My husband I are very active members of the church. We have a lot of stress in our home just with all the activities going on and now the economy has put a stop to our income.
Over the years my husband has had a habit of reacting to problems with anger always looking for someone or somewhere to place blame or responsibility. He will regularly get angry at me or the kids, and it is difficult to get back into a loving atmosphere. He berates me for not appreciating him, being his cheerleader, comforting him, etc. It's like trying to love a porcupine. His anger drives me away, and I feel somewhat more guarded in our relationship in these last years because of his verbal attacks on me. I know he needs my help and support, but how do I work this out in my mind to be loving when I feel so hurt on a regular basis? Do I just need to grow up and accept this? I have talked to him about his anger issue and suggested counseling for us but he thinks it is not needed.
This is an issue that often comes up when working with couples. There are three ways to empty the "emotional bank account" in a marriage. It's called the "AAA," which stands for Adultery, Addiction, and Abuse. Your husband's behavior as you describe it falls under the third category, as verbal and emotional abuse. Over the years you may have become accustomed to being treated this way, but that does not make it justified under any circumstances.
You're wondering if you "need to grow up and accept this." That is an amazing statement for an outsider like myself to embrace! It only makes sense because you've become used to it. No woman in the Church deserves to be treated this way. Do you remember who you are? A daughter of your Heavenly Father! Do you think He would approve of your husband's "habit"? I suggest that you tactfully share Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-41 with your husband, which reads in part, "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned."
If this is too hard to do by yourself, please seek the support of your ecclesiastical leaders, like your bishop or stake president.
You are correct in suggesting counseling to him, but his pride keeps him from seeking help. I wonder if he would turn down an offer of assistance from his bishop?
He not only could use some counseling, but more specifically Anger Management classes. There are plenty of resources, if he has the desire to overcome this detrimental behavior. I'm concerned that if things continue without any change, whatever love you have for him will eventually disappear. I have seen it countless times in similar circumstances: The wife endures the verbal and emotional abuse until the youngest child graduates from high school and heads off to college. Soon after she files for divorce and ends the dysfunctional marriage. I hope you have a very different outcome, for yourself, your children, and also for him.
He cannot possibly be happy when he treats you this way. Somewhere deep down he must know that his behavior is wrong—even if he doesn't admit it. It takes real humility to say to you that he has been wrong and has offended you, and God, by his outbursts all these years. It takes courage on your part to put an end to it, but you are not alone. Seek the help and guidance from those in positions to help.
Dr. Elia Gourgouris
Dr. Elia Gourgouris, PhD, is a nationally known speaker and marriage expert, and is the author of The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving! (buy here). With over twenty years of experience, he coaches LDS couple throughout the United States and enjoys speaking at BYU Education Week and Time Out for Women. He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.
To get more relationship and coaching advice from Dr. Elia, visit www.AskDrElia.com, www.LDSCoaching.com, or call 303.523.6396.