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I'm Married to Jekyll and Hyde!

Why is he different in public than at home?
Dear Dr. Langberg,
I've been married only a few months, but I'm discovering my husband is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! When we're in public, he's usually happy and friendly. But at home he loses his temper easily and has a negative attitude. He didn't behave this way before we married, so I'm feeling betrayed and discouraged. What should I do?

Let's face it: There's no way to know everything about the person you marry until after you take those vows. But your matrimonial "surprise" is beyond the norm.

Your new husband may have a serious anger problem—and may even be potentially abusive. Many abusive, explosive men exhibit a public and private self that's vastly different; sometimes it's because they need to feel in control at home since they feel inadequate outside it.

Not only do these men often exhibit a Jekyll/Hyde syndrome, they usually get worse over time. That means what's anger in an earlier stage later can become abuse. The intensity of anger increases—as well as the frequency.

Answer the following questions about your husband's outbursts: Does he berate or ridicule you? Does he attempt to control what you say, where you go, what you do? Is his anger full of blame? Has he ever been physically threatening (shaking his fist in your face, throwing something, putting his fist through a wall)? If your answer is "yes," you need to take action right away.

Be clear with your husband about what is permissible behavior. It's never okay for either marriage partner to berate, criticize, control, or ridicule the other. If you excuse or minimize his behavior, you're partnering with your husband in allowing abusive words and/or behavior into your relationship.

Don't dismiss your concerns. Seek help from someone who will take them seriously. Start with a pastor or a Christian counselor familiar with abuse.

Remember, you aren't responsible for your husband's anger; it's his problem. You can't manage his anger for him or live so perfectly as to avoid arousing it. Scripture makes it clear that what comes out of a person is because of what's in his heart, not his environment (Prov. 4:23; Matt. 12:35).

Too often a wife tolerates awful words and behavior "for the sake of the marriage." But that passively permits destruction to enter the marriage. What goes on behind closed doors needs to reflect Christ's love. When it doesn't, help is needed.

My wife and I had our first baby several months ago, but she just hasn't gotten back to being her old self. She cries easily, seems depressed, and feels terrible about the extra weight she's still carrying. Nothing I do or say seems to help. I'm worried she's not bouncing back.

Most new moms find it difficult to adjust to life after giving birth. There are fluctuating hormones and that unwelcome extra weight. A new mom's schedule is topsy-turvy; she's sleep-deprived and constantly exhausted. And she has to get used to someone being utterly dependent on her! It's no wonder many women feel teary, overwhelmed, and unhappy.

But for some, this experience lasts longer—and is more intense—than the average adjustment period. That's when the possibility of postpartum depression must be considered. It may be time for a trip to your wife's gynecologist. Go with her—your presence there may keep your wife from downplaying her symptoms and help her doctor make a diagnosis. Your wife's ob-gyn may prescribe a mild antidepressant for her.

In the meantime, make a point of encouraging and complimenting your wife. Give her a break from the baby whenever you can. Perhaps she'll consider using this time to take a walk or go on a bike ride; regular exercise can help lift her spirits and give her a sense of control over her body. If your wife doesn't respond to these suggestions, a consultation's definitely in order.

I'd like to date this great Christian guy I've met. The attraction seems mutual, but he's five years younger than I. I'm in my early thirties and he's in his late twenties. My friends are cautioning me the age difference is too great. Should I be concerned?

If you were five years younger than the guy you want to date, no one would raise an eyebrow!

The reality is, five years either way may or may not be significant; it depends on other factors. For example, the difference between a 15 year old and 20 year old is far greater than the difference between a 40 year old and 45 year old. Obviously the key factor is the maturity level of the individuals involved—which I have no way of assessing. That's best done by those who know your friend and see you two together.

The bottom line? You don't need to automatically write this guy off as a potential date just because of his age. However, proceed with caution. (I'd advise that to anyone pursuing a potentially serious relationship!) And keep these questions in mind: How settled is he in his career? Does he have a goal? Has he shown stability in his work? What are his living circumstances? Is he mature about maintaining his living space and his finances? Has he demonstrated spiritual maturity? How has he functioned in his church? Is he respected there? Does he contribute to that body through the use of his gifts? What about his friends? Do they seem "young" to you?

These questions will give you a starting point to work through the whole age issue. Who knows? Your guy could be incredibly mature—or needy, looking for someone older to nurture him. I assume you're not interested in that kind of relationship—or in being with someone who feels like a "kid" to you.

God calls us to respect our husband, so it would be foolish to get too attached to someone for whom you'd find that difficult. Time, wisdom, and input from others whose opinions you value will help you assess whether or not this is a man you could respect for a lifetime.

DIANE MANDT LANGBERG, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice, and author of Counsel for Pastors' Wives (Zondervan), Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse, and On the Threshold of Hope: Opening the Door to Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse (both Tyndale).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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