Never trust a person who says he doesn’t get angry -- especially if it’s your partner! When God created marriage and proclaimed, the two shall become one, (Genesis 2:24) along with the oneness came the potential for fireworks. In the closeness of a marriage, it’s easy to react and become angry. The good news is you can process anger and build your relationship by making a simple anger contract. We did, and not only did it help our marriage, one day it saved our lives! Here’s the back-story.
One of our favorite places in the world is Engelberg, Switzerland where we hiked with our family when we lived in Germany. Fast-forward a few years. After conferences in Germany, we returned to Engelberg for a couple of days of hiking in the Alps. The first day, we chose an easy hike we had taken years ago with our children. A cable car has replaced the cogged railroad from years ago. No problem until we had to choose where to get off.
I (Claudia) thought the first stop was it. Dave insisted it wasn’t. But as we went higher, the terrain below us became rugged, with steep cliffs. When we finally got off, we realized we were not where we should be. Cautiously, we started out on the trail that soon became steep, rocky and rather treacherous. Somehow we got off that trail and came to a sheer drop-off. I was scared and my fear quickly turned into anger. That’s when our anger contract became a lifesaver. Let us explain.
Years before we learned from our mentors how to make an anger contract. Venting or stuffing anger only makes matters worse. A better way, we discovered, is to process it. Here’s the contract we signed.
Dave and Claudia’s Anger Contract
We agree to:
- Tell each other when we’re getting angry.
- Not attack the other person.
- Ask for help in dealing with the anger that has developed.
Our contract helps us work on angry situations that develop until we clear it up. One of us will say, “Hey, we have an anger contract!” Now back to our cliffhanger.
There on the cliff’s edge, Claudia said, “Dave, I need to tell you I’m getting angry with you but I’m not going to attack you.”
Relieved, Dave still took a few steps back from the cliff. She continued, “I’m scared. We’re lost and we should have gotten off at the first stop! Help us figure this out.”
I (Dave) was concerned too, but because we didn’t let our anger win, we could attack the problem “how to get off the mountain” instead of attaching each other. So how did we get down? We retraced our steps, found the path and though difficult and challenging, we finally made it down to the bottom. On that day we proved that Two are better than one. When one falls down the other can help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:10
To make your own anger contract, talk through our three steps and agree to use them at the first sign of anger. It’s a great asset in any marriage. We wouldn’t leave home, or hike in the Swiss Alps without it!
A few weeks ago, we returned to Engelberg and revisited that now famous cliff. It was scarier that we remembered! Check out this picture! Yeah - up there where the trees are....
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. (Ephesians 4:26