There is an ‘80s song that you may have heard of called “Love is a Battlefield.” We usually don’t equate the idea of a romantic relationship with war, but given how popular that song was (and still is), there may be some truth to this analogy. When you put any two people in the same room for an extended amount of time, conflicts are bound to happen. However, when that “room” is a marriage and you have a husband and a wife doing life together 24×7, there are plenty of opportunities to wage war.
Our spouses tend to be the easiest people for us to target with our bad moods and attitudes. They are the ones we feel the most comfortable with, and as we all know, those who are closest to us have the privilege of seeing us at our best and also the burden of seeing us at our worst. It is during those latter times that our spouses can end up in our line of fire. Whether it’s dealing with an unfair boss at work or handling multiple tantrums at home, we all face situations that wear us down on a daily basis. Often times we give our best to those outside the marriage – coworkers, customers, even our children. Unfortunately, this means we have little left to give to our spouses, and worse yet, we end up taking out our stresses on them. We turn our emotional baggage into ammunition, and aim our emotional bullets at the last person who should be caught in the crossfire – our husband or wife. We end up wounding our teammate, and ultimately, losing the war.
How then do we protect our spouses from falling victim to friendly fire? Here are three ways:
- Identify the source(s) of your stress (ie. deadlines at work, conflicts with coworkers, a long commute). Make every effort to own your emotions instead of letting them own you. Know that you do have a choice in how you feel. If you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or unhappy, figure out what you can do to eliminate or lessen your source(s) of stress. Even if you cannot change the circumstances, you can always change yourself. Take steps to keep yourself healthy, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Go to the Lord in prayer and lay your burdens down throughout the day. Exercise, eat well and get adequate rest so you have energy to face challenges. Seek professional help for serious and lingering issues, such as depression or anxiety, that affect your day-to-day functioning. Make self-care a priority.
- Inform your spouse of your struggles so he/she understands what you are going through. Do not expect your facial expressions or tone of voice to do the explaining for you. Your spouse may take your stern expression or curt tone of voice personally and not realize that they stem from other issues. Make a conscious effort to not make your husband or wife the scapegoat for your negative emotions. Be honest and talk to each other. View your spouse as your teammate, not your enemy.
- Invite your spouse to help you. Come up with some ideas on how you can unload your burdens on a regular basis. Maybe it’s getting fifteen minutes to unwind in the car after you’ve come home from work. Or it could be planning a relaxing or fun activity to do together on the weekend. Keep your spouse in the loop on how you’re feeling and let him/her know how to pray for you. Send encouraging Scripture verses to each other (via text messages or emails) throughout the day. Be one another’s strongest support system.
What should you do, however, if you are on the receiving end of friendly fire*? Love your spouse as yourself. Show him or her the grace, patience and understanding you would want when you’ve had a bad day. This may be in the form of a kind smile or a warm hug. It may be as simple as asking, “How was your day?”, and making the time and effort to listen. Most importantly, it is praying for your spouse, not to make your life easier, but for his or her best interests.
Let us remember to treasure the teammates God gave us and protect them from being a casualty of friendly fire. May we strive to make our marriages a safe haven where both we and our spouses can find rest, comfort and shelter.
*Please note: The term “friendly fire” used in this article does not refer to acts of emotional or physical abuse. If you are in an abusive relationship, I urge you to seek help to protect yourself.