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How to effectively argue with your spouse

Updated on August 8, 2016

Five minutes to more open communication.

My marriage has been through the wringer. After years of financial strain and the loss of a child, my husband and I went as far as we could go in our marriage. As a last ditch effort, we chose to seek out the help of a professional and contacted a well-respected, marriage and family counselor.

We covered many topics in our sessions with our counselor. Today I'm going to share the single most helpful tool that was provided to us.

In a marriage there are myriad issues that we face on a regular basis that annoys, frustrates and just plain makes us feel anger toward our spouse. But instead of lashing out or bottling our emotions, I'm going to teach you how to vent those feelings in a positive way.

This exercise should take no more than five minutes from start to finish. We have found that any more time spent hashing out the details, the more we bring other issues to the table which, in turn, leads to a full-blown verbal fight.

I'm going to give an example to illustrate how this five minute discussion should play out.

I, personally, cannot stand when my husband eats a bowl of ice cream then leaves the bowl sit without being rinsed out. It makes it harder to clean when I do the dishes.

Before this exercise, I would have sternly told him that he needs to rinse his bowl...Let's be honest. I would have lost my mind and screamed that, "I'm sick of having to F*#@ING tell you to rinse your bleepity bleeping bowl out!" Not a healthy way to communicate my need. And definitely not the way to get him to actually do what I need him to do.

Instead, I now say, "Hey (insert spouse's name here), do you have a minute? If he/she says yes, then you may proceed with the exercises. If he/she says no, ask them to schedule a time to talk.

Begin by giving a BRIEF overview of what is bothering you. "When I do the dishes, it's hard to get the bowls clean when they aren't rinsed out."

You have just given your spouse a clear, concise, NON-ACCUSATORY statement in which to come to a compromise.

He/she should then repeat back to you what they have heard to ensure that you are both on the same page. "I heard you say that it is more difficult to clean the dishes when the bowls are not rinsed out."

Once you are both assured that you understand one another, you can move forward from there.

Your spouse should then say, "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will try harder to remember to rinse out my ice cream bowls."

You (the one who initiated the communication session) should then thank your spouse for listening.

Hug and/or kiss (physical touch is very important in a relationship) then move on with your day.

This exercise will feel totally awkward and uncomfortable at first. However, after some practice, you and your spouse will be able to talk about problems in your relationship without the blow-outs.

Here's one last overview to help you and your spouse to navigate through effective communication with one other.

*State what is bothering you. -Never use accusatory language such as, 'you never' or 'you always.' Instead, say 'I feel.'

*Your spouse should repeat what they heard you say then thank you for bringing it to their attention.

*Your spouse will then make a concession/compromise so that the issue becomes a non issue.

*You (the complainant) will thank your spouse.

*You and your spouse will hug/kiss.

*Now you both can move on with your day!

hope this quick and easy exercise helps to ease any difficulty you may be experiencing in the communication department of your relationship.

Good luck!


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