How to stay calm during a spat

A passionate argument can make even the best of us regress to our five-year-old selves. You can curb your temptation to throw a temper tantrum by trying these steps the next time you’re in a heated debate over who last did the dishes.

couple fighting

1Count to 10

It may sound simple, but pausing before reacting to a comment or action can help diffuse the situation. It will give you a chance to check your response before doing or saying something you might regret.

If the fight has already escalated, walk away for 20 minutes to help you and your partner calm down. According to Perth counsellor Jonathan Kester, the brain needs this long to work through emotions. After you reconvene, be willing to admit how you contributed to the argument.

2Squeeze something

A pillow, a stress ball, your own hand — grabbing something will allow you to immediately relieve some intense tension so you can talk more calmly. If you can’t do this and you feel yourself balling up your fists like you’re ready to battle, keep your distance from your partner. This can help both of you to feel safe, says Kester.

3Don’t listen to your head

Your head has a funny way of making crap up when you’re in a heightened emotional state. Instead of listening to what your partner’s saying, you’re concocting the worst interpretations and scenarios. “When we feel close to someone it’s easy to think we know how he or she thinks and feels,” writes author Vanessa Million on iTaste Australia. “Stop that! We are not mind readers. We can be very wrong!”

4Don’t make it about winning

Getting in the last word does not strengthen your argument; instead, it can make it weaker, says KidSpot.com.au. That’s because the last “word” is usually an insult directed at your partner and surely something you’ll regret later. Resist zinging and stinging, something that’s easier to do if you follow our next tip first.

5Stay on topic

An intense fight has the uncanny ability to dredge up past grievances — like the time your partner flirted with his colleague at the company Christmas party 10 years ago. You must let bygones be bygones and address the immediate issue at hand. “Healthy relationships don’t time travel, digging up old wounds from the past and usong them as ammunition to fuel the present,” says Million on iTaste.

More on conflicts and resolutions

How to stop fighting about money
Why fighting is killing your relationship
Tips to reconnect with friends

Conflict resolution

Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

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