Nobody is at their best when they argue. Most couples can acknowledge that at some point during an argument, things escalate past the point of reason, and the inertia of arguments often builds beyond our ability diffuse the situation. Translation: sometimes we’re just too hotheaded to calm things down—even when we know we need to.

Arguments are sometimes necessary, offering both partners the opportunity to communicate the frustrations that have built up during everyday life. But when a discussion becomes a full-blown fight, any and all valuable communication stops. Instead, you and your spouse become more interested in “winning” than coming to a compromise or acknowledging the other’s point of view.

At this point, you’re no longer earnestly appealing for understanding or reason. No tactic becomes too underhanded in order to win, and the personal attacks fly back and forth until both parties feel hurt and angry. Nothing is solved, you say things you’ll regret later, and your relationship can even come under threat.

So what can you do to stop and argument cold? Use a “code word.”

The Advantages of Using Code Words to Stop Arguments

One of my favorite tools for stopping an argument in its tracks is to use a “code word.” The idea is that you and your partner develop a phrase that signals a fight is getting overheated and should be put on hold immediately. It’s sort of like a pause button for a fight.

Here are some of the benefits and goals of developing a code word or phrase for you and your partner:

  • Preventing the argument from escalating further
  • Allowing a moment for you to “cool off”
  • Figuring out how you feel
  • Figuring out why you feel that way—what is the actual source of your frustration, anger, or hurt?
  • Unpacking your partner’s side of the argument
  • Developing your position and figuring out how you can express your side more clearly
  • Figuring out how to express your feelings in a more positive way, while acknowledging that you’ve taken some time to try to see from your partner’s point of view.

Be sure to check out part 2 of this series. In the second portion, we’ll look at how to develop a code word, and the rules you need to put in place to keep this technique working effectively.  And if you’re interested in further relationship advice, don’t hesitate to give our office a call.