“You have two options in a marriage. You can either be happy or you can be right.” -unknown.
Do you fight to be right or to be happy in your relationship? Although I would rather be happy, I have caught myself fighting to be right. Not to influence, collaborate, or clarify with my partner; to be absolutely right. In the midst of a power struggle, changing your approach can de-escalate battles for control.
6 Ways to De-Escalate Fights
1. Physical touch. A hug, holding hands, a hand on the shoulder may be just enough to bring the argument down a notch. Note: if partners pulls away, do not force a physical connection. Some people are have an adverse reaction to touch when feeling overwhelmed.
2. Use humor. Lightening the mood with a funny redirection or statement. Be careful: depending on how invested your partner is in fighting and/or how far the conflict has gone, this tactic may not be received well. It is worth a try but if the first attempt in an argument goes badly, move on to a new strategy.
3. Listen attentively with curiosity. Often times, people get louder because they feel unheard. Be present and try to gather information so you have a better idea of where your partner is coming from. More accurate knowledge improves the odds of a positive resolution.
4. Speak your truth with an intent to learn. Saying something like, “It hurts when I feel blamed. I want to work together. Can we talk about this instead of yelling at each other?” Or, “I feel you are trying to blame and attack me. Is that your intent?” This gives an opportunity for pause. However, depending on the level of hurt and/or adrenaline in your partner’s brain, he or she may be unfazed by your words, their attention is on controlling you in the moment. When this is the case, then one of the next two ways will be helpful.
5. Speak your truth and then disengage. Speaking your truth means saying something like, “It’s not okay to be treated like this, so I’m going for a walk (or going in another room).” Then you need to walk away to take care of yourself, not to withdraw in anger as a punishment to your partner. By taking care of yourself, you will be ready to re-engage with your partner at different time. Again, increasing the odds of a resolution.
6. Remain silent and disengage. Sometimes saying anything fuels the flames of a fight, so it may be best to not say anything at all and abort the mission. The reason fights escalate is because each partner is trying to control the other, rather than accept their lack of control and take loving care of themselves.
Breaking out of power struggles and learning to fight more effectively can be challenging, particularly with our spouses. Like any new habit or change, it takes practice. Mistakes and fumbles will happen. For help de-escalating fights in your relationship, contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit healthy-roots.com. You can also follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.
These points were paraphrased from an article by Margaret Paul in the Huffington Post. Her article can be found at 6 Ways to De-Escalate Fights