Written by Greg Baer on reallove.com/blog
Last week I posted a blog about establishing a personal zero tolerance for anger. Click here to read that blog. I should have anticipated—but did not—a question that would naturally follow what I said. One woman wrote:
“I understand the disadvantages of anger, but how do you say something important to your husband when he doesn’t ever communicate and rarely honors his agreements? Sometimes anger is the only thing that works with someone like that.”
We tend to believe that anger is necessary EXACTLY for the reason you just stated. When we have a partner—spouse, friend, anyone—who doesn’t listen and doesn’t keep promises, they tend to respond when we get angry. You explode, and for a while your husband moves faster or appears to be listening. So you believe that anger works. But he’s not really listening to you, and the apparent cooperation doesn’t last long at all. Moreover, he becomes even more afraid of you, and therefore less likely to listen and cooperate in the future. So even though you SEEM to get something positive from your anger, the truth is that you lose in every way.
Anger Never Works as Well as Loving
Anger NEVER works as well as loving. Really. I am NOT saying that loving will always get you what you want, like the garage cleaned or lawn mowed. But I can tell you this:
1. If you are loving, YOU will always be happier. That is the only result in life you can guarantee. If you read that sentence a hundred times, it won’t be too many.
2. Loving may not get the exact behavior you want from another person. However, in the long term—and almost always in the short term—it will work better than any other approach, including anger.
Why He Seems to Be a Poor Communicator
Let’s look at two examples. First, communication, which you say your husband doesn’t like to do. Understand here that I have no reason to blame anyone. That would be completely counterproductive. But I have worked with so many people over the years that I can tell you why they behave as they do. Would you kiss a rotten tomato? No, obviously. Would you communicate with someone who was yelling at you? Again, no, and for the same reason: Both activities would be unpleasant.
That is the primary reason your husband doesn’t communicate with you. Yes, he came to your marriage with his own problems. But I can tell you that a major reason he doesn’t communicate with you is that you’re angry, judgmental, prickly, and just overall unpleasant with him. You don’t realize it—in your defense—but all this negativity just oozes from your short question.
The Truth Behind Anger
You stated that anger is sometimes the only thing that works. This is an obvious admission of your use of the behavior. Anger is used more frequently and in a greater degree than we realize. You stated that you understand the disadvantages, but you don’t really believe what you’re saying. When you get angry at him, he withdraws. You call this behavior a lack of interest in communicating, and you get even more angry. It’s a nasty cycle with predictably distasteful and destructive results. Again, no blaming, but it’s essential that you do what it takes to deal with your own anger. That’s a subject described throughout the Real Love literature. Click here to learn more about that.
At this point, it would be very understandable if you felt judged. I completely understand, but that is not what I’m doing. You’re in a situation with no solution that will really help except the truth. And the truth is often not soft and fuzzy. The truth just is. A number of wounds from your childhood contributed to your choosing a man like this in the first place. You were hurt in ways that led you to find men who were emotionally unavailable and therefore less threatening. But with that lack of threat comes an inability to communicate and be a partner. The wounds of the past continue to bite us in the butt all our lives unless we really deal with them. I hope you will.
Why He Seems to Not Keep His Commitments
I said we’d look at both the examples you provided, so now what about his lack of keeping commitments? Again, he has his own problems, which were created in his own childhood,just as yours were created in yours. But let’s look at your role here in this behavior of his, because you can really change only yourself.
By your own admission, you’ve already tried anger to motivate your husband to keep his commitments, but it doesn’t work. I’m sure you’ve tried nagging. That failed. You’ve manipulated and punished, either by giving or withdrawing sex and other favors. Failed. So we know for a fact that your way doesn’t work. It couldn’t. The best this man can hope for is your not being angry. That’s hardly a pleasant or lasting motivation. It would be like my motivating you to really communicate with me or to do what I want by promising not to hurt you. Not exactly ice cream, is it? What could you possibly lose here by trying love?
What to Say Instead of Using Anger
In the case of the garage, what would loving—instead of anger—look like? You could say something like this: “I have been a real witch to you. Not loving at all, and love was exactly what you were hoping for when we got married. Regrettably, I know I’ll keep making mistakes, but I’m really going to work on this. No more anger. None, and if I do it, I want you to tell me. Please.” Click here to learn more about zero tolerance for anger and to give your husband some background.
You continue, saying, “Let’s take the garage as an example. You do NOT have to do the garage. I’ve been WRONG to nag, push, manipulate, and be angry with you. I just want to communicate what I would like, without all that destructive stuff. The way the garage is now, often I can’t find things I need, and when I do know where they are, it’s quite a journey to get them. It’s just a big inconvenience. There are a lot of things I don’t know what to do with, and many things are too heavy for me to lift. That’s all. I would just be grateful for your help.”
Work on Your Anger First
I cannot emphasize strongly enough that unless you do some work on your anger first, what you say to him about the garage won’t work at all. You must be at least to the point where you have NONE when you deliver the message above. Even if you are loving when you talk to him, he might not believe you the first time. Why should he, after the number of times you’ve terrified him? But keep at it. Keep remembering:
1. If you are loving, YOU will always be happier.
2. Loving may not get the exact result you want, but overall it works better than anything else.
Now, let’s suppose that you work on your wounds to the point that they heal. At this point your anger will simply disappear. Right now that might be hard for you to believe, but it’s true. And then you share that unconditional love with your husband—not for a few weeks, but for quite a while. The odds are enormously in your favor that you will uncover the communicative and cooperative partner your husband really wants to be.