I've noticed when the dust settles after a major fight, and Steve and I communicate about what caused the dispute, one word comes up repeatedly.
That word is fear.
Every husband and wife enters marriage with fears. It's part of what some counselors call "our baggage." Too often when a fear in my husband is combined with a fear I'm battling, explosions occur that threaten to destroy our marriage. Steve and I didn't know this early on, and we had battles that rivaled heavyweight matches in their intensity. Yet we've been fortunate over time to bring our fears out in the open and deal with them. Here are some ways we did that, and in the process strengthened our marriage and increased our intimacy.
1. Ask God to reveal fears.
As I've asked God to show me my fears, he has. One day when I asked, "What am I so afraid of?" after a skirmish with my husband related to my cooking, God revealed this, which I communicated to Steve:
"Honey, when you criticize my cooking, it really stirs up my fear of failure."
Then I gave details.
"When I was growing up my father was a perfectionist, and I felt like I couldn't please him. It seemed no matter what I did, such as cook him a meal, he had a negative comment about it. When you criticize me, I feel as if I'm a failure as a wife, just like I felt I was a failure as a daughter."
It was after one of many fights that Steve and I began talking more about our childhoods. In doing so, we realized my number-one fear was fear of rejection—especially from men.
Because much of my feeling rejected as a child was because of my father's anger, Steve's anger triggered my fear of rejection.
On the other hand, Steve's number-one fear was being controlled by women because of his mom's and older sister's controlling ways.
So how had I been trying to avoid feeling rejected and hurt by my husband's anger? I had attempted to control him. And how did he try to keep me from controlling him? By using anger, which I interpreted as rejection. What a vicious cycle.
God revealed that our deep fears were colliding and setting off sparks which led to fiery fights. Once we became aware, we also became more empathetic. Our fighting has decreased dramatically.
Now when Steve raises his voice, I know that one reason might be fear that I'm trying to control him. I can back off and return later with a gentler approach.
After revealing our fears, we began to pray for healing. We are still in the process of being healed of childhood hurts, which are at the root of our fears.