The 5-Step Plan To Successfully Disagree With Your Wife (Without Causing World War 3)

This plan is actually doable.

married couple having disagreement maiva / Shutterstock

After writing this post on how to stop playing devil’s advocate, which I describe as the practice of debating your wife about something that you don’t really care about, I promised to write a post about how to disagree with your wife about issues that you do really care about.

Many men in my practice think this is actually impossible; they feel that there is no positive or useful way to bring up issues that bother them because they are unfailingly told they are being mean, wrong or difficult. Yet, ironically, in most cases, this belief is, in fact, wrong! 


Here is a 5 step plan to disagree with your wife “successfully,” which doesn’t ensure that she will agree with you and execute your desired plan, but limits your chances of the communication devolving into an apocalyptic h***scape.

RELATED: Stop Caring So Much About Your Wife Thinks, According To A Marital Therapist

Here is a 5-step plan to successfully disagree with your wife without causing WWIII:

1. Be more positive, self-aware, and collaborative in general

If you frequently play devil’s advocate or have the habit of being negative and difficult, then you are the boy who cried wolf. Your wife is used to you generally having a problem with things, so when there is something that genuinely, deeply bothers, or impacts you, she will approach it will a dismissive air because this is the coping style she has created in order to deal with a generally negative person.


This is truly the most important part of the 5 step plan and requires a lot of self-reflection and objective introspection to determine if you have, in fact, been negative and difficult as a partner in general.

If you believe you have, then therapy can help you deal with your negativity, especially if it is due to growing up in a negative home as a child. Introspection will also help you recognize why you are especially triggered about specific topics; whenever you are extremely upset about something going on in the present, your upbringing and prior experiences are likely triggering this intense reaction.

2. Speak in your wife’s love language

If this is physical affection, then come close and sit next to her with your arm around her when you have this conversation.

If she likes quality time, bring up your disagreements when you’re taking a walk or have an hour together in the middle of the day randomly.


If she likes acts of service, bring this up while you’re doing the dishes.

If she likes words of affirmation, you’re already golden because you’re empathizing and talking about being on a team, and just add in some stuff about how much you love and appreciate her.

And if she likes gifts, get her a new car with a bow on it and she won’t care if your disagreement is whether or not you should be allowed to have sex with her best friend. (Just kidding. She would still care. But I really want someone to get a new car with a bow on it from their husband reading my post.)

3. Empathize with your wife’s perspective

Truly dig deep to understand where she is coming from and why she holds the position she holds. Do not fear that she will double down even stronger if you tell her you know why she feels as she does.


On the contrary, when you show understanding of her position, it makes her feel more secure and thereby allows her the mental and emotional space to step back and have a wider perspective on the issue, which would include looking at your position.

RELATED: Why Having The 'Same Old Fight' Is A Sign You May Be Soulmates

4. Discuss your emotions about the issue, not just the "facts" 

Don’t worry, we will have an example soon, but the worst thing to do in order to get your wife or any other human being on your side is to subject them to a dry recitation of facts and/or to imply or directly state that there is only one "right" course of action and that it is yours.

Incidentally, I put facts in quotes above because we all know that there are multiple sets of facts that people can marshal to create a body of evidence backing whatever opinion they hold dear.


5. Express your genuine desire to come to a resolution about this issue as a team

Unless you are on the verge of divorce, your wife wants to be a team player and to view you as a partner. She doesn’t want to be difficult or rigid, and neither do you.

Verbalize how much you want to figure out a team solution to the problem.

Note that this means you actually have to be flexible and not assume that the best solution is your solution; if you seem willing to compromise then your wife may be more willing to compromise than you realize.

Now here is an example so you can see that this plan is actually doable:

You really want your child to go to sleepaway camp and your wife refuses.


Your previous tactics have included telling her she is overly anxious and smothering your child, passive-aggressively bringing up the topic to her father, who you know will be on your side, and showing your child YouTube videos of the camp even though this would make your wife the “bad guy” if he loves the videos and she says no.

The sleepaway camp issue has led to tremendous fights with your wife, who thinks that your son is too young and this is just another example of you not being safety conscious and "not even wanting to spend time with our child."

RELATED: The Real Reason Your Wife Will Never Say She’s Wrong

Here’s another way to deal with this, following the 5-step plan:

1. Recognize that you’ve been deeply triggered by this issue and issues about your child’s extracurricular in general

You tend to feel that your wife constricts your child’s life and this makes you feel the same way you did as a kid when your depressed mother was always "too tired" to drive you to baseball or swimming.


Reflect on the fact that you are also upset with your wife in general for not agreeing to do things outside her comfort zone because of the same issue in your upbringing.

2. Start this conversation while you are both cleaning up the living room because your wife’s love language is acts of service

Don’t do it when she is just relaxing at the end of a hard day, but if this is the only time that your wife will speak to you when not consumed with the kids (true story for many marriages), then you must do it then.

3. Try to see where your wife is coming from

Think about the (admittedly fewer but still present) things that you are anxious about, like your son not getting good grades or your son not making friends at school, or even things from earlier in your life, like anxieties from when you were a younger man. Really get to where you understand her position.

Say something like, "You know, I see where you are coming from about him being too young for sleepaway camp. He is still pretty young and you are worried that he won’t like it and will feel abandoned."


4. Discuss your feelings openly

Say something like, "I feel that Jason and I are pretty similar and I would have loved sleepaway camp at his age.

When I look back, I feel bad that my parent’s divorce and my mom’s depression made it hard for me to do things I would have liked. I always felt like I was stuck at home and other kids were getting to do fun stuff and have cool experiences. My fear is that Jason is missing out on experiences that he would really love. It would make me feel like a good dad to be able to give him a fun camp experience."

5. Tell her: "Even more than coming to a resolution about this, I prioritize our marriage..." 

"...This is not the hill I want to die on. It is most important to me that we get along and you don’t feel angry and hurt. But it is also very important to me that he try sleepaway camp at some point. Maybe we can think of a compromise." 


(Examples: a shorter camp session, a cooler day camp, Boy Scouts this year so he gets some sleeping out of the home experience with you before next summer’s camp, a dry run of camping with you before camp starts, a camp closer to home, seeing if one of his friends would join at camp.)

There is not a 100% chance that your wife will budge on this issue. But there is a close to 100% chance that if you start approaching issues in this way, you will be calmer and kinder during these discussions, which will lower the level of conflict and resentment on both sides.

She will likely respond in kind, and you can avert WWIII and just have a minor skirmish or even a productive discussion.

RELATED: The 5 "Golden Rules" Of Fighting Fair With Your Spouse


Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.