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Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

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Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

4.5/5 (7 ratings)
248 pages
4 hours
Jan 28, 2020


Foreword by Dave and Ashley Willis, authors of The Naked Marriage and hosts of The Naked Marriage Podcast

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and applying God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

Many couples know their marriage has room for improvement, but it is hard to pinpoint exactly why a relationship is suffering. Often times everyday triggers are the culprit. If you are wondering how to break out of the cycle of reactionary outbursts, cold shoulders, resentment, and pain that harms your relationship, you are not alone. Experiencing peace and joy rather than anger and frustration is not as hard as you think!

Marriage Triggers walks you through thirty-one of the most common marital issues that sabotage great relationships, like poor communication, lack of spiritual leadership, busy schedules, and different parenting styles. Married for fourteen years, authors Amber and Guy Lia are your typical couple and they share tips for countering negative reactions to triggers with gentle, biblical responses.

Rather than run from the things that cause conflict, Amber and Guy believe these triggers are opportunities for growth, both individually and as a couple. They challenge you to let Marriage Triggers renew your commitment to responding gently and biblically towards your partner.
Jan 28, 2020

About the author

A former high school English teacher, Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom of four little boys. She is the bestselling coauthor of Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, say Something New. She and her husband Guy own Storehouse Media Group, a faith-friendly and family-friendly TV and film production company in Los Angeles, California. When she’s not building sand castles with her boys on the beach, or searching for Nerf darts all over her house, you can find Amber writing to encourage families on her blog at MotherofKnights.com.

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I’m convinced that more marriages are triggered than not. Couples feel angry and frustrated by all the things that set them off—things like finances, lack of trust, intimacy in the bedroom, personality differences, and busy schedules. Readers often ask me if their anger is justified and how to know the difference. It’s an important question for us to examine before we look into these thirty-one chapters that lie ahead. Author Lou Priolo, in his book The Heart of Anger, writes this insightful truth about righteous and unrighteous anger:

If your anger is due to your recognition that a holy God has been offended by another’s behavior, that anger is righteous… On the other hand, if your anger is the result of not having your personal desires met, that anger is usually sinful. In other words, if we are angry because someone (without sinning) prevented us from having what we really wanted, our anger is sinful. Of course, it is possible (even probable in those situations where another person’s sin against God is also an offense to us) to have both righteous anger and sinful anger residing in our hearts at the same time.¹

This really is the idea of hating the sin but loving the sinner, isn’t it? We should feel righteous indignation when we see sin and evil in the world, or in the lives of our spouses. But what should really get our backs up is that sin is an affront to the God we love, not because it’s an affront to us personally. Being impacted by our spouse’s sin doesn’t give us the right to indulge in our own.

Husbands and wives all over the world are waking to a new day and as soon as it registers mentally that they are awake, the gloom of their strained relationship fills their hearts. We want our marriages to be better, but instead, our triggers often leave us bitter—or broken. Many of us go to bed angry, even though we may be familiar with Ephesians 4:26–27 (ESV):

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

The anger we sometimes feel can be overwhelming. It was for me. When you read chapter 1, you will see what I mean. Everyday triggers are often the culprit. The little things we don’t know how to address—or have been addressing wrongly—make us angry and frustrated, with little hope for change. If you have wondered how to break out of the cycle of reactionary outbursts, cold shoulders, resentment, and pain that harms your relationship, you are not alone. There is a better way! And it’s not as hard as you think.

This book walks you through thirty-one of the most common marital issues that sabotage great relationships, like poor communication, lack of spiritual leadership, busy schedules, and different parenting styles. The truth is, our unrighteous anger can quickly lead to other sinful attitudes and actions. But it doesn’t have to. If you are like me and my husband as we face our own triggers in marriage, each new day brings with it two options:

Carry on with the same conflicts and frustrations, reacting angrily and fanning the flames until everyone gets burned,


Learn to practice responding biblically so that love can reign in our hearts, strengthening our own personal walks with God, and resulting in a blessed marriage.

For many years now, I have been walking through a variety of triggers and gentle biblical responses with parents as they navigate the changing stages and dynamics of parenting. Almost as soon as Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses was hot off the press, the Holy Spirit planted the seed in my heart to write Marriage Triggers. In my first book in this series, written with my co-author, Wendy Speake, we heard from hundreds of parents who read and reread our book. Often, they expressed this aha moment:

Triggers was not helping them fix their kids so they wouldn’t have to be angry anymore. Triggers was showing them, trigger by trigger, and verse by Bible verse, that peaceful parenting was not about changing their kids, but about changing their own attitudes and reactions to the triggers in their parenting. The result was a strengthened faith and a radically transformed home.

Marriage Triggers is no different. These thirty-one common triggers in marriage are the result of hundreds of responses and several years of feedback from husbands and wives who feel angry in their relationships. Guy and I spent too many years angry with one another, ourselves. We get it. We have learned firsthand, and heard from the lips of hundreds of couples, that anger doesn’t always look like throwing dishes and screaming voices. It can be cold or hot. Bitter or sweetly manipulative. Withdrawn or aggressive. Vengeful or hopeless. Careless or clingy. Indifferent or idolatrous. Loud or quiet. Passionate or passive. But every sinful reaction has one thing in common: it’s a foothold for all kinds of nastiness. A stepping-stone that leads us away from the happy marriage that God desires us to have with one another.

As you read, you aren’t getting the doctoral treatise from two PhDs who have studied healthy relationships. Nor are you getting an intellectual examination of triggers and how to avoid them. You are getting the transparent and practical insights from a couple, a lot like you, who love God and are still learning to love one another well. We are walking right beside you, writing from a place of need for our own marriage. And you’ll get a look at differing perspectives. You’ll see (Amber) or (Guy) next to each chapter title to indicate which of us is addressing each marriage trigger. We anticipate that like so many men and women, you, too, may be struggling with your emotions, feeling hopeless, or wondering if things will ever change. God offers all of us this promise:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

Can our triggers work for good?

Can our responses lead to a better marriage?

Can our anger lead us to a more purposeful relationship?

We believe they can, because we believe God.

Guy and I encourage you to identify trigger moments as much as you identify the triggers themselves. Having conversations about conflicts late at night when you are tired, in the car where you feel confined, or in the heat of the moment as emotions run rampant is less than ideal and usually leads to even more anger and frustration. Once you have identified your trigger moments, put a plan in place to regularly come together outside of conflict to lovingly discuss triggers when they arise.

Some of our friends have agreements in place with their spouses to never start conversations regarding their marriage triggers during their identified trigger moments. As a result, they are able to talk with one another without anger fueling the conversations, and harmony has been restored in their conflict resolution. When you are faced with a marriage trigger, say something like, Honey, there is something on my mind that I’d like to talk through with you. Can we set a time on Wednesday to talk about it together? Sometimes it’s hard to delay these conversations, but exercising self-control is a great first step toward being the peacemakers God asks us to be.

Let’s not waste another moment living angered. The book you have in your hands is not a formula, full of cut-and-dried tips and tricks for a happy life, but if you are willing to let the Holy Spirit open your heart to transformation, you will surely experience the goodness of God in your marriage. Read prayerfully and with great expectations for what God can do. Whether you are reading alone or with your spouse, your marriage is about to segue from triggered to triumphant.



When the things that trigger us toward anger have everything to do with them…

Sometimes, our triggers toward anger and frustration catch us by surprise. We walk into the living room and find a mess, or our car needs unexpected repairs, or our bank account takes a hit. Whether we are triggered by a lack of spiritual leadership, busy with overwhelming schedules, or feeling the pressures of the workplace, the triggers we discuss in this first section are some of the most common everyday moments that tempt us toward unrighteous anger.



Our wedding day was picture perfect. Ten bridesmaids, ten groomsmen, and two hundred of our closest friends and family. We spent the better part of a year planning every detail. My friends and I labored for hours, handcrafting tiny flowers for our invitations. My wedding dress was the most beautiful gown I had ever seen, and my fiancé, Guy, had arranged for my favorite childhood car, a restored MG, to be our getaway car after the ceremony. Three of the dearest men alive were ready to speak during the ceremony. Our bags were packed for a relaxing and romantic honeymoon in Playa del Carmen. Every detail was perfect.

Little did I know that in the midst of all our wedding perfection, there were one—or two—major flaws: the bride and groom. Guy and I knew that marriage was not warm fuzzies all the time. We’d witnessed for ourselves plenty of marriages that ended in disaster. The statistics were pretty harsh, and we took them seriously.

Even so, those early days as newlyweds were challenging. Many couples experience a honeymoon phase for a good long while. Ours ended only a few months into our marriage. It was a rude awakening from the fairy-tale dreams I imagined and the happy home life Guy desired. We were triggered from the start. Guy couldn’t live up to my expectations. He reacted in frustration, which fanned my hurt feelings into my own angry reactions. My sinful indignation justified his sinful words or actions and there we were, looking up at an unattainable cloud nine from the slippery pit of misery.

The things that formed a wedge between us were both internal and external triggers—ranging from long work hours to personal childhood wounds, issues with intimacy and connectedness, clashing schedules, financial differences, and eventually, differing parenting styles. No amount of premarital counseling or good intentions prepared us for the real deal. What Guy and I were experiencing wasn’t unusual. We were the norm. For many years now, I have worked with thousands of families who seek to navigate away from angry parenting toward more gentle and biblical responses. As a result, I have been privy to how many of these same triggers threaten not only unified parenting, but marriage itself in many of our homes. Instead of feeling ashamed for the angry feelings and reactions we often display toward our spouses, we can have hope that there is a better way. A gentle biblical way. And it’s within the grasp of every husband and wife who longs for change.

On our wedding day, we had no idea that our vows would be tested so soon. We wrote them with the heartfelt emotion and wonder of two young pups in love, but we said it loud and clear for everyone to hear as part of our pledge to one another: I will not divorce you. We took divorce off the table on day one, not aware of how we would be tested in this commitment. God knew we would need the reminder. He knew we needed to say it out loud in front of those two hundred guests. He knew we would be faced with the truth that love is often a choice.

It sounds a little callous. A little cold. This idea that love is a decision you choose to make, rather than an emotion or a feeling. A commitment to honor your vows and to honor God. I recently heard a pastor speak on The Defense of Romantic Love in Marriage. And he was right. God intended marriage to be a beautiful picture of love—both in its choices and in its emotions. But what happens when you marry Mr. Wrong? Because I did. And sadly, he married Ms. All Wrong. You see, it boils down to the purpose of life. Jesus summed it up for us when the religious leaders of His day asked Him this question:

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:33–39, NIV)

There it is. What do you do when you marry the wrong man or woman? You love God and you love your spouse as well as you love yourself. We could never fulfill that kind of love outside of a radical, devoted, passionate love for God. And we sure can’t love like that if we’re busy meditating on all the ways our spouses fall short. You see, every man is the wrong man. Every woman is the wrong woman. Satan set out to mar paradise in the garden with Adam and Eve, and they took the bait by taking the bite. And no one ever loved unconditionally again.

No man can love to the point of dying for his enemies on the cross. Only Jesus. For a long time, I wanted my husband to be Mr. Right who knew me better than anyone, could read my mind, showered me with words of affirmation, and came home with flowers every week. I wanted him to pick the right size shirt when he bought me a gift and set me up behind a white picket fence. But that wasn’t my Guy. My Guy was who God made him to be. He’s the guy who is so devoted that I never question his loyalty. He’s the guy who wrestles with his sons on the floor, and wrestles for their hearts in prayer. He’s the guy who shows courage as he follows his God-sized dreams and faithfully takes risks when it would be easier to play it safe. He’s the guy who loves me better than anyone ever has. Imperfect, yes, but loving me the best he knows how. I almost missed it. I almost missed all that love because it didn’t look the same way I pictured it in my dreams or movie-made expectations.

I know God tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. But the moment I start trying to be my husband’s conscience and remind him of that because I don’t think he is doting on me enough, speaking my love language, prioritizing the way I do, leading like I want him to, or being Mr. Right in whatever capacity that looks like, then I am focusing on the wrong thing. And our marriage will suffer for it.

How about you? Do you wonder what it would be like if your wife would just…? Or if your husband would finally…? Are there times when you question whether marrying your spouse was the wrong decision? Imagining the what if scenarios traps us in our negativity. These mental gymnastics leave our emotions twisted and our thinking contorted. Meditating on such questions can do us no good. Our spouses can’t compete with the unspoken ideals of a mental match game. The apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians, testifying that his own desire to live life to the full necessitated leaving the past in the past, and striving to make the future worthy of his desire to become more like Christ. I believe we can apply this to our marriages too:

… But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14, ESV)

Let’s settle the matter, here in the first chapter. The moment you said I do to your wife or husband, your marriage became a match made in Heaven. We won’t encourage you to bury your emotions or ignore the challenges of the past that may now be affecting your everyday lives, but only when revisiting the past serves to bring healing and propel us forward is it a good use of our time and mental energy. If those thoughts cause you anger, angst, and agony, and if they harm your relationship, leave them in the dust as you, like Paul, press on toward the prize of spiritual growth and marital harmony. Recognize that every one of us is flawed and has room for improvement. Be open to what God may have for you, not your spouse, as you spend the next thirty-one days reading through Marriage Triggers.

I married Mr. Wrong. He got Ms. All Wrong. But it’s alright.

It’s alright because we know that no man or woman is perfect. It’s alright because we are both sinners saved by amazing grace. It’s alright because we choose to love when the other is unlovely. And it’s alright because when we fail at that, we wake up to a new day and new mercies (Lamentations 3:22–23). I can spend my time grieving what I don’t have. Or I can spend time worshiping a God who loves me unconditionally and sent His only Son to die for me on the cross. I can bemoan that my husband doesn’t love me like that and wallow in guilt about my own self-centeredness. Or I can rejoice that God’s love for us is perfect and honor Him by focusing on the way my husband loves me.

Spend your energy on loving God and loving others. Start with your spouse. Don’t do it because you want a result. Do it because your life is not your own, but was bought with a precious price, and realize the love you seek is already yours in the person of Jesus Christ. Our spouses were never meant to be our Savior or the source of our happiness.

I suspect you married Mr. Wrong and that you may well be Ms. All Wrong. But I pray that today you see that it’s alright.

Let’s Pray: Dear God, thank You for designing marriage to be a picture of Your love for me. I know that You want my husband/wife and me to experience marriage as You designed it to be. I’m tired of longing for what I don’t have. Help me to see my spouse as You see him/her. Work in my heart, Lord! Satisfy me in ways only You can do. Fix my eyes on You and every time I begin to meditate on negative thoughts about what my husband/wife may be doing wrong, fill me with humility, forgiveness, and hope. Remind me that we are not perfect; we are forgiven. Then help us to love one another as You do, Lord. Let love rule our hearts and minds. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!



In my first Triggers book, my co-author, Wendy Speake, says that when your house is a mess, don’t let it make a mess out of you. Unfortunately, the clutter and chaos of a home in disorder impacts both husbands and wives in negative ways. Many couples feel defeated by the state of their homes, but there are both practical and biblical responses for this trigger that can make a big difference.

Some of us got the shock of our lives when we moved in together after the wedding and discovered how slovenly our bride or groom had become seemingly overnight. We hear from just as many husbands as wives about the messiness of their homes. At the risk of being stereotypical, women can’t seem to

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  • (5/5)
    Great wonderful natural scary gives you a new look on god