It's Not Just Husbands Who Struggle to Control Anger
- 2006 20 May
Dear Dr. David,
You have written about controlling men. But, what about angry, controlling women? I never hear much about women who hold grudges, are moody and get angry at the drop of a hat. I am married to a mean-spirited woman that I love when she is nice, and really dislike when she changes. She is quick to blame me for her problems. What can a man do who is married to a woman who destroys his personal things when mad, throws things and is threatening? She is insecure, jealous and accuses me of having affairs, and it isn’t true. Christian women are always portrayed as submissive and even-tempered, the "Proverbs 31" kind of woman. What do you have to say to so many of us men who are married to women who want to control us, have temper tantrums, and seem to have two or three different personalities.
I am glad you have written about angry wives, because you share about a serious problem in marriages today, a problem that is growing in awareness. The problems in your marriage can be explained in several possible ways—you will need to discern which most accurately describes your situation.
The first possible explanation is simply your wife has never learned how to "be angry and sin not," or to manage control of her tongue, as is emphasized in the book of James 3. As Christians, we are expected to mature, and that means learning how to "speak the truth in love." I so appreciate Ephesians 4: 29 which counsels us to "not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs." No unwholesome word! None! Your wife may be very immature emotionally and spiritually, and needs counsel and accountability to do so.
The second possible explanation is that she is desperately trying to get your attention. While this in no way excuses her immature actions, she may be screaming for attention and consideration. Are you really listening to her? Does she feel like you "get it" in regards to her feelings and concerns in your marriage? If you’re unsure about the answer to that question, ask her if you’re tuned in to her needs. She’ll tell you. Pent-up anger, over time, must come out, like steam trapped in a teakettle. Give her a healthy outlet for her "steam" and join her in ridding your marriage of reasons for either of you to get so angry.
The third possibility, and most worrisome, is that your wife suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). While I certainly cannot make that diagnosis from your information, I can describe the symptoms for consideration. Some symptoms of BPD include:
1 Volatile moods and emotions
2 Easily triggered anger/ rage issues
3 Love or hate people, often vacillating back and forth between the two
4 Intense and stormy relationships
5 Poor sense of identity
6 Low self-esteem
The challenge now is to determine the exact nature of the problem. With each of the three possibilities, intervention is the key. You should not simply endure the struggle and hope the situation will improve. It won’t. Hoping and waiting only enables your wife to remain stuck with her problem. Firm, loving support and confrontation is the key.
In my book, When Trying To Change Him is Hurting You, I affirm the importance of taking complete measures to change troublesome circumstances. A little change is not enough. Let your wife know that she must receive professional help, perhaps with you. Review your circumstances, and take decisive action. Insist that she learn anger management skills; practice Ephesians 4: 29 living and talking; support her in receiving counseling to learn skills to manage her mood; encourage strategies for not overreacting to slights. Firmly inform her that violence, in any form, will not be tolerated.
Finally, be open to the possibility that there are things you do that may provoke her. Consider how you might help her in real change. But be certain that the "problem" is hers, and not partially yours. Understand also that just as many men resist doing "the work of change," she may resist this intervention as well. Any of these problems may take repeated efforts before you see significant change.
Dear Dr. David,
I have been married to my husband for nearly twenty years, but he says the spark is now gone. He says he is not attracted to me anymore, since I have gained a little weight. He also says he is bored in our marriage. I work full time and it is hard to eat healthy or exercise the way I know I should. I have been losing a little weight, but he says it doesn’t make any difference now. He says he doesn’t want to leave until our twelve year old son is grown. Since he informed me that he no longer loves me he sleeps in another room, stays out late at night, and has not been intimate with me for months. He attends church less frequently and refuses to talk to our pastor. I have prayed about this situation and feel hopeless. I am torn up inside and see the hurt in our son too. Am I married or divorced? I cannot stand the thought of living like this for the next six or seven years. I want a marriage. What can I do to win my husband back? Help.
I sense your broken heart. You love your husband and want desperately to save your marriage. I am glad that you are standing firm on your marriage vows. Know that God hears your prayers and honors them. We are told to "Cast our cares on Him, for He cares for you." He will be with you in this most difficult time.
What can you do to save your marriage? Although I am in no way condoning your husband giving up on your marriage vows – bored or excited, we should stand by our vows -- your note gives one important clue as to his concerns. You say that he is not attracted to you since you gained weight. Physical appearance is an important and delicate issue. This is an issue I think too many of us dance around. Let’s face it—both men and women appreciate a spouse who stays fit. I receive equal numbers of responses from men and women whose spouses quit caring for themselves physically.
Ann, I believe we are responsible to ourselves, and to our mate, for keeping ourselves fit, healthy and attractive when we are able to do so. You certainly shouldn’t feel pressure to compete with the air-brushed models on the cover of the latest women’s magazine, but God tells us to treat our body as the temple of the Holy Spirit which suggests that He wants us to keep ourselves fit.
I am not suggesting, however, that this is an easy task. There are millions of people with eating disorders, and perhaps it is that kind of struggle for you. If so, take whatever steps are necessary to eat healthy and develop an exercise regimen. If it is an addiction for you, significant assistance may be needed. You are trying to lose weight, but you may be one of the many who use "half-measures," entrapped in the yo-yo dieting syndrome. Your husband may see this recurring problem and be discouraged. Take decisive action—get into a support group or weight loss program suitable to your need.
Finally, your husband is bored in the marriage—a common plight for many. Suggest to your husband that you two become more adventuresome. Talk about the kinds of activities that you both used to enjoy. Shut off the television and read a book together. Plan a vacation—and take it. Reinvest in your faith together through a new ministry or Bible study. You may be surprised to find these changes can bring the spark back in your marriage. Be patient as you take one step at a time, discovering that small steps, done day after day, add up to a big difference.
Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest book is titled When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.