Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash
Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

Shoving Spouse

Question

My husband and I argue frequently. But lately, he's begun to shove me. I'm having trouble drawing a line between what's acceptable and what isn't. Am I overreacting?

Answer

As we travel across the country, we meet many couples who struggle with disagreements that produce increased frustration that turns to anger and leads to arguments. Most couples don’t understand the emotion of anger and haven’t learned healthy ways to express their anger. In an intimate relationship it’s easy for the primary emotions of fear, hurt, and frustration to lead to the secondary emotion of anger and be expressed in unhealthy, inappropriate and even destructive ways.

While perhaps at times you may be oversensitive to aspects of your husband’s anger, it’s important for you to know that you aren’t overreacting in your concern with the inappropriateness of the shoving. There is never, ever, under any circumstance, due to any real or perceived provocation or slight, any reason for a man or woman to push or shove each other. That is a line that cannot be crossed.

In cases where a spouse begins to push, shove, grab, or hit or engage in any behavior that exerts abusive control we strongly encourage individuals to set unequivocally clear boundaries. In your situation we’d encourage you not to wait until more shoving occurs but to let your husband know that the behavior is unhealthy, unacceptable, and will no longer be tolerated. Let him know that if he pushes you again, that you will ask him to leave the room and/or leave the house for a time out. If he refuses to do that, then you should leave. Leaving provides a time-out for the angry spouse to calm down and focus on healthier ways to communicate their concerns. If this doesn’t help, then you may need to take stronger steps by involving your pastor, a licensed Christian counselor, and, if it continues, the police.

Being proactive in setting clear boundaries now can help to prevent continued escalation.

It’s good for you, it’s good for your husband, and it’s essential for your marriage.

While dealing with the abuse is important, focusing only on that is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone. The greater issue is learning how to deal with differences in healthy ways. You and your husband are at a relational crossroads. You can either continue to do more of what doesn’t work or you can choose to see this as a valuable opportunity, reach out for help, and cultivate healthy ways to deal with your differences and express your anger.

The process of becoming one in Christ involves learning how to understand our differences and deal with conflict in ways that heal rather than hurt. This is an opportunity for you to learn how to apply the principles of I Corinthians 13:4-6 and Colossians 3:13-17 to the day-in and day-out issues in your marriage. We encourage you, and your husband, to read those two passages at least once a day and as you read them ask yourself, “What is one way that I can apply this to my own life today?” We would also encourage you to contact a licensed Christian marriage and family counselor who can help you find practical ways to chart a new course for you marriage.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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