We all know the stereotype -- man has bad day at the office, comes home and loses it with his wife and children.
We all recognize how inappropriate that behavior is, how absurd this redirection of misplaced anger, aggression and pain.
But are we immune from such action? Is it possible that there's a little of this in all of our marriages? And that if we're not careful, the small daily erosions will take a larger toll?
There are many situations that we find frustrating: from a nasty exchange with a co-worker to a frustrated morning waiting for a no-show repairman. From the weariness of a long commute to the impatient driver honking and yelling obscenities at us. From being treated dismissively by an employer to overseeing too many arguments between small children. From rushing to complete a project by its deadline to rushing to make dinner by its deadline, with all sorts of "trivial" interruptions along the way.
The list is endless, the potential for frustration infinite. And I didn't even mention the bills, the dishes, the laundry, the obligatory PTA evening and charity banquets...
We all experience many stressors in our daily lives, and it's all too easy to take out our frustrations on our spouses. (We generally exercise a little more self-control when it comes to our children, although not always.)
This may occur in direct ways: handing them dirty, crying children as they walk in the door and stomping out of the room. Or indirect ways: constant sniping and criticism; the anger you feel at your boss all being misdirected towards your mate whom, you feel confident, won't fire you.
Life presents us with many challenges. We can face them with our spouses as a united front or we can do battle alone, from opposite sides of the ring.
These are the kinds of behaviors that slowly eat away at a marriage. These are behaviors that are habit-forming, that we must catch before they do.
We may be completely unaware. We may think we're justified. The kids have been bratty; he does need to do his share. Her behavior has been annoying, objectively! Truth is no defense. The goal is a strong healthy marriage, not proving you're right. And we would probably have dealt better with these behaviors had they not come at the end of a trying day. Once again we are writing to the wrong address.
Life presents us with many challenges. We can face them with our spouses as a united front or we can do battle alone, from opposite sides of the ring. Our struggles can unify us, or they can, God forbid, destroy us. We can finger-point and blame, or we can band together in solidarity and determination.
You'd think that unity would be the easier choice. A glance around the world suggests otherwise. If we respond by constant nit-picking, complaining, demanding and attacking, then we are engaging in the most self-defeating behavior of all. We are destroying our one refuge from all of life's vicissitudes. We are destroying each other.
It takes a very confident and self-aware partner to recognize that the attacks and anger are indicative of deeper -- and unrelated -- issues. Most of us just feel hurt and defensive. Possibly we fight back. They respond in kind. And we're off.
We need to stop ourselves before things spiral out of control. We need to find a gym or a journal; another outlet for our tension. We need to find a friend, a teacher, someone to give us perspective on our situation.
In our frustration with others, we don't want to hurt the one most precious to us, the one person upon whom we can rely. Take a deep breath. Refocus. Remind your self of what really counts. Ask the Almighty to help. Pour out your pain to Him (His shoulders are broader!) and turn back home with a smile.