Q: My husband has an anger problem and gets upset over the littlest issues. He's not abusive, but he lashes out with words. Our family walks on eggshells around him. How can I help him?
Juli: Although you can't get your husband to change his behavior, you can influence him. The first thing you can do is help him understand the impact his outbursts have on you and your family. Many people live by the "sticks and stones" rule, minimizing the effect harsh words have on relationships. At a neutral time (not when he's upset), tell him there is something you would like to share with him. Preface your statement with a softener like, "I know you may not be aware of this, but..." Then explain how his outbursts hurt you and get in the way of feeling safe with him. He may or may not receive your comments well. Even if he doesn't acknowledge what you say, he may think about it over time.
Second, as much as he's willing to allow it, help him identify the true source of his anger. It's easy to dump anger and frustration on family members when the genesis of those feelings comes from somewhere else. For example, how much stress is he under at work? Are finances contributing? What was modeled in his home growing up? Asking the right questions can help him make some of these connections.
Finally, be prepared for the next time he gets angry. You have the right and the responsibility to stand up for yourself and your family if his words become harsh and hurtful. I highly recommend two books that will help you know what to say in the middle of a tense situation: "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend and "Love Must be Tough" by Dr. James Dobson.
Q: I've been dating the same girl for five months. We're getting serious, but I'm not 100 percent sure about it. Some of my married friends knew they'd found "the one" after only a couple weeks of dating.
Jim: Some people "know" sooner than others, but don't feel like you have to be on the fast track. You and your girlfriend shouldn't feel pressure to make a decision any sooner than either of you is ready.
Marrying my wife, Jean, wasn't a tough decision. Once I knew, I knew. More importantly, once she knew -- I knew! But that doesn't mean I didn't invest a great deal of thought and prayer in the process.
People decide whom they're going to marry using two things: their head and their heart. In the words of author John Thomas, it's "a little bit of art and a little bit of science."
Your head helps you address the practical matters. Do the two of you have similar morals and values? Do you have compatible views on family and parenting? Do your friends and family members have any serious reservations about the other person? Do you both believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment? These are all things that you can work out in your head.
Listening to your heart can be more tricky, but it's just as important. If you're considering marriage, it's safe to assume that you already have strong feelings for your girlfriend. But do you have peace? Does she share that peace?
I'm not suggesting that you won't have butterflies. There are plenty of things about getting married that can cause stress, even if you're marrying the right person. But through prayer, introspection and discussion, you both need to have peace in your hearts that you're doing the right thing.
The road to marriage is full of emotion. But if your head and your heart can find agreement on that special person, there's a good chance you've found "the one."
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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