Once, I was talking to a friend who had been married for over 20 years. He casually mentioned that he could count on one hand the number of fights he and his wife had engaged in during that time. I chuckled and responded, “Yeah, I can almost count on one hand the number of fights we’ve had so far this week—almost.”
I was joking, but I wanted to make a point. There’s this idea out there that healthy couples are always on the same page and never experience tension. But that’s absolutely false. My marriage is pretty healthy, but there are still times my wife makes me angry (and I definitely get her pretty fired up as well), because we’re both human and sometimes that happens. The key to a healthy relationship is not whether my wife makes me angry but what I do about it. Here are 7 choices you need to make when she makes you angry.
When our wives get us angry, our knee jerk reactions are almost always wrong. We tend to respond defensively and emotionally. But it’s critical that we learn not to react immediately. The best response when your wife gets you angry is to pause.
When you pause, it gives you chance to be nonreactive. Pausing is a way to maintain control, not of the situation but of your emotions. Sometimes you need to let that initial wave of emotion flow past you so you can collect yourself and engage calmly.
2. Talk to yourself.
While you’re pausing, it might be useful to talk to yourself. This might sound silly, but sometimes our emotions and our brain aren’t on the same page. Talking to yourself is a way to stay integrated.
You might be surprised how helpful it is in the moment to tell yourself that “you might be misunderstanding her” or to remind yourself not to get defensive. Oftentimes, the problem isn’t that we don’t know how to respond better but that we don’t pause to talk to ourselves about it, so our emotions get the better of us.
3. Interpret charitably.
Don’t you hope people assume the best of you? And you especially hope the people closest to you assume the best, right? Well then why is it OK to assume the worst of your wife? After all, you have no idea what she’s actually thinking.
What if you committed to assuming the best about your wife in every interaction? What if you interpreted her actions charitably, imagining the most gracious and positive possible scenario? Would you always be right? Of course not. But sometimes you would. And just the act of choosing to assume you’re on the same team massively changes your posture entering into a disagreement.
Of course, even when you assume the best, you need to find out for sure. Learn to ask clarifying questions. Why did she do what she did or say what she said? Do you really understand what’s happening? Did she know what you were hoping would happen?
So often, my wife makes me angry because I have unspoken expectations that were never clear to her or because why she did what she did wasn’t clear to me. Seek first to understand.Forgiveness empowers you to name what is true but not to stay stuck in it.
5. Be honest.
In all of this, it’s still important to be honest. When your wife does something that makes you angry, while you need to work through the emotions of it, you don’t need to stuff it down.
Sure there are times you are angry over something petty and you need to just get over it, but often the issue is actually an important one. So even as you take steps to understand your wife and work through your emotions, it’s important to share honestly how her action or her words made you feel. After all, it’s very unlikely she wants to keep making you angry.
Forgiveness is terribly misunderstood. Forgiveness is not simply brushing something under the rug or just moving on from a topic. Rather, forgiveness is the act of acknowledging that something wrong was done, but choosing to release the offender—to refuse to hold a grudge against her.
Choosing to forgive your wife isn’t pretending she didn’t do something wrong. It’s acknowledging that she actually did harm you but that you are choosing not to hold it against her but instead to work toward reconciliation. In this way, forgiveness empowers you to name what is true but not to stay stuck in it.
7. Move along.
Finally, when all is said and done, move on. By this I mean keep short accounts. Don’t bring it up again. I’ve never ever had a fight improve when I brought up something my wife did in the past. I’m guessing you could say the same.
Sound off: What other choices can you make when your wife makes you angry?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “Are there unhelpful ways I respond when I’m angry with you?”