It is common when fighting with someone you love to say things you later regret. This stems from our worst fears being brought out, whether it’s a fear being abandoned, betrayed, or unseen. When we fight with those we love, we often want to be heard and work through deep issues. Unfortunately, in the midst of fighting, resolutions don’t always come so easily. If you notice that you are becoming triggered, you should remove yourself from the situation. One of the best things you can do to prevent the fight from continuing is to allow one or both of you to take a short break. This works when there is a prior agreement and strategies in place. Here are some guidelines:
1) Create an agreement
It is best to have a predetermined agreement that if one of you walks away from the fight, that it is temporary and you will return. It will not help the fight if one of you feels that the other is bailing from the situation. You don’t want to fear that if someone walks away, that it is the end of the relationship. Agree in advanced that either of you have the right to pause and come back when you are both calmer and clear headed.
2) Have a safe word
During a time when you are not fighting, establish an agreed upon word that can interrupt or prevent a blowout. Keep it simple and make sure it works for both of you. It can be something serious, such as ‘time out’ or it can be a silly word that could potentially lighten the mood. By having an agreed upon word, you are acknowledging the importance of stopping. When one of you says the word, the argument should come to a complete stop until you both agree that you are in a position to continue talking. Having a word will keep you from having to use an explanation when needing a break.
3) Bring it to now
Sometimes when we become triggered, we make the fight about other things besides what is actually going on in the moment. You may be thinking about past times that you felt a similar way and want to bring up old things that have hurt you. You may be thinking about things that your partner has done to you or even things someone else has done. This can cause the fight to escalate and go to a place that is much deeper than the present issue. If you find yourself doing this, it may be time to acknowledge it and take a few minutes to calm yourself down and bring your mind back to the present situation.
4) Turn the conversation inward
If you find that you have trouble stopping yourself from talking, there is a probably a momentum going, which can be difficult to slow down. If this happens, try to voice inner thoughts that don’t match what you are saying. For example, instead of thinking about what your partner did or didn’t do, think about what you are currently contributing to the fight. This can help to interrupt any negative momentum enough that you should be able to walk away for a short break.
5) Try to declare your love before walking out
This can be the most difficult part of walking away from a fight. When you are upset or angry at someone, the last thing you usually want to do is to tell them you love them. This is a game changer because it shows your significant other that you have every intention of coming back and working towards fixing your relationship. It also brings the issues into perspective and helps you to think about the bigger picture. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m a mess right now, but I do love you” prior to walking away.
6) Prioritize soothing yourself
Regardless of what is going on with your partner, your level of anger or sadness is with yourself. This could be because something painful was brought up and your emotions are high. It is okay to be with your emotions and give yourself permission to calm down. Consciously try to deep breaths, drink water, or allow yourself to cry. Do what you need to do in order to calm yourself down. It will be nearly impossible to have a productive conversation if you are too worked up and not in control of your thoughts and feelings.