Q. This is my last blog before the New Year so I thought I’d do something a little different. Instead of answering a new question, I want to continue to respond to the issue presented last week. This past week I’ve received some reader responses as well as a follow up question from Diane regarding her husband’s explosive anger and chronic negativity.
This week Diane writes: I took responsibility for my husband’s foul moods for years. I thought “If only I try this”, or “If only I be very careful”. But now I am finding the courage to tell him that he is misdirecting all his anger at me and that he won’t be happy until he fixes what’s going on inside him. The problem since I’ve been doing that is he explodes at me saying, “So, it’s my entire fault? You’re so perfect, and I’m so terrible?”
In addition, his family is questioning my part even though they know of his explosive temper. He banned me from coming to celebrate Christmas Eve with his family and took our children, leaving me alone. When I tried to get support from his sister, she said, “Well, what is your part in this? What are you doing to make him angry?”
Maybe my expectations for their help are overly optimistic but I am getting resentful because I’ve gotten no credit for putting up with it all these years and I don’t know how to get past this. I just can’t stomach the perception that I caused this in some way. I hate feeling this way.
A. First, I’d love for those of you who have been where this woman is to respond to her in an encouraging band of support. We need one another in order to not be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
It is important right now for you to think through what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. In this situation, it might be true that you are doing some things that anger your husband. I think that’s true for anyone who lives with another person. If your husband doesn’t like something you’ve done or said, the mature and healthy person would choose to talk with you about it. However, his explosive temper is not a healthy response and is totally his responsibility and outside your control. When Moses was provoked by the Israelites, they did make him angry. However, God held Moses responsible for how he handled his anger. In the same way, your husband is 100% responsible for how he handles whatever feelings he has (as you are too). So when he says to you, “It’s all my fault?” Quietly respond by saying,
“I am always willing to hear your feelings about something I have done that upsets you when you tell me in a respectful way. When you scream or threaten me, I won’t be able to listen.”
Remember, whenever you change the dynamics of a relationship you will gets lots of resistance. You’re experiencing that now not only from your husband, but also from his family. You suffered silently before and no one had to face the hard reality of what was going on. Now you’re not so silent anymore and you’re upsetting that status quo. However, nothing changes if nothing changes. So your best chance at changing the dynamics of your abusive relationship and imbalance of power is to speak up – respectfully speak up! Respectfully stand up when you must and if necessary, respectfully step back from the relationship!
But your last statement, “I just can’t stomach the perception that I caused this in some way. I hate feeling this way,” is the place you need to focus the most right now. Just as you can’t control your husband’s moods or temper, you cannot control other people’s perceptions. You could do everything right and people still might think badly about you. Jesus was perfect, but some thought he was a fake, other’s a liar, others simply a good man. Very few people really believed he was the Son of God. If you live with your well-being dependent on what other people think of you, you’re in trouble. Instead ask God what He thinks of you. Read through Ephesians 1. Jesus was emotionally stable because his security and identity rested on God’s viewpoint, not on human beings. God is using this trial to mature you, both spiritually and emotionally. Gather around yourself good and godly support. It is overwhelming to fight this battle of the mind alone.
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