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Marriage 911

About this Blog

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Center and has been helping couples in crisis restore and revitalize their relationships for more than 30 years.

At The Marriage Recovery Center, Dr. Hawkins promotes '3 Days To a New Marriage, Guaranteed!' Contact TMRC for a free 20-minute consultation.

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Bring Out the Best in Your Mate

Your husband walks in the door after work and automatically flings his coat on the back of the chair. He offers a quick “hello” and plops down in his ‘easy chair.’ You have a few seconds to react—or act!

Do you say something about his jacket, reminding him for the umpteenth time that you  are not his mother, don’t want to have to pick up after him, and that you find his actions to be discourteous and irritating?

Do you hold your tongue, choosing instead to grumble the entire evening, letting him know indirectly that you’re furious?
Or, do you take a breath, take a moment to collect your thoughts, and choose instead to go over, plop down next to him, and ask him about his day?

If you’re like most people, you chose option one or two. If you did, however, you are reacting instead of acting. You will likely set a negative tone for the entire evening, and certainly won’t advance your cause. He’ll likely bite back and the war will be on.

“But, I have a right to be angry,” you protest. “It wasn’t me that started the fight. He started it when he threw his coat over the chair, expecting me to pick it up.”

Partly true. He did act irresponsibly by throwing his coat on the chair. You would be enabling his irresponsibility if you ignored this behavior indefinitely or continued picking up after him.

But, is this the right time, place and way to confront him? Might it be better to set a positive tone for the evening, discussing his coat with him later?

Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, makes a very interesting observation, saying emotions are contagious. In other words, each of us has the power to set a tone for our home. If we react harshly, in all likelihood our mate will respond harshly. Conversely, if we act positively and respectfully to our mate, chances are very good they will respond respectfully back to us.

Too many couples get caught up in acting the same way, day in and day out. At The Marriage Recovery Center we teach couples how to interrupt destructive patterns, choosing instead to act in creatively positive ways.
Let’s look closely at this letter I received recently.

Dear Dr. David. My husband and I tend to argue over the smallest things. We overreact to the tone of each oither’s voice, the tiniest things said and even the way we look at each other. We are overly sensitive and know it, but aren’t sure what to do about it. We fight all the time, and after the fight is over, we scratch our heads at how stupid the things are that we fight about.

My husband and I love each other and want to be less sensitive, but we’re not sure where to begin. I keep waiting for him to change, and I know he’s waiting for me to change. I’m sure you’re going to say that change begins with each of us. Do you have any other suggestions?   --Over Reacting

Dear Over Reacting,

You’re on the right track. You’re aware you and your husband are fighting over ridiculous things. You notice that small things become large, and you’ve lost the ability to keep things in perspective. Let me offer a few more tools. 

Take time to choose what you argue about. If you’ll stop, look and listen before engaging in an argument, chances are you’ll choose not to have the argument. Little is worth arguing over. 

Change your mind. You both need a change of mindset. Instead of noticing what your mate isn’t doing for you, start noticing what they are doing. In other words, catch each other doing things right. 

Choose when, where and how you will have conflict. Don’t drift into conflict. Make a time to have any kind of heated discussion. Create rules for engaging in conflict, and then stick to them. 

Expect your mate to be positive with you, just as you are positive with him. Make an agreement to infuse your marriage with positivity. Create a Mutual Admiration Society, where you appreciate all that he is doing for you, and expect that he will notice all you’re doing for him. 

Remember why your husband fell in love with you, and amplify those traits. Yes, you read right. Remember why he fell in love with you and set out to amplify those traits within yourself. If he fell in love with those traits once, he’ll do it again. 

We have the power, with God’s grace, to transform our marriages. However, it takes a change of mind. The Scriptures tell us to “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2) and that is what is needed in our marriages today.

I’d love to hear from you about these strategies for bringing out the best in your mate. Share your opinion or send a confidential note to me at and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Saturday, December 20, 2008 6:08 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Bring Out the Best in Your Mate

Hi, Dr. Hawkins,
I do not how to bring out my mate's best. He has been a Bi-polar for nearly 30 years, and I did not know that until 7 years ago. He has been spend money like crazy, always in credit card debts. He always blamed on other and never taking his responsibilities for doing wrong. He got laid off 7 years ago, and had to seen a doctor. After Dr. wrongly diagnosed him as depression, and gave him anti-depression medicine, he went crazy...his emotion was up and down, and had to sent to the hospital..That's how we(me and my 2 boys) discover that he was a Bi-polar...I now realized we do not have a marriage at all, all we have is co-dependency. He refused to corporate with anyone, he does not taken medication, and his sexual promiscuity was done secretly behind me. I found that out until 5 years ago..He denied everything. I was devastated. I had been practice walking on love and forgiveness, he has been getting much better, but I do not know how long I can live with him like this.
Left by Li-Ann Lee on Dec 25, 2008 7:56 PM

# RE: Bring Out the Best in Your Mate

Hi I love getting these but wish you would print them in bigger font size, i can't read them online but print them and take to bed to read..could you please make them at least a 12 font? Thanks, Rosie
Left by rosie77 on Dec 25, 2008 10:53 PM

# RE: Bring Out the Best in Your Mate

Hello Dr. Hawkins and readers,
This is a wonderful article! My first marriage fell apart largely due to lack of appreciation for each other. Of course it was not obvious to me at the time.
I have remarried since then and both my husband and I came from broken marriages, so we are very sensitive to the fact that a marriage can fail if communication is not kept open and focus is not on each other's well-being. In the seven years between marriages we both had time to realize our faults, and frequently discuss how we do not want to walk that path again with each other.
I have learned through losing a marriage and losing other loved ones that the time we spend with our loved ones is precious, and that we cannot afford to spend that time arguing over who didn't fold the laundry or why someone walked in dirty boots through the house. Life is too short, and our love and appreciation is the best gift we can share with one another.
Left by pamrow70 on Dec 30, 2008 6:40 PM

# RE: Bring Out the Best in Your Mate

I have been married to my wonderful husband for nearly 10 years. He has been nothing but great to me, and supports anything that I enjoy doing,(church or otherwise),...He is quite a talker when it comes to other people, but when I approach him about our relationaship and how I want us to be closer or how we don't really ever talk about important things, he doesn't know what I'm talking about. He looks confused and makes comments like, "I guess it's just a woman thing". We don't kiss or touch or make love anymore and he acts like I'm crazy for thinking there's anything wrong?...Is it just me?...or do you have any suggestions?
Left by newimage08 on Mar 03, 2009 10:37 AM