Knowing how to stay calm during an argument with your spouse might be just the key to marital happiness.
I mean, how many of us have been in a knock down drag out with our spouse that got us absolutely nowhere? Both of us yelling and screaming and throwing out accusations and blame.
How productive do you find those fights? Not at all, I am guessing. How do they work for your marriage? Not well, I am guessing.
There are ways to stay calm during an argument with your spouse. Knowing them, and putting them into action, will help your arguments be more productive and hopefully prevent you needing to hash things out over and over and over.
Here are my 5 tried and true ways to stay calm during an argument with your spouse.
#1 – Take deep breaths.
I know that this seems like a cliché but taking deep breaths is an essential part of managing any stressful situation.
When we are stressed out, our body goes into fight or flight mode. When that happens, our blood goes to our adrenal system, away from our brain, and our ability to think clearly is clouded.
To counter act this cloudiness, take a deep breath. Taking a deep breath will bring some of that blood back to your brain, allowing you to think more clearly and to stay calm.
As an example, picture yourself on the highway, trying to pass a tractor trailer. I am guessing that you, like me, are gripping onto the steering wheel for dear life, holding your breath as you do so. I have discovered that, if I take a deep breath as I pass, my heart stops pounding and I loosen the grip on the wheel and sail by the truck unscathed. Try it – you will see what I mean.
So, as you work to stay calm during an argument with your spouse, remember to take deep breaths. It will make a huge difference.
#2 – Step back but don’t storm out.
A friend of mine once told me that before I react to something that someone has done to me, take 2 hours and see if it is still an issue. If you find that it still is, talk to them about it. And if you do, I am guessing that you will find yourself calmer than you might have if you had gotten into it right away.
Sometimes it’s impossible to take 2 hours before you address an issue with your spouse but the key here is to take a step back to calm down and to reassess. I don’t mean to storm off in a huff but to pause, go walk the dog and consider next steps.
Does the issue warrant a huge fight? What is your role in all of this? Will having a knock down drag out really change anything or would a conversation be more productive?
Yesterday I was a furious at my step-father’s new girlfriend for throwing away my mom’s stuff. I reached for the phone to rip her a new one. But then I told myself to pause, finish what I was doing, and then see if I wanted to reach out.
2 hours later I was able to craft a text message that addressed my issues briefly and succinctly. I was able to walk away from the issue knowing that I had kept my calm and reminded her that she violated an existing agreement that she wouldn’t throw my mom’s things away.
So, take some time before you flip out. You will be happy you did.
#3 – Don’t take things personally.
For many of us, when we are having an argument with our spouse, we tend to take what they are saying personally, as if their words were a personal attack on who we are as a person. And when we are attacked, we tend to go on the defensive and lose our cool. No one wants to be attacked as a person, after all.
I have a client who, every time she and her spouse got into something, she immediately reverted back to the idea that he blamed her for everything that was at issue. That he was judging her for whatever had happened and that he thought her incapable of handing things.
As result, their arguments would get out of control and were, therefore, completely unproductive.
When you are arguing with your spouse and your mind starts to go there, to take things personally, step back and see if that is what your partner is really saying. Are they really blaming and judging you for what is happening or are they frustrated and angry and sharing those feelings but not making it all about you?
If you can recognize that what your partner is saying isn’t a personal attack, it will help you stay calm in the moment.
#4 – Don’t hold onto soundbites.
You know when you and your spouse are going at it and someone says something that is stupid and thoughtless. Something that perhaps they didn’t mean but they said it in the heat of the moment. Something that you zero in on as a weapon in the fight going forward.
Holding onto things that are said in the heat of the moment will only cause you to spiral to a dark place.
Imagine if you are in a fight with your spouse and you say something like ‘You always do this. You are a mama’s boy and always put her needs first.’ While you might mean this sentiment, that you feel like your husband makes his mother a priority over you, the fact that you called your spouse a ‘mama’s boy’ could be something that your husband zeros in on to hold over your head during the argument. So, instead of the fight being about his priorities and making attempts to make change, it spirals into one about how horrible your words are around his relationship with his mother.
Which will get you nowhere.
So, make an effort to let go of the sound bites. I am guessing that you didn’t truly mean that your husband was a ‘mama’s boy’ but, unless your partner can let those words go, the fight will devolve into being about them completely.
#5 – Don’t raise your voice.
Finally, an essential part of how to stay calm during an argument with your spouse is working to not raise your voice.
When we yell, our body chemistry changes. Our emotional brain takes over, our stress reaction is stimulated and our fight or flight instincts comes rushing in. And when this happens, all hell can break loose.
Instead of yelling, I would encourage you to take those deep breaths and to step away so that you can regain your composure. If you continue to yell, not only will your partner be in high alert mode and be unable to hear your words but they might shut down completely and go silent. Both of those things will get you nowhere.
If you can work hard to keep yourself from yelling it will help your argument not become a screaming mess where nothing gets worked out.
Knowing how to stay calm during an argument with your spouse is a key to keeping the disagreements productive so that they don’t have to happen again and again and again.
I am guessing that if you are reading this article, you are eager to change the pattern in your marital spats. So, remember to take deep breaths so that you can think clearer, to step away for a moment, or an hour, to reassess. To try to not to take things personally and hold on to soundbites. And try, really hard, not to yell.
I know that you can do this. We all can make change with awareness. Now that you have it you are ready to start making those disagreements productive and make real change in your relationship.