Arguments get heated and overly personal easily; it can be really difficult to keep a level head so that the disagreement doesn’t spiral out of control. Coping skills can help immensely to keep arguments from disintegrating into verbal or physical violence, and to make sure that all that emotional energy actually goes into something constructive in the end.
I’ve learned these tips through 10 years of marriage, and constantly use them during arguments to keep emotions from running too high. As with anything in a relationship, they work best if you’re both aware of them and both use them. It may sound strange, but sit down with your partner sometime when you’re both calm and discuss etiquette during arguments. By sticking to the same “rules,” both of you can experience stress reduction and a greater willingness to turn the disagreement into constructive discussion.
Think your words before you speak
Words are powerful, and hurt caused by them may last well beyond any argument. At the same time, it’s easy to accidentally say something in a way that can be misinterpreted. During an argument, the other person may not be receptive to any explanations or corrections you try to apply to what you say.
While we all know we should think before you speak, try saying your entire sentence in your head before saying it to your partner. This internal review can help slow your thought process and keep you in a more analytical frame of mind, making it less likely that you’ll respond with excess emotion. Emotions are inevitable in an argument, but they always make it messier. Examining the sentence to yourself may also help you identify potential misinterpretations before you speak, allowing you to pick a better wording before it’s misconstrued.
Take a time out whenever needed
Arguments are often heated and unpleasantly emotional no matter what you do. You can quell some responses, but it can get overwhelming eventually. The “time out” is probably the most important thing to discuss at a time when heads are cool and no argument is in progress. Basically, this is a tool you can use when you really just need a moment to collect yourself. Set a time limit, such as 5-10 minutes, during which you and your significant other go to different spaces and calm down. Maybe you practice calming breathing techniques or yoga exercises, or maybe you just take the down time to rationally think over the argument. At the end of the time out, you both continue discussing the disagreement.
When you’re setting the “rules” for time outs, discuss where each of you will go and how long you will be gone. For instance, I may go to my home office for a few minutes while my husband goes to his workshop. We physically separate ourselves and give ourselves a calm, quiet environment, and never violate each other’s space during a time out. Decide how long they should be, and how often it’s fair to take a time out.
Set specific times of day for arguing
This may sound like a strange one, but it really does work – pick a time of day to argue. Obviously, you don’t have to argue every day at that time (and hopefully you won’t), but it’s when disagreements or issues will be “brought to the table” when they do exist. Scheduling your arguments does two things. First, you’re less likely to have an emotional outburst; instead, you have time to think it over before it’s time to argue. Second, it ensures that both of you have the time to focus on the issue at hand – you don’t have to dash off to work while you’re both still feeling negative, you don’t have a meeting to go to and so on. It’s okay to tell your partner, “We need to talk today” so he or she knows it’s coming, but wait for the scheduled time to air your grievances.
It’s most important to remember that no matter how much you love each other, no matter how great of a match it is or how happy you are together, there will be fights. And it’s okay to fight. Sometimes, a fight is the only way to bring issues to the forefront and figure out a way to solve them together. It’s part of communicating. The important thing is to actually communicate in a way that makes things better afterward, and that the process is used to build a stronger bond. Love is the first part of any romantic relationship, but it can’t last without trust, cooperation and regular analysis on how you can work together better.