Enriching Relationships for a Lifetime   with Dr. Gary Oliver


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?


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.

Related Q&A

My wife and I are constantly getting in power struggles. How can we get beyond this?

Whenever my husband talks to his family on the phone or in person, he tells them too many things. I have spoken to my husband about this and he says he understands my feelings, but he continues talking too much. What else can I do?

My husband has been hitting me since we got married, but lately itís gotten worse. I donít see any way out, but Iím concerned for the safety of our children and me. I live in a small town, and Iím afraid of what the church will think if I leave him because heís very well respected in our church and our town. I donít know what to doÖplease help.

How much verbal abuse is a woman supposed to take from her husband? I donít want a divorce, but I donít want to take the abuse any more either. What should I do?

My husband and I have been married for about four years, and for the past several months weíve been going through a rough patch in our marriage. But lately my husband has been suggesting we should start having children soon. Iíd like to have kids one day, too, but donít you think we should work through some of our issues first?

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?

Iím a stay-at-home mother of three children (all under the age of 7). My husband works hard at his job, and I appreciate that; but he doesnít help out at home with caring for the children or helping with any of the housework. Iím physically and emotionally exhausted, and the situation feels unfair (to me and to the children). How can I get him to understand the importance of helping me and of spending time with the kids?

My wife and I have problems agreeing on many things. We seem to hold on strongly to our parentís view. What can we do to start agreeing?

My husband has had bad experiences with physicians and had cancer in the past. And now he wonít go in for check-ups. I'm afraid for his health. Iíve voiced my concern, but he isnít doing anything about it! What can I do?

How do I cultivate a growth-focused marriage?

My husband and I were both sexually active before we were married. In fact, I have a child from a previous relationship. When we married and became Christians, we realized premarital sex was wrong and we asked God for forgiveness. The problem has been that my husband has not been so forgiving. Although we started our marriage very wrong, weíre trying to live by Godís standard. Our past has brought tremendous stress to our marriage: my husband suffers from anxiety and we both suffer bouts of depression. We just want to get through this and feel Godís blessing on us. We donít have the money to seek a counselor and our pastor is new so my husband isnít comfortable discussing this with him. Do you have any advice?

My husband and I have been married for seven years. He has a group of six or seven friends who get together three times a week to play football video games. Usually they play until midnight. It doesnít seem to matter that I have to get up early the next day for work. I hate the video games and wish heíd stop playing them. Sometimes I feel as though I'm married to a 12-year-old. And although I love him, his video-playing makes me not want to be affectionateóor even nice!óto him. Please help!

My husband has a problem with routinely taking a shower. Sometimes three days will go by before he does! Iíve tried a lot of things to get him to shower at least every other day. He wonít even wash up daily. To me, itís about plain cleanliness and maturity. He thinks he has to stink in order to shower, but I think you should shower before you stink. Any advice?

On vacation, I like to rise early and plan our day, while my husband would rather lie in bed half the day. By the time he finally gets up, I feel as though weíve wasted half the dayóthen I become angry and threaten to leave without him! What can we do?

My husband keeps starting projects on our homeóthen doesnít finish them! Right now, itís the kitchen. He tore it upóthereís no ceiling or flooring, no plumbing, tools are strewn all over the house, the kitchen stuff is either put away or on my dining room table, and the dust is settling in the rest of the house. But when he comes home from work, he sits in front of the computer or the TV, and gives excuses about why he canít complete the job. This has been going on for seven months and I canít take it anymore!

My husband and I have been married four years and I canít seem to get him to spend time with me. Heíd rather spend time at work or with his friends. I asked him this morning if heís like to do something with me on Sunday and he asked if he could get back to me because he didnít know what he had going on then. When he is home, he watches TV, gets on the internet, cooks, sleepsóanything but spend time with me. I feel as if he avoids me on purpose!

After ten years of marriage and rearing our three children, my wife wants to get a job outside our home, I reluctantly agreed, but Iím having a difficult time adjusting. When I was growing up, I lived in a one-income family where my father was dedicated to his family and worked outside the home to provide and my mother dedicated herself to the home and everything in it. My wife doesnít need to work; I make enough to support our family well. But she says she wants to ďbe someoneĒ outside the house and to contribute to the family.

My wife and I have nothing in common. Weíve been married nine years, and I find myself wondering what it would be like if I were married to a woman who likes the same things I do. It irritates me that we canít do anything together. What should I do?

©2014 The Center for Healthy Relationships on the campus of John Brown University
2000 West University Street, Siloam Springs, AR 72761 (479) 524-7105 CHR@jbu.edu