Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

Can Anger Help Your Marriage?

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By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird


For the past twenty-two years, I have been privileged to invest in many families in the North Shore area. As both a Social Worker and an Anglican priest, I have been struck by how many North Shore couples are successful in business but challenged in the area of relationships.  It has been our privilege over the years at St. Simon’s NV to help many couples fall back in love and rebuild strong marriages.

Paddy DucklowWhile teaching at the CWIPPThink Conference in San Diego, God rekindled my dream of doing a doctorate in the area of marriage and families.  I heard that Dr Paddy Ducklow, a North Shore Pastor and Counsellor, was being appointed Professor of Marriage and Family Ministries at Carey College out at UBC.  I have known and respected Paddy since attending West Vancouver Baptist’s Salt Circus during the 1970’s Jesus movement.  After much prayer and reflection, I decided to begin a part-time doctorate at Carey designed specifically for full-time clergy.

My first ‘Family Ministry’ doctoral course was taught by Dr. James Ponzetti, a professor in the Departments of Social Work and then Sociology.  I decided to focus on ‘Managing Anger in marital conflict’.   After reading forty books and 150 Social Science articles on marital anger, I was left with the impression that there are a lot of angry people stuck in conflictual marriages.  Researchers note how many men detach from intimacy, leaving their wives very frustrated. Because women are so relational, they are often tempted to suppress their legitimate anger in favour of protecting their marriage. The problem with stuffing our anger is that it leaves us isolated and disconnected.

Dr John Gottman, one of the world’s foremost marriage researchers, suggests that there is a better way forward.  Even healthy long-term marriages will experience marital conflict and anger.  No one is exempt.  We need to rediscover anger as a positive emotion that has its own wisdom if we will stop being so defensive.  Drs John & Julie Gottman, in their best-selling book ‘10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage’, actually recommends that we husbands need to embrace our wife’s anger and learn the meaning behind the emotion.  Brain scans have shown us that we experience anger on the right side of the brain, unlike fear and sadness which is on the left side.  While fear causes us to withdraw, anger can actually stir us to make a difference and bring constructive change.  The challenge is how to harness the power of anger, much like people in BC harness the power of our mighty rivers for electricity.

Dr David Mace compares anger to the squeak in your car’s engine that tells you it’s time for a tune-up. Anger can be your family smoke-alarm.  Research shows that most marital conflicts are about housework, physical intimacy, money, and children. When we become angry, our heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of our energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  Dr. Gottman actually monitors such levels in his marriage ‘love lab’ in Seattle.   Many couples, when their heart rates goes over one hundred, become overwhelmed or ‘flooded’ by the intensity of their emotions.  Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do if ‘overwhelmed’ while intensely listening to our spouse is to choose to take a short time out and go for a walk so that we can re-regulate our emotions. Gentle humour and affection are other proven keys to reducing emotional intensity. It takes humility to accept influence from our spouses, to become more gentle,  and to make bids for connection when we are tempted to stonewall them.

Much of the 1960’s counselling encouraged people to let it all hang out and dump our anger on the other person. Research has shown that this actually makes things worse.  We need to learn to express our anger gently and respectfully in a way that honours our spouse.  We also need to learn to deeply listen to our spouse’s anger in a way that hears their longing for a healthier future together.  As James put it, we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.  The Good Book teaches in Ephesians 4:26 that it is possible to be angry without being destructive. Even Jesus, who was so full of love, felt angry at people’s insensitivity to handicapped people (Mark 3:5)  It is vital that couples commit to not going to bed angry, because it is far too easy to wake up bitter and resentful. While short-term anger can be a positive force, chronic anger has been shown to increase our risk of heart disease by as much as 500%.

My prayer for each of us reading this article is that we will embrace the gift of anger, and learn to harness it for the good of our marriages and families.


The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 1008- 555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7N 2J7, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

e Crier and in the  BC Christian News


Author: edhird

I am the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C., having served there since 1987. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I was the Past President and Chaplain for Alpha Canada. While serving as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm05.htm For the past 26 years, I have been privileged to write over 400 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to lead conferences and retreats in Honduras, Rwanda, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Toronto. My new sequel Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit, with a foreword by Dr JI Packer, is online with Amazon.com in both paperback http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/097820221X/ref=redir_mdp_mobile and ebook form http://tiny.cc/tanhmx . In Canada, Amazon.ca has it available in paperback http://tiny.cc/dknhmx and ebook http://tiny.cc/wmhmmx . It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook). Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form. Nook gives a sample of the book to read online: http://tiny.cc/vj3bmx . Indigo also offers the Kobo ebook version: http://tiny.cc/kreonx . You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook: http://tiny.cc/1ukiox The book 'Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit' focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus' healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how North Americans can embrace a holistically healthy life. In order to obtain a copy of the prequel book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', please send a $18.50 cheque to 'Ed Hird', #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. For more info, please click on www3.telus.net/st_simons/nsnews030.html

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