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How to diffuse an argument with your partner

Arguments are part of almost every human relationship, whether with friends, family or your partner. When done in the right way, they are a healthy part of any human bond, allowing us to find common ground where both parties are happy with their relationship.

However, arguments have to be done in the right way. If conducted poorly, good intentions can be lost, and they can become destructive to the relationship. When you notice this happening, you must learn to stop the argument, as there is nothing to be gained by arguments turned automatic and sour.

Lead by our relationship therapist Andreas Narum, we have been able to help countless couples develop the skills to improve their communication and diffuse arguments, leading to happier, healthier relationships. In this blog, we share some of the techniques and things to look for, to help you cut down on unnecessary arguments with your partner.

A couple sat on the sofa during an argument

Recognise a bad argument

As mentioned above, arguments can be a healthy part of a successful relationship, when communicated in the right way. However, disputes can also be destructive, particularly if they spiral out of control.

If feelings can’t be effectively shared, arguments can descend into blame games, which only lead to more insecurity and distance.

The first step to diffusing any arguments is understanding when the discussion has turned negative. If you try to shut down every debate from the start, your partner may feel like they can’t talk about their feelings with you.

Therefore, you need to know the tell-tale signs when this is happening.

Triggers

Couples that have been together for a while will know about the hopes, fears and insecurities of their partner. As a result, when temperatures increase and emotions become frayed, you will both likely know what to say to get a reaction.

This ‘triggering’ is a natural response from our minds during hostile situations, which is why it often makes us feel good to say them in an argument. If you’re serious about avoiding disputes, you must resist the urge to say these things, as they can cause real harm to a relationship.

If you notice your partner using triggers, this is a sign that the argument is no longer productive and needs to stop.

Past arguments

Another sign of a potentially overflowing argument is the referral to past events. However, this point is less clear cut.

If you or your partner begins to mention past events for the sake of getting a reaction, this could be a trigger. However, there could be an underlying issue behind why your partner wishes to discuss these things.

Our leading couples therapist Andreas Narum calls this The History Trap, and you can learn more about it in our interview.

Try to relax

When an argument turns sour, people get heated – literally. Our temperatures and heart rates increase during these moments, which is why we often find it hard to return to a sense of normality.

The first step you should take is not trying to calm down your partner but yourself. Taking a deep breath or an elongated pause can help at the moment when the argument is getting away from you both. If the debate is more drawn-out, creating some space by going for a walk for a few minutes before returning to the argument can work.

Taking a moment to relax can feel difficult, and it’s important that you communicate why you’re doing it to your partner if they feel threatened for whatever reason. However, it is hugely beneficial in impacting how you think but also how you talk and even your body language, all of which impact the argument.

A couple hugging

Empathise

Once you’ve managed to calm down a little, you’ll likely find it much easier to connect with your partner’s feelings. Almost all arguments will have a source, which is often a feeling that one person has about where the relationship was, is or will be in the future. Put yourself in the position of your partner to try to understand what is making them feel this way.

Sometimes, arguments can happen for a reason you don’t necessarily agree with or understand. However, knowing this reason makes diffusing an argument much more manageable. Communicate your understanding of your partner by saying “I understand why this has made you feel that way”.

Just because you understand the other’s point of view doesn’t mean you’re conceding your point. What this does is make clear that your relationship and connection with your partner is more important than the argument.

Say your emotions

Another way of using words positively is by clearly expressing your emotions to your partner. As mentioned above, arguments often stem from an initial feeling or emotion that drives insecurity. The reason discussions get out of control is because we are overwhelmed by these natural feelings which may spiral a discussion into negativity.

To bring the argument back under control, return to your feelings and express them clearly to your partner. Explain to your partner that you feel jealous or uncertain or insecure; whatever emotions are driving your actions. It can sometimes be nerve-wracking to be that open, but that honesty can go a long way to taking the heat out of a discussion.

Being that honest doesn’t just help your partner understand, it also helps you. By naming your emotions, your brain is more able to comprehend what’s happening and can actually calm those feelings, leading to a more empathetic discussion.

Warm voices

Unsurprisingly, good communication is vital to diffusing any argument. No matter which technique you choose, how you voice it will influence the direction of the discussion.

Ensure that you communicate in a respectful way that shows affection and care for your relationship. You should also be aware of your body language, ensuring you show your undivided attentiveness to the discussion.

With good communication and understanding, arguments can be stopped before they escalate. With these tools, we hope you will be able to have more meaningful discussions with your partner in the future.

If you feel like you need more support, our online couples therapy videos are here to help you, in your time and at your pace. Our arguments pathway provides more knowledge and video lessons to help you deal with destructive or repetitive arguments, helping you to build a stronger, more loving relationship.

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