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Temper Tantrums

My husband's angry outbursts are driving our family apart.

My husband has a bad temper and a habit of cursing. He usually directs his verbal tirades at the TV or other drivers in bad traffic, but he also occasionally targets my two teenage sons and me. As a result, my sons are losing respect for him. My husband doesn't see the damage he's doing to our family. Is there anything I can do to open his eyes?

Long ago I learned people don't change destructive behavior until they experience its negative consequences. Any seasoned counselor will attest to this fact, and there's no reason to believe the same won't hold true for your husband. So, let me suggest a couple practical ways you can help him see the negative consequences of his unchecked anger.

First, your husband needs to receive a clear heartfelt message from the whole family. It's vital he hear from his boys—and not just you—about the impact of his undisciplined anger. I recommend you hold a family meeting not to punish him, but to let him know each of you is losing respect for him because he isn't treating you with respect.

Next, set some consequences in your meeting. Decide, in advance, what the fallout of his next tirade will be. Maybe the next time he curses at one of you, you will immediately leave the room and not respond. Or on a more lighthearted note, maybe he'll agree to give each of you five dollars whenever his temper flares up.

Of course, if your husband resists the whole premise he's angry, this approach won't work. Instead, your husband will only face reality when you take action by sticking firmly to the negative consequences you've warned him about.

If your husband wants to tame his temper but can't, it's time for him to seek some professional help. An anger-management class or individual counseling can be effective.

Finally, if your husband's outbursts ever become physically violent, it's time to get immediate help for you and your children. Seek safety by phoning the police and/or temporarily moving to a safe place until firm boundaries are established.

Stand By Your … Friend?

A friend asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. We grew up together in church but she's drifted from the faith and she's been living with her fiancé for a year. I'm glad they're getting married, but I don't feel their relationship has honored God thus far. By being a bridesmaid, I feel as though I would be vouching for this couple in a special way. Should I provide that kind of support?

Your desire to live by your convictions is admirable. The sacredness of marriage too often is taken lightly these days, and I want to affirm your desire to respect this institution. But I believe there's a way to stand by your convictions and still offer your friend loving support and grace.

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