Thursday, November 15, 2012

Over Reactions in Marriage

Q.  I often lash out at my husband. I have days in which I'm cross, moody or irritable. My husband stays on an even keel all the time. When he’s angry he gets quiet and withdraws from me. I hate myself for being the bad guy. What is the cause of my over reaction? How can I change?

Many of us with "short fuses" experience overwhelming anger with only minor provocation. Feeling frustrated, irritable and out of sorts on a daily basis suggests a habit of over reacting. We need to recognize our over reactions and realize these are irrational responses. By definition, emotions are not rational. We need our emotions, but as adults we must learn to control them. Lashing out at others harms relationships deeply.
Over Reactors Raise a Stink
Someone has said there are two ways we handle our vulnerability: the Skunk Method and the Turtle Method. When a skunk gets in trouble he lets out a terrible odor which causes other animals to run for cover. The skunk can then safely walk away. The turtle, when threatened simply withdraws into his shell.
Lashing out and moodiness might be called the Skunk Method. “Skunks” yell, blame and are obnoxious toward those they love. Just like the skunk, they raise a stink. Others need not feel superior, however, as they handle their vulnerability with the Turtle Method— pulling in their head and withdrawing. “Turtles” will sulk in silence and feel sorry for themselves. Often they remain disconnected from others longer than the “skunk” who gets things off his chest.
"Skunks" can never become "turtles" and vice versa but often they marry one another.  Things could be worse. When two "skunks" marry they are constantly battling and when two "turtles" marry their relationship is characterized by too much distance and lack of connection. To modify your "skunk" responses, first notice when you begin to lash out or feel irritable. Next write down each over reaction and think about what triggers these. Ask yourself, whether each issue deserved such anger. Think about how you can modify your reaction in the next similar situation. Studying your "skunk" responses will help you gradually modify your behavior. Talk with your husband about this and let him know you are sorry about your over reactions. Be as open as you can with your husband, taking a risk to be more vulnerable than usual.  
Your temperament is naturally “hot” while your husband’s is naturally “cold.” Accept these differences and accept yourself even though you have these "skunk" characteristics. Counseling can help you control your over reactions. Marital counseling with your "turtle" spouse and educational marriage groups such as The Third Option, Marriage Enrichment, and Weekend to Remember will also help.

Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper make mistakes. Proverbs 14:29 NLT

Blessings, Dottie


  1. I needed this today, Dottie; thank you. Love, A Big Fat Skunk

  2. Brandee, Your comment made me laugh! Thanks for commenting. And did I mention I'm the skunk in my marriage?

  3. This is a great description of how people deal with anger and frustration. And also sound advice on what to do about it. I saw a counselor that helped me work through my "skunkiness" and what you're saying is absolutely true. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comments. As I said, I'm the over reactor. My husband is very laid back, fortunately. We've had counseling and now have a great marriage. Praise God!