There’s nothing worse than seeing a grown man cry. I had the misfortune of sharing an acquaintance’s tears recently when his wife, a friend from church, died unexpectedly.
She hadn’t been sick and was only 42.
At his wife’s wake, he wondered aloud why God had taken her so quickly and why he hadn’t been given more time to repair their struggling marriage.
My heart broke as I watched him grieve, and I remembered a piece of advice a couple gave us shortly after we married.
Fred and I were taking a marriage class at our former church, and the instructors, who had been married for a dozen or so years (which seemed like an eternity to us at the time) told us to never go to bed angry with each other. One of you may not wake up the next morning, one instructor warned, and you don’t want your last words to be angry ones.
It was actually a biblical concept, which I didn’t realize until I started reading my bible years later. It says in Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
I would be lying if I said I was always successful in following their advice, especially once we started having kids. It seemed to get harder to find the time to kiss and make up before we went to bad, and quite frankly, our arguments seemed harder to resolve.
In retrospect, just saying “I’m sorry” probably wouldn’t have taken that much time or effort on my part, but somehow my pride and sleep sometimes got in the way.
However, my friend’s surprising death has reminded me that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us, and I may not get a second chance to make things right. A few kind words today may save me a lifetime of regret later.
Early in our marriage, Kim and I agreed to never go to bed angry. When we made this promise, we were still love struck newlyweds who didn’t want the honeymoon to end. However, the weight of our promise became evident soon after our first major argument.
I can’t remember what the argument was about, but I do remember both of us sitting on the edge of the bed stewing in our anger. Since we are both stubborn and strong-willed, we were content to sit there until the other made a concession. Fortunately, Kim reminded me of our agreement. Her gentle nudge diffused the tension and allowed us to work on a resolution.
I must admit that sticking to our agreement has not always been easy. Over the course of our 13 year marriage, there have been nights when we’ve gone to bed angry with each other. We’ve also stayed up until the wee hours of the morning trying to hash out our problems. Sometimes we come up with a solution and sometimes we don’t. But we always try to reach a point where we can speak rationally and without anger.
David and Vera Mace, pioneers in the marriage enrichment movement, developed an acronym (AREA) to help couples deal with anger:
A – Admit your anger to your spouse;
R – Restrain your anger and do not let it get out of hand by blaming or belittling;
E – Explain in a very calm manner why you are angry; and
A – Take Action to do something about the cause of the anger.
These tips are useful and have helped us to approach our arguments without being overcome by negative emotions. They’ve also helped to get a good night’s sleep.
Kim and I realize that our time on Earth is short and we don’t want to waste it by holding on to anger. If one of us were to die in our sleep, neither of us would want to live with the guilt of knowing that our last words were not spoken in love.
Question: How do you deal with anger in your relationship?