Men and women are different. Our brains are wired differently. What I've noticed in my own marriage is that both of our brains work very efficiently, just in different ways. My husband is able to see logical outcomes much quicker than I can, and I am quicker to judge and react to emotional situations. 

And that's okay, most of the time…

My husband is our provider and needs to make logical decisions when it comes to his job, career changes, and finances. I, as the nurturer,  am more attuned to the needs and emotions of others. However, having our minds work so quickly in these two different directions often leads us to vastly different conclusions when looking at the same problem.

This leads to conflict, and that's okay. Setting things in order is a form of subcreation. It's only when we get angry at one another that things tend to take a turn for the worst.

“Anger is by nature designed for waging war with the demons and for struggling with every kind of sinful pleasure… the demons, enticing us towards worldly lusts, make us use anger to fight with men, which is against nature, so that the mind, thus stupefied and darkened, should become a traitor to virtues.” – Abba Evagruis the Monk 

So, how do we struggle against our own demons, and not the demons we make each other out to be? 

We must appropriately communicate.

It is often said that "its not you against your spouse, but the two of you against the problem at hand." And sometimes, the problem at hand is miscommunication. The biggest challenge my husband and I face are not the big challenges in life, but our inadequate (or sometimes lack of) communication. 

Here are some ways in which my husband and I try to avoid and de-escalate heated conversations.

First, remember that you don’t want to argue. It can be hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but it's all about taking a moment of pause before you work yourselves up into an argument. You need to assess yourselves first and see if the issue is really an issue. 

Check off the basics first:

Am I tired?

Have I eaten enough? 

Am I overstimulated?

Is my anger or frustration misplaced?

What other stressors are affecting me right now?

If any of these apply, talk to your spouse about it. They might be able to offer you words of comfort, some relief from a stressor, or maybe a snack. Once you have had time to step away from those issues, reassess what was bothering you. More likely than not, it will bother you much less. 

If so, great, but you still need to discuss it. 

If not, there are other ways to bring it to your partner's attention without getting angry.

Pick each others brains. Do you have a vague sense of how the other person thinks? My husband says his mind is like a series of boxes, with one being open at a time. Mine is like a game of Pong that's been carried outside of its normal bounds. It takes a while to understand your spouse's view point, but it does help to know how your spouse processes certain things. 

Sometimes, I feel like my husband isn't very thoughtful. There are days when I feel like he doesn't think about me very much, or where I wish he would make more grand romantic gestures. However, looking back on several instances over the past few months, I realize he thinks about me quite a lot. 

If he stops at the store, he might grab me a mini apple pie (pie is my favorite!). Or he would feed me my dinner as I nursed our son. Sometimes he tells me to take a nap while he takes care of our son. These aren't super romantic, but they are the greatest expressions of love. They show me that he is thinking of me and cares for my health and well-being. 

In return, I try to do the same. If I know he’s had a rough day at work, I’ll pick up his favorite drink at the store. Or make his favorite dinner. Or make sure he has some time to himself in the evenings to unwind. Our thoughtfulness isn’t always fifty-fifty, but it also doesn’t come with the expectation of reciprocation. We do what we can for each other when we can. And most of the time, that’s enough.

Discuss expectations. This is super helpful, no matter when you do it. Get into the details. Walk through big plans. Tell your spouse how you want to be approached with certain things. I like details. My husband does not provide as many as I would like. So sometimes, I have to pry for them. 

For example, he recently stated that his work days would get longer. Knowing that his increased workload could put stress on our relationship, I asked him a few proactive questions:

Why? - Because I’m wrapping up a few projects before the end of the year.

Are there set end dates for these projects? - No, they’re variable.

What are your biggest projects, and when will they be wrapped up? - Project A wraps up at year end and will take the most time. Project B also needs a lot of attention, but should be done by the end of the month.


I thanked him for answering my questions, and told him that his answers helped me to manage my expectations of him for the next few months. It will also help me sympathize with him more, as I know he has a multitude of deadlines to meet by year's end, and that this has been added on to his normal workload. 

It never hurts to ask.

On that same thread, you need to answer your own questions, and inform your spouse of those answers.

Do you need help? Tell them! Are you looking for support? Speak up! Do you just want to cry while being spoon-fed brownie batter? Let your spouse know! More often than not, my husband just wants to help. And so long as I tell him exactly what I need and how I expect things to pan out, he delivers. 

What doesn’t help is me griping about being “tired” and “stressed out” without giving him a clear way to help me. Sometimes, I just want to vent. And when I tell him I just want to vent, he sits and listens. Sometimes, the house gets cluttered, and I need for it to be set in order again. He will either offer to help, or watch our son while I do what he refers to as “rage cleaning”. It’s wonderful that he offers these options to me so that I might regain a sense of calm, but I can’t expect him to offer it on his own. 

I. Have. To. Ask

Another thing we try to do is, what we call, “Embracing the Suck”. It often happens when we know life is about to get crazy. For instance, my husband had to be out of town for his birthday, while I was at home with our son. I didn’t like the idea of him being away from us, especially on his birthday, and he never likes having to go away for business. He’s an optimist, and tries to get me to look on the bright side. However, as a passionate pessimist, such a sunshiny approach doesn’t sit well with me. So, I’ve started saying this:

"This is going to be awful, but it will be better if we acknowledge it’s going to be awful, and embrace it together."

I sent cookies to his hotel and made sure I texted him birthday wishes throughout the day. He called me as often as he could so we wouldn’t miss him too much. 

We put our heads down, tell each other what we need, and support each other all the way through. Being Orthodox, it’s important to acknowledge that life is struggle and to face it head on.

Drop the "but". This is how I used to frame my complaints, and my husband brought it to my attention. 

"I love you, but..." 

No. I love my husband, no "buts" about it. Adding a complaint to an "I love you" immediately invalidates it. If there is something you want to bring up, just do it. Don’t be belligerent, but don’t sugar-coat it. 

“Hey, you left your used tissues on the counter again. Please throw them away.”

That’s it. That’s all you need. No frills, no harassment, no “I’ve asked you a million times, but you don’t ever listen to me”. Just point it out, then leave it be. It takes time, and a couple reminders, but it will improve.

It takes a conscious effort. I tend to be a backseat driver. I shudder when we pass semi-truck’s, and flinch when my husband gets too close to the cars in front of us. It’s distracting to him. He has to remind me that, when I do these things, it actually makes him a less safe driver, because he’s focused on my reaction, not the road. 

So, whenever I get in the car, I make the sign of the cross and bring to mind that my actions have consequences. The exact consequences that I hope to avoid. And if I see traffic up ahead that I know will give me anxiety, I distract myself and trust my husband and God are in control. Because I put in that effort and reinforce my trust, our car rides have been much less stressful.

If you do end up arguing, learn from it! Occasionally, we travel with my husband on his work trips. There have been instances where he hasn’t been able to communicate with me as easily, or I haven’t been able to respond to him. This has led to arguments over business running late, or needing to be picked up early, or even simple dinner plans. 

Being out of state for most of these visits, we both feel a lack of security, especially traveling with a child. Back home, our parents and siblings are all within a half hour of our house. We know if there’s trouble, we have a wide support net that extends to our church family as well.

Arguments are bound to arise when our days are so out of sorts and we are both feeling that sense of insecurity. So, once the argument subsides, we look for solutions. In the event of out-of-state travel, we put rules in place. He needs to have both of his phones on vibrate, and text updates when possible. I need to have my ringtone turned all the way up, and call his work phone, as that’s what usually has the best signal. 

This has saved us future arguments, as we now discuss these things before every trip. With an upcoming trip, my husband has helped me manage my expectations by telling me his expectations for his visit, and asking me to be as accommodating as possible. 

I appreciate this! It allows me to look for suitable places to take our son for the day, when to expect him to be done, and where we can expect to get dinner. I can plan naps, pack appropriate clothes, and make sure snacks are squared away. All because he communicated his expectations to me. Now, we can leave for this trip feeling more confident in our communication. 

Which is good, because we’ve added a new stressor: toddler on a plane. (Please send advice our way!)

No matter what the situation, you and your spouse are capable of handling it. If there are larger issues, like some that might require confession, it’s advisable that you both sit down and speak to your priest. Spiritual strains can demolish marriages, and it’s important to get our vices under control. In this way, your priest, your spouse, and even friends and family, can help support you through these difficulties. Sometimes, even the act of confession can ease such spiritual burdens. Speaking from personal experience, it’s very effective in placing your demons before your eyes and allowing you to see them for what they are: liars.

Marriage unites a man and a woman. Two become one flesh. And that is how I feel about my husband. When he is stressed, so am I. When he receives praise, I can’t help but be excited for him. When he needs encouragement, I am his cheerleader. He always does the same for me, including showing me tough love when necessary. Spouses should always want to see one another succeed, and should never tear each other down. To understand is to love. Christ seeks to communicate with His church, as should spouses seek communication with one another.