own. However, the remainder of chapter 4 provides restraints for the rage that unavoidably occurs in marriage.
2. Do your best to let go of whatever resentment you may be feeling.
Cast off all ill will, hostility, slander, and clamor. Paul urges us to do this in Ephesians 4:31.
Are we not seeing a conflict here? Don’t you remember Paul saying, “Be furious, and do not sin?” Tension, but not contradiction, exists here. Knowledge of when to rectify sins and when to ignore them; when to speak and when to remain quiet; when to be upset over sin and when to put aside anger are hallmarks of maturity and wisdom in marriage (and the Christian life more generally).
“Don’t go to sleep furious, but be angry about the sin in your marriage.”
The takeaway here should be obvious: healthy people can and do feel rage, but they know its place is transitory and restricted. It’s healthy to be indignant in the face of wrongdoing, but only as part of a larger life in which anger is consciously and repeatedly set aside; and not just most anger, but all anger (“Let all bitterness, wrath, and fury… be put away from you”). Our righteous indignation, even if it is from God, has a shelf life, and that life span ends today.
3.The 24-hour day is a blessing for couples who are trying to make their unions work.
Do you ever ponder God’s rationale for making a day consist of exactly 24 hours? There are probably hundreds of valid reasons, but he gives us at least one here: it prevents us from exploding in a silent blaze of wrath. For this reason, the 24-hour day is a wonderful boon to families. Just as the sun slowly sinks beyond the horizon at the end of each day, so too do we get closer and closer to peace. It establishes a dividing line, forcing us to decide whether to surrender to God and seek reconciliation, or to reject his advice and continue to nurse our wounds.
Allowing hurt feelings to fester for days, weeks, or months may be detrimental to a marriage. To get close to someone, you must first earn their trust. Spouses may squander that confidence in major, apparent ways that we might all identify. However, there are also covert ways in which trust is misplaced; the carrying and stoking of transgressions being among the most prominent. The original hurt or fury may have been entirely merited, but the warrant has long expired, and yet the bitterness silently persists and scars and divides. The daily revolution of the sun around the globe is God’s method of giving us a fresh chance to let go of our grudges.
Let me add one essential condition here: complete reconciliation may be unattainable some days. Getting over our rage won’t necessarily fix our strained friendship. That’s why in our household we speak about achieving real reconciliation before bed. Time and sleep, in little doses, may be powerful friends. Another thing I’ve learned through experience is that pressing for instant resolution seldom leads to anything except a prolongation of the conflict and anguish. But it doesn’t mean we should hold onto resentment or accept anything less than genuine apology and mending of fences. Simply put, we’ll simply have to be patient at times until the peace and love are totally restored. The crucial lesson here is that both couples decide to routinely, even daily, put aside any resentment.
4. The devil may enter via the cracks of an unresolved disagreement.
Be furious and do not sin; do not let the sun go set on your wrath, and give no chance to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27
If we could only understand what Satan can accomplish with unresolved disagreement, maybe we would be more motivated to quickly settle dispute in our own relationships. It’s not only that he can prod and prod and make the issue worse over time; it’s that he can get into every other part of our marriages via the unresolved dispute. When a wound is open, the blood ultimately spreads to the surrounding tissue. Cosleeping becomes more challenging. Praying together becomes tough. Parenting together becomes difficult. Scheduling together becomes tough. It’s more challenging to serve collectively. It’s becoming more difficult to just coexist.
Sadly, many unhappy marriages exist because their partners choose to overlook the spiritual battle being fought against them. “We do not battle against flesh and blood” — even the flesh and blood lying next us in bed — “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the high places” (Ephesians 6:12). (Ephesians 6:12). If we approach our marriage conflicts as if they are exclusively between us, we will always come out on the losing end.
5. Forgive your partner as Christ has forgiven you of your sins.
Do kind to one another; be compassionate; forgive one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. Scripture references: Ephesians 4:32
Think of all the marriages that might have been saved if these fifteen words had been taken to heart instead of the countless times they were ignored.
Be gentle and forgive one another, but forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ, Paul emphasizes. God didn’t simply shrug off our sin and go on; instead, he sent his Son to take on our suffering. The Son of God took on our afflictions, he was pierced for our transgressions, he bore our sicknesses and bore our diseases, he was beaten down to make us whole, he was cursed to bring us healing. So, forgive as you have been forgiven. Regardless of the hardships we face as a married couple, they can never compare to what Christ endured for our sake on the cross.
Those who have put this phrase into practice have likely had a life-changing realization: fights are really a rare chance to become closer to one another. Why? For the simple reason that when we forgive one other’s sins in the same way that Christ has forgiven ours, we both become closer to Christ. We certainly see and experience him on the days when we get along, but how much more present and real does he seem when we offer and receive profound forgiveness, when we accept harshness with compassion, when we remain and love when we might properly leave?
We may see Christ and his church most clearly in the times of conflict in our marriages. After all these years, what else could make a spouse so benevolent? Why else would she forgive him a second time? What other source could possibly provide such a selfless, patient, enduring love?
So, if there’s sin in your marriage, each of you should be furious about it, but you shouldn’t go to bed angry.