Custom CSS of Section contains Conditional Preview for See Life Campaign Elements

SAVE LIVES!
See Life 2021
Double your gift now!
Yes, I will help save babies from abortion!
$

Extend Grace When Your Spouse Behaves Badly

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Young couple moving a chair and extending grace
© Fizkes/Adobe Stock
During those moments when your spouse is acting rude, can you extend grace in spite of how they’re showing up? Can you protect your marriage by not reacting or not engaging in an unkind way?

[Focus on the Family is dedicated to bringing healing and restoration to couples who are struggling in their marriage. But God’s design for marriage never included abuse, violence or physical pain. Even emotional abuse can bruise a person’s heart, mind and soul. If you are in an abusive relationship, go to a safe place and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit them online at thehotline.org.]

A challenging moment

“Will you help me move a chair in my office?” my wife, Erin, asked me.

“Absolutely,” I said.

What could be easier, right? I’d help Erin move a chair. With my furniture-moving know-how and Erin’s super strength, we’d accomplish the task in a matter of seconds. I’d walk away a hero. She’d have a comfy place to sit. It would be a marriage win-win!

But before I ever laid a hand on the chair, I could see that Erin was stressed about something. I wish I had stopped to think about that.

All we had to do was lift the chair over Erin’s desk and move it to the other side of the room. But somehow, the lifting and moving weren’t working. I accuse the oddly shaped chair for at least some of our difficulty, but you can blame a piece of furniture for just so much. Erin and I simply weren’t in sync.

“This isn’t working!” Erin blurted out, “And now I’m about to be late! Why are you making this so complicated?!”

“Just lift with your legs,” I urged.

Lift with my legs? Did you seriously just say that?” Erin asked, giving me a death glare. “Never mind. I’ll do it myself!”

“Fine!” I shouted back as I stormed out of her office.

I can guess what you’re thinking: And these two are marriage counselors.

Focusing on your hurt feelings doesn’t help

I stomped off to my basement office, replaying the argument in my mind: each angry word, each scalding look. It was good advice, lifting with your legs! I brooded. Each time I thought about the fight, I was sure I’d been terribly wronged.

I’m really good at this part of conflict. It’s called perseveration, which simply means replaying a disagreement over and over in your mind. It wasn’t helpful. It never is. It only keeps you stuck in a spiral of negativity. But let’s just be candid: Sometimes righteous indignation feels so good!

Eventually I moved out of that pessimistic spiral, felt that something else was going on and went back to her office to help move that annoying chair. She, of course, had gotten the job done without me.

She really is strong, I thought, trying to work out the physics of how she did it.

When you don’t extend grace, you become part of the problem

Ding! My wife just texted me.

“Sorry,” it read. “I was in a hurry to get to my counseling office because my clients were there waiting. I wasn’t meaning to mistreat you. I was stressed trying to leave. I’m sorry. Love you!”

I stood there with a smug grin. Yep, I thought. Nice that Erin realized just how wrong she was.

But then I thought about the episode a little more deeply.

Albert Einstein is credited with writing this powerful truth: “Adversity introduces a person to himself.” After reading Erin’s text, I had been introduced to myself, and it wasn’t pretty. I was not without sin in how I’d handled my frustration. Erin could have been nicer, but I was equally wrong for storming out of Erin’s office the way I did.

Later we talked through the episode and ended it with a kiss. All was good once again in the Smalley home.

Scripture tells us to extend grace

And as we talked, Erin brought me to the subject of grace.

Let’s go back to the chair incident for a moment.

When I walked into Erin’s home office, she was already frazzled. I didn’t know that she had clients (who showed up early) waiting, but I could tell that she was stressed. She wasn’t angry with me, but circumstances pushed her to react irritably. She needed a little extra grace at that moment.

Obviously I’d want to give that grace: to act charitably in those moments of agitation and not be pulled into an argument. But as almost every married person knows, this is much easier said than done. The moment that I felt ill-treated, my emotional buttons were triggered, and then I reacted by walking away.

Walking away wasn’t the problem. Taking a break when something triggers your buttons is healthy (and loving). The worse choice is to power through conflict when you’re agitated. 

The Apostle Paul offers the same warning: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23). 

That’s good advice because when your buttons are pushed during an argument, your heart closes. And when you’re emotionally guarded, you’re more likely to say or do something that isn’t loving. The best thing you can do at that moment is to take a timeout and spend some alone time with God.

But you shouldn’t storm off. The healthiest way to initiate a break is to tell your spouse that you need some space and that you’ll continue the conversation when your heart is open again (or something like that). I just left. My reaction compounded the problem. Withdrawal is extremely damaging to a marriage over time.

So, how do we extend grace to our spouse when he or she is stressed, agitated, emotional, rude or behaving badly?

You can start by being patient

Before we look at extending grace, be clear that I’m not suggesting that you remain in harm’s way if your spouse is abusive. Erin’s behavior was frustrating but not dangerous. If you feel unsafe, immediately disengage and find somewhere safe.

Now, let’s jump in.

The Bible often tells us to bear with one another. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another” (emphasis added). The apostle Paul also writes, “Be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). 

The expression “bear with me” means “be patient with me.”

That’s precisely what Erin was asking me to do. She was really asking, During those moments that I’m acting rude, will you love me in spite of how I’m showing up? Will you be patient with me? Most importantly, will you protect our marriage by not reacting or not engaging in the unkind way that I’m acting in this moment?

Harry Ironside wrote, “Grace is the very opposite of merit. … Grace is not only undeserved favor, but it is favor, shown to the one who has deserved the very opposite.” In that moment, when Erin showed up in a less desirable way, acting rude in return would be natural. But that’s not extending grace.

Making mistakes is human nature

Grace means giving Erin permission to be human and make mistakes. Grace looks past the frustrating things that Erin might do to see what’s true about her. It’s about remembering who Erin really is on the inside. Grace is putting into practice 1 Samuel 16:7, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Grace believes the best about your spouse. It fights through the messiness of a particular moment or behavior and remembers who your spouse has been over the whole time you’ve known him or her.

I like Leslie Vernick’s perspective on extending grace to your spouse,

Being kind and gracious doesn’t mean you ignore the wrongdoing or pretend it didn’t happen. Being kind means that whatever happens to you doesn’t define you. It doesn’t shape you or turn you into something evil. Extending kindness and mercy doesn’t depend upon whether the other person has been good or bad, wrong or right. Kindness is a gift of love, not a reward for good behavior.

There is a better solution

When your spouse is in a foul mood, stressed out or acting rudely, you have the opportunity to create a safe place for your spouse. You can keep your heart open and remain calm. 

You may need to “self-soothe.” In other words, you may need to silently pray the following: “Everything will be OK. I want to calm down. I refuse to escalate the situation. (Take a deep breath.) God, help me to be a sanctuary for my spouse and respond like the loving person You have created me to be.” 

By exercising self-control when your spouse isn’t, you can turn a potentially volatile situation into something more productive.

When Erin and I were moving the chair, I wasn’t initially at fault, but I could have helped Erin cope with her stress and frustration. I’m not responsible for managing Erin’s emotions. That’s her job. But I can help and support her — be a helpmate during those rare moments when she’s managing her emotions poorly.

This isn’t easy. I’m also a human being, and my buttons are easily pushed. But if I could rewind that time with the chair when Erin was so irritated, I would’ve said, “Hey … we’re on the same team. I know you’re frustrated right now, and I want to support you. What do you need from me?”

That in itself won’t move the chair, of course. But it will allow you to work together to move it — or move through many other relational difficulties. After all, not every spouse is as strong as Erin. Marriage is about working together. And sometimes, working together requires an extra helping of grace. 

Dynamic CTA Template Below

Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
Emerson-Eggerich4-840w

Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.
Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Read More About:

You May Also Like

Shown from behind, a person raising their arms in worship to God during a church service
Forgiveness

Forgiveness and Restoration

In This Series: 1. Forigveness and Restoration 2. The Freedom in Forgiveness 3. Restoration: Four Hurdles You Must Face 4. Building Trust 5. Understanding Forgiveness

Wife looking down after a tense conversation with her husband, who is sitting arms crossed in the background in the background
Conflict Resolution

How to Know When Your Marriage Is in Trouble

Marriage problems vary in complexity. You can solve most marriage trouble without help from a professional counselor. However some situations indicate you should consider guidance from an expert.

Play Video

Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Play Video

Newest Release - Episode 2: Heroes Providing Hope

Discover the amazing work our PRC’s Directors, Nurses, and Volunteers are making in their communities! You’ll see firsthand testimonies of a PRC in action, and that there are other options outside of abortions! You’ll also discover how your family can support your local PRC!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Tell Your Story

By sharing your struggles and triumphs, God can transform your courage into hope and faith for others!