Marriage: Escalating Domestic Violence in Marriage
When All Hell is Breaking Loose…A Marital Game Plan When Facing Escalating Domestic Violence
If you are reading this, you are likely facing some significant pressures in your most important relationships due to emotional or physical violence. The following article will outline a wise, God-honouring perspective on handling difficult, hurtful situations involving this kind of abuse. In each case, correlating Scripture is included. May God be your strength and your deliverer.
Violence Violates Love…
Living as part of a family implies consistent care and respect. That’s why we marry a person—because we love them and assume they will love us. We need to feel safe with those we love. A home needs to be a protected and peaceful place for all. It’s a haven where you can let your guard down because you are with those who know you and love you. “Coming home” should bring a sense of wellbeing, excitement and connection. A person’s home needs be one of their “happy places”—filled with rare, beautiful and treasured memories.
Proverbs 24:3 – “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
Violence Destroys Equilibrium…
Each member of a family deserves to experience complete value and equal voice. People should to be treated best by those who have become emotionally closest to them either by marriage or by birth. Spouses and children should never have to worry about the hostility of an out-of-control family member. Verbal threats and physical aggression have no place in the relationships with those we love the most. Family members should never have to walk in fear of explosive outbursts of anger whether verbal or physical. Each one should go to whatever extent necessary to bridle their innate selfishness and look first to the interest and wellbeing of the others in the family.
Philippians 2:3 – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
1 Corinthians 7:33 – “But a married person is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he or she can please his or her spouse.”
Emotional and Mental Abuse is Psychological Violence…
It is not just about physical violence. The creation of fear and insecurity through harsh and critical words is never acceptable. Swearing, name-calling, belittling, and threatening harm are all completely out of line and are equally destructive to those who face it to physical hostility and cruelty. Your tone and words really matter.
Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Matthew 12:36 – “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment.
Violence Breaks Trust…
Once the line of physical harm has been crossed, there is always going to be gnawing apprehension in the mind of those hurt about whether or not the physical abuse will happen again. The freedom to share how one feels, to respectfully disagree in discussions, or even make a mistake are all lost when a violent outburst could be pending. Fear of repeated explosions can be paralyzing. Angry outbursts destroy relationship within the home.
James 1:20 – “A person’s anger never brings about the kind of life that God wants.”
Galatians 5:19,21 – “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: … hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy… and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Violence Screams Selfishness…
Angry outbursts are pure self-centeredness. The angry person at the core is controlling and thinks that their way and their wants are more important than those of others. But threats, coercion, pressure or force are not acceptable avenues for getting people to do what you want. Each person deserves to express his or her free will. Living with and loving their spouse needs to remain volitional. Your selfishness is what drives the need to control and the majority of the fights and aggression.
James 4:1,2 – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
Violence is Without Excuse…
There is no justification for any form of threats, hostility or pressure. Domestic abuse is wrong and punishable by law. The aggressive person cannot blame others—either in their past or present. Any attempt to transfer responsibility for anger or aggression to someone else saying, “they pushed my buttons…” is unacceptable. People are responsible for their behavior…period. Anger and aggression do not have a life of their own. They are an extension of the will of the person. It is you. Clothe yourself differently.
Colossians 3:12-14 – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Violence Needs Ownership…
One’s verbal and physical aggression is 100% their problem—their responsibility. No doubt in every relationship there are unresolved issues that can rob a person of inner peace. Frustrations, disagreement and arguments do create tension between people but there is still no excuse for verbal, emotional or physical aggression. Self-control of words and actions is mandatory and a sign of maturity. Start dealing with all the junk.
Ephesians 4:31,32 – “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
2 Timothy 1:7 – “For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, His Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.”
Anger isn’t Always Wrong…
But angry actions always are. There is such a thing as righteous anger. This is when you are challenging a sense of injustice. When someone isn’t being treated fairly, it is natural to be disturbed…especially if it is you. The difference—you can be angry at wrongdoing but still not trash others. Vengeance is not yours to take. Point out the wrong. Believe that God sees all.
Ephesians 4:26 – “In your anger, do not sin: do not let the sun go down with you still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Romans 12:17-19 – “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
God Transforms the Angry Person…
You may be addicted to your selfishness. Most of us are. You also may be locked into some pretty nasty words or negative behavior that feels like they have been there for a really long time. What you know now is that things can’t continue as they are. Change is possible. God loves you and knows you can’t break out of this cycle of abuse on your own. You need His strength and deliverance. Confess your poor choices—abusive words and actions—seek His forgiveness and help to move on in a different manner. He makes all the difference in the world.
Proverbs 3:5,6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Guidelines For Couples in an Angry, Aggressive Cycle…
- Commit to address the inappropriate ways you are currently handling the relational stress between you. Agree you must find a better way.
- Break the silence. Get outside help and perspective from a caring and qualified professional or pastor who can work this through with you. It will be easier for one of you. If you are reluctant to get help, do it for the good of your family.
- Agree to talk about your disagreements sanely and respectfully. Don’t try to talk things through when emotions are heated. This will be easier for one of you.
- Keep in mind that this is for the good of the entire family. Children living with violence in the home experience terror in the heart. They are robbed of inner peace and security.
- Create a Crisis Game Plan. Agree to talk through the problem, discuss the best ways to handle things, and write down what will be your boundaries and tipping points. Get outside help to complete your Crisis Game Plan as needed.
- Agree on a sign or signal (hand sign or key words) that both of you can use when things are starting to escalate emotionally and one of you is starting to feel threatened. Both are free to use the sign and the other must back down.
- Agree on the best time to finish the discussion. Even deciding when you will talk may be done later if a time out is needed badly. Make sure you both agree on the time to talk further. Don’t put it off more than a few days or when the schedule will allow.
- Commit to model to your children how to resolve conflicts in a healthy and productive way.
- Go to God together to pray through your problems in handling conflicts. Seek His strength to do things right.
Guidelines For the Angry Mate…
- Take responsibility for your angry actions and emotions. Your attitudes, your words and your behaviours are an extension of your will.
- Admit you have a problem and take the initiative yourself to get professional help for your uncontrolled anger.
- Don’t make excuses for your aggressive behaviour or harsh words.
- Get alone and get on your knees. Ask God in prayer to transform your life through a complete surrender to Him. Confess your sin of selfishness and hurtful words and behaviour. Seek His strength to find a better way.
- Apologize to your spouse for your harsh treatment. Seek their forgiveness. Don’t make excuses or justify your behaviour.
- Determine all the right reasons why you must deal with the verbal and physical abuse. Write these down and share them with your spouse.
- Remind yourself that your mate is not the enemy and treat them in keeping with the marital vows you made—to love and cherish!
- Monitor your emotions. Learn your tipping point. Pull out of discussions when you know you are getting heated inside. Don’t wait too long at first.
- Find out what your best stress-reducing techniques are and employ them as soon as you can. This could be a time out, going for a jog, having a coffee, getting some fresh air, or getting alone and on your knees.
- At the point of growing stress and accelerating tension, at least take a time out. Stop the conversation. Ask to be excused. Admit you are getting angry and fear inappropriate reactions. Love your marriage enough to protect it. Your spouse and family deserve that you address this.
- Respect the freedom of your spouse to walk away if they are feeling threatened. Don’t chase your mate around the home.
- When the first angry word is spoken, it is at that moment that you have to ask each other where this discussion is heading. Take action at once.
For the Hurting Spouse…
- Don’t put up with any physical or emotional abuse. Break the cycle by breaking the silence. Find the right person to go to, ideally one who your spouse respects and holds authority in their life—a counsellor, pastor, parent or significant friend.
- Look as well for a trusted neighbour or friend who lives close and can provide a safe house or be a calming force when needed.
- Remember, their violence and aggression is not YOUR fault. You may not be a perfect mate and there may be differences between you but angry outbursts are not the way to handle them.
- Don’t spend any time blaming your angry partner. You love them so work with them. This does not mean excuse any abusive behaviour but rather be committed to find a better way.
- You know the trigger points of escalation. You will often see it before your spouse does. When voices start getting raised, make the move to your Crisis Game Plan to avoid tragedy.
- Call your outside help and/or trusted friend as your first line of safeguard and defence.
- Call the police when things are getting out of hand.
Wise Proverbs Regarding an Angry Person…
Proverbs 14:29 – “Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.”
Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.”
Proverbs 19:19 – “Let angry people endure the backlash of their own anger; if you try to make it better, you’ll only make it worse.”
Proverbs 21:19 – “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. “
Proverbs 22:24 – “Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious— don’t get infected.”
Proverbs 29:22 – “An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.”
For more DFR resources on conflict resolution and building/repairing your most important relationships, click HERE
**NOTE: If you or your marriage is in crisis, seek creditable support right away. Our Care Centre has a team of counsellors ready to help. We can counsel you in person, if you are in the Fraser Valley, or via phone or Skype if you live farther away.
© Dr. Dave Currie – August 2011