In a casual conversation with Mr. Andrew Evans, the founding father of Family First, a former political party in Australia, I asked him what his most important principle in marriage was. And his reply was, ‘Never let your anger brew overnight.’ It reminded me of the Bible verse in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry.”
I think this is not just wise advice for married couples but for everyone who wants a good night’s sleep. This necessitates a time to dialogue with each other so that the matter can be put to rest.
Here’s some steps to ENTER and EXIT from a confrontation with the intention of seeing the issue resolved and having a night of rest.
“When you confront a problem you begin to solve it.”
Let’s assume the wife is the one who is hurt and she initiated the airing time.
The wife needs to choose the right time to enter into dialogue with her husband. The right time is when both are not emotionally charged; there’s no pressure of time; both parties are fairly ready to talk.
The wife enters into the confrontation by sharing the incident that has hurt her. Words need to be phrased well so that they don’t come across as fault-finding and strong criticism. Especially when we are angry, words can be blown out of proportion and the original message can be hidden. You want the message to be clear and objective:
Wife: “ This evening, I noticed that you were talking with the guys and you didn’t come around and help me out when the house was jam- packed with the guests.
“You can change your world by changing your words.”
It takes effort for your spouse to describe how she has been hurt. Therefore stonewalling and aggression are not appropriate responses. You want to engage with the message, to understand why your partner is upset and to resolve the issue. The result of that is a happier environment , a nicer place to come home to. You can engage her by prompting her:
Husband: “I don’t get it. What do you mean?”
“Why do you say that?”
“I am puzzled.”
“I wanted to write a book that talked about the emotions of children, which is the rainbow. We all have moods. We talk about being blue when we’re sad, and being yellow when we’re cowards, and when we’re mad, we’re red.”
This is the time for the wife to express her emotions at what was being done. Express it tactfully and not in an off-putting way so that your message gets heard, yet still true to how you feel. Own the feeling as in ‘I felt upset’ rather than you made me feel upset. This can come across as accusatory and your spouse may clam up at that remark or they may get defensive.
Wife: “I felt upset because I had a long day at work and I had
to get the house ready for the guests. I was really tired and
was hoping you could set the table and make the drinks.
But you kept talking with the guys.”
“ When you show deep empathy towards others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.”
You empathise by acknowledging the hurt of your wife. You may or may not agree with her expressions so far but she is entitled to air her feelings and experience. Listening to her at this time is essential as that would convey your understanding.
“To love someone with all of your heart requires reaching them where they are with the only words they can understand.”
Shannon L Alder
Very rationally, you describe what you did and why you did it as your wife needs to hear what is in your mind. It helps you articulate reason which is an important part of communication. People who are better able to give reason get more in life. A research study reveals that a person gets his turn to photocopy quicker when he gives reason for his request, even though the reason may appear ridiculous eg. “Can I go first? I need to photocopy because I need to photocopy.”
Husband: “I thought by talking to the guys, I could relieve
you of all the social talk and you could focus on
preparing the dinner. I didn’t know you had a long day.
Usually when we have guests, you like to do things on
your own so I never asked if you needed help.”
“Empathy …is one of the most potent forces for change
that I know.”
Try and understand his explanation.
Wife: “ Yes, I usually don’t ask you to help because I
could manage. But you could have picked it up
that I had too much to attend to. I appreciate you
talking to the boys to give me more time to
“The right thing to do and the hard thing to do
are usually the same.”
Take responsibility for not being a solution to the problem. You can express regret for that. This is sometimes a hard thing to do. But when you take responsibility for the hurt and not try to evade it or blame it on the wife for being inefficient, the intensity of the problem is much reduced.
Husband: “ I didn’t pay attention to your cues of wanting
help. When you were talking very quickly and
looking flushed, I could have asked if
everything was ok.
“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”
A A Milne
At this time, it would be reasonable for the wife to ask for reassurance.
Wife: “ I could have asked you for help directly rather than
expecting you to read my mind. It wouldn’t hurt
too if in future events at home that you make
yourself available and check with me if you could
help out with anything. I’m sorry that I am upset
with you. Hope we can communicate better in the
next home event. Maybe we could reduce the
number of guests so it won’t be so overwhelming.
“love and being loved and reconciliation. These things are so important, they’re foundational and they can transform individuals, families.”
Exiting well from a confrontation is a good skill to learn. The night is saved from being ruined if couples are humble enough to own up to their hurts and to talk it out respectfully and honestly.
You may say that it is all too contrived and not real life. Contrived is better than conflictual. Practice makes perfect. The unnatural will become more natural once you practice more. Of course you can use your own words and style but the idea is to adequately air your hurt so that hurts don’t get suppressed, ignored or misdirected.
Not talking about issues may compound the hurt and a molehill can potentially become a mountain of resentment. This is not something you want in your relationship. Be willing to sort out hurts, get fresh perspectives and arrive at a new level of bonding.