The answer is, I don’t really know. And to clarify, I’m not talking about my anger, I’m talking about his. Bryan, when he left me, was very, very angry. At me. Because I wasn’t the wife he needed, because I didn’t do the right things, because, we realize now, I couldn’t fix him. And if you’re thinking that anger might have been a bit misplaced, you’re absolutely right. I will never claim to have been or to be a perfect, idylic, or even easy wife. I don’t look it, but I’m very high maintenance. I’m moody. I tend towards migraines and I’m not nice to be around when I don’t feel well, or when I’m tired and I’m an insomniac married to a morning person, so I’ve been in a constant state of sleep deprivation for most of the last 9 years. I could go on, but that would get boring. The point is that I did nothing to deserve that anger. Nothing. Rick Reynolds of a wonderful organization called Affair Recovery has many great truisms, and the one that applies here is that “Pain that isn’t transformed will be translated.” Meaning that if you don’t deal with your pain, you will hurt those around you. Bryan wasn’t dealing with his pain, so it became mine. And he was angry. So angry. He’s a big guy, and loud and boisterous, but I was never afraid he was going to hurt me. Not until the day I confronted him with his phone and the pages and pages of deleted texts to another woman’s phone number. A woman he swore was no longer a part of his life. Bryan was no longer safe for me. My rock, my guy, the man who would protect me from everything, who always had my back, who was the center of my universe (if this sounds familiar, we need to talk… I’ve figured out that this is a common place we as Christian women like to put our husbands, but that spot belongs solely to God) was now terrifying me. I was physically afraid of him for the first time since I’d met him. I didn’t know how to deal with this anger being openly directed at me.
So, how do you deal with it? I don’t know, honestly. I just did. I have a naturally objective mindset that, when I allow it to, helps me see both sides of an issue, and to look honestly at myself. Bryan had done a pretty good job of convincing me that I was useless as a wife, but when I looked honestly, I just couldn’t see how I was all that bad. I had good supportive friends, and one with some surprisingly helpful self-help books. I had a sympathetic pastor, and a God who didn’t care that I was pretty lukewarm in my faith for a number of years. I think that last is most important. I had allowed Bryan to take God’s place in my life, but God, thankfully, doesn’t hold grudges.
The point is, I didn’t really deal with that anger, because it wasn’t mine to deal with. The most important thing to take away here is that as long as Bryan didn’t deal with that anger, and directed it at me, he wasn’t safe for us to be together. You deal with that anger by doing everything possible to keep it away from you. Circumstances are different for all of us. I was lucky in a sense; Bryan didn’t just move out, he moved 1,500 miles away. Letting him back into my life wasn’t just an emotional decision, there were logistics involved. Lots of them. Those details gave us time to heal, time to learn a few tools, and time for Bryan to learn how to be safe for US again.
Something I hear a lot from people who have gone through what we’ve gone through and come out the other side together, is that their marriage is stronger than it ever was. None of us wish this on anyone. Ever. But going through this fire has taught us how to be a couple. We still argue. Bryan still deals with his anger, I still deal with mine. We’re still human and still irritating and irritable. But we’re US now. We’ve both figured out that we want to be an US, not just a ME and HIM. Once you manage to get that part figured out, it makes being married a whole lot easier. Nothing I can do will ever change Bryan and nothing he does will change me, but the choices that we each make surely do affect US.
I could have chosen to resent Bryan and his choices. I could have chosen to punish him for his actions. I could have chosen to blame him for his history. But if I do that I’m just placing my hurt and the resulting anger as the higher priority. Anger has it’s place, even in a marriage, but it doesn’t belong in these circumstances. The problem is that anger is so very easy to chose, and forgiveness is so very hard. The world around us understands anger and even encourages it. Forgiveness not so much.
So, how do I deal with his anger? I keep it in the past where it belongs. I work very hard at understanding my past hurts while not dwelling on them because anger is not a beast that should be fed. I focus on the decisions Bryan is making now, and I’m thankful that God is in His rightful place in both of our lives. Because if He isn’t first, truly first, then nothing else will be in balance.