Dear Dr. Elia,
My husband I are very active members of the church. We have a lot of stress in our home just with all the activities going on and now the economy has put a stop to our income.
Over the years my husband has had a habit of reacting to problems with anger always looking for someone or somewhere to place blame or responsibility. I know he loves me but often he explodes in anger such as yanking my cell phone away when I wasn’t paying attention to a comment he made about one of the kids (while two kids were riding with us in the car). I felt it wasn’t the appropriate place to discuss another child’s issues. Long and short is he will regularly get angry at me or the kids and it is difficult to get back into a loving atmosphere. He berates me for not appreciating him (he does a lot at our home as his office is here), being his cheerleader, comforting him etc. It’s like trying to love a porcupine. His anger drives me away and
I feel somewhat guarded in our relationship more in these last years because of his verbal attacks on me. I know he needs my help and support but how do I work this out in my mind to be loving when I feel so hurt on a regular basis. Do I just need to grow up and accept this? I have talked to him about his anger issue and suggested counseling for us but he thinks it is not needed. If you could suggest some resource or reading material or some type of counsel it would be appreciated. Thank you. Please respond by email only.
This is an issue that often comes up when working with couples. There are three ways to empty the “emotional bank account” in a marriage. It’s called the “AAA” which stands for Adultery, Addiction and Abuse. The behavior of your husband’s as you describe it, falls under the third category, meaning verbal and emotional abuse. Over the years you may have become accustomed to being treated this way, but that does not make it right. His behavior is not justified under ANY circumstances. Even if the economy has taken its toll on his business, there’s no excuse for it.
You’re wondering if you “need to grow up and accept this!” That is an amazing statement for an outsider like myself (and our readers I’m sure) to embrace. It only makes sense because you’ve become used to it. No woman in the church deserves to be treated this way. Do you remember who you are? A daughter of your Heavenly Father! Do you think He would approve of your husband’s “habit” as you call it? May I suggest that you tactfully share the following scripture with your husband: Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-41.
39 “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen. 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” If this is too hard to do by yourself, please seek the support of your ecclesiastical leaders, like your Bishop or Stake President.
You are correct in suggesting to him to go to counseling, but his pride keeps him from seeking help. I wonder if he would turn down an offer of assistance from his Bishop? He not only could use some counseling, but more specifically Anger Management classes. There are plenty of resources, if he has the desire to overcome this detrimental behavior. I’m concerned that if things continue without any change, whatever love you have for him will eventually disappear. I have seen it countless times in similar circumstances…The wife “endures the verbal and emotional abuse” until the youngest child graduates from high school and heads off to college. Soon after she files for divorce and ends this dysfunctional marriage. I hope you have a very different outcome, for yourself, your children but also for him.
He cannot possibly be happy when he treats you this way. Somewhere deep down inside he must know that his behavior is wrong…even if he doesn’t admit it. It takes real humility to say to you that he has been wrong
and has offend you and God by his outbursts all these years. It takes courage on your part to put an end to it…You are NOT alone. Seek the help and guidance from those in positions to help. One of the best things that you can do for your children is to teach them by example that this is not going to be tolerated anymore.
Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.