Sometimes a good fight clears the air. Too often, though, heated arguments just hurt a relationship. One or both of you say mean words that you can’t take back. Feelings get hurt. Resentment builds.
This is not to say that you’re supposed to sit on your feelings or that you shouldn’t get angry. Anger is a part of life, and it certainly comes up in every relationship. It’s just a question of how you manage your anger.
“Pause” is the key word. Not “stuff your feelings” but pause, step back and think. Buy yourself some time. You can teach yourself to stop, go inside yourself, and practice a healthy self-restraint.
“Sounds good,” you say, “but how in the world do I do this in the heat of the moment?”
The first step starts long before the argument begins. Decide that, from now on, you’re not going to go to that destructive place. A decision like this is powerful and can help you remember to stop when things start to go out of control. If you argue frequently, remind yourself daily that you’ve decided to practice self-restraint because you love your partner. And because you want to become more mature.
The second step also takes place before an argument. Take responsibility for your own misbehavior. It’s too easy to blame your partner and see him or her as “the problem.” We have a harder time realizing that we are the problem the moment we begin to blame. Fortunately, we are also the solution.
If you do these things, during an argument you won’t so readily indulge the feeling that this other person is wrong and that they need to agree with you. Just stop talking. Do this gently, without glaring or making a face. If your partner takes this as a hostile gesture, tell them you’ve just realized that you’re creating a problem with what you’re saying, and you need to take some time to compose yourself. When you’ve both calmed down, you can have a productive discussion about what made you angry.
This will take time and practice. Don’t judge yourself when you don’t “do it right.” Instead, give yourself a pat on the back for deciding to nurture your relationship and further your own growth.