Many times I've suggested that couples call a "time out" during a discussion when one or both are losing their temper. Little if anything can be accomplished when the conversation deteriorates to a yelling match. In fact, those experiences can cause long term damage to relationships and, like a growing snowball, can cause larger problems in the future.

It's best to call a time out and choose to spend some time doing other things individually or, if you feel you're able, together. The key is to put yourself in the best position to reach a conclusion that is positive and helpful to each of you and to your relationship as a whole.

It's up to you to decide if the discussion has digressed to an argument. If that's the case, try to stop so you can collect yourself and resume a productive discussion. If you aren't in a correct emotional state of mind, it's not time to attempt communication.

It's also wise to avoid an intense discussion right after one or both of you arrive home from work, while driving or when it's date night. Plan the discussion so that you have privacy, focus and comfort. No one else deserves to listen in unless you're working with a qualified professional and have already planned for them to be present.

Where You Communicate

Do you want to have a conversation with your spouse about a difficult topic or changes you want in your relationship? It's best not to attempt it in crowded restaurants, in front of the children, in stores, at your parents' house, your children's house or most public places. As you plan when to communicate, you must consider the place (where) that will allow you the most privacy, focus and comfort possible.

Why You Communicate

Are you having a bad day and looking for someone to hear you vent? That's perfectly acceptable, but admit that to yourself and your spouse first so that each of you know that your frustrations don't revolve around them.

Maybe you had a bad day. Fine, but don't blame your spouse for your bad day or cause them to feel that's what you're doing. In fact, you might ask their permission first. Maybe you ask something like, "Could I vent to you?" or "I had a bad day, mind if I tell you about it?" Or maybe you just want to enjoy the silence. The bottom line is that they need to know that your frustration isn't about them at the moment.

Are you being selfish, picky, touchy or overly critical? Ask yourself why you want to communicate before you say anything else or even before you open your mouth in the first place. Know your motivation first and then you'll have a much better chance of effectively communicating.

How You Communicate

You likely know that communication is not just verbal. It can be with a touch of the hand, a hug, an expression or even through your posture.

So when you communicate, especially if the topic is difficult or there's risk it could come across in "the wrong way," be sure your nonverbal communication shows love, respect and simple manners. Look at the other person so they know you're attentive to him/her and that he/she matters to you. If you're asking for change in the behavior of the other person, and sometimes that's necessary, you might touch his/her arm as you speak, so that you communicate your care and commitment in spite of what could sound like a complaint.

When you are responding to an idea offered by your spouse, don't be dismissive. If you're both trying to find a solution to a problem, neither of you deserve criticism or dismissal. Instead, be as supportive as you can and treat them like the teammate they are in your relationship. If you disagree with an idea from your spouse, you need to determine if the conversation and timing is right for disagreement. If it's not, you simply need to acknowledge their idea as a possibility or a contribution to the discussion and attempt to move on.

Be clear. Your spouse is not a mind reader. Don't make him/her guess and don't chastise if he/she doesn't immediately understand what you're saying or how you feel. Be patient and precise.

Whatever you do in word or with your body, remember the old and wise saying, "You get more flies with honey than with vinegar."

We haven't even scratched the surface of effective communication within marriage. There are many other factors such as personality traits, temperaments, stages of life, current struggles, current successes and other topics that contribute to how we communicate with each other and what we should do to maximize that communication.

But take to heart what has been mentioned in this article and you'll be in good shape. Next time you hear someone tell you that you need to communicate better to solve a problem within your marriage, start by asking yourself who, what, when, where, why and how.

Joe Beam founded LovePath International, an organization that provides marriage help to couples in danger of separation or divorce. Click here to follow Joe on Facebook.