We Can’t Stop Arguments After They Start
It’s common, if not inevitable, that you and your partner will have arguments now and again. But when you and your partner have trouble stopping an argument once it stops, it can have a real impact on your ability to communicate effectively.
Tips to improve this problem:
1. Recognize When You Need a Time Out
If you or your partner are feeling cornered, attacked, or need a break from the conversation, it’s best to stop the conversation. Think about what signs there are that things are starting to get out of hand (such as, “I start feeling tense” or “he gets louder” or “she starts cursing”). When you notice these signs in the moment, tell your partner it’s time for a time out.
2. Take a Time Out
If you or your partner are ready for a time out, be careful not to just walk away – that’s just going to make things worse. Instead, tell the other partner that the two of you can talk about it later when you’ve both calmed down or thought more about it. Your partner may want to set a specific time to revisit the issue (such as “after the kids go to bed” or “after I get home”) and stick to that promise.
3. Let You and Your Partner Recover
There isn’t a right or wrong way to recover from a fight. Do try to clear your head and not continue having the argument in your thoughts. Take a walk, play a video game, or take a hot shower – whatever helps you relax. When one of you notices the other is still struggling with the argument, try to resist the urge to convince him/her that everything is fine or to make judgments about whether or not they’re over it yet. Letting your partner process in his/her own way without trying to speed it up may decrease the likelihood of another fight. Your partner may also really appreciate you letting him/her deal with it in their own way.
4. Timing Back In
Give yourselves time to recover from the argument before “timing in” again. That may take the edge off some of your emotions and allow you to talk about it more calmly. Decide how you and your partner will let each other know that you’re ready to revisit the discussion again and agree on it before another fight occurs. Once you’re ready to “time in” again, use the Speaker/Listener structure to either discuss how you’re feeling about the topic, or problem solve the issue. Recall that problem solving can be broken down into 4 steps:
1) Define the problem
2) Brainstorm solutions to the problem
3) Decide which changes you’d each like to make
4) Set a time to re-evaluate how those changes are working in the near future.
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