By Dr Tony Fiore
Jose and Juanita have been married for 17 years, and basically
love each other, yet have been fighting over the same issue
almost every night of those years: She likes it cold at night
and he likes it warm in their house and bedroom. She had just
opened their bedroom windows for the night. When she left to
visit the bathroom, she heard Jose follow her and close all
Let’s eavesdrop to see what we can learn about this fight and
what to do about it.
Juanita: (to Jose) "I can’t sleep unless the windows are wide
open. You know that, but insist on closing them every night,
just so I’ll be miserable. You are selfish and inconsiderate."
Jose: (to Juanita):"This is my house too. Why should I have to
freeze? You always get your way. It is so cold in here you
could hang meat! Are you trying to get me sick? No NORMAL
person would want it this cold!"
IS THIS A SOLVABLE PROBLEM?
Depends on the specific marriage. For some couples, the
solution would be a simple compromise of some sort; for
instance, buy a room thermometer and agree to always keep the
room at an agreed upon temperature both could live with.
In many marriages, however, a problem like this is not easily
solved—it becomes “perpetual”—and trying to “solve” it only
creates anger and tension. For Jose and Juanita, this
unfortunately was the case.
Why is a simple problem like this not solvable for our couple
and in many other marriages? Could be many reasons, but the
usual culprits are:
(1) The couple is engaged in a “power” or “control” struggle.
This means the fight isn’t about the issue anymore—it is about
who will win or lose.
(2) The temperature issue goes deeper and is emotionally tied
into other personal or marital issues. If this is the case,
more pressure put on the person to “change,” the more the
For instance, turns out that Juanita literally panics if in a
room without air flow due to issues in her childhood.
her of fresh air flow literally makes her want to fight for
CONFIDING MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Let’s now listen in on what Jose and Juanita could have said
that may have made a HUGE difference in their communication.
This is because now they are speaking from their hearts
—combining empathy (seeing things from the viewpoint of the
other) with assertive communication (honestly speaking your
feelings and thoughts in a forthright manner)
Juanita (should have said something like):"I feel that I don’t
have to put up with this, although I also feel bad that you
have to suffer. I tell myself that if you really loved me, you
would want me to be comfortable at night.
I also ask myself why should I always give in? I work hard all
day too and deserve some consideration. All I’m asking for is
decent night’s sleep, but then, I wonder if I am being too
Jose (should have said something like):"I do really love you
and I want you to be comfortable too, but it gets so cold in
here at night for me that I can’t sleep.
We both want a good night’s sleep and want to be able to
continue sleeping together in the same room. Let’s find a way
to discuss it so it doesn’t make us so angry at each other."
Granted, it is not easy to confide when in the heat of marital
battle. Consequently, it is often better to first take a time
out, calm down and then communicate what is in your heart. The
following communication tips will help:
FOUR COMMUNICATION TIPS
Tip 1- Don’t only focus on the issue. Also discuss your
feelings, thoughts, and inner conflicts surrounding the issue.
Confide what is going on in both your heart and your mind.
Tip 2- Look at how you communicate with each other ABOUT the
issue. Focus on the process of communication.
Tip 3- Give up needing to be right all the time. Wise and
successful married people have discovered that often it is
preferable to be happy than to be right!
Tip 4- Convey to your partner that you love them enough to
to join them so together you can find a way to deal with the
issue or problem.
About The Author: Dr Tony Fiore is a licensed psychologist and
anger management trainer. His company,
www.angercoach.com provides classes, products and
resources for adults, couples,the workplace, and
He can be reached at 714-771-0378.