Life Marriage

Setting Boundaries with an Angry Spouse

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Question:  What should I do?  I want a peaceful home, but there’s “anger fireworks” from my spouse, when I least expect it.

Part One of the Answer: Never underestimate the power of one softened heart to influence the other heart. (Check out I Want a Peaceful Home)

Part Two of the Answer: Soften your own heart, regardless, whether your spouse does or doesn’t. (Check out Softening Hearts in an Angry Marriage.)

Part Three: Putting boundaries up for an angry spouse.

Ephesians 4:22-32:  “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

There is truth to the saying that “we are treated as we allow people to treat us.”

We find that usually angry spouses have some people that they are not angry with.  It might be a brother, an employee, a friend, or a neighbor that they are able to carry on a conversation with, laugh with, and even resolve issues with.  But, when it comes to you, when it comes to the slightest issue when you least expect it, your angry spouse lashes out in anger or goes into long anger episodes.  But the fact that they are able to get along with a few people, perhaps shows that they have potential.

The truth is, it’s impossible to put boundaries up to restrain an angry spouse. Instead, what we are able to do, is to set up our own boundary lines, which helps to protect us from an over-the-top angry spouse.  Yes, we must pray that God will change their heart, but we can only allow God to change our own heart; we can’t force our angry spouse to change.  The bottom line is that we can’t change our angry spouse or make them less angry, but we can set up lines which limit the amount of time that we are with them, when they are in an episode.  We have a great example in our Lord, Jesus Christ.  He didn’t give us the commands in the Bible to make us follow them.  God established and gave us His Word.  He allows people to be as they are, but He draws lines when they break His Word, any part of it, including the Ten Commandments. It’s as if He says: “You can be that way if you choose but if you do, you cannot dwell with Me, in My house.” God limits His exposure to evil people who won’t repent and so should we.

God’s Holy Word says we are to draw lines/separate ourselves from people who act in destructive ways, and so we should.  The point is not that we don’t love the angry spouse.  Drawing the line protects our love, because we are drawing a line between love and what demolishes love.

It may get worse, before it gets better.  You usually have to go through conflict to achieve community.  If setting boundaries is new to you, expect a reaction and expect to be tested. Your angry spouse will find this side of you unfamiliar and may provoke you further or choose not to take you seriously. Make your statements again and follow through. Remember, truth is truth, even if it doesn’t seem like it in your house.

Here are guidelines for establishing boundaries with an angry spouse:

1)  Realize good boundaries make for better relationships, not poorer ones (a lack of proper boundaries will ultimately cause relationships to weaken or fail).

2)  Boundaries are the recognition that all relationships require mutual respect to flourish (even God requires our respect in order to be in relationship with us).

3)  Boundaries are the dividing line between my legitimate rights and responsibilities and your legitimate rights and responsibilities.

4)  The place to begin in establishing boundaries is in your own life, including your marriage — determine what are your own legitimate rights and responsibilities and what are not.

5)  Then clearly and calmly communicate your boundaries to your angry spouse. Make your plan with your pastor or a Biblical counselor.

6)  Once you decide you will not allow your angry spouse to cross your boundaries — and refuse to allow them to do so each and every time — ultimately the angry spouse will (usually) respect your boundaries.

7)  Remember boundaries are not a selfish way of life, they are an act of love that builds and preserves godly and healthy relationships.

Join a group like Celebrate Recovery, which usually offers a specialized group for spouses (dealing with an addictive spouse and anger qualifies as an addiction).

Resources:

There are several resources from Caring for the Heart Ministries by John Regier.

A good book on the subject by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend is:

43149: Boundaries in Marriage Boundaries in Marriage

About Cheryl Moeller

Cheryl Moeller has been married to her best friend Bob for 30 years. They are the parents of six children, one son-in-law, and three lively dogs. She uses her over-the-counter-top stand up comedy at women's groups and retreats, prays like it's her full-time job, writes a syndicated humor column, blogs about life with lots of kids at www.momlaughs.blogspot.com, and authors books such as Keep Courting: 100 Ways to Keep Courting After Marriage (purchase on their website) and Marriage Miracle (Harvest House 2010). Bob and Cheryl's passion is to connect two hearts for a lifetime. They have co-founded For Better For Worse For Keeps Ministries www.bobandcherylmoeller.com.

Encouraged? Share this post...

Cheryl Moeller

Cheryl Moeller has been married to her best friend Bob for 30 years. They are the parents of six children, one son-in-law, and three lively dogs. She uses her over-the-counter-top stand up comedy at women's groups and retreats, prays like it's her full-time job, writes a syndicated humor column, blogs about life with lots of kids at www.momlaughs.blogspot.com, and authors books such as Keep Courting: 100 Ways to Keep Courting After Marriage (purchase on their website) and Marriage Miracle (Harvest House 2010). Bob and Cheryl's passion is to connect two hearts for a lifetime. They have co-founded For Better For Worse For Keeps Ministries www.bobandcherylmoeller.com.

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