Thanks for your prayers. I had a great weekend visiting with my sister from Chicago. The weather was sunny and warm and we spent a lot of time at the pool where we could walk around the track (in the pool), talk and not break a sweat. I think I spent more time in our community pool and hot tub this weekend than I have been in the past 3 years. It was good just to relax and feel the warmth of the sun and water on my bones.
Today’s Question: How do I respond to my husband when he won’t take responsibility for his explosions? I’ve told him that I have anxiety due to his explosions. He says we cause his explosions. He says I’m doing the same thing by blaming him for our anxiety.
Answer: First the bad news. You are powerless to “get” someone to take responsibility for their issues. That is their responsibility to take not yours. But in a twisted kind of way, your husband is right. You are asking him to take responsibility for his angry outbursts, which he blames on you. But in the same way, he is asking you to take responsibility for your anxiety, which you are blaming on him.
Here’s the good news. You can take responsibility for yourself. Therefore, it’s crucial that you identify the problem that you can and must take responsibility for. His anger is not your problem. It causes you to have a problem ….anxiety. That is what you must take responsibility for now. I understand what you might be thinking. If he would only stop his explosions, I wouldn’t feel anxious. You’re right and in the same way your husband tells himself if only you would stop challenging him, or confronting him, or bothering him or asking him to change, he wouldn’t have outbursts. It’s a circular way of thinking that will go nowhere.
And …also…there is a smidgen of truth in this logic. If life and people would always do whatever we wanted or needed all of the time and never upset us or ruffle our feathers, we probably wouldn’t feel our negative emotions of anger, frustration, or anxiety. But reality doesn’t work that way. People and life do frustrate us, aggravate us, and scare us sometimes. How we respond is our responsibility. Click To Tweet
Therefore, just like it’s your husband’s responsibility to manage his own anger in a way that does not cause harm to himself or others, you too are responsible to manage your anxiety or fear so that you don’t get sick, unhealthy, or harmed.
What would happen in a conversation with your husband if you said something like, “You’re right. I’m going to take responsibility for my own anxiety and therefore I am going to call 911 when you threaten to harm the children or me. Or I’m going to separate from you since you have no desire to change and your angry outbursts are hurting me and the children.”
What if you took responsibility for your anxiety and when feeling scared left the room, or the house and/or developed a safety plan to keep you and your children safer?
Hear me: Your anxiety serves a function. Anxiety is a warning bell in your body telling you, pay attention. The discernment comes when you try to figure out what is your anxiety trying to tell you or warn you of.
This can be a bit tricky because many of us have high anxiety over things we worry about that never happen. Does paying attention mean that whenever we feel anxiety we should avoid what’s causing it or flee the situation and confine ourselves to the things we feel comfortable with and safe in? No. For example, if I let anxiety decide, I would have never hiked Camelback Mountain or started this blog or written any books. In each instance, rather than avoid an uncomfortable or challenging situation, I learned to manage my anxiety so that it didn’t limit me or rob me of my goals, https://medfitnetwork.org/public/valium-diazepam-oral/.
Therefore, taking responsibility for your anxiety doesn’t always mean fleeing an uncomfortable situation. It may mean facing it, or even standing up to it so that anxiety does not control you. Taking responsibility means you must learn how to manage your anxiety so that it doesn’t get the best of you, limit your freedom, or allow it to damage your health. Whether that means learning how to speak up for yourself, leaving the house when your husband has his outbursts, or some other action, it also means you must learn to manage that feeling so that you are able to take better care of you both physically, mentally, and relationally.
Lastly, God’s word tells us that we will be afraid, but that we’re not to allow fear to have us (Philippians 4:6-8). Instead, we’re to pray, thanking God and telling God everything that we’re anxious about. He promises to guard our heart and mind and to teach us how to take appropriate steps in the right direction (Psalm 32:8).
Friends, when you have felt anxiety, especially with your respect to someone’s angry outbursts, share what you have done.
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Men Are Also Victims Of Emotional Abuse
Morning Friends, Thanks for your prayers this weekend. They were much needed and appreciated. My time at Wheaton College was well received and the staff that attended were open to looking at the mistakes people helpers make when working with individuals and couples in destructive relationships. While I was speaking at Loving Well Marriage Weekend…
I’m finally having success in dealing with my mom’s anger. It’s easier when it’s not someone you have to live with. (Dealing with my husbands emotional abuse is harder for me- still working through that.) With my mom, I can choose not to visit or to end a visit earlier. The biggest change I’ve made is my expectations. They are realistic now. I know at any time that something can set my mom off and she will blow up. I go to see her knowing that is a possibility and I decide in advance what I’m going to do if it happens. After 45 years of believing I was trapped by her anger, I know now that I can choose to engage with her or not. If she blows up, I can either leave the room or leave the house. I get to choose to be safe. I can’t prevent her anger and it’s not my job to do so. So now, I go into a visit intending to be respectful and polite and knowing I may need to cut the visit short. When I expect that may happen, I get to pleasantly surprised if she behaves well for entire visit. And I no longer expect to have a wonderfully close relationship with her. She isn’t emotionally healthy enough for that. So I accept what she can give and trust God to meet the needs that she never did and grieve my losses. I also rejoice in the relationship that I have with my kids that is so different from what I had. God can redeem and break cycles and I’m living proof of that.
Thank you SO much, Learning and Growing! What you said helps me tremendously when I think of interacting with my husband. After fourteens years of marriage, I should know by now that he isn’t able to communicate or engage with me in a loving, respectful way. I am finally able to lower my expectations of him. You said that your expectations are now “realistic”. I like that. Realistic. I’ve decided that I’ve got to be prepared with a response for him whenever I need to speak with him. About almost anything. I need to come up with my plan for interacting with him. My biggest issue was getting to where I could accept that, this is how he is and he may never be different. We can set boundaries and choose whether or not to engage. If I have a successful conversation with him, I’ll just be pleasantly surprised.
ksrwil, there is a strategy that comes from IMAGO therapy (Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix) when you need to talk about something important, and that is that you prepare the other person to just sit quietly and listen to what you have to say before you start to talk. Something like, “h, there is something I want to talk about, and I need you to just listen and hear what I have to say before you try to respond. And I’d like to ask you to respond calmly, without anger when it’s your turn. Can you do that?” Perhaps he won’t agree, but at least you have tried. If he won’t agree, then just walk away. Have any of the others here tried this?
I appreciate that you have finally accepted who you are married to. This is a healthy step into reality.
Now the question is: is this a God honouring marriage?
For myself, once I accepted reality I then decided to RAISE my expectations of him to mirror what the Bible has to say about a man’s responsibility in marriage. I had to accept the responsibility that for years, I had enabled his low view of marriage ( and my own too) by overfunctioning.
Once I repented of that (before The Lord) I was able to confront my h by first taking responsibility for my part (overfunctioning) and then telling him what my new standard was – a Biblical standard of marriage.
I was the one who had changed. After we got married we BOTH settled into a sub- standard marriage. When I awoke I wanted the REAL thing. But I also had to admit that I was changing the ‘unwritten rules’ we had both settled for, over the years.
It’s one thing to settle for emotional immaturity in a mother ( as learning and growing was talking about). It’s quite another to settle for that in marriage.
What a post! I’m so thankful to read your words as they resonate completely with me- yet I wouldn’t have the words to write.
I hope others who may be struggling with similar places can be open to these (low expectations and then reality of what we really are called to).
I remember having a similar conversation with my mother about theses low expectations and she wanted me to stay stuck.
I changed as did you and made choices that were not easy nor comfortable but glad I didn’t settle for stuck. Glad for myself, my husband, and our children.
Agreed Aly. Upholding a Godly standard of marriage was certainly uncomfortable at first, I thought “ who am I to change the rules after all these years?” But then I remembered that all those years ago, we stood before The Lord, the minister, our family and friends and we got MARRIED.
The sad part of accepting that he’s unable to give a meaningful emotional reply is that our husbands are missing out on some of the best parts of marriage :meaningful communication and empathy . I long for him to experience that as well as for me to experience that with him
Absolutely! I wish my husband could feel that deep, heartfelt connection that allows you to be kinder, more forgiving and patient with those around you. We just started a separation because of yet another over the top rage at our 9 year old. It’s so sad because he is a good husband and father otherwise.
This sounds like a great idea but in practice, not so easy. I’m beginning to believe my husbands angry outbursts may be tied to narcissistic personality disorder. If this is the case will the same strategy work for me?
Whether your husband actually has a personality disorder, or whether he is simply selfish and self-centred, isn’t really the issue.
What is really important is for you to be focused on what you need to do to govern yourself well, regardless of his behaviours, blaming, manipulations, etc. Being aware of yourself, rather than reacting to his poor behaviours.
– am I calm (am I coming from a place of peace God gives me; am i prepared; am I managing my voice and words wisely, not raising my voice or frantically begging for him to just listen)
– am I respectful (have i chosen a wise time to bring this up; whether or not he doesn’t like hearing the truth doesn’t make me disrespectful; am I still speaking respectfully as I would to someone else; do i recognize that we are both equally human, even if he is not respectful of me)
– am I communicating clearly and simply (short clear sentences, not trying to over explain; not getting pulled off onto some rabbit-trail he may be trying to force by blaming or throwing out unrelated topics)
– do I need to remove myself from this situation (if he is insisting on behaving badly, in words or actions, in spite of the things I’ve listed above, do I simply need to take myself to another room or elsewhere in order to keep myself emotionally / physically safe).
All of these things are important for YOU…….and would be exactly the same whether your husband’s poor behaviours stemmed from addiction, tantruming because he lacks emotional skills, or was deeply narcissistic in character and clinically diagnosed. You can’t guarantee anything will change in him if you apply the things Leslie talks about here, but you will definitely become stronger in your CORE.
Blessings, Gracie and all.
I love this, Karin.
No, Gracie. His outbursts are pre meditated and designed to control you. There is no anger involved if he has NPD. His screaming fits must have helped him get something he wanted from you in the past, therefore he repeats them. If that tactic stops working for him, he will try another. The best approach from his stand point is if you would just do everything he says without resistance. He wants his public image polished and he believes entitled to control you. In his mind you are just an object to him and anything you say threatens his delusional God like status.
I agree with Free. What Karin said is good but with abusers you can do EVERYTHING right and they will still find *something* to fault you over.
Be careful not to move into victim blaming. 💗
Of course the abuser will continue to find fault. The abuser is, well…abusive.
It’s curious to me that you see the encouragement of healthy thinking and a strong CORE as even remotely close to ‘victim blaming’.
I was married to a narcissist for 32 years. He used his angry outbursts to control me. After many years of this I sought God’s help and read lots of books especially Leslie’s and went to a Christian therapist and I changed. When my h acted up with a tantrum I gathered up the kids and left the house. It only took 3 times leaving the house, not even for the night but just a few hours and there were no more angry outbursts. I was so angry with myself for not doing this earlier in the marriage but I wasn’t strong enough and fed up enough to try it.
He had many other bad behaviors including being very passive aggressive and so now I’m free from abuse and divorced.
Well said, Karin! I love how you listed each point with action illustrations. It’s perhaps the most well written advice I’ve seen in the two months since a psychologist asked to see me alone after 3 sessions with both of us. She said I am welcome there any time but my husband is not. She suspects he has narcissistic personality disorder. And here I sit holding the bag, not knowing how to handle this. I do know I cannot tell him what she said. I do not want to be the messenger.
Start you research into learning about NPD. Although I like Karin’s response it would not be effective when dealing with a Classic Narcissist. You will need to read Dr. Evan Stark on Coercive Control, Don Hennessy on Psychophiles and Sam Vaknin on Narcissism to educate yourself. Get the latest DSM (a mental illness diagnostic manual) and read up on the personality disorder. Here are a few facts to consider about NPD. There is no cure, the damaged area of the brain can be identified on an MRI and it is often hereditary. Google away and learn what you are dealing with, then read about victims, their denial and the long road to recovery.
I’m not sure what you mean by, “ Karin’s response would not be effective when dealing with a classic Narcissist.” If you mean that her proposed strategy would not change him, I agree with you because the goal here is never to try to change the other person. The goal is to step back from the relationship in order to find out if that person will take responsibility for themselves.
Once we wake up to the destructive reality we have become accustom to, what do we do?
it is wise to cease reacting in old patterns and begin responding to him ( her suggestions are thought processes that allow that change to happen). This will bring clarity for next steps. Her last point is to think to oneself “do I-need to remove myself from this situation?”.
The answer may be an immediate yes. But if one does not ask this question of themselves, how does one come to the decision to get to safety? Especially if she is dealing with a classic Narcissist.
I agree with you on NPD and victims denial.
I do think it’s hard and often a very difficult road to have an NPD actually diagnosed.
In destructive relationships the behaviors can be so much like NPD, but goodness not all these common scenarios can statistically be NPD. It is essential for one to do their homework and get outside help from a professional.
Gracie, if the therapist has invited you back, it seems like it would be good for you to go, for yourself, and to strengthen your own CORE. Have you read Leslie’s book? Do you know about CORE strength? A lot of what Karin wrote above is about strengthening your own self. Very excellent advice.
I agree, please see that therapist again and by yourself! You have probably received your first glimmer of hope by finding someone who knows what you are dealing with and is willing to help you. Wonderful!
Male narcissists are often misogynists. They hate women but LOVE controlling them. It is the power and control that they crave. I know this is hard to hear, but it is true. Most Narcs are bad men who do good things if it benefits them. They are not good men who do some bad things. The realization of this is shocking to most of us.
It takes a good and persistant therapist to work through the destruction that the NPD partners does to ones brain. There are various types of NPD, your therapist can help you identify his illness and recognize the symptoms of it. Then you can plan for your future.
What would you suggest for a woman who’s husband says that he hates her family and would like to cut them out of our life(and we have 5 kids). He’s becoming increasingly sensitive and angry when people who say their christians don’t act the way he says christians should. Any little thing can upset him. He’ll text me all day nasty words(so the kids don’t hear), but there’s many times he will do it out loud and the kids do hear. He yells, swears, and calls me names. Undermines my parental authority. Everything has to be his way. Not to mention I must love all his hobbies the same way he does and always participate. He says he wants me to be his only friend(he’s already cut all men out of his life, ones he’d previously hang out with). A few times he’s shoved me or thrown a pillow at my face. Nothing that physically hurts, but causes even more emotional damage. This all started 5 years ago. He started having angry tantrums when things didn’t go his way, even if only because the pizza I ordered had burnt cheese. And I was supposed to make sure they didn’t burn it. And I’ve become checked out in our marriage, and he thinks he’s only angry because I don’t love him the way he says I should. He says he doesn’t feel loved or respected. That I should be more interested in sex, even when he’s insulted me all day. That I should be more supportive of cutting all the people out of our life because they don’t act right. We never agree on parenting because he’s very strict, to the point our oldest is depressed and has anxiety around him. I told him I’d like him to move out and he’s angry that I want to break up our family and it’s my fault for not loving him enough. Bottom line of the biggest issue in our marriage at the moment is that I must love my family more than him if I won’t cut all ties to them. I have 6 siblings and there’s tons of cousins my kids love. I’ve already slowly been seeing them less because of my husband, but I refuse to cut them out of my life totally.
I’ve checked out, to protect myself. I’ve shown love and kindness, I never lash out. But I have also lost my joy and he can sense that.
Ruth, does your family love you? Do you want them in your life? Your husband wants them out in order to further abuse you and control you. You need your family now more than ever!
What are your next steps to get him out of the house? Have you been to the police, lawyers, domestic violence centers to get information.
What do you do? Nothing, let him escalate and then call the cops. His next move is more violence. Next time he shoved you or blocks a doorway. Call the police and press charges. You will need their help to get him out of your life so he can get consequences and help.
So what do you do? Disobey him! Be an adult, not his slave and servant. Yet, pick you times, make a plan. See if you can get the kids out of the house when you plan to tell him, No. Tell a friend, have your phone with you for 911 call.
Scary stuff, but it has to end. The abuser, tyrant doesn’t get to be a God in his own eyes.
Ruth, I recently spoke with a friend who was living happily in her Mennonite community. I say this so you know that traditions and family matter to her. Yet, at some point her husband started to believe create his own doctrine. He criticized everyone and eliminated people from his (their) life who didn’t agree with his rants. He started to write long diatribes and send them to most everyone in their field of influence.
My friend values her family and community. Her husband wanted to isolate then from her Mennonite family and friends. He made a fire in the yard and made everyone burn various things, toys, books, clothes he seemed evil my friend was beside herself.
She told her church community, she told her friends and family. They rallied around her and helped. Her husband was put under church discipline. They went to a counselor and she was advised to seek separation.
It turned out her husband was more than just mean and controlling. He was mentally ill with a schizoid personality Disorder. Ruth, your husband sounds mentally ill. You can’t live with him until he gets help and or inpatient treatment and in medication. Be brave and insist he gets out and gets care. Your children need your protection and he needs help to overcome his illness.
You ask, “what would you suggest ….” and you describe your h.
I would suggest reading as much of Leslie’s material as you can. I’d also suggest watching Patrick Doyle videos on Youtube. Over and over. These people’s work will validate that you are not crazy.
Get into some kind of Bible Study or small church group where others can pray for you.Pray that The Lord will provide you with a trusted mentir who understands this very specific dynamic.
From what you describe, your h sees you as an object – an extension of himself.
We are to guard our hearts above all. That means that when someone attacks, you go to battle to keep it protected. Guard it. Why are we commanded to do so? Because it is the wellspring of our lives. No wonder you have lost your joy. You have allowed him access to the wellspring of your life and he is trampling it.
Time to defend your heart Ruth. No one can do that but you.
Well said! My husband thinks that because we are supposed to be united as one that I shouldn’t want to be individually whole or an individual at all! I keep hearing this verse and have read & been in counseling where they have said that God cares about your heart first and foremost! It is up to you to protect your heart from abuse. It was also stated that the verse “love your neighbor as yourself” speaks of you needing to love yourself first before you can love someone else. An abusive husband is not loving himself therefore he is unable to love his wife. The wife who lets her husband control, manipulate & abuse her is also not loving herself! So, the wife MUST protect her heart at all cost! Only after he is loving himself and she is loving herself (this is not in a selfish way but a healthy, godly way) can the marriage begin to be repaired.
You and your husband need help (separately). Get with a professional and begin a list of interventions needed.
The issue isn’t that you don’t love your husband enough or the way he is seeking love.
His version of what love should be or look like is warped and skewed. It seems- He’s completely insecure and you & your kids are paying a high emotional price living in that environment.
He is wanting to blame you and act destructive toward you… when it’s really what’s going on inside him.
It would be unloving for you to continue one more hour of this chaos. It also would be irresponsible for you not to do everything possible to create safety for your children. (Physical, Mental, Emotional) your children need you and ‘checking out’ will further cause them to feel a level of abandonment and could cause damage to your relationship with them.
It will take a lot of interventions to get through this and make tough decisions in the process (don’t go it alone).
From one Ruth to another, I am so sorry you’re experiencing this outrageous abuse ☹️😢. The other ladies have given you very good advice.
I’ll just add one little piece of advice. You can educate yourself and inspire yourself through reading books at from your public library (assuming your H doesn’t police what you read ☹️). At my library, they will order a book if I make a request.
Christian authors on abuse I recommend are of course Leslie’s book:
“The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”, “Mending the Soul” 💗💗💗 by Stephen Tracy and I hear Gary Thomas’ “When to Walk Away” is excellent
Non-Christian authors on abuse (but excellent material)
** “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft
“Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman
I have on my personal reading To Do List:
“Necessary Endings” by Henry Cloud ☁️
Don Hennessy’s books “How He Gets into her Head” or
“Intimate Partner Control”
Ruth8318, that is a great list of helpful books, and I would add Ramona Probasco’s book “Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship.” It is excellent.
Thank you all so much for your comments. So helpful to ‘speak’ with others having been through it. I ended up leaving my husband on February 15. He has not made the separation easy so far, but I have so much support from my family and from my mother in law. He definitely has a mental illness, and I’m suspecting possibly narcissistic tendencies. He’s acting just like his dad did. He’s continued to text me several hundred times a day, alternating between verbally and emotionally abusive, or sweet smooth talking trying to win me back. At one point he found out where I was staying and we had to call 911 when he barged into the house. Because of all this COVID-19 stuff I have not been able to file for custody and divorce yet, but I will as soon as I’m able since he refuses to go for counselling. I see such a huge difference in my children already. I am so grateful for this blog, I’ve been reading it for years and it’s been so helpful in helping me sort out the confusion what happens when you’re abused. So thank you for all your help with your comments.
My advice: Stand in front of a mirror and ask your heavenly Father what He thinks of you and then how does he feel about how you are being treated. When you get your answer, ask what your next step should be We have been controlled for so long that the last thing we need is others on this blog to tell us what to do again. How would I know what makes you safe? We can get general guidelines from each other which is great, and even affirmation, but it means so little when we’ve been ignored and insulted for so long, but when HE speaks, things happen! Hearts melt. Only when we know that we know how precious we are, how valuable, can we be confident enough to move forward and not look back. Blessings and prayers to you!!
My experience with an abusive man is that they are the only person who gets to be angry. Anger was a luxury I never experienced. There was no fighting of any kind on my part. I submitted, obeyed, prayed and stayed. I perfect formula to survive I thought.
Yet, a person’s heart, mind and soul can be damaged so severely that it eventually renders them unable to remember how to fight back in self defense and obtain safety. That is the crime of living with an angry person. They destroy those around them. So whether the angry person, ever changes or not, they are destroying you and your family with every outburst. One must flee to safety.
I’ve started reading your book “The Emotional Destructive Marriage”. So I’m the husband who has had problems in the past. I did not love, protect, even honor my wife the way God has called husbands to do. She tired to tell me for years. I was either too busy to listen or didn’t want to hear it.
We are now in a 60 day in home separation. Her heart is hard, and I have no one to blame but myself. I am seeking counseling for all the past issues. There are many personal issues that have led to the hard man I’ve been. I’m also praying that God will work in me to help me become a better father, man, and more importantly a better husband based on God’s calling of marriage.
I read the last 2 chapters, and am following the 5 Cs How do I help my wife soften her heart towards reconciliation? What can I do to show her that I’m serious about change. This isn’t a fad, but a true change.
Maybe you could write a book for husbands like me. That are on our knees truly remorseful, and how we begin to build again.
I’ve been with my husband for 10 years (married for 4). We have two daughters, 9 and 3yrs. He’s generally a really good guy, and we are well matched, but he has a short fuse with our eldest and has also been prone to negativity and depression over the years.
As well as showing daily irritation, annoyance and anger at our eldest, every few months he completely blows up at her and is physically rough with her. Our 3 year old usually witnesses these outbursts. He says he loves them and has other nice times with them, but cannot control his temper and is constantly ‘at’ them about this or that. I think he may possibly have a sensory processing issue, but have no proof of that.
It causes me a great deal of pain and I am deeply concerned about lasting problems this could cause our kids (as well as causing anger management problems in them as well). I’m also tired of making excuses for him, and usually being the one who has to keep the peace and positivity in the house.
This last time was too much for me, and we both decided he should move out for a while. But now I am torn- despite therapy this still seems to be a problem for him and it may never change, which makes me not want to have him around all that much- especially not around the kids. But we otherwise have had a largely wonderful relationship ourselves, it felt like we were ‘meant to be’.
Should I have him back and risk further emotional and psychological damage to our daughters; try to have some kind of relationship in separate dwellings; or begin the uncoupling process so that he can find a life situation that doesn’t annoy him so much (losing me in the process, but maintaining visits with the children)? I’m completely torn and feeling awful.