Q: I don't get violent when I'm angry, but I've always had a tendency to just "let it out" when I get frustrated with my wife and kids. That's how my parents lived and how I was raised. What's the problem?
Jim: A lot of people see anger as an uncontrollable emotion. But that's not true. Not only can you control how you express your anger, you probably already do it.
Here's an example. You're in your car with your spouse, headed to a friend's home for dinner. It's supposed to be a fun evening, but the two of you are locked in a heated argument. No one else is around, so you both let your anger run loose, snapping at each other all the way across town. Maybe you even continue arguing as you're walking up to the house.
But what happens as soon as your friends open the front door? Suddenly, you and your spouse are all smiles and you're behaving as if there's nothing wrong between the two of you.
The issue isn't that you don't have the ability to control your emotion, it's that you don't want to exercise that ability. Anger is a powerful emotion, and you may feel better letting your frustration spew all over your family. But as empowering as it may feel, uncontrolled anger usually causes more damage than it solves. Anger can be restrained, but it takes deliberate, conscious effort.
If you need a jump start in learning how to deal with anger in a healthy way, I'd invite you to speak with one of our staff counselors at 1-800-232-6459.
Q: What should I do if I fear that my marriage may have been a mistake? It's only been a short time since the wedding, and already I'm beginning to think that I've married the wrong person.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Simply put, marriage is not primarily about "finding the right person." It's about being the right person.
You can begin by working on yourself. If you entered marriage with the expectation that you were going to find happiness in your mate, you were probably disappointed. The range of emotions that we normally experience as unmarried individuals has the potential to become even wider in marriage. If you and your spouse were unhappy and unfulfilled as singles, those feelings of discontentment can sink even lower after you tie the knot. But if you each have a sense of deep individual meaning and purpose, and a desire to share your goals in a lifetime of mutual commitment, your satisfaction level can increase as you come together. The object lesson is obvious: If you want to be content living with another person, you have to learn to be content in who you are.
Second, shake off the lingering influences of premarital romance and learn to appreciate your spouse for who he or she really is. During courtship, both spouses-to-be tend to get excited about this wonderful new relationship. As a result, they fill in any perceived gaps in their loved one's personality. Accept that you're now married to a person who has flaws -- just like you have.
Third, remind yourself of the true meaning of love. Erich Fromm wrote: "To love somebody is not just a strong feeling -- it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were just a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever."
If you continue to struggle practicing this kind of love in your marriage, please call our counselors at the number above.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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