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Do you have regular tiffs with your spouse? Do they start over stupid things and develop into volcanoes? Are there certain things that he or she does that grate on your nerves? Do feelings of anger and disappointment linger when things do not work out as planned?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above questions, then you probably developed some bad relationship habits that need to be addressed by the two of you. Right now they may seem harmless and even normal, but over time these types of habits have the potential to lead to serious marital problems. Now is the time to nip them all in the bud!

Here are four easy steps to remember to make your marriage go from strong to powerful.


Communicating means bringing to your partner a concern that you have: express your feelings, thoughts, reasons for doing things. Do not wait to do this after you have kept something that bothers you bottled up inside for some time. Treat the problem immediately. Address your partner while remaining calm, cool and collected. Try to keep emotions out of your voice and mannerisms, yet make them clear in your explanations.

Do not assume that your partner knows what you intend by something that you do. Be careful to choose your words so that you do not offend the other in the process. Be specific and detailed. This step is the most important for the situation to start to get better.


Listening means receiving and absorbing the information from your partner regarding her/his concern. This involves remaining quiet until the other is perfectly satisfied with all that needs to be said. Indeed, it may be tempting to interject and add some comments. It may even bring about feelings of defensiveness, but resist the urge to speak until the person is done. Often, it will be the simple act of listening on your part and nothing more that will solve the problem at hand.

This second step is crucial because it will determine whether you get the whole story. The odds of getting all the facts depends mostly on if you are a good listener. Ideally, you want all the facts before drawing any conclusions.

Note: You and your spouse should repeat the first two steps until all that needs to be said is said.


Processing is an internal activity in each of the partners. It involves absorbing the information that has been exchanged and then thinking of ways to change YOURSELF to fix the problem so that it does not occur again. Often, this will first involve the swallowing of pride and admitting to a mistake or insensitive action. This activity is also known as self-reflection, an essential activity in personal growth. Once you have both done this, you are ready for the last and final stage.


Resolving the problem means discussing and then implementing concrete solutions via changes in the behaviour of both partners. Apologies are the best way to begin. Then you will probably need to be practical. Here are a couple of scenarios that display a change of heart: a husband might say something like “I didn’t realize that I should have called if I was going to be late. I will call you in advance the next time if something like that happens again.” Or a wife might say something like, “Although I don’t understand the reason that you hold on to tattered and frayed hockey shirts, I now accept that I should always ask you about stuff like that before I throw them out or use them as a cleaning rags”. (Does this sound funny? This is just the type of thing that can cause a couple to argue with vehemence.)

Remember to seek out long term solutions to problems. In this way, obstacles will always be manageable in your marriage; you will never have more than a few at a time. With practice, you may even be able to eliminate them for months at a time. Think of all the great things you can do together and accomplish as individuals with the time saved over not arguing. Now that’s saving a marriage from a lot of unnecessary heartache!
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