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Count to 10


10 seconds can make all the difference in conflict

“Learning to calm yourself during difficult discussions makes all the difference.”
– The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr John Gottman

Here’s a tip: Start gently. Did you know that the way you approach an issue will usually determine how it will end? If a discussion starts harshly it’s likely it will end badly. So…start any discussion gently.

Give at least one genuine, heartfelt praise to your spouse each day for the entire week. Just one! If you’re able to extend the exercise one more day…then another…until it becomes a habit.

Take time out when overwhelmed with emotion

Even counting to 10 can make a big difference to calm ourselves down. Try focusing on slowing your breathing and your heart rate.

If things get really heated it may be necessary to stop your discussion and agree on a ten-minute break. Maybe go for a short walk. Read a magazine to distract you.

The point is to calm yourself and you’ll find things go a lot better.


Confront issues carefully

Ask yourself: “Is this the best time and place?”

Not when they’ve just walked through the door after a hard day’s work; or during dinner; or at 11pm at night and saying, “We need to talk!”

And remember…not when you’re feeling emotional.

How have you been doing on your last few date nights?

Your Date Night

In his best-selling book, Telling Each Other The Truth, William Backus explains how to raise issues to minimize conflict. On this date, why not try out his method to see if it helps you talk about issues more calmly and effectively. 

Apply these 4 simple steps

  1. Remember start the conversation gently.
  2. State how you feel about it using “I” statements (“I feel upset…”); not “you” statements (“you make me upset”)
  3. State your complaint, or what happened clearly, and the consequences.
  4. Tell your partner what you’d like them to do to make things better.
  5. Now it’s your turn to practice the gentle approach to help you improve the way you raise complaints at home.


Below are some suggested incidents that can cause conflict in marriage. Using the method above, take it in turns to raise the complaint – gently. Then give feedback. Once you’ve had a chance to practice, think of an actual complaint you have, and try the gentle approach. Listen well, be polite and understanding.

Topic: Finances

Complaint: You find out your partner has a habit of over-spending while you are on a tight budget.

Instead of: “You don’t seem to care about money and you buy what you want. You are so selfish.”

Rather: Practice the gentle approach.

Topic: Housework

Complaint: You spent time cooking a beautiful meal and your partner offered to clean up. In the morning the kitchen is still a mess, and the dishes are left undone.

Instead of: “Do I have to do everything around here? You are so lazy.”

Rather: Practice the gentle approach.

How did you get on? Did your complaints go something like these?

Topic: Finances

“I feel annoyed with you for spending money on things that we haven’t budgeted for. I’m worried we’re not going to meet our mortgage payments.”

“Also, I want to be able to trust you with money. In future, will you please talk to me if we need to adjust our budget?”

Topic: Housework

“I’m feeling unappreciated. I enjoyed cooking you a special meal last night and I come out this morning and find the kitchen still in a mess.”

“It puts me off cooking. Next time, will you please just clean up as you promised?”

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