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Speaking to Spouse or Friend?

Happy young couple talking over chalkboard background with drawnIt’s time to have some fun. Let’s play a game.

Match each of the responses below with your guess as to whom you are speaking: spouse or friend?

1. You’re miffed that you’ve been kept waiting ten minutes. You say:

  1. “What happened? I was getting worried. In the future, if you see you’re running late, I’d like you to text me.”
  2. “What’s wrong with you? I told you we were meeting at 6 pm. Can’t you ever be on time?”

2. You hate when people go on and on telling their stories with way too much detail. You say:

  1. “I can’t listen to you anymore. Can’t you ever tell me anything without including every little, stupid detail?”
  2. “I get it. Your mom was taken aback by what happened. It must have been tough.”

3. You are out to dinner. Someone at the table has spilled a drink. Is it your spouse or friend?

  1. “Here’s a napkin to wipe it up. Good thing it didn’t get all over your clothes. Do you want to order a replacement?”
  2. “How many times have I told you, you drink too much? Now you can’t even hold on to your drink without spilling it?”

Quiz is over. How did you do? I think you got my point. When we’re annoyed with our friends, we tend to respond in a respectful manner. But when we’re annoyed with our spouse, we often make angry, nasty retorts, forgetting our good manners.

So, how can you soften your response to your spouse, even when your spouse’s behavior really disturbs you? Here are five suggestions:

  1. First, take a deep breath. Inhale slowly. Exhale slowly. Repeat two times. On the last exhale, say a positive affirmation, such as: “It will be ok;” “I will get past this.” Feel yourself relaxing and letting go.
  2. Now that your body is less revved up, you will no longer have a need to be sarcastic and punitive to your spouse. Yes, you’re still annoyed, but, hopefully you can now say whatever you wish to say in a less-harsh way.
  3. As you soften your approach to your spouse’s behavior, you can be more solution-oriented, as in, “If you see you’re running late, I’d really like you to text me.”
  4. When you scratch your sarcasm, you can respond in a way that is emotionally connecting, not distancing, as in, “I get it. Your mom was taken aback by what happened. It must have been tough.”
  5. When you are no longer flooded with feelings, you can think through how you want to respond, not just react, to the immediate situation, as in, “Here’s a napkin to wipe it up. Good thing it didn’t get all over your clothes. Do you think you want to order a replacement?”

Yes, things our spouses do will annoy us. This is inevitable. But how we respond to what our spouses do makes the difference between:

  • whether you will feel lonely or loved
  • whether you will feel connected or distant
  • whether the tensions between you will escalate or diminish
  • whether your relationship will wither or grow

You choose.


Speaking to Spouse or Friend?

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Dr. Linda Sapadin, psychologist, success coach and author is proud to announce the publication of her new book, Overcoming Your Procrastination: College Student Edition – Advice for 6 Personality Styles available on Amazon. Now more than ever with remote learning, this book is a must-have. If you’re a perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier or please, grab your copy. No longer a student? Get my book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age – 6 Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles. Visit to subscribe to my free e-newsletter. Contact her at

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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). Speaking to Spouse or Friend?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 11 Nov 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.