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.
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.