Learning how to control your emotions in a relationship conflict is important to keeping your relationship healthy.
Something I hear from clients regularly is that when they’re in conflict with their partner, instead of talking about things, they let their emotions take over, people get hurt, and nothing is ever resolved.
As a result, issues are pushed down, only to resurface over and over. This continued pain will ultimately destroy any relationship, no matter how much love is involved.
So how do you ensure that your emotional state during a conflict with your partner doesn’t break up your relationship?
Here are 5 steps for how to control your emotions in a relationship conflict.
1. Step away but don’t storm off.
You’re taught by T.V. and movies that, to make your point, you need to make a declaration and then walk away.
In movies, after that declaration, the character has an epiphany that they were wrong and their person was right and everyone lives happily ever after. Or, when they storm away, their partner chases them because they love them so much and want to make things right.
But, in reality, storming away gets no one anywhere. It cuts the conversation short and only serves to put off until later any opportunity to resolve the issue.
All of that being said, it’s very important to step away if you find that your emotions are getting the best of you.
If you notice yourself losing control, tell your person that you need five minutes to step away and take some deep breaths. Go for a walk, sit with your puppy, or take a shower.
The key is to step away and not to storm away. This will give you both a chance to calm down a little bit so that you can return to the conversation in a calmer, more productive way, to put the issue to bed, and move on.
2. Take deep breaths.
It sounds very trite but breathing is one of the best ways to keep control of your emotions.
Think about the last time you got into a fight with your partner. Did you find you were having a hard time expressing yourself?
Did you get overwhelmed with tears, perhaps becoming so upset that you were hyperventilating? Did you find your heart racing more than usual?
All of those things can be the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Without sufficient oxygen, it’s hard to think. Without sufficient oxygen, your nervous system gets activated and emotional regulation can be very difficult. Without sufficient oxygen, your body can go into fight or flight mode, which only makes things worse.
When you find yourself in conflict with your partner, pause for a second and take a deep breath, breathing right down into your tummy.
Taking a deep breath helps your brain receive the oxygen supply it needs so that you can think clearly and, hopefully, keep control of your emotions.
3. Stay tuned in to how you are feeling.
When arguments used to escalate in my marriage, I was often not aware of it.
The adrenaline caused by the conflict took over and propelled me toward chaos. By the time that happened, there was no going back.
What I’ve been working on recently is recognizing my emotions as they evolve and identifying when they’re getting out of control.
When I realize that they’re becoming chaotic, I do the first two steps above. I either ask for a time out or I take a deep breath, pause, and try to get my emotions back in check, and then proceed.
This is easier said than done. It can take a lot of work to regulate your emotions. But being aware of them is a very important step to doing so.
4. Don’t focus on one word or sentence.
When you are in an argument, do you find that you tend to focus on one ugly word or one disrespectful sentence that someone says?
Do you find that, if your partner makes an offhand comment that you find unkind or condescending, you can’t let it go?
Does the fight then pivot to that one thing instead of what originally caused it? And does that just derail any hope of a solution?
One key part of keeping control of your emotions during conflict is to not focus on the small things.
Yes, everyone says things in the heat of the moment — things that they regret and that once they’re said, there’s no unsaying them.
If you can keep in mind that you’re only human and all people say things we don’t mean, it helps you let them go.
5. Don’t pick a fight.
Many people spend their days in their heads. If something has happened that’s upsetting, you might dwell on it and get yourself all worked up.
Once you’re worked up, you have two choices — bring it up calmly with your partner or pick a fight. Most people pick a fight.
Instead of approaching something from a calm place, the fight is derailed even before it begins. Your emotions are already elevated and your partner is immediately on the defensive.
The fight will escalate and have no chance of being resolved, which only makes everything worse.
If you’re struggling with something, tell your person that you need to talk about it. Don’t be passive-aggressive or snide. Just be a grown-up and talk.
Learning how to keep control of your emotions is not an easy thing to do.
Humans are very emotional creatures, and when we care deeply about something, it’s hard not to feel strongly.
But if you learn how to step away and take a deep breath in the middle of a conflict, to stay focused on how you’re feeling, and to not vilify that one thing that was said, you will definitely be approaching a place where controlling your emotions becomes easier.
You’ll find that, if you can keep control of your emotions during a conflict with your partner, your relationship will be healthier and, if it has been struggling, it might even be saved.
Mitzi Bockmann is a Certified Life Coach of over 10 years. She specializes in communication problems, conflict management, and couples/marital issues. Email her at [email protected] and get started!
This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.