It doesn’t matter if you’re soulmates, love birds, or consider your spouse to be your BFF. Fights, disagreements and arguments are going to happen. And regardless of how in love you two are, things can get messy. Couples have shared with me, and I have to agree, that communication is one of the most difficult skills to master especially in a romantic relationship. Because more often than not, things escalate. And sometimes the problem at hand isn’t solved but rather worsened just because we lack the ability to communicate efficiently. So, I’ve gathered some tips to help defuse an argument. Let’s get started!
1. Try to redirect a harsh word/statement:
We all know that during an argument some harsh things are sometimes said. Some of us feel defensive or angry and lash out because of it. If your spouse says something hurtful instead of responding in the same manner you should try to redirect it. According to Psychology Today, “Consider saying something like “You didn’t mean to say that, did you?” or “I know you don’t ever intend to be unkind.” You may be shocked by how often people with good intentions appreciate the chance to redeem themselves.” I know, I know. This is easier said than done. But putting your pride to the side is a good example to set and by redirecting your spouse, you may defuse the situation. It’s easier to point out what they have said wrong and start a totally new argument, but in this case, you’re giving them the same respect you hope to receive in return.
Sometimes you need to know when to walk away. But simply storming off can cause tension. I mentioned in a previous post that my husband and I have a code word. Much like couples have code words in the bedroom to signify what’s safe and what is not during sex, we have one for arguments. This sounds incredibly corny, I know. But having a code word in place ahead of time can help you two know when it’s time to take a break. If I feel like an argument is just getting worse, tempers are flaring, or things are just getting out of hand, I’ll say the code word. We have agreed that if any one of us uses the word, we have to pause, calm down, and come back to the discussion only when we are both calm and ready. That means if my husband uses the code word, I cannot get mad when he decides to take a break and to walk off. It also signifies that I need to think about what I have said and how I have said it. Did I raise my voice? Did I say something harsh? How could I have communicated better?
A lot of the time, we think that we need to prove OUR point and that we need to play defense. For example, if your spouse let’s you know that something you did or didn’t do hurt their feelings your first response should NOT be to bring up all of the things that they do or do not do that hurt you or piss you off. According to an article by The Huffington Post, “When someone is really truly heard and another person really truly listens, this is where true healing can actually take place.” Instead of seeing it as an attack, be grateful that they are willing to bring a problem to your attention instead of holding it in or letting things get worse. I know, again, this is easier said than done but listening is a skill we must master if we ourselves want our time to be heard.
4. Focus on a solution:
I’ve said this time and time again, as a couple you need to remember that whenever a problem arises, it’s you and your spouse against the problem not you and your spouse against each other. According to an article by Bustle, “Ultimately, all arguments, whether they get a chance to start or not, seek a resolution. Without reaching one, the problem isn’t fixed and continues to be a burden on the relationship. Because of this, you want to ask your partner what they hope to get out of the situation; where they see this going and how they hope it will end.” Its important to think, how do you fix this together or how can we make things better for the both of us.
5. Use “I” when speaking.
Its easy to start pointing the finger and say things like “You always do this.” or “You make me feel…” But according to an article on Bustle, “…you should say “I feel” and then insert whatever emotions you’re having (angry, disrespected, alone, etc.), then state the behavior that your partner is doing that makes you feel that way. Then, quickly follow it up with a preferred new action. So you might say, “I feel alone when you stay out late at night, and I’d prefer it if you were home by 11 p.m.”
6. Don’t exaggerate:
This is something I had to admit to myself that I was doing often. Whenever we’re angry we sometimes forget all of the good things about our relationships and exaggerate the bad. For example, I used to say things like “You always talk down to me.” or “You never listen to me.” None of which is true, because if it were, there would be no way I would ever feel safe and loved in my relationship and I have felt both of those things majority of the time. Be direct and realistic. Instead I now say “When we argue, I feel like your tone gets increasingly harsh.”
7. Admit when you’re wrong:
If you realize that you were wrong, admit it. Even if you both were wrong admit your part. According to Cosmopolitan, apologizing will also make it easier for your spouse to admit their part or to admit when they are wrong in the future.
8. Stop saying “But”:
According to an article on WebMD, “Jane Straus, author of Enough is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life, says couples often derail a resolution when they acknowledge the other partner’s position and then add a “but” in their next breath, reaffirming their own. An example: “I can understand why you didn’t pick up the dishes in the family room, but why do you think I’m the maid?” There’s no need to tell your partner that you understand their point of view, yet feel the need to object in the very next sentence. Another common example of this “I understand that makes you mad, but…”
9. Stay on track:
It can be easy to get lost in an argument and start blending a bunch of arguments into one. Do not bring up the past or start listing everything that your partner has done wrong. Stay in the present and on topic. As tempting as it may be to strengthen your point, its counter productive to do so. Talk about what is bothering you in that moment, why you’re upset and what you hope can change to make things better. For example “Today when you didn’t do the dishes, I felt overwhelmed with chores. And I really need you to help more and to be more consistent.” Don’t say, “You never help around the house. Last week you didn’t take out the garbage and two weeks ago you left a dirty towel on the bed for three days.”
10. Know when it’s time to seek help.
According to TalkSpace, if arguments are becoming more frequent, the relationship seems to be diminished, or trust has been broken, it may be time to get help from a therapist.
**These are tips I put together based on my own personal experience and helpful articles I found online. Please do what you feel is best for you and your spouse. As always, if you feel unsafe please seek help, talk to a professional, a family member, or a close friend.
What tips would you add to the list?