"Mom Says/Dad Says," an exclusive Christian parental advice column by Gregory Slayton, former U.S. Ambassador to Bermuda and author of the best-selling book Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs, and his wife, Marina Slayton, author of the new book Be The Best Mom You Can Be. The Slaytons have been featured on Fox and Friends, Focus on the Family Radio and numerous other media outlets. They donate 100% of their royalties from parenting books to fatherhood and family nonprofits.
Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Governors Jeb Bush and Sam Brownback and Pastors Tim Keller and Luis Palau, among others, have endorsed the Slaytons. In their exclusive series for The Christian Post, both Marina and Gregory will answer thoughtful Christian parents seeking to raise their children up in the goodness of the Gospel and the Glory of God. If you would like to have Marina and Gregory answer your questions, please contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parent's Question: Our kids comment frequently that my husband and I argue too much, at least in front of them. When I married, I knew my husband was not a spiritually mature person but I was head over heals in love. This disparity of Christian perspective continues even after more than a decade of marriage. My husband would rather be at the tennis courts than in church on Sundays. What can I do to prevent spousal bickering and what can I do to encourage my husband to be more spiritually interested?
Mom Says: Anger is a normal human emotion. But the Bible is clear in Ephesians 4:26 that while we can and will get angry, we must control our emotions. Anger easily becomes sin…and that is a step we cannot take. From there it is a quick path downward to unforgiveness, blame, rejection and an increasing division between husband and wife.
Look, lots of situations can bring out anger at one's spouse. Gregory and I just happily sold our large family home of 6 years in picturesque New England and we were frankly not at our best by the end of the move. Long days and nights, tedious organization and some significant time pressure gave rise a lot of bickering. By the end of the backbreaking move we had to repent and seek forgiveness. Trust me, it wasn't pretty, but that is reality.
It takes two to tango. Neither Gregory nor I were innocent during the tough moving process. I am just trying to be honest here. Living with someone else (even with someone you love so much you would die for them) is difficult — especially these days in a culture that is so ME driven. And if one (or both) partners come from a broken family backgrounds (as we both do) the building of a healthy marriage becomes that much more difficult. But marriage is a mystical union representing God's union with His bride the church. So we can be confident that God is for you and your spouse and your family (and your marriage) no matter what kind of challenges you face.
Also, you need to ask yourself if you are angry at your husband's individual action(s) or if you are in a general state of anger against your husband. Perhaps it is because you regret that he isn't a stronger Christian. Or that he hasn't been more successful on the professional front. Or that he doesn't provide enough leadership for your children. Dear Sister: please put those comparisons and regrets away. They won't help him and they certainly don't help you. You married another human being. That means he is by definition very, very far from being perfect. But the truth is, so are we as wives.
Regret poisons way too many marriages. I would suggest going for counseling and focusing on how you can go forward together, both emotionally and spiritually. Don't let your anger continue to fester. You cannot hide the truth from each other … or from your kids. They see it every day. So for their sake as well as your own and your husband, you need to start a journey of forgiveness and prayer in order to see healing in your marriage. We usually want the other person to take the first step, but God wants us to be the first to apologize. As Jesus taught us all "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
Remember, it is impossible to be spiritually mature if one is emotionally immature. Giving into anger is a clear sign of spiritual and emotional immaturity. But taking the first steps — however hesitant — towards forgiveness is a tangible and vital sign of spiritual growth. I encourage you to take those first steps today.
Thanks for an honest and courageous question.
Dad Says: this is a very real problem for many couples. Uncontrolled anger is the cause of a significant portion of the divorces that occur every year. That's why it is so important to 'maintain the bond of peace' in your home. Yes, you might want to get mad at your husband…and he might even deserve it. Maybe your emotions are screaming out "Why doesn't he do this or that (or whatever it is)? But you must be wise. Ask yourself, what would Jesus do? What would Jesus have me do? What would a wise woman do?
Believe it or not most men are sensitive at heart. In truth that is a very good sign. If your husband is sensitive to your criticism it means his heart is still open to you. Husbands who have just 'shut out' their wives after years of constant criticism and/or nagging find it very tough to open up again. Trust me, you don't want that.
So please remember that your husband, as tough as he might appear on the outside, really has put his emotional heart in your hands through marriage (as have you to him of course). One of your top priorities, I would suggest, is to take good care of his emotional heart. That doesn't mean just being a wallflower when he does something wrong. But it does mean finding the right time, the right way and the right tone to help him understand what he has done wrong. There is a reason the Bible warns us in Proverbs 14:1 that 'the wise (or man) woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands." Clearly, our Heavenly Father wants us to be wise, not foolish, in our interactions with our spouse!!
Men, as I've said many times in this column and throughout my Fatherhood book (www.BeABetterDadToday.com) we are the leaders of our families. If we want our wife to be kindhearted towards us, we must exhibit that attitude first. If we want her to be loving towards us, she must feel loved and protected. To be honest, those are not my greatest strengths. Maybe they are not yours also. But here's the great news: our Heavenly Father wants to help us grow in 'love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control' (the 'fruits of the Spirit' as promised in Galatians 5 verses 22 and 23). Personal growth is never easy. It's never a good feeling to admit that we must grow up in one area or another. But our Heavenly Father will not leave us as spiritual adolescents. He wants to help us grow up into the fullness of Christ. And that, as I myself continue to learn, is a very, very good thing.
Onward and Upward!!