Enriching Relationships for a Lifetime   with Dr. Gary Oliver

Question

My husband and I argue frequently. But lately, he's begun to shove me. I'm having trouble drawing a line between what's acceptable and what isn't. Am I overreacting?

Answer

As we travel across the country we meet many couples who struggle with disagreements that produce increased frustration that turns to anger and leads to arguments. Most couples donít understand the emotion of anger and havenít learned healthy ways to express their anger. In an intimate relationship itís easy for the primary emotions of fear, hurt and frustration to lead to the secondary emotion of anger and be expressed in unhealthy, inappropriate and even destructive ways.

While perhaps at times you may be oversensitive to aspects of your husbandís anger itís important for you to know that you arenít overreacting in your concern with the inappropriateness of the shoving. There is never, ever, under any circumstance, due to any real or perceived provocation or slight, any reason for a man or woman to push or shove each other. That is a line that cannot be crossed.

In cases where a spouse begins to push, shove, grab or hit or engage in any behavior that exerts abusive control we strongly encourage individuals to set unequivocally clear boundaries. In your situation weíd encourage you not to wait until more shoving occurs but to let your husband know that the behavior is unhealthy, unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. Let him know that if he pushes you again that you will ask him to leave the room and or leave the house for a time out. If he refuses to do that then you should leave. Leaving provides a time-out for the angry spouse to calm down and focus on healthier ways to communicate their concerns. If this doesnít help then you may need to stronger steps by involving your pastor, a licensed Christian counselor and, if it continues, the police. Being proactive in setting clear boundaries now can help to prevent continued escalation. Itís good for you, itís good for your husband and itís essential for your marriage.

While dealing is important focusing only on that is like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. The greater issue is learning how to deal with differences in healthy ways. You and your husband are at a relational crossroads. You can either continue to do more of what doesnít work or you can choose to see this as a valuable opportunity, reach out for help and cultivate healthy ways to deal with your differences and express your anger.

The process of becoming one in Christ involves learning how to understand our differences and deal with conflict in ways that heal rather than hurt. This is an opportunity for you to learn how to apply the principles of I Corinthians 13:4-6 and

Colossians 3:13-17 to the day-in and day-out issues in your marriage. We encourage you to and your husband to read those two passages at least once a day and as you read them ask yourself, ďWhat is one way that I can apply this to my own life today?Ē We would also encourage you to contact a licensed Christian marriage and family counselor who can help you find practical ways to chart a new course for you marriage.


Carrie Oliver, M.A., is an educator and a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver, Th.M., Ph.D. is executive director of The Center for Relationship Enrichment and Professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The Olivers have co-authored Raising Sons . . . and Loving It! (Zondervan). Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.

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©2012 The Center for Relationship Enrichment on the campus of John Brown University
2000 West University Street, Siloam Springs, AR 72761 (479) 524-7105 CRE@jbu.edu