Strife in Marriage - Marital Strife - A couple on a couch clearly arguing with the woman with her head in her hands holding a tissue
Marriage & Family

Strife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

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How are you handling strife in marriage? If you are anything like me, you may have a tendency to react to your spouse’s moods in a way that reflects them rather than helping to diffuse them. In this post, I am going to show you how, when there is marital strife, you are either a thermometer or a thermostat!

Marital Strife - Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? A couple with the man behind the woman with his arms wrapped around here and both smiling and laughing

Strife in Marriage Often Begins With a “Mood”

All marriages have conflict at one time or another. It could be minor disagreementsStrife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 1 or major marital discord.

Often, strife in marriage starts with someone’s moodStrife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 2.

Have you ever had your husband come home after a bad day and he gives a little bit of attitude? Next thing you know, you are giving him attitude in return without even thinking about it! After all, you had a tough day too, right? This just lends itself to creating strife in marriage!


We can easily fall into the trap of reflecting back someone’s mood like a thermometer reflects back the temperature and cause someone’s bad mood to turn into full-blown marital strife!

But we all have a choice, however! We can resist reflecting back the temperature and start changing it.

We can go from being a thermometerStrife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 3 to being a thermostat!


Strife in Marriage – Handling Conflict

Let’s look at a thermostatStrife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 4. What does it do?

It’s known for controlling the temperature of your home. You choose what you want the comfort level to be and you set it to make sure your home stays at that level. Whenever it starts to get colder or warmer, the thermostat enables the heating or cooling system in your house to get that temperature back to where you chose.

Now let’s look at a thermometer. What does it do?

A thermometer reflects the temperature your home is currently at. It doesn’t matter what comfort level you want it to be. A thermometer’s only function is to tell you what it is right now. It cannot change it, it merely reflects it.

Now you can look at a thermometer and decide you are not happy at that temperature. You can then go to your thermostat and regulate it and set it to where you want. But each one has their distinct functions.

In marriage, you are either a thermometer or a thermostat. You are either calming any strife in marriage or escalating it! How?



As in our example earlier, if your spouse comes home from work after that stressful day and they are in a bad mood, you have the option to be a thermometer and reflect that back at them by yelling or getting offendedStrife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 5 or just being in a huff. You merely reflect back the climate in your home!

Next thing you know, you’re in a bad mood as well, when you were happy as a clam just a few minutes ago! Strife in marriage can start as that little spark that leads to the fire!

We do that often! We feel like we didn’t deserve to have someone come home and give us an attitude for no reason so we think “well, I’m just going to give them a taste of their own medicine!” We then feel as miserable as they do! Again, full-blown marital strifeStrife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 6!


Or maybe it is more subtle than that! Maybe someone is just a little ‘”off” and next thing we know we have gone from being in a great mood to feeling down in the dumps! It was subtle but we allowed that negative or downcast mood to bring ours down. We reflected the temperature back, likely causing even more strife in marriage!



The other option is you can be a thermostat and change the whole temperature in your home and avoid that marital strife and discord. You can do this by not reacting (or reflecting back) to their mood (yes, not take it personally!!) and treat them with kindness, gentleness, love, and understanding. You can make the home their safe place to fall; a place where all the worries and stresses of the day melt away.

Strife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 7
Strife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 8

Not easy to do sometimes when someone is lashing out about something that has nothing to do with you, right? I mean, when someone gives attitude we sometimes go on autopilot and feel like “how dare they….”



Marital Strife – What Does the Bible Say About Conflict?

When it comes to marital strife or any other relationship for that matter, the BibleStrife in Marriage: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat? 9 says regarding strife in marriage or any type of conflict:

Proverbs 15:1

A soft answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger..” ESV

Colossians 3:13

“…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” ESV

Proverbs 17:14

The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
    so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” ESV

Proverbs 15:18

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” ESV

James 1:19

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” ESV

Colossians 4:6

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” NKJV

Hebrews 12:15

“… Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” KJV


What is Love?

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

Reducing Marital Strife by Responding in Love

We can pay attention to what is affecting our spouse and try to ease their burden. We can also pay attention to our own mood and ensure we are acting in love and not RE-acting and matching their mood.

In fact, when we respond with love and understanding, we are acting as that thermostat and changing the climate. Your spouse will soon respond to that and their mood will change for the better which will go a long way in reducing marital strife.


The next time you are faced with this situation in your home, whether it is your spouse or your children, stop and think “am I being a thermostat or a thermometer”? Am I letting other people’s words, mood, attitude or sour spirit change my own?

Then resist the temptation to react. Give the battle to the Lord and let Him do the work!


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  1. In 2008 I’ve started practicing meditation. Since then I’ve changed so much, in particular, in my relationship with others. Today I am more interested in having peace around me than winning arguments. I loved your article.

  2. All good points 🙂
    It is important to be a thermostat in my opinion – you are totally right about reflecting the stressful behavior back at someone and that is not helpful for any involved. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I would have never thought about this. The title of your article is what drew me in. I love this though. It’s so true. I am way too often the thermometer. 🙁

  4. Wonderful example you have used to explain. Marriage can be difficult and every marriage has ups and downs. How we handle these is if we succeed.

  5. Now I have a name for what I’ve been trying to focus on in my home and life! I have been a thermometer, but I am working on becoming a full time thermostat! I just love your perspective on this and what a great analogy! There is a lot to learn from this and I think what helps me is I can now visually focus on something (the thermometer vs the thermostat) whenever I see conflict on the horizon. Great read 🙂

  6. You have offered such good advice. The advice you gave could enable good relationships all around, not just in marriages. Aiming to be a thermostat should be our goal, however, we have to have a certain level of maturity to operate on this plain.

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