We just looked at eliminating rampant anger in a blog a couple of days ago. But let’s not kid ourselves: even if you don’t have rampant anger, there will still be conflict. It doesn’t have to boil over into a full-fledged argument or heated battle, though, if you manage the conflict appropriately.

There is a technique I want to share with you that may very well save your marriage because it will help you get a grip on that runaway anger. Please continue reading…

Why We Butt Heads

There’s a saying: “When you find yourself digging a hole, stop.”

And yet, many couples who argue continue to dig a hole. What we’ll look at today is a method for how to stop digging. But let’s first look at the role of conflict in a marriage.

First of all, conflict is inevitable in marriage. When two people come together who have different thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes, and expectations – disagreements are bound to occur. The two of you are going to disagree, and sometimes these disagreements will be heated enough to turn into arguments. That’s to be expected. It’s a perfectly natural part of most marriages.

However, some couples get to a point where every disagreement turns into an argument, and that isn’t healthy, because you’re now venturing into the territory of “rampant anger,” which can lead you wide open for contempt and an erosion of your marriage bond.


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You need to be able to talk with your spouse, and disagree with him or her, without getting into an argument. If you’re going to work out your differences and save your relationship, you need to be able to talk without fighting.

One of the problems for many couples is that they get so wrapped up in their emotions during a conversation, they no longer express their thoughts or feelings in a calm and rational way. Consequently, discussions that started out in a relatively focused way, quickly devolve into full-fledged arguments. Now, each spouse is out to “win” the argument.

The problem is that responding in anger or frustration usually doesn’t help you resolve the issue at hand. All it does is make the problem that much more complex and difficult to overcome.

You don’t have to do anything. You are a human being, and you have choices about how you behave. No one can make you respond in anger. You make that choice yourself. There’s actually an “anger decision point” at which you decide to act angry. It’s one thing to feel angry, it’s another to act on it, which is generally counterproductive to resolution.

So, if you would like to actually resolve your difference peacefully as well as have a more peaceful, happy relationship, follow these 3 winning tips for doing so:

Tip 1: Hit the pause button

Before you let the emotional tenor of a discussion get completely out of hand, I recommend you take a “time out.” It’s something parents are advised to use with their children when they have become irrational in their behavior: angry outbursts, back talking, etc.

But it’s not just for kids. Married couples can apply this concept, too, but it will take commitment and effort to accomplish.

When you get to a point in a conversation with your spouse where you feel your temperature rising, take a time out to count to 10 and to intentionally breathe, which will change the rate of your breathing to a more relaxed rate.

Tip 2: Manage your angry thoughts

Once you’ve counted to 10, focus on stopping any thoughts that justify your angry feelings. Stop giving yourself permission to escalate your anger or the argument.

Begin thinking about how you are going to get to the other side of this argument-it shouldn’t be about winning the argument, but rather, what is best for you as a couple taking both points of view into account.

Tip 3: Work together with your spouse

Some couples can help each other practice this technique by using a gesture to signify that one of you needs a time out. This does not work for all couples. If it is going to work for you, the gesture has to be done either respectfully or humorously (while still maintaining respect) – not in a demeaning or superior way.

Almost any gesture will do. You could put your finger on your nose, move the flat of your palm in an upward direction, or do jazz hands. What you choose to do is totally up to you. Just make sure you both agree on the gesture, and that it isn’t offensive to either of you.

How long your time out is and what other activities you do during this break is up to you. Although, I suggest you and your partner talk this over beforehand as well.

This discussion would include whether or not you need to leave the room, or the house, and whether or not you would take the car or your cell phone. That way both of you generally know what to expect. Come back to the conversation immediately after the time out is over. Once you are relaxed and have some plan in mind for resolving your conflict, resume your conversation and see if you can maintain your calm and rational state.

Obviously, this isn’t a cure-all. I know there are times in marriages when emotions run high, and you probably won’t be able to contain yourself and take a time-out. But it is a technique that you can use as you learn to manage anger and conflict within the context of your marriage.

My best to you as you work together with your spouse to strengthen your marriage bond.

Have you tried the time-out technique? If so, how has it changed the way you and your spouse interact?

Do either of you use this technique as a way to evade conflict?

Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson


Marriage Sherpa

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