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Marital Strife: Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

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!

an image of a man and woman both in white button down shirts standing in their kitchen with the man trying to talk to the woman and the woman looking away with her arms crossed and text that says Marital Strife - Are You a Thermometer or Thermostat?

Republished from July 26, 2018

Strife in Marriage Often Begins With a “Mood”

All marriages have conflict at one time or another. It could be minor disagreements or major marital discord.

Often, strife in marriage simply starts with someone’s mood.

Have you ever had your husband come home after a bad day and he gives you just a little bit of attitude?

Next thing you know, you are giving him attitude right back without even thinking about it! After all, you had a tough day too, right? This, over time, just lends itself to creating mass amounts of 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!

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! Click To Tweet

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

We can go from being a thermometer to being a thermostat!

Let’s look at a thermostat. What does it do exactly?

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 is its job?

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?

The Thermometer

As in our example earlier, if your spouse comes home from work after that stressful day and they are in a bad mood, or they got done paying bills and are stressed about finances, you have the option to be a thermometer and reflect that back at them by yelling or getting offended or just being in a huff. You merely reflect back the climate in your home!

In marriage, you are either a thermostat or thermometer! Click To Tweet

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 strife!

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!

Strife in marriage can start as that little spark that leads to the fire! Click To Tweet

The Thermostat

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.

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 Bible says regarding strife in marriage or any type of conflict:

What the Bible Says About Strife

Proverbs 15:1 CJB

A gentle response deflects fury, but a harsh word makes tempers rise.

Colossians 3:13 CJB

Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.

Proverbs 17:14 TLV

The beginning of strife is like letting out water—so stop a quarrel before it breaks out.

Proverbs 15:18 CJB

Hot-tempered people stir up strife, but patient people quiet quarrels.

James 1:19 TLV

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger

Colossians 4:6 TLV

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, to know how you ought to answer everyone.

What is Love?

Love is patient, love is kind,

it does not envy, it does not brag,

it is not puffed up, it does not behave inappropriately,

it does not seek its own way, it is not provoked,

it keeps no account of wrong, it does not rejoice over injustice

    but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things,

it believes all things, it hopes all things,

it endures all things.

Love never fails—but where there are prophecies,

    they will pass away; where there are tongues,

    they will cease; where there is knowledge,

    it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tlv
A soft answer turns away wrath: but a harsh word stirs up anger! Click To Tweet

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!

CJB – Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.

Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.


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23 Comments

  1. 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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