By Rodney A. Wilson
The first three or four years of our marriage Selma and I did not process anger. Not that we processed it wrongly, we didn’t process it at all. I’d come home at the end of a day and she would say something, I’d snap back and that would be it. Dinner, a TV program or two, maybe a good-bye kiss in the morning but no words at all.
Talk about dysfunctional! We knew it wasn’t healthy but didn’t know what to do about it.
A few years into our marriage, God dropped some amazing principles on us on how best to work through conflict. For example, we discovered that anger was perfectly normal in a marriage. Anger is not the sign of an unhealthy marriage; rather, it is the sign that you two are trying to do life together under the same roof.Anger is not the sign of an unhealthy marriage- it's the sign that you're doing life together. Click To Tweet
Someone once said that if two spouses agree on everything – no difference of opinion on anything at all – one of you is unnecessary. I like that! You need each other’s “different-ness.” There is value in the difference, but it is in that difference where the conflict arises.
So I am happy to share with you a 3-part covenant we learned years ago from a precious Quaker marriage enrichment couple, now with the Lord. The Lord through this covenant changed our marriage. (Thank you, Lord, and David & Vera Mace!)
Here we go:
- Give each other permission to be angry. Forget the line, “She has no right to be angry.” That’s her choice. Your mate is not perfect but neither are you. There are times when her anger will be appropriate. Don’t blow a gasket. It’s not the end of the world. Nor is it the end of your marriage. She’s just angry. A very normal feeling. Give her permission to feel that way and decide together what you are going to do about it now.
- Agree never to attack your mate during processing anger. As you are telling him why you are angry with him, it can be easy (and tempting) to cross that line and take a personal cheap shot at him. Don’t go there. Your mate is your partner. Your helper. Your teammate. There is a problem that needs to be attacked and personal attacks toward each other completely miss the mark. Instead, feelings are hurt and nothing ever gets resolved.Lots of mishandling of conflict can be averted if you two will calm down first. Tell your spouse you are angry and you need to cool off before talking about it. Then go to your corners for a few minutes. You will be less likely to attack each other and more likely to attack the real issue.
- Agree to process the anger within 24 hours. There is nothing legalistic about this time frame. However, it keeps within the spirit of Ephesians 4:26-27: “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” The issue is fresh within 24 hours and you can remember details that can help you two work through the issue.Now here was the tough part for Selma and me: we are both “recovering stuffers”, i.e. we don’t like conflict – especially with each other. So when we would get angry, that would not be a good feeling. Then bam! The double-whammy would hit. Not only am I angry with her, but also I have to initiate this argument!
Here is the blessing on the other side of pushing through to confront when needed: I have no unfinished business with my wife. I have nothing that I am angry with her that we have not discussed – and I have recently heard her say the same.
No opportunity for the enemy.The blessing on the other side of working through conflict is I have no unfinished business with my wife! Click To Tweet
Take a closer look at this covenant. Make a hard copy and sign it as we did if you need to. Let it bless this part of your marriage. You will find yourselves working through the anger to a deeper level of intimacy.