By Cortni Marrazzo, Crosswalk.com
When two people decide to share their lives in marriage, no matter how much they love each other, there will be some friction.
Marriage between a man and a woman is a beautiful picture that reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church. It can also be one of the most powerful ways that God can show us what it’s like to be on the other side of ourselves, especially when we experience friction and disagreements with our spouse.
The highs of marriage can help us to experience the joy and connection that God loves feeling towards us and helps us to get to know his heart for his people even deeper. The lows of marriage can help us get to know God’s heart towards us too—his great patience and mercy, even when we’re being impossible!
It’s inevitable that when two imperfect humans are around each other as much as married couples are, sparks will fly. And not always the good kind.
But disagreements, irritation, and even anger at our spouse don’t have to be relationship killers. When we are open to God’s leading in our hearts through our marriage relationship, He can (and will) use those times of conflict to help us grow and become more like Him.
Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” That process might not always be a pleasant one with our spouses, but with God’s guidance, it can be beautiful.
Here are a few ways God can help us grow when we get irritated or mad at our spouse.
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A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1 NLT
It’s Saturday morning and the house is a disaster after a busy week. You start cleaning the house after breakfast because it’s a mess and it obviously needs to be done, but your spouse doesn’t join in and help you, so you keep cleaning by yourself.
You figure that they see you cleaning, so they should at least offer to help, but when they never do, you find yourself getting exasperated and angry. Whether you outwardly express your anger to our spouse, or you passive-aggressively give them the silent treatment, it’s obvious to your spouse that you are upset.
But it is obvious to them why?
In your head, yes, it’s very obvious why, but it might not be to your spouse, especially if you never mentioned your plan or desire to clean the house that morning and didn’t ask them to help. This situation could easily erupt into a fight about household duties and your spouse not helping enough, but what if instead, it could turn into improved communication between you?
Many times in our marriages we want and expect our spouses to do certain things, but fail to actually communicate those things to them. Even if you think they should already know, they might not, and that is why it is important to talk about the things that cause issues between you. More than likely, your spouse is not trying to be a jerk, but rather is just unaware or distracted.
Practical Application: A great resource to help your communication with your spouse is the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book will help you learn about how you each give and receive love best and what actions help fill or drain your tanks. Sometimes paying attention to the little things your spouse wants or needs can go a long way in helping your marriage harmony.
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Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13 NLT
My husband is very easy-going and his personality is that of a peacemaker (he’s an Enneagram 9). So when he makes a snippy remark to me or overreacts about something, it throws me for a loop because it’s out of his character.
When it does happen, my first instinct is to get angry and fight back, but over the years I’ve learned to step back and think about what may have caused his outburst. Did he have a stressful week at work? Has he been feeling physically ill lately? Did he get enough sleep the night before?
Instead of confronting him immediately, knowing his personality wouldn't handle that well, I have learned to choose to immediately forgive him and circle back to the incident later with him.
Forgiving in these situations have helped me to get better at putting my anger in check and giving my offenses to God rather than overreacting and causing more pain and strife in our relationship.
Practical Application: In moments of anger at your spouse, before reacting, choose to take a minute to take some deep breaths and think about why they may be acting the way they are. Choose to immediately forgive them, even if you don’t feel like it at that moment, and choose to follow up with your spouse later with a soft heart.
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3. Grace for Yourself
May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2 NLT
I can be pretty hard on myself sometimes. I’m an Enneagram 1, which is known as the Perfectionist. Enneagram 1’s have a strong inner critic and typically judge themselves constantly. When stressed, they become judgemental, projecting their inner critic outwards to others. I'm sure all Enneagram types can fall prey to this, too.
When stress consumes my soul, my husband, unfortunately, becomes the target of that inner critic turning outward and he can take the brunt of things that have nothing to do with them.
Just like it’s important to realize that your spouse may be experiencing some stress that’s driving their behavior, it’s important for you to realize that you may be experiencing something similar. When your own emotional capacity is low, due to stress at work, stress with kids, physical issues, etc. then you easily become mad at things that aren’t really as big of a deal.
When you are aware of this in your life, it will help you put things into perspective and more easily set down your anger about the more trivial things that happen in your marriage.
Practical Application: While we all have off days and weeks, if you notice yourself overreacting and struggling week after week and month after month, it would be beneficial to sit down and talk to your spouse about it. You may need to make some changes in your life and set some boundaries that help you move towards emotional and physical health.
This could include going to see a counselor, starting a daily exercise routine, or making sure you are taking daily some to connect with God and center yourself with Him. Whatever it may look like for you, it’s worth the investment in yourself and the quality of your marriage.
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Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6 NLT
When you’re upset with someone or you feel hurt by them, the last thing you typically want to do is pray for them. Our human nature when someone hurts you is to want to hurt them back, or at least play the victim for a while and make them suffer.
Choosing to pray for your spouse when you are upset with them actually helps you mature and grow closer to God and to your spouse. While it may be tempting to simply pray for them to see the errors of their ways and to see that you are right, praying for the following three things will help your heart change toward them and help make your relationship better.
Thank God for them. So many of Paul’s prayers in the New Testament begin with thanksgiving because he knew the importance of being thankful for the people God had placed in his life. When you take time to thank God for your spouse, it helps you remember how much you love them and how much of a blessing they are to you (something that’s easily forgotten when you are mad at them for something).
Pray for what they need. Ask God to give your spouse what they need at that time. It may be peace in their soul, it may be for them to grow closer to God and to hear His voice, or it may be for them to accept Him as their savior if they haven’t done that yet. The beauty of prayer is that God knows what you need before you ask Him, so you can pray simply that God gives them what they need and He will do the rest.
Pray for yourself. Ironically, probably the most important thing when praying for your spouse is to pray for yourself. Pray for God to change your heart and allow you to move past whatever is bothering and/or hurting you and to grow closer to Him through it. You are the only one you have control over in your relationship, so ask God to work in you to help your marriage grow stronger.
Practical Application: The next time you are angry at your spouse, go into another room and take a minute to pray for these three things and give your frustrations over to God and then watch your attitude change.
When you choose to let God work in your heart through conflict with your spouse, you can strengthen your relationship with God, grow in maturity, grow closer to your spouse, and experience more peace in your relationship.
**This advice is directed toward minor disagreements in marriages. If you are facing more severe issues in your marriage like infidelity or abuse, it is best for you to pursue professional help.
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