“I hate you!” These may be the worst three words a person could ever hear. This is especially true in a Christian marriage that is supposed to have the advantage of Scripture, prayer, and God, right? But it is not uncommon to get into a heated argument that continues to escalate until finally, someone throws out these searing words that burn through and through. And once someone has told you that they hate you, they can’t take it back. They can apologize and apologize, but those words turn our hearts hard, even if we don’t want them to. We can’t get them out of our minds. They are like a dark shadow with us all the time. What do you do when your spouse hates you?
What is hatred?
The first thing we have to understand is the nature of hatred. Hatred is an emotion and emotions deceive us into believing something is true when it isn’t really. Emotions can make us feel something, but when we calm down for a minute, we realize that we do not actually feel the way we thought we did when we were so angry. The Bible makes this very clear:
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)
What does this mean for you in your situation? It means that there is a good possibility that what your spouse said in the heat of the moment is not truly their heart. Are they repentant? Did they say they were sorry? That they didn’t mean it? If they have asked for forgiveness in any way, there is a very good chance that they do not hate you, but their anger reached an emotional level that pushed them to a place they could not handle. They were out of control.
If they have not said they were sorry or even acted as if they felt badly, then the next question for you is to discover if they are still angry. Or perhaps, they are the prideful type that does not generally admit when they are wrong to begin with. Don’t lose hope and don’t accept their words as the Gospel truth. They married you. They felt so much love for you at one point that they were willing to enter into a sacred and unending covenant. They felt the emotion of hatred during a fight, but emotions are like the weather in Texas. If you wait a minute, it will change.
Anger Hides Hurt
Before someone gets angry, they first are hurt. The nature of the hurt could be many different things. A person can be hurt because they felt you did not appreciate them, did not respect them, did not care for them. These emotions can come from very deep places but occur in the simplest of exchanges. For example, if a wife interrupts a man during a football game, he may get angry. His anger seems to be over something very insignificant. However, it may touch on a deeper issue of respect or care. If the wife knew he was enjoying the game and was really into it, and then she interrupted, he may have felt she didn’t care. If he has asked her before not to interrupt his football, but she does anyway, now he may feel disrespected. Of course, his reaction to his wife may cause her to feel unloved or disrespected which may cause her to lash out. Then everything escalates.
But one thing you must do is try to understand the deeper issue that has hurt, insulted, or disrespected them. I have a workbook that helps people walk through this process of discovering the hurt of their spouse and their own hurt. It’s called Fighting to Win. This is usually something under the surface. You may think you are fighting over a football game and you may wonder how a football game is more important than you, but the issue is really about respect, love, understanding, not football. If your spouse is a Cowboys fan and you find them crawled up in the fetal position crying, just bring them some more chips and Dr. Pepper. They have to work through it on their own. Seriously though, consider this passage:
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
You might have immediately thought to yourself that you weren’t harsh, but the harshness of what is said is subjective. If the person felt it was harsh, then it was. It doesn’t do any good either, to argue that you were not harsh. Have you ever felt someone was harsh with you and they disagreed? The more they told you that you were wrong, didn’t it just upset you all the more? That person’s perception, right or wrong, becomes their reality. And we all do this, but if they are saying you were mean, harsh, nagging, or whatever, don’t argue. It doesn’t do any good.
The word harsh comes from a word that means ‘a sudden burst of physical pain or anguish.’ Once someone feels hurt, there is a good chance they will lash out in anger.
Anger is an emotion we use on the subconscious level as protection. It is a way of letting the other person know they have crossed a line and you don’t intend to let it happen again very easily. An angry outburst born out of hurt can prompt someone to yell those words, “I hate you!” It is important for you, when your spouse has told you that hate you or something similar, it is a temporary emotion most likely. The key is their regular behavior when they are not angry. If, when they are not angry, still behave in a way that they care for you, then you must learn to let it go.
What to do when your spouse hates you
First and foremost, don’t turn inward and don’t lash out. Both of these are relationship killers. When someone has said something hurtful like this to us, if we forget that they are acting out in their own hurt, then our natural reaction will be to do what they have done. We will let our hurt produce anger that gets the best of us. The next thing you know, we are saying the same type of things to them. With each word to them, it’s like sticking our finger in their wound, then they do the same to us. Both wounds get deeper and the anger intensifies.
Or you may allow hopelessness to set in. The pain of being rejected can steal our drive for life. We will just want to sit on the other side of the couch only speaking when spoken to and only with short phrases, never with a smile. I have to say something at this point that may feel ‘harsh.’ I am warning you to help you get ready so that you can see I am saying it in love. When hopelessness overcomes us, it is a subtle form of self-centeredness. Eash! I hope that didn’t hurt too much 🙂
We are not being selfish in that we are trying to get what we want overtly. We may be trying to get what we want implicitly. We know, on some deep level, that they are not going to be comfortable or happy when we are upset so we remain upset as a way to get them to change their behavior or apologize or whatever. Or, even if we have totally given up on the relationship, the hopelessness is the result of the eyes of our heart being completely focused on self. All we can think about is our own misery and sadness.
Don’t let anyone determine your state of being
When your peace and joy can be stolen from you by the behavior of other people, you are not in a good place. Solomon, the richest man in the Bible, wrote the book of Lamentations. To lament is to grieve when hurt. Solomon had an entire book like this. Just goes to show you that money can’t buy happiness! But here is one line from one of his laments:
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:24 (NIV)
What does this mean that The Lord is my portion? Solomon is saying that God is all that he needs. God is his portion. In other words, Solomon is trying to remind himself that he doesn’t need people to like him or love him in order to be fulfilled. Of course, we all want this and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved especially by our spouse. But when ‘want’ crosses over into ‘need,’ we are in a bad place.
Not only do we live topsy-turvy lives being shaken like a rag doll with every whimsical word someone speaks when they are not in their best mood, but this also creates pressure in the relationship. Your spouse will begin to feel pressure to be a certain way, say certain things, do certain things to keep you happy. But when a spouse feels responsible for your emotional health, they are in a bad place. This is an impossible task. Even if you do everything right, sometimes, people are just in a bad mood. Sometimes, no matter how good things are, people can only see what is bad. Each person must be responsible for their own state of being.
When you find yourself in that dark place, remind yourself that God is your portion. He is all that you need. Remind yourself that God’s plan for your life is not dependent upon any person. There is no person so mighty as to be able to destroy God’s plan for your life.
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:2 (NIV)
The only person who can destroy God’s plan for your life is you. You can reject it outright. You can be angry with God because His plans are not your plans. Just keep in mind that He already told us that His ways are higher than ours so…
Make a Choice to Live at Peace
I know…this is much harder to do than it is for me to say. But you have the ability to do it. You don’t have to be controlled by what you feel. This is what got the whole negative cycle started. Your spouse let their emotions dictate their behavior and now all Hell has broken loose. You must make a decision to stop the bleeding. In the Scripture, God tells us that what we make of each day, of each moment is our choice. We can choose to ignore the negative emotions, the fear, the rejection. We can lay it aside. It’s not easy and there is a trick that I will share with you shortly, but it is possible.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)
Don’t let anyone have so much power over you that you forget it is your choice. You can’t choose to stop the pain, but you can choose to defeat the pain. You can’t change your spouse, but you can change your own heart. You can’t erase the past, but you can find a better future. God has put this within your power.
And if you have children, your children need for you to be at peace. They need to see stability and strength, not wishy-washy narcissistic behavior. God is your portion. Now choose life.
Do not seek vengeance
George Herbert once said, “The best revenge is living well.” That sounds wise, but I take issue with one part of it. Revenge is never a good thing. The Bible tells us to leave room for God’s vengeance. In other words, when we start trying to get back at someone because of what they have done for us, God will not hold that person accountable. He will not make them answer for what they have done. And if we attempt to get even with them then we are putting ourselves in the place of God and if we exalt ourself to his place, He will humble us and it won’t be pretty if you know what I mean.
Sarcasm is never good
So, when I am talking about choosing to live at peace, check your motives. Are you acting like you have not been hurt and that you don’t need your spouse to be happy with the motive of getting even with them. Is it a backhanded way of hurting them? If so, you are just being selfish again. It will come across sarcastic, which will be perceived as disrespectful, deepening the wounds and stirring up more anger. To live at peace we must live in Christ. He is the author of peace, the Prince of Peace. If you are going to be able to live at peace with righteous motives, you must live in Christ meaning your way of responding must align with Jesus’ way of responding to those who hurt Him.
When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, Jesus sincerely called him, “Friend.” When Peter denied Christ three times, Jesus accepted him back and forgave him without ever mentioning what Peter had done. To live at peace must include not throwing those words back in their face. And to respond in the spirit of Christ, we need to spend some time with the Holy Spirit asking Him to bring healing to our hearts instead of trying to get something from our spouse to heal the wounds they created. They can’t heal you. They are not your doctor, your counselor, your God. Take your pain to the Lord.
The more time we spend in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the more He is transforming us to be like Jesus. This means that we will love better. He will give us better capacity to be patient, to forgive, to be selfless, to not throw their past in their face, to live at peace. Then we start loving them even though they have hurt us.
Love is What They Need
I know that you are not going to like this necessarily, but it is true. There is a power in love that is the power of God because God is love.
As I was doing a bit of research, I came across an article giving you signs that your spouse no longer loved you anymore. The premise of this take is so unBiblical. Love is a commitment. It is not a commitment to always ‘feel’ in love, but to always behave in a loving manner.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)
Love is a commitment to always be patient. I know it is so hard to ‘always’ be patient, but God is always patient and He is helping us to become more like Him through the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t sit around depressed every time we sin because we did something unloving towards Him. He is focused on loving us whether we return that love or not. He sends the message, “I love you even at your worst.” Wow! That message resonates with our spirit and it draws us to Him. Those who love Jesus do so because they realized He loved them first. The only chance we have to change their heart is to love them at their worst. Please keep in mind that love is complex. Love doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be treated like dirt over and over again. Love means doing what is best for them. It is not good for them to treat anyone like dirt including you do don’t just sit there and let it happen. Draw boundaries, but don’t draw them in anger, hurt, or revenge. Draw them because that is what your spouse needs.
Love is complex
Love may mean to sit down and have a long drawn out conversation about what they said to you, but be careful that you don’t have that conversation from the standpoint of trying to get healing from them. That kind of conversation must take place on your end by realizing they feel hurt and you want to understand that hurt so that you can do your best to assure them you didn’t mean to hurt them.
Love may mean letting it go. The Bible in one place teaches us to go to people and confront them when they sin against us, but it also says a wise man overlooks an offense. To know which one to do is based on what your spouse needs in that moment. Maybe they need the long talk but not today.
Love may mean make-up sex or it could mean someone is sleeping on the couch. The key is to draw boundaries in sincere love for them, knowing, like we know our children, that sometimes they need grace and sometimes they need tough love.
Love doesn’t guarantee anything
I realize the Scripture I gave you up there says that love never fails. This does not mean that if you love someone, you are guaranteed that they will love you in return. Remember that Jesus loved the world perfectly, with a willingness to die for them, and some people still hated him and killed him. Love never fails means that love never stops. It keeps going. True love has no motive but itself. Many people begin to try hard to love like Jesus and then get angry when their spouse doesn’t suddenly start loving them the same way, but as soon as you get upset, you can know that your motives are wrong. You are not loving them for what they need. You are loving them to get what you want. It is a subtle form of manipulation.
Get some Outside Help
Keep in mind that we don’t always see ourselves well. This is when a good Christian counselor or pastor can be very helpful. Or you may have some strong Christian friends who are not afraid to be honest with you even if it means saying something you don’t like. Pastors, counselors, and friends like this are wonderful, but you have to be willing to accept that you are not perfect. Oh…I know that you know you are not perfect, but knowing we are not perfect has never kept any of us from acting like we are. Right?
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Proverbs 27:6 (NIV)
I pray this was helpful to you. The main way people read these is when people like you share them. What was that? You are wondering why I didn’t address what your spouse said to you. You were wanting to know how to put him or her in their place and change their behavior. Well, remember, you can’t change their behavior. They have to want to change. When you love like Jesus, it can, though it doesn’t guarantee, motivate them to change.
As far as what they need to hear…well, I’ll have to save that for when they do their own Google search.
Live Blessed and Be a Blessing!