Being a man in the twenty-first century isn’t easy. In fact, trying to live up to a masculine ideal that may be nothing more than myth has left many men frustrated and angry. Often unable to express their emotions, these men appear buttoned-up until a seemingly minor setback unleashes a torrent of rage that can destroy personal and professional relationships. Life with a man who is angry is challenging and hard. But there are some things that you can do that can help both of you.
- BE HIS FRIEND, NOT HIS MOTHER. Your husband doesn’t need a mother; he needs a friend who’ll treat him, and insist on being treated by him, as an equal. He needs a friend who’ll gladly share life’s responsibilities with him but not live his life for him, someone who’ll encourage him in his problem solving but not solve all of his problems for him. If you find yourself playing a mothering role to the man in your life, he will never fully deal with the causes and crisis of his anger. The scared little boy will whine and fuss until you make it all better. You can transition from mother to friend in his life by lovingly placing in his hands those responsibilities and problems that he should deal with.
- APPRECIATE HIM; DON’T NAG HIM. It’s estimated that upwards of 90 percent of men today are unhappy and angry in their jobs to some degree. Most of them feel fortunate to be working, but they often languish in their dead-end jobs, feeling less than fully masculine because they’re not in control of their own lives. It’s likely that a significant portion of your man’s anger springs from a sense of lack of control in his work. Nagging him to buck for promotions or beg for raises may only intensify his anger. Bugging him for a bigger house or newer car may only deepen his frustration that he has no more control at home than he has on the job. But if you become a wellspring of appreciation for the work that he does and the living he provides, you will lift some of the pressure from his life. Find many ways to say, “I appreciate that you work hard at your job and that you hang in there even when it’s frustrating and tough. I couldn’t love you more if you owned the whole company.”
- AFFIRM HIM; DON’T CRITICIZE HIM. Some men aren’t only upset because they must work for someone else but because of the kind of work they must do. If your man is struggling with being locked into a job that’s distasteful to him, you can ease his struggle by affirming him for who he is and what he does. Compliment him for the character qualities he exercises (or needs to exercise) in his job: patience, perseverance, determination, creativity, etc. In everything you say and do, let him know that he’s the best taco maker (or pump jockey, accountant, construction worker, sanitation engineer, etc.) in the world. Appreciate him for his effort.
- GIVE HIM SPACE; DON’T CROWD HIM. Most of us don’t like to be pushed, especially men. It’s an affront to their struggling masculinity and only serves to exacerbate their anger. They feel intimidated because their wives can’t accept them the way they are. They feel inferior in comparison to the ideal man their wives are badgering them to become. Once again they are not in control of their lives. Give your husband plenty of room. Show him that you’re concerned about him and that you love him. Let him know that you’re available to listen to him and talk to him. Then back off to pray and wait. Trust God to work for your man’s good in the situation. Allow Him to use “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4) in you to encourage and help him.
- GIVE HIM TIME; DON’T RUSH HIM. We live in an age of instant gratification. We can travel thousands of miles in hours; we can transact business in seconds with our high-speed computers, cell phones, and cable shopping channels. We hate to wait. This subconscious urgency we all share for fast results may get in the way. When it comes to the process of helping a man defuse his anger impatience may cause him to make some cursory changes to get you off his back. But pressure from you isn’t likely to produce a lasting solution. When you step back and give God room to work, the changes may be significant and enduring.
- HOLD HIM RESPONSIBLE; DON’T BE CO-DEPENDENT. If your husband’s anger gets him into trouble in any way, you are not responsible to cover for him or take the rap for him. Doing so only allows the problem to continue; it never stops the problem. Only when we allow someone to face the consequences of his behavior will he begin to see that he’s responsible for making changes in the way he behaves.
- GIVE TO HIM; DON’T WITHHOLD FROM HIM. If your husband is in the process of dealing with expressions of anger that have been hurtful to you in some way, you may be tempted to say something like, “Once you get your act together, then I’ll start being the wife I should be.” You may feel like withholding affection or sex from him until he deserves it. You may feel like asking him to move out until he has better control of his temper or habits. Or he may have troubled you so much that you’re ready to give up.
While there are a few occasions when a temporary separation may be necessary (such as when his uncontrolled anger is endangering you or the children), you can probably be more helpful to your man’s healing by staying with him. Love, forgiveness, and acceptance are qualities to be given freely, not to be held hostage for ransom. He needs your friendship, not your judgment. God will use your openness, kindness, and willingness to go the second mile to aid in his healing.