Can’t Help Myself

Marriage Minute # 5 Can’t Help Myself? (From my book, Marriage Minutes, available on

While preparing for a workshop on domestic violence I came across an interesting quote. It is one of those statements I wish I had said, because it is so true, and one of those statements that is simple yet profound. The writer reminded us that one of the frequent excuses for domestic violence goes something like, “I couldn’t help myself, I got angrier and angrier and suddenly lost control of myself.” Truth is, they didn’t lose control at all. They actually began to demand control; the wrong kind of control. The words should be turned around to say, “I saw I was about to lose control, of my spouse, so I got angrier and angrier, and when I saw a chance to defeat them, I helped myself.”
It is the unwillingness to lose control that drives the violence. Once we come to believe that other people, especially those we say we love, have their own rights to think what they think and feel what they feel, we will begin to have more management over our anger. It will happen because we have less anger. Others may try to keep their anger under wraps, only to have it creep out at unfortunate times. The real way to not sound like we are mad at the world is to not be mad at the world. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good. A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:1-4
You give up on the dream of controlling your spouse and amazing things may happen. They may leave…true. But, they may blossom as a person and be absolutely wonderful to be with. Encourage them in their growth as a person and the qualities they develop will be their own tools of self-control. Work on your own development and you will find yourself busy enough doing your own growth chores. A successful business person, who was also a very happy person, was once heard to say that one of the reasons he was happy was not the money. It was the truth he discovered the day he realized that he didn’t have to be the smartest, the toughest, or the coolest guy in the room. I wonder if we could use that advice in marriage. If we don’t have to be superior or inferior, to be in a relationship, we just may get to enjoy ourselves.
If I see all people as my equals, I will never meet anyone who is better than I am. I will never meet anyone I have to control. If I don’t claim rights that I don’t have, I won’t have to defend them by becoming angry, abusive, or manipulative. Can it be that when someone disagrees with me I might hear them with respect? Can it be that when my wife is her own person (which, thankfully, she always is) I can enjoy her without having to control her?
C. S. Lewis said it well, “The suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.” Hear also from Paul Tournier, “Violence is a way of proving that one exists, when one believes oneself to be insignificant.”

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