No one enjoys fighting with their partner. The arguments and accusations are draining, and it can take hours – even days – to come down from the aftermath. Yet the fact remains simple: Every couple fights at some point or another. Yet how every couple handles conflict and deals with the tense, emotionally charged atmosphere packaged within disagreement says a lot about the relationship’s health.
It’s what marriage counsellors have dubbed “fighting fair,” a serious of relationship-focused techniques centered on keeping disagreements structured, tempers even, and words and emotions calm. The results? Decreased resentment and animosity, quicker conversation turnaround, and overall happiness boosts in partner communication and attraction. Bear a few in mind next time you and your partner are in a row and you’re looking to calm things down:
Take deep breaths. The trick is as old as time – or at least as old as neuroscientists proving the calming effects of deep, steady breathing. A deep breath will literally slow your physiological reactions down so you can think and speak clearer, diffusing the argument.
Hold hands. Even in the peak of heat arguing, holding hands brings a layer of intimacy and connection between the pair of you. It won’t solve any of the issues on the table, but it will soften the mood almost instantaneously.
Give compliments. This one can be tricky, but verbally recalling what you love about your partner goes a long way in moments when you only feel negatively toward them. Don’t be afraid to ask for a compliment or two in return!
Put on calm music. Music is one of the most well-researched methods of reducing stress. When your physical surroundings are telling your senses to bring it down a notch, your emotions will follow suit.
Do not interrupt. We repeat: Do NOT interrupt your partner. Nothing good comes when you’re repeatedly cutting off the other person. This will only make matters worse.
Never follow an apology with a “but…” Your partner will only hear what comes after, and it will feel like you’re throwing further jabs.
Cuddle. Similar to when you hold hands, your brain registers the enveloping touch as signs of warmth and protection – definitely a good way to start calming a fight!
Gently ask follow-up questions. Tone is everything during conflict. The way you say something oftentimes is more important than even what you’re even saying. Use diffusing question phrases, such as “Can you explain that a bit more?” or “Tell me how [blank] made you feel.” The gentle questions will make your partner feel listened to rather than attacked. Then ask them to use the same technique for you.
Apologize Even if you really, really don’t think you did anything wrong, you should always apologize for hurting the other person.
Paraphrase Repeating what you believe your partner is trying to express is another great gesture to make them feel heard. Doing so in steady and non-accusational tones works even better.
Do something comedic/ridiculous Laughter is an immediate de-stresser. If you can infuse a little humor into the situation, you will practically feel the tension breaking from the room and the argument beginning to heal.
Light a candle. Aromatherapy, either through candles or essential oils, signals your brain to relax due to the peaceful environment. For as odd as it sounds, marriage counselors often suggest couples air out grievances in softly lit, pleasant-smelling spaces to stimulate mental soothing agents.
Step outside. There’s a reason people listen to nature soundtracks in order to fall asleep. The outdoors can have a profound impact on our mood, positively stimulating neurons in our brain and awakening our five senses. Try stepping outside with your partner, taking a moment to feel the breeze, bask in sunlight, or walk in warm grass before picking up the conversation.
Take a structured break. So often walking away from a fight is portrayed as neglect or even defeat. Yet communicating when you need some space, and for how long, can be incredibly beneficial when clearing your head. Respect this in your partner if they ask for some time. They aren’t trying to dodge or deflect, they’re trying to re-center.
Say I love you. There’s nothing more potent in calming a fight then reminding your partner of your unconditional love.