Having a couple’s conflict?
Don’t worry. These conversations are normal – nobody is perfect. In fact, these conversations can be healthy for your relationship. When both parties can calmly come up with a couple’s solution, you forge a tighter bond with a deeper sense of respect.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Everyone has likely had an experience where your emotions get the best of you. Maybe you scream. Or swear. Or throw out insults that you later regret.
In this series, we’ll talk about how to prevent this from happening. Emotions can run high during a couple’s conflict, but with these tips, you will be able to calm down so both people can have a productive, loving conversation.
Where do we begin?
Recognizing Your Emotions
If you start to recognize that you are mad at your partner, it’s time to step back. If you start thinking negative thoughts about your partner, step back.
It’s normal to feel angry and upset. It’s normal to feel frustrated. If you begin to feel these things, don’t quietly shame yourself or repress your thoughts.
Be honest with your partner and let them know that your emotions are taking over. Then excuse yourself. Emotions don’t do a great job at listening, empathizing, or coming up with a couple’s solution.
Ask your partner if it is okay if you step back, calm down, and come back in 30 minutes with a clear head. How exactly do you do this?
Getting Yourself “Cooled Down”
Now that you have excused yourself, it’s time to work on cooling down. You can do this in one of three ways:
- Calming Down the Emotional Brain
- “Changing the Channel”
- Adjusting Your Perspective
In this post, we’re going to focus on the first one – how to calm down the emotional brain.
Talk Back to Your Feelings
Angry or anxious feelings tell you a lot of lies. “You’re not good enough.” “Your partner is lying.” “You should yell and scream to show them!”
Talk back to those feelings:
“Stop riling me up.”
“You don’t know the whole story.”
“Anger has gotten me nowhere.”
It sounds silly, but when you talk back to your feelings, you begin to control the conversation.
When we experience stress or conflict, our brain puts our bodies into “fight or flight mode.” A series of long, deep, calm breaths reverses this action. Steady breathing tells our parasympathetic nervous system to slow our heart rate and remain calm. These breaths say, “I’m safe. I’m not in danger. I can focus without anxiety.”
Enjoy Calming Exercises
Relaxing distractions can also help. Any of the following can help you calm down when you feel anxious or angry:
- Coloring in a coloring book
- Prayer or meditation
- Peaceful visualizations
- Listening to relaxing music
Continue with this process until you start to feel your angry feelings fading away.
Not working for you? In part 2 of this post, we’ll dive into the other two methods you can use to help yourself calm down – “Changing the Channel” and Adjusting Your Perspective.
For additional marriage help tips on how to have a more productive couple’s conversation right now, reach out to Oregon relationship therapists Norene Gronsiewski and Tim Higdon.