An important beginning:  both parties have to be motivated to “fight to win” – win for the marriage, as opposed to winning for themselves. 

What comes next?

When tempers flare quickly, as you described, it becomes pretty near impossible to have a positive discussion in the moment.  I like to describe this state as “hearts racing, heads scrambled.”  It’s similar to first falling in love, but not exactly!

So a next step is…to step back 

Why step back?

This helps us to follow that timeless wisdom in medical practice, which is “First, do no harm.”  By simply not saying something that you will later regret, you may have already won half the battle.  

So step back.

Then, use the time to gather your thoughts and prepare your heart.  For some, it may involve scribbling furiously in a journal ‘til they get clear on what they truly want to say.  For others, it might involve praying to help adjust their perspective on their spouse.  

Finally, return to your spouse in a spirit of love.  You are on the same team, after all!  You want to find a way to solve the issue…together.

But there is a key caveat.  Many of us don’t have a whole lot of practice at doing this.  It’s not the first idea that comes into our heads. Usually, the first instinct is “fight or flight,” not “respond with reason”!  As a result, we can get stuck in a negative cycle.

If that’s the case, my feeling is that meeting with professional go-between (coach, therapist, counselor) can be a big help. You have a neutral setting, with a helpful mediator, who isn’t invested in either side being right. There, both partners can practice using their new muscles of calm cooperation.

If hubby’s willing to go, then go!  If he (or you) are not willing to go, then you have to figure out: what’s the alternative, and can I live with that?  That becomes your boundary line for improving your communication, and your marriage. 

This is a coaching start.  Many blessings on your journey.  It’s hard work and it doesn’t happen overnight.  But it can be done!


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Dr. Ann is a M.D. who writes, speaks, and coaches.  Her mission is to empower women in life and work!  Coaching With Dr. Ann is syndicated on, and has been featured on,, Fox news, and Good Morning America.  

Copyright Dr. Ann 2012

Publication date: September 21, 2012