It happened thousands of times.

Shauna would go out—shopping, socializing, errand-hopping, whatever. And me? I’d sit back on my keister, relishing the freedom of an hour or three to myself. Video games, a movie maybe. Even some quality time with God. Nothing wrong with that, except far too late in the game, an inevitable realization would always arrive, dropping into my consciousness like an anvil dropped on a steel floor:

She’ll be home soon. 

I would glance this way and that, taking in the status of the home front. Disaster. I’d done nothing for two hours, Shauna was coming home, and the place looked like a post-apocalyptic set piece. Which always brought the next realization home with crystal-clear fury:

She’s gonna be ticked.

I’d picture her face falling with disappointment. Her face tensing with frustration. Her lips sealing with silence. I’d picture her mad at me. And with that “madness… this is Sparta” attitude charging my frame, I’d go to work—cleaning like a madman, hoping to avoid a madwoman.

Shauna has always done more of the housework, but I know I need to do my part. So I found myself continually trying to figure her out—in particular, how much I had to do to avoid her anger. Which eventually became how little I had to do to avoid her anger. Or how little I had to put in to keep her satisfied.

The funny thing is, she rarely actually got angry like that, and when she did, I usually deserved it. Anger management mode is destructive; it enthrones imaginary tyrants in place of our loved ones. Ah, the games we play.

Well, suffice it to say I woke up one day with God’s help and saw that anger management wasn’t the most wonderful marriage foundation. That working frantically to avoid something is vapid, shallow, and dumb. That working to build something—uh, like maybe our friendship, or even just growing her as a person—was a far more noble goal.

I went through another stage, one where I did wonderful things around the house to make her happy. Happy so I could feel it. So she would be pleased with me. But again, that misses the mark. Marriage isn’t about pacifying or pleasing Shauna, especially when doing it to make life more pleasant for myself.

It’s about loving her, about building a home. So now, today, I do far more around the house than ever. Sometimes I do stuff because it will take the pressure off of her. Sometimes it just needs to get done and it’s right to do my part and then some. Sometimes I do it because I know it will bless her. Many of the things I do she’ll never notice, because noticing them wasn’t the point. Blessing her was.

Do I ever slide back into anger management mode? Sure. But as soon as I realize it, I back off.

Marriage tip #2 is this: Don’t let your marriage slip into anger management mode. Don’t look for how little you have to do to keep your partner happy. The point is going beyond—way beyond—because you love each other. To hit home runs on the love front whenever, and however you can.

What say you? Have you experienced this? And what “marriage tips” would you like to throw into the hopper?