I am a civil engineer, married for the past fifteen years, with one beautiful daughter…. Although we have always been happily married, I feel that my unemployment is putting that in jeopardy. Every time I don’t have work, a crisis looms because my wife changes completely and becomes authoritarian. The one who pays the consequences is my daughter, as her mother becomes aggressive and takes out all that negative energy on us.

I am not a womanizer or a drunk, nor do I have any bad habits; but I do I have a temper, and I keep having conflicts with her. I would be grateful if you gave me a ray of hope…

Dear Friend,

We are sorry to hear about the difficulty you have been having with finding a job. Being out of work puts the entire family under extreme stress. You say that your wife “changes completely,” which leads us to believe that normally she is good‑natured with you and your daughter. The stress is taking its toll on her emotions and causing her to behave in ways that she normally would not.

We have good news for you! Your wife is still the same on the inside. She is still the woman you fell in love with. She just has to learn to control her actions and emotions. It is not easy, but with your help she can do it.

Find a calm time to have a talk with your wife when your daughter is not around. Sit down, take her hand, and tell her how much you love her. Tell her that you understand that the stress is affecting the entire family, and you want to work on it together. Ask her how she thinks the stress has changed you. Listen while she speaks, and don’t interrupt. Ask her how she thinks you can handle the stress in a more productive way. Listen to her suggestions and give them serious consideration. Then ask her to listen while you explain how her actions have affected you and your daughter.

Don’t spend any time describing what she does, just how it makes you feel. Tell her that you are going to do your best to control your temper and avoid conflict with her, so you will not stay in the room with her when she attacks you verbally. Instead, you will ask your daughter to come and spend some time with you, as a way of giving you an excuse to calmly leave the room with her. If it is possible, you will take your daughter for a walk or outside to play without saying anything derogatory to her about her mother. As you leave the room, you will not respond to your wife’s attacks. You will just walk away without a word. After she has calmed down, you will return with your daughter and act like nothing has happened.

If you follow through with this plan consistently, your wife will soon learn that she cannot get what she wants by acting in an aggressive manner. Furthermore, she will be able to identify how and when she is responding in an inappropriate manner so that she can then change her behavior. Your daughter, on the other hand, will learn that heated arguments are not the way to settle disagreements. And there will be more peace in your home. In the final analysis, the ray of hope we are offering you is totally dependent on you.

You have not told us specifically, but it sounds like both you and your wife have trouble controlling the words that come out of your mouths. The apostle James has wise counsel for us concerning words that are spoken as a result of anger or aggression. He blames the small body part that we call the tongue for leading people into disaster: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (1)

Will you let your tongue set the course of your life on fire? Or will you set an example for your wife and your daughter by controlling your words and avoiding the total destruction that fire can bring?

We wish you peace in your home,

1 Jam 3:6