If your husband is anything like mine, he’s sometimes forgetful. (Maybe more than sometimes.) He rarely remembers to return the milk to the fridge or lock the front door or turn off the hall light. Sometimes he even spends more money than I’ve budgeted. Believe me, it’s easy to become angry with our husbands!
However, it is definitely not good for perpetual anger to take over your marriage. It wears down the trust between spouses and eliminates mutual bonding. Over time, perpetual anger may make you feel like you’re tolerating a difficult roommate instead of caring for the love of your life.
So what can you do when the frustration, anger, and withdrawal begin?
Assess the Emergency
First, assess whether this situation is an emergency. Socks left on the floor instead of in the hamper? Not an emergency. Baby gate not put up in front of the stairs? Could be an emergency depending on if little one can handle the stairs. Emergencies deserve quicker responses… Not louder responses or more emotional responses. Just quicker.
Leave Your Emotions at the Door
Emotions are good. They tell us when something doesn’t feel right or seems out of place. They clue us in to situations that might be unsafe or unfair. However, they can also escalate very quickly, if you know what I mean! Instead of allowing your emotions to control your response (How dare he not put the milk back?!? Doesn’t he know how angry it makes me?), transition your emotions to something more factual (Leaving the milk out causes it to spoil faster. He knows that, but maybe he forgot that he left it out.) Raising your voice rarely achieves a positive result. Instead, discuss the issue together calmly. In addition, if you’re going through a transitional point in your marriage, your emotions may be all over the place. I’ve found that it helps to talk about what’s really going on (the big elephant in the room – perhaps that is a looming life transition) and then my emotions become more centered.
Assume the Best
Always, always, always assume the best. You chose to marry this man, and you know that he is typically a kind person. Maybe not super thoughtful, but definitely not vicious. Assuming the worst has gotten me into so much trouble. Once I called my husband on my way home from work and he let me know that he was about to start a movie. Unfortunately, it was a movie that I was interested in seeing only after I had read the book. I assumed that he already knew this and he had rented the DVD anyway on purpose. He wasn’t, but asking first before I lashed out at him would have helped the situation.
Mine typically go like this: “Sweet husband, thanks for helping me get my things out of the car last night, but neither of us remembered to lock the back door, and I feel uncomfortable knowing the door was unlocked. Could you check the doors before we go to bed tonight?” Start with a positive, state the issue, and finish with the concern and a way to fix it.
I have also heard the “bug + wish” method. It starts with something that bothers you, like “It bugs me when you leave the toilet seat up” and ends with a request: “I wish you would put it down when you are finished in the bathroom.” A bug and a wish is an easy method to teach children, too!
Here’s another example: “I’m so glad that you want to hang out with your friends this weekend, but I feel forgotten when we don’t spend time together. Could we plan a date for Sunday afternoon?”
Your Turn (Practice!)
Consider the reasons why you become angry with your husband. It might help to make a list. Then, determine which elements of that list are things that could change (if your husband wanted to change them) and which elements are just the way your husband is wired.
My man is an external processor – he talks to process through his experiences and his responses to those experiences. I knew this when I married him, and I accepted it. That’s not going to change, even for me, the quiet introvert. What might be able to change is when he processes externally, whether that’s on the phone on the way home from work or at the dinner table or in the bed before we go to sleep, or even at breakfast on the weekends… I can request that we choose a seemingly better time to chat.
You cannot change your husband’s “unchangeables.” In fact, there’s very little you can change about someone else – unless they are willing to make the change. In a calm moment (not an emergency), discuss with your husband how you can best meet each other’s needs, and make a request in which you assume the best and leave your emotions out of it. Are you angry with husband? Choose to make a calm request instead of railing into him. You can be a team with your husband today.
Name one thing your spouse does that makes you angry.
What step can you take today to ease the frustration and communicate well once again?