How to keep a fight from going too far

Oct 3, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. ET

All couples argue and although it's never fun, it is a normal part of relationship life. That being said, simple debates can often turn into all-out wars if you let them – which won't help anyone. To help ensure your next fight doesn't go too far, we've put together five no-fail tips that will keep you and your partner calm, cool and collected until you come to a compromise.

Couple arguing in kitchen

1Stay on track

The majority of arguments slip off the rails of rationality and into a pit of angry insults and blatant back-stabbing when you lose focus of what it is you're fighting about. If you stay on track and debate only the issues at hand, you'll have a much better shot of surviving the fight unscathed. Every time you feel the urge to comment about something irrelevant (his constant eye rolling or the fact that he was late to pick you up three times last week), stop and take a deep breath. Bringing things up that are not directly related to the argument can make it impossible to stay focused, and if you can't stay focused, you'll never resolve the argument.

2Take a time out

If you're really feeling on edge and as though you could blow up at any moment, request a time out. There's no rule that states you have to finish the fight right then and there, so if you need to take a break to calm down, that's perfectly OK and a very mature decision. It's usually when you're particularly heated that you say things you'll regret so taking a time out before that happens is always for the best. Whether it's five minutes or a few hours, giving each other some space mid-fight allows for reflection and a fresh perspective.

3Watch your tone

Tone of voice plays a big role in how an argument will go. In the heat of the moment, it's very easy to get sarcastic or raise your voice but that just puts the other person on edge and leads them to go immediately on the defensive. Make an effort to slow down your speech, avoid talking too loudly or saying things with sarcastic undertones. The more you concentrate on how you're speaking, the easier it will be to ensure your tone of voice doesn't derail the argument.

4Banish bad body language

Just as a negative tone of voice can hamper even the most straightforward arguments, so too can the wrong kind of body language. Crossing your arms, standing with your back to your partner, hands on your hips and pointing -- all of these things make you look angry and unapproachable. Instead of taking these more aggressive poses, stand in a neutral stance, arms at your sides, face your partner and try to look as relaxed as possible. We know fights are stressful so you may not feel relaxed, but at least try to look that way for the sake of coming to a compromise that works for both of you.

5Lighten the mood

If all else fails and you can feel the fight veering into overly tenuous territory, shake things up by saying something funny. We know it sounds unconventional and your partner may stare at you in disbelief as you try out your latest knock-knock joke mid-fight, but sometimes you need to mix things up as a way to tone down the tension. Once you break up some of the hostility with a light-hearted comment, it will be easier to get back on track and finish the argument without getting too angry at each other.

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