Whether you’ve been married for forty minutes for forty years, you know that your life changes the moment you say “I do.” Suddenly, a new wave of everything comes at you. All of a sudden “Mrs. So and So” becomes “Mom” and you’re expected to get along with this new family. You have to move to new places, spend money differently, and (can I say it?) have someone sleeping in your bed. It’s a lot for your heart and your mind to process, and as your family grows and moves and changes throughout the years, you’ll have to reflect on your feelings and how you will respond for your own sanity! Yet, of course, we don’t have time to reflect on our feelings when we have full-time jobs, household chores, mouths to feed, and everything else that can get in the way of making self-care a priority. When we don’t deal with our feelings, our emotions can manifest in anger.
Before we get married, we want to be perfect. We want our future spouses to be perfect. However, God didn’t intend for us to clean up our act before we get married. He wants to use your spouse to help you become more of who He created you to be. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17, NLT). If we could be perfect apart from community, there would be no need for community. As the body of Christ, we come alongside each other, encourage one another, and admonish one another. That community includes your spouse, especially if you both are followers of Christ.
Interestingly, when I looked up the word that Paul uses for the phrase “is not easily angered,” he uses the word paroxynetai, which means (literally), “to sharpen.” According to Strong’s Greek, the word also has a figurative meaning: “to become easily provoked.” Paul is not saying that you never get angry at the people you love. Rather, he’s echoing back to the idea of patience, reacting slowly when things do not go your way.
When people become easily angered, I believe that the people who anger them have the best of intentions. If your spouse really loves you, he’s not going to try to make you upset. However, sometimes our spouse’s loving admonishment rubs us the wrong way. We may also get angry at our spouse when we need to do the admonishing, when we notice a behavior in them that is not pleasing.
People, in general, get angry more easily around people that they love the most. I believe that we feel safe with the people who love us the most to express whatever feelings we have. Who better to trust than the one who sleeps in your bed every night? In the midst of the in-laws, the moving, the financial strain, the mundane lives, and the busyness, our spouses are meant to be safe people for us to help us process our emotions and deal with the stress.
There are ways to prevent getting easily provoked in your marriage. For those who are being provoked, remember that your husband/wife has your best interest in mind and does not intend to hurt you. If your spouse does something that irritates you, take a deep breath, step away from the situation, and then come back and talk with your spouse about why it irritates you. For those who are doing the provoking, take Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4 and learn to “speak the truth in love” (v. 15). Your spouse may need to be fixed in an area, but you can point something out without controlling them or making them angry. Don’t be like the annoying little brother in the seat next to you playing the “I’m not touching you” game.
As with every attribute of love, God in His infinite love will help you to maintain your anger and irritability. The LORD, who has revealed Himself as slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and mercy, will show you how to demonstrate that same patience, love, and mercy in your own marriage.