By Greg Vaughn
Rule 1: Satan is the Enemy, Not Your Spouse!
In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about getting angry and not sinning. Is this possible? Surely when I get angry I sin. 2
5So put away all falsehood and “tell your neighbor the truth” because we belong to each other. 26And “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil. (New Living Translation)
I like this translation because it offered me a couple of insights not found in the NIV. The first says tell the truth because your spouse belongs to you. I find this hard when it comes to my desires, because I would rather get my own way, then to ask my wife for a compromise. James writes about this.
“1Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.” James 4:1 The Message.
Satan wants us to fight with each other. His goal is to destroy the bonds that tie you together. A house divided cannot stand, and a marriage that is divided will fail. Satan uses anger, desire and selfishness as tools to cause us to fight with each other. By staying together you can focus on the common enemy and not each other. By telling the truth to each other you can take away a powerful tool of Satan’s.
This means that you cannot recruit people to your side. As Christians, we have people in our lives to help us. It can be very easy to dump on them your problems or disparage your spouse in an attempt to get them on your side. The goals is not gang up on each other, or have them fight for you by proxy. If you need to get others involved, please check your motives. You want to grow not prove your right.
Rule 2: Slow to anger/ Get a grip
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…
The second insight I get from the passage in Ephesians, is that anger can be controlled. Over and over there are examples of God being slow to anger. He has set the example for us to follow and commands us. It is understandable to be upset at your spouse for things, they have done or about a situation that has disturbed you. The key is not to take it out on your spouse. One way to put this into practice is to recognize what patterns that you or your spouse can fall into.
It is important to recognize how your spouse responds when they are upset. Some will need time to themselves, some will need to vent and some do not know why they are upset. When in the middle of fight, it may be necessary to ask for a time out. This serves a few different purposes. One is that give both of you some time to calm down and collect your thoughts. Also one of you may need to process what you are feeling. This is called by some going to your cave. It is an idea that is found in the book “Men are Mars, Women are from Venus” It is the idea that we do not always know what we are feeling, and that we may need some time to process what is going on. It may be going for a walk, playing a video game or indulging in your favorite hobby. If you feel like this is you, then you need to assure your spouse that you are willing to work things out but you need some time to yourself.
If you are someone who is known to fly of the handle, then you may say something in heat of the moment that you regret. It is better to take break, tell your spouse that you need a few moments to collect yourself. For me, I do not always understand why I am mad, just the fact that I am upset. Often my wife will leave me alone for an hour to let me sort out my thoughts and process my feelings. In guy talk this is called “going to the cave”. You may need to go out and expend some energy. Two things to keep in mind. One, let your spouse know of intentions, (ex,” I cant talk about it now, I will be at the batting cages and when I return in an hour, we can talk”) This tells the spouse of your intentions, and what time you are returning. Two, make sure you come back when you say. You do not want to go to the bar just to avoid your spouse and try to wait the situation out. It is never a good idea.
Some spouses will need to vent. They may not want you to solve the problem, but just to listen. Their anger may not be directed at you. Here, you have to be quick to listen and not take things so personally. Your spouse may have had a bad day or is upset at something else. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to tell yourself that it is not you they are mad at. Spouses need to assure the other one, that you are not upset at them, and clearly indicate what you are upset at. This will go a long way in reassuring them, and making them more receptive to listening to you. After your spouse vents, they will be willing to talk and resolve things. If you cannot handle the venting, suggest that they talk to a good friend.
For my wife, she does not always know how to process her emotions, so I ask here questions, in a non patronizing manner, to help her eliminate possibilities and narrow her thoughts. If you have a spouse like this you must be patient and not to take things personally, though the temptation will be great. An example of a fight we had early on was about my cooking, my wife could not tell me what is was though, so I asked the following:
Wife: “You don’t know how to cook”
Me: “Is there something specific about my cooking you do not like?”
Wife: “I don’t know”
Me: “Is it something I do?”
Wife: “I don’t like your chicken”
Me: “What specifically about the chicken you do not like?
Wife: “It is too salty”
There have been times when none of these options work. There is something on our hearts that we are out of touch with. In these cases you must call a time out and pray.
If you do not know why you are upset or a hard heart, pray separately. Ask God to help you indentify the issue, or to soften you your heart. Then come together and pray. When you pray, one needs to watch the motive in you pray. Praying “God, help Bill see why he is wrong” is not a great heart. This will only serve to antagonize Bill and retaliate in his prayers. Instead be sincere, and pray about revealing your heart, your spouses heart, and what you can both work on. The goal here is reconciliation not revenge.
We all have heard the axiom, “Do not go to bed angry” from our parents and grandparents. This is based on scriptures and should be followed. This is difficult at times. If it is 3 am and you have to get up early, do you keep working on finding a solution? I suggest you get to a point where you can agree to disagree and feel good about it. Make sure you set a time and place when you are more rested to discuss the issue that was brought up. The goal here is to feel good about each other when you are in bed together.
Bedtime is not a good time to bring up issues you want to discuss. Often your spouse will sleepy and may not be in the right head. They can feel ambushed and defenseless. Pick a time during the day when your spouse is not distracted and can focus.