Violence is always destructive and signals major problems. Both partners may be out of control. Wild animals fight when attacked. Children fight with each other. Most adults do not use physical means to settle differences. We know how to control our anger. We know how to talk about problems. And we know how to walk away from conflict.
Seek Professional Help
Couples who are violent with each other have usually come from homes where they witnessed violence or where they were physically abused. The violence in their marriage is a re-creation of scenes from the past; an acting out of their frightened, hurt, confused and angry feelings from the past. When this happens in a marriage the couple are at risk of doing serious harm to each other. The violence must stop. They need treatment to learn how to do this and to resolve the underlying problems causing their violence. This will take time and will not be easy. Treatment can also help them discover the positives in their relationship, the love and caring that keeps them together.
Changes You Can Make
There are also several things couples can do on their own to stop the violence. These are not a substitute for treatment. They will only facilitate lasting change in connection with professional help.
Learn About Your Anger
Understanding your anger can help you control it. To learn about your anger write out your answers to these questions individually:
1. How do you define anger?
2. What did you learn about anger as a child?
3. How did you express anger as a child?
4. What was your most recent anger experience?
5. What was the angriest moment in your life?
6. How do you react to anger?
7. What positive ways do you use to get rid of anger?
8. What do you enjoy or like about anger?
9. How do you "pick a fight?"
10. What do you do that triggers your partner's anger?
Read and study The Anger Workbook by Dr. Les Carter and Dr. Frank Minirth and honestly face the truth about your own violent anger.
Make Your Home Safe
Couples who are violent with each other must make their environment safe. To do this, get rid of all weapons. They might even place the kitchen knives in a locked drawer. They will need to make a pact to never become violent again. They will need to plan how they will handle anger when it arises.
One way to do this is to list the behaviors that are acceptable during a disagreement and those that are not acceptable. For example, acceptable behaviors might be: describing why you're angry, asking for different behavior, raising your voice, slamming doors, leaving briefly to calm oneself down.
Unacceptable behaviors would include any physical attack (hitting, biting, scratching), destroying possessions, threatening divorce, threatening violence.
If drinking accompanies the violence this issue will also need to be addressed. Couples with a violence problem need to find an experienced counselor and commit themselves to continue in treatment weekly for at least three months.
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11 NIV