Unresolved anger --- many couples would agree that, despite the outward reasons for their problems, anger that has built up over weeks, months, years or even decades is at the heart of the trouble in their marriage. In FROM ANGER TO INTIMACY, bestselling author Gary Smalley, president of the Smalley Relationship Center, and Ted Cunningham, a speaker with Smalley's organization, offer the tools couples need to overcome the situations that created the problems, deal with the anger, and move on to a relationship characterized by genuine love and forgiveness.
This excellent resource for all couples begins with establishing the foundation for understanding anger. "Anger in and of itself is not a bad thing," the authors write. "Anger is an emotion designed by and given to you by God, but it's what you do with that anger that can negatively affect your spiritual, mental and emotional health." They describe anger as a secondary emotion that follows such initial responses as feeling betrayed, disrespected, belittled and so forth. If left unresolved, the anger that results will in turn result in sin in some form.
The authors then guide readers through the process of resolving anger; you can stuff it, spew it or study it, they write, but only by studying it can you gain mastery over it. Next they discuss recognizing your own cycle of anger and learning how to break out of it, as well as discovering what your personal hot buttons are.
From there, Smalley and Cunningham offer specific strategies for handling anger the moment it erupts. "If you look at the conflict in our world, you'll realize that it's impossible to live in peace with everyone," they maintain. "But it is possible to make every effort to live at peace." Among the six tactics they recommend are crying out to God and making a conscious choice to react differently.
The authors devote several chapters to the all-important topic of forgiveness --- what it is, what it isn't and how you can forgive your spouse even when you think that's an impossible undertaking. The book includes a number of sidebars, and here the sidebar takes the form of a forgiveness inventory, a 33-question assessment of how quick --- or how slow --- you are to forgive.
An entire chapter covers the critical subject of recovering from an affair or sexual addiction, among the most difficult betrayals for a spouse to handle. Smalley and Cunningham outline six absolute requirements for stopping the relationship or the behavior, and they offer specific steps for the offended spouse to take to deal with the situation and attempt to restore the relationship --- in time.
A companion study guide enables couples (or one spouse) to explore the material in the book at greater depth. The questions are thoughtful and at times challenging, and the correlation to scripture is evident throughout.
Highly recommended, even for couples who have a healthy marriage, FROM ANGER TO INTIMACY doesn't just offer a cure; it also serves as a preventative.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on January 2, 2009