Anger – Truth Serum?
When a conflict escalates into nuclear war, things get said that couples wish they could take back.
We know the smart thing is to take a break and cool off, but if you’re married long enough you’ll likely find yourself in a heels-dug-in, won’t-let-go fight.
The question is, are the awful things said in these fights false, as a desperate emotional attack to gain the upper hand or end the fighting?
Are they the absolute truth deep in their heart that they keep inside because it’s just the nice thing to do?
Something that helped me is realizing that what my wife has said in anger is more about how she feels in the moment than ‘truth.’ We’ve had a few arguments that I can think of that got really bad. She’s had some emotional extremes during pregnancy and during PMS and especially a severe case of post-partum. One post partum time, a couple of pregnancies, and an occasional time of PMS seemed to go along with some massive hormonal mood swings where conversations could easily turn into arguments. She seems to have gotten better control over the PMS roller coaster either with age or just emotional and spiritual maturity, and PMS is just more a time of heightened irritability and talking with a bit more intense tone of voice I try not to let irritate me, than an actual emotional blowup.
But on a few occasions over the past couple of decades when we argued, she threw out the word ‘divorce’. I’ve never threatened to divorce her. When she said that, i said no you won’t divorce me. You are a Christian woman and you know you are not supposed to do that. Once she said then she’d live with me and never sleep with me. I told her no you won’t do that. That’s how she felt in the moment, but she’s slept with me since and hasn’t divorced me, so it isn’t ‘truth.’
I’ve also found my wife will point out things about me that have been irritating for a while that she hasn’t mentioned to me, or hasn’t mentioned yet, and lets that stuff go during an argument. There is too much going on, emotionally, during an argument, for that to be the best time to discuss such issues. You might get ‘true’ opinions during an argument, but they usually aren’t expressed in the most helpful way, and people get defensive in those situations.
Provbers 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.” (NKJV.) It is much better to give words of correction with the ‘spirit of meekness’ (Galatians 6:1) so hopefully they can accept them and process them outside of the emotional context of an argument. Anger can cause someone to distort the truth of the message, too. Instead of saying, “I would appreciate it if you could spend more time talking and praying with me at night”, It might come out as “We never spend any time together.” He remembers taking her to a concert on date night last week , jogging, and watching three movies together on TV that week, and dismisses her words as untrue. She wanted to talk more, but expressed it wrongly in an exaggerated manner in anger, so he doesn’t benefit from her words.
My wife and I spoke with a couple that were having some major issues. Once the wife told her husband she wanted to divorce him and never be with him again. He went off and ended up sleeping with some woman, and got her pregnant. Aside from the fact that having sex with the woman was a sin, just because his wife said she never wanted to be with him again doesn’t mean that’s what is going to happen. It’s just how she felt at the moment.
i’ve learned not to give words spoken in anger more power by believing them and agreeing with them. Words like that are cause for alarm and concern. I was sharing with a man the other day that when your wife is angry, don’t be condescending, but think of it a little like when your little children are having a temper tantrum. You shouldn’t get angry and yell at a toddler who is angry. Stay calm and comforting. This probably works better with some relationships than others.
Btw, most of the time my wife is nice, so this isn’t an ongoing thing. It’s important if you’ve argued like this and have said words you should not have to reconcile quickly. The Bible says do not let the sun go down on your wrath. A lot of arguments happen late at night when people are sleepy, and if that happens, the sun is down, and you may need to let your partner sleep off a bad mood before reconciling in the morning if late-night attempts at reconciliation turn into more arguments.
Letting your partner simmer for days over some word you said is bad for he relationship. Days later, he or she might snap at you and youd on’t know why. You can end up angry at each other, and you don’t remember why.
Sadly, they could be either or both when we act immaturely and unChrist-like. Emotionally mature people should be able to feel their temperature rising and should also be able to recognize when the other person’s emotions are ramping up so when it happens they can recognize it and make the appropriate adjustment to avoid saying something stupid, ask for a discussion timeout to cool off, or even ask an emotional engaging question that will release the pressure and allow for emotionally connection communication and intimacy to occur. Two emotionally mature people can also stop and HUMBLY ask for forgiveness when they’ve crossed a line in their communication.
As a man and spiritual leader, it’s my responsibility to lead well and serve my spouse when things get out of hand. That means extend grace and admit wrong quickly. I don’t always do what I know but one thing when I counsel couples getting married and DW and I discussed well before marriage, how to “fight” fair AND what are the ground rules for “fighting”. James 1:19 and Luke 6:36-38 are some big reminders to me about how I should act/respond when DW are in conflict.
And let’s not forget 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.”:
Some of our ground rules include:
- big/emotional “discussions” should not be started after 9 PM)
- big/emotional “discussions” shout not continue after 9:30-10 PM ( because fatigue is not my friend)
- if we need to end or postpone a “discussion”, an agreed upon time will be established to continue, especially when it’s bedtime.
- no name-calling or use of “you always…” or “you never…”
- we will use, “I feel…” statements to own our feelings.
I agree that it could be either or both!
When we get angry, our filters don’t work so well and out of our heightened emotional state we grasp for any and every kind of weapon with which to attack our “enemy.” The disciplined demeanor we may have during calmer times, is undisciplined – meaning we are tempted to hurl insults as we recount the list of sins against us or draw from buckets of grievances. If the sins were truly forgiven and the grievances resolved, and we were in a calmer mood, we wouldn’t dig those things up from the past. But, as our anger doesn’t accomplish the righteousness of God, we need to remember the words of James.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
We don’t do that anymore, well sometimes i may say something in anger but it’s never calling him names or putting him down and we don’t allow yelling at each other or the “D” word. We are believers in watching what you speak into the atmosphere, don’t want to give the Enemy a bigger foothold than he’s already trying to get..
Are the awful things said in these fights false?
No, I don’t think I ever said anything that was false in the sense that there was not an element of truth in it. But for me the problem is: even if what I might say in a heated situation is true – is it useful?
Am I going to achieve anything by saying it? Is it going to improve things? In hindsight I have often said things that I still believe were true but then apart from upsetting DW resulted in no resolution, so were ultimately pointless.
I think it could be either. What we do know from Scripture is that out of the heart the mouth speaks. But, does that mean they literally feel/believe what was said? Not necessarily, what it can show is the sin and tainting that is there, it can reveal pride, selfishness, unforgiveness, bitterness, fear, etc. and all those other fleshly things in us. I have said things out of a similar situation as your first option, and I have spoken things out of the second.
ETA: Anger is a truth serum… it reveals what is in the heart, but we have to be willing to look beyond the actual words that was said, to see the truth. 🙂
I am not impulsive, so when I say things during a conflict, they have always been in my mind for awhile. Likely, they should have been said earlier, if they were going to be said at all. And yes, what I say is generally true. Occasionally, I have even said things for the purpose of trying to shock my laid back DH. Things that were true, but didn’t need to be said. So when DH says things, I take them personally and right into my heart, because I so often forget that he speaks impulsively. ( in fact, he nearly missed lunch one day last week, because of an impulsive statement he made and I didn’t know that at that moment he felt that way and took it for truth. He didn’t tell me had changed his thinking. I think he learned something, actually. )
On the other hand, my DH will impulsively say things during a conflict. Later, he says, ” Oh, I didn’t mean that, I just said that off the top of my head. It popped into my brain at that moment and so I said it. You have to take what I mean, not what I say. Don’t take it so personally”.
After years of marriage, our conflicts are getting easier to talk through and there is not so much anger and confessing to do later. Guess we are learning….DH to say more plainly how he feels and I am learning to not let it fester and to say plainly when something needs to be said.