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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

How to Keep Your Cool When Your Spouse Doesn't

How to Keep Your Cool When Your Spouse Doesn't

Emotions are contagious!

Not only are emotions contagious, but relationships and relating are contagious. In other words, we tend to act like the persons we are associating with. We tend to behave in a similar way to the people we are around. 

“I can’t believe that I get hooked by him,” Julie said, referring to her husband, Kyle, of 10 years. “When he is snippy, I can get snippy right back. When he is sarcastic, I can be sarcastic right back.” 

“You’re saying that you don’t want to behave the way you do.” 

“No,” Julie continued. “I can see what is happening and can’t seem to help myself.” 

“Seeing the pattern emerge is certainly the first step to change,” I said, trying to encourage her. “Noticing what you are doing can be the beginning step toward change. But, let’s understand the pattern more completely.” 

Julie continued to share about her marriage. She shared how she noticed her personality changing. She shared how she used to be warm and engaging, and now found herself withdrawing from social relationships and being more short-tempered with Kyle. 

“What really bothers me is that I can lose my temper and yell just like him,” she said. “I swear when I’m really upset, and I never used to do that. I’m ashamed of the way I talk to him.” 

Scripture suggests we can be negatively influenced by those with whom we associate: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.” (Proverbs 22:24

Solomon said, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

Clearly we will become like those with whom we associate. We tend to act like them, think like them and even develop a lifestyle like them. We are influenced by others. 

What then, are we to do if that person is our mate? How do we guard against developing and accepting their poor relational habits? Here are some helpful steps to maintaining clear boundaries and a clear, separate identity from your mate: 

First, notice what is happening in your marriage. We must first observe and monitor how we act and think. We must step back and become clear with what is happening in our marriage and what needs to change. What are the actions and words used that violate who you want to be? 

Second, ask yourself why you are reacting the way you are. Why are you responding “in kind?” What is being said that is triggering you? Is this a “raw spot” in your marriage? Are their patterns of interacting that must be changed? If so, what are they and what is your plan for changing them?  

Third, identify how you want to behave. We all can have an “ideal self” or ideal way of behaving that can guide our thoughts and actions. Scripture, of course, will transform our minds and guide us into needed change. 

Fourth, create a plan for living within your “ideal self.” Knowing what God has in mind for us, and how He wants us to think and behave can be a strong motivator for change. What does God have to say about how you are currently living your life? 

Finally, cultivate accountability for ongoing growth and change. Changing patterns of thinking and behavior cannot occur without a clear plan and accountability for living out that plan. Do you have an accountability partner and are you in a support group? Do you have friends who know about how you want to change? If not, cultivate accountability for change. 

The unrest we feel about our lives is the beginning seeds for change. Listen to your heart and attend to the stirrings that indicate it is time for change. Take the preceding steps and watch positive change occur. 

We’d love to hear from you. What has helped you care for yourself better and live into your ideal self? What has worked in your marriage to restore balance and healthy connection? Please send responses to me at and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. 

Publication date: June 21, 2016