Your husband says to you, “You never…” or “You always…” or whatever. Your natural reaction is to be what? How about ticked?
Or hurt. Or worse yet, scared.
But yes, probably angry. Unless you are scared. Or don’t know what to do. And that usually results in being a doormat. Which doesn’t work, either.
So what do we do with the anger and hurt? React. Retaliate.
And we know how well THAT works.
I’m going to suggest something completely different, but what God wants us to do – James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to become angry.”
I dare you to: Reflect.
Here’s the situation. Husband is upset. Angry. Furious even. Let him vent. A while, if necessary.
Nod your head in an understanding way. Then, choosing to be interested, say back, “So if I understand you correctly, you are feeling (insert hub’s negative emotion here) and (more – yes, elaborate), right?”
“Yes,” he says. If not, let him clarify, even if he’s emotional.
His emotions are HIS, not yours. You aren’t responsible for them. He is.
So resist the temptation to own them.
“Can you tell me more about that?” You say. At this point his gaze becomes dazed and confused. Puzzled. No one ever wants to know more about why he feels the way he feels, especially when it’s negative. “Please? I want to understand,” you say. So maybe he trusts this and gives you more.
But as he does, he’s calming down, which is what you were looking for – calm discussion. NOW we can work through the issue – because until the emotions are dealt with and validated, the “issue isn’t the issue” – the emotions are.
Double-dog-dare you to Reflect. Again. “So if I understand what you are saying…(insert summarized reflection of his thoughts and feelings here).”
“Yes,” he says. Calmly, too. Or maybe not, but he explains and you repeat the above until you can reflect what he’s feeling. Because YOU are the one wired for relationship (at least 85% of women are) and God deemed YOU this guy’s helper…because he needs you, even if he doesn’t know it.
“What I’m wondering is… (insert thought that’s contrary to his opinion here). How does that fit with what you are saying?” You gently ask.
And that’s how a healthy person, solid in who he or she is in Christ, does conflict. There’s no “owning” another person’s negative feelings (“He feels bad, it must be my fault”) or “fixing” going on (“He feels bad, I must make him feel better”).
You trust God enough to let Him have the relationship He has with your spouse, trusting Him to work things out in His timing. On a simple level, it’s being respectful of other opinions and feelings, handling the other person as a precious creation of God Himself.
And then asking questions instead of arguing which only serves to arouse resentment and defensiveness.
Galatians 5:1 says, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”
We can focus on what Christ focuses on, God’s love, or we can busy ourselves with condemnation and judgment. If Christ talks about God’s love 26 times more than He mentions sin, shouldn’t we be doing the same? What’s amazing is that within a climate of trust in relationship, people will actually ask for feedback or help with their sin, or apologize.
Too often, we keep another person from getting to that point by making them defensive with our condemnation. Sometimes I wonder if we Christians are actually about helping others see the Truth, or are more about punishing those who don’t behave as we think they should – because of our own fears or anger issues.
Seems like the cross took care of that…
So what do we do if in love, we do these things, and he keeps being aggressive? We need to insert some s-p-a-c-e into the discussion. We need to “unhook” the emotion.
Sometimes it’s a simple, “I love you to pieces, and I really want to work through this in a way that honors you and God…I’m going to chill for a bit so that we can both talk about this more effectively.” (Translation: Either you or I are losing it and that’s not okay, so I’m taking a break from this conversation before I say something I might regret later.) Sometimes that s-p-a-c-e looks like, “I love you a ton, and I can’t hear you when you are screaming at me and throwing things – it just makes me afraid of you, which I’m sure you don’t really want, either. I’m leaving for the rest of the night and I’ll be back tomorrow and maybe we can walk through this better.” (Translation: I’m not staying here if you are dangerous).
Or you can simply ask a question that is a bit off topic to allow him to refocus and get control.
Neither of these things work if we communicate them in anger, btw. If we are gentle, loving, and kind when we say them, usually, it disengages them from their upset attitude and is like pressing the “reset” button in the discussion.
BUT: I’ve also talked to a handful of wives who have felt led by God and had weird circumstances and Scripture confirm that they are to be martyrs in their own homes. So regardless of whether your husband is literally abusive or whether he is “normal” (whatever that means) LISTEN to God over anything I ever say. As for me, I advise women in abusive situations to GET OUT. BE SAFE.
I don’t pretend to know your husband, nor am I married to your guy, so any advice I give might be worth what you paid for it, which is NOTHING.
Want to see the Spirit at work in your relationships? Approach conflict in this way, in an effort to connect instead of condemn, and your relationships will look dramatically different!
NOTE: If you are dealing with a man who is abusive and dangerous, please consider getting things right on your end, but also consider a Matthew 18 confrontation, especially if you have children. Know that your lack of intervention is perceived by your kids as the condoning of abuse and is also sin.
But being brave…while being respectful, it’s what The Respect Dare is all about!
Love to you,
Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.