Resolve Your Anger the Right Way
If we are going to have true intimacy in our marriages, we have to disarm the issues that hinder it. One of those is anger. Anger can be destructive in a marriage.
The first thing I want you to know is that anger is inevitable. It's a normal response. You will never be so spiritual that you don't get angry. Jesus even got angry. Great marriages still have anger.
Anger that occurs today is manageable. There's nothing wrong with it. But yesterday's anger is a very dangerous thing.
Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Be angry, and do not sin: Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil."
What that passage means is that anger, if it is not dealt with, can become toxic and destructive. It can harden hearts. It has to be resolved in righteous way. If it is not dealt with—if you let the sun "go down" on it—then it builds in intensity for the next time.
God never designed us to be a repository for anger. We are made for anger to enter for a brief time, and then leave. Never to stay. That's why the Bible is so insistent on forgiveness, because we can't endure it. Unforgiveness and pent-up anger are corrosive on every level.
Anger leads to a whole system of thoughts—fear, accusations, pride—that can create a destructive barrier between you and your spouse. Every time anger arrives and you don't deal with it, that wall grows higher.
So we must resolve anger in marriage. How should we do it?
First, we need to choose the right setting.
Don't do it around the kids. Your children need to watch you relate and talk things out, but serious issues should be handled in private when your emotions are under control.
Second, begin every confrontation with affirmation.
Research indicates that a conversation never rises above the level of the first three minutes. The way you start talking to each other dictates how the conversation will end. If you begin with threats, you've already set a negative tone for the conversation.
Instead, begin by saying, "I love you and I'm glad that we're married, but I need to talk to you about something." We're made in God's image, and Psalm 100 says we enter His courts with praise—with positive words.
Finally, communicate your complaint without fixed judgments or interpretations.
There's a difference between complaining and criticizing. Complaining is talking about me and my feelings, but without interpreting it—because I don't know what's in your heart.
Criticizing is an attack. It's me telling you how you're feeling and interpreting your motives. It makes the other person defensive. Complaints should be about a specific issue ("You said this and it made me feel stressed out") rather than a global one ("You never do anything around here").
Don't go to bed angry. Create in your marriage a habit pattern of dealing with it every day. When you do deal with conflict, do it the right way: respectfully, with kindness and a tender heart.
You won't be able to avoid anger, but you can avoid its destructive qualities by never letting it fester. Don't let the sun go down on your anger.
How to Disarm a Dominant Spouse
When Karen and I first married, I had a very dominant personality. For several years, it killed our chances at intimacy. Our marriage nearly failed until we learned to disarm it.
Dominance means disproportionate control over the relationship. In a good marriage, the husband and wife share 50 percent of everything, from children to money to decision-making. In a dominant marriage, one person holds a bigger share.
People always marry according to their level of emotional health. Health marries health, and unhealth marries unhealth.
When Karen and I met, I was popular, confident, and had a raging ego. On the other side, Karen had very low self-esteem. I was emotionally unhealthy and so was she. She needed a man with the self-confidence she lacked. I needed a woman who would accommodate my ego. We were a terrible, perfect match.
That happens often in dominant marriages: A very assertive woman marries a very passive man, or an unhealthily assertive man marries a passive woman. It's rare that two dominant people marry each other, or two passive people marry.
Understand What Causes Dominance
A strong personality. This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but when one person talks far more than the other—I was never at a loss for words—it can give that spouse more power than the other.
Fear. We fear being controlled, and so we become controllers ourselves. Some of the most controlling people I've ever met are people who were afraid. It made them into tyrants.
Iniquity and inner vows. Iniquity is a sin that passes from generation to generation. When you're raised in a chauvinistic or sexist family, you tend to be bent in the same way as your parents. Family systems of male or female dominance will produce dominant men and women.
Inner vows are the opposite side of that coin. When we go through pain, we make ourselves promises to comfort ourselves. We say, "No one will ever treat me like that again" or "No woman will ever do that to me." That prevents Jesus from being Lord over that area in our lives. It makes us unteachable.
Bitterness and unforgiveness. If we are unforgiving toward someone in our past, that past pain tends to be reflected in how we treat a spouse. Bitterness takes root, and husbands and wives get the worst of it.
What do you do if you're being dominated in your marriage?
Be honest and admit it, then stand up. Marriage is like a teeter-totter: When you move, it forces your partner to move, too. When you change, your marriage changes.
When Karen began to find healing from her emotional health, she started standing up to me. And I had to sit down. She stopped accommodating my ego and God used her to make me more humble.
Today, rather than passively letting me make all the decisions—and rather than me refusing to allow her any input—we make significant decisions together.
Once we had an equal marriage, we discovered that intimacy followed. We've never been the same. Is dominance destroying your marriage?
Avoid This Destructive Force in Your Marriage
Fear is one of the most destructive forces in marriage. It never motivates us to do the right thing. Second Timothy 1:7 says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
Karen and I were both full of fear when we got married. I was afraid of rejection, failure, and weakness. I masked my fear by trying to be macho. She didn't hide her fear. She was openly afraid of rejection, disconnection, failure, and abuse.
Our fear had severe implications in our relationship. It made us fight. Fear was at the core of our worst disagreements. To get rid of it, we had to learn to understand it—and then disarm it.
Much of our fear has to do with basic needs. Every person's deepest need is the need for love, which is why almost everyone fears rejection. When you fear being rejected, you close your heart in order to protect yourself. That way, if you do get rejected, it won't hurt so much.
That's why fear of rejection damages intimacy.
Another fear is related to design. God did not design us to be controlled, and so we fear control. The most dominant relationships are those in which one spouse fears being controlled and so they take control over the other spouse.
Damage from our past causes fear. When you have experienced something in your past that you don't want to go through again, it results in fear. Traumatic events like abuse, rejection, and divorce cause many people to be afraid of re-opening that wound.
The trouble begins when we allow these fears to have too much power over us. The fear accesses the hurt in our hearts and begins to direct our actions. It causes us to lash out and act in unhealthy ways toward our spouse. If we don't take those thoughts captive, they can destroy our marriage.
How do we overcome fear in marriage?
First, we have to take off our fig leaves. All of us have fear, but we like to pretend we don't. We have to let our fear out in the open and stop hiding from each other. Say to your spouse, "I'm afraid of this and I know it's wrong. Please help me deal with it."
Second, we must take responsibility for our behavior. Adam blamed Eve for his sin, but it was just as much his fault as hers. Many people inmarriage think things will get better once their spouse changes. It's better to focus on how you can change. Say to your spouse, "I was wrong. I repent."
Third, give everything to God and trust Him. Your needs, your hurts, your desire to change your spouse—instead of hiding those things, turn them over to God. Say, "Lord, I'm afraid of _________ and I give that fear to you."
The first thing Karen and I do when we wake up in the morning is spend time alone with God. That's when I give Him my fears and hurts. Sometimes I ask Him to change Karen, but in many cases, I'm the one who needs to change—and He lets me know. He knows who needs to change, and I trust Him.
Take your fears to God. He'll remove them. In their place, He'll fill you with love, power, and a sound mind. Your marriage will never be the same.
The Simple Secrets of Spiritual Intimacy
Few things in a marriage are as important as spiritual intimacy between a husband and wife.
Spiritual intimacy is a sense of unity and mutual commitment to God's purpose for our lives and marriage, along with a respect for the special dreams of each other's hearts. It's the greatest depth of intimacy we experience in marriage.
It's helpful to view intimacy in terms of the acronym INVEST: Intimacy Necessitates Value, Energy, Sacrifice, and Trust.
Value is essential to spiritual intimacy.
This means we value God's purpose for our spouse's life and the dreams of their heart. Contrary to what some chauvinists may believe, a marriage is not considered godly if one spouse is more important than the other.
A godly marriage happens when two people who are created in God's image join together to help each other fulfill God's calls on their lives.
When you value each other spiritually, you partner with God to help your spouse reach their spiritual potential.
Energy is essential to spiritual intimacy.
This means committing to pursuing God as individuals and together as a couple. This means putting in the spiritual work. Pray together. Invite God into your circumstances.
Few things are more powerful than a man and woman holding hands, praying for their children, their jobs, their finances, and their lives together. Apply energy to your spiritual life. Pray together, worship together, and seek God together.
Sacrifice is essential to spiritual intimacy.
This means sacrificing the desire to only promote yourself or worry about yourself. In other words, you give of yourself on behalf of the other.
Both men and women have a natural selfishness. Without God's help, we will only care about ourselves. Spiritual intimacy will not occur unless we both put our own needs behind meeting the needs of our spouse. The ideal marriage is two servants in love.
Finally, trust is essential to spiritual intimacy.
This means creating an atmosphere where you can share your deepest spiritual desires and dreams—and so can your spouse. Once you've shared your dreams, your spouse must honor them, respect them, and treat them carefully.
Research has shown that the deepest fights in a relationship occur on a "dream level"—what our hearts long for the most. In our marriage, Karen dreamed of financial security. Because I didn't value our finances in the same way she did, I ended up becoming her dream-breaker.
I didn't respect the things that she felt deep within her heart. It hurt our marriage and inhibited our spiritual intimacy.
Your spouse's deepest longing may have to do with minimizing stress, raising children, or keeping a simple, well-kept home. Do not disrespect or damage your spouse's dream!
If you're going to have spiritual intimacy in your marriage, you must INVEST in it. Value God's purpose for your spouse, pursue God together, sacrifice your own needs and desires, and create a safe atmosphere where you can help your husband or wife fulfill their dreams.
One Predictor of Divorce You Can Control
All of us have needs we can't meet by ourselves. There are four needs in every person's life that only God can meet. These are acceptance, identity, security, and purpose.
The basis of a person's happiness is God meeting those needs in their life. I love Karen. I don't want to live without Karen. But Jesus makes me happy—not Karen. My happiness shouldn't depend on people.
God accepts me for who I am, right now. He doesn't require me to have whiter teeth or fresher breath or lower body fat.
He made me in my mother's womb and knows who I really am. My sense of identity comes from God. Only God can tell me who I am.
Only God can make me truly secure. Security doesn't come from an army, a medicine, or a weapon. It comes from the Spirit of God.
I have a higher purpose in life than making money or simply surviving to the next day. I live for a King and a kingdom. When I wake up everyday, I do something that makes an eternal difference. That's my purpose.
The needs above can only be met by God. If I don't depend on God to meet those needs, then I automatically transfer those expectations to my spouse. That's called the Principle of Transference: We put expectations on each other that neither of us can meet.
But all of us also have needs that we can meet for each other. Men need honor and friendship. Women need open and honest communication and affection. These needs are different, and we rely on each other for them.
That's how God designed marriage. He gave each of us individual needs that only He could meet, but He also gave us needs that another person can meet for us. If we could meet our own needs, we wouldn't need marriage. He designed us to depend on each other.
In order to meet each other's needs, we have to listen. We have to recognize each other's differences. For instance, the reason some people fight so often about money is because they may have different money languages. To Karen, money means security. She's also a great saver and a fantastic money manager.
To me, money means love. If I have money, I want to spend it—on vacations, on fun, on other people. Early in our marriage, Karen would call me a spendthrift and I would call her a tightwad. We drove each other crazy.
We had to listen to each other and understand how we each saw the world. We had to learn to work together. Instead of rejecting each other's differences, we began celebrating them and viewing them positively.
One of the four major predictors of divorce is negativity. When a negative tone sets up in your relationship—when you begin to pick on each other and point out faults—it begins to cause immediate damage.
Your spouse is always trying to tell you what his or her needs are. Some of them you will meet. Other needs God will meet. Your spouse's words and behavior will show you what these are, if you will only pay attention. Listen, seek understanding, and respect who God created them to be.