Steps to Resolving a Domestic Fight or Argument
1. Do not bring up that you want to divorce or separate in the heat of an argument
This is not a decision to make when you are upset and it will undoubtedly, make the conflict worse.
If your partner says they hate you and that they want to leave you or other hurtful things, try to remember that they are mad and probably don’t mean what they are saying. We all say things we don’t mean when we are angry.
Don’t say . . . “I am leaving you” . . . Do say . . . “ I am leaving the room to go calm down. I need some time out”.
2. Don’t make ultimatums or threats (or they will come back to haunt you!)
If you force someone to do what you want by threatening them, it will always be at the expense of your relationship and their love for you.
Threats rarely work anyway, as people do things more readily out of love and wanting to please rather than fear. Threats only breed resentment.
If your partner’s behaviour is unacceptable you need to learn other skills and techniques to set boundaries for yourself and limit their behaviour. Threats will not help in resolving a domestic and will only escalate the fight.
Don’t say . . . “Stop saying that or I will not come home tonight” . . . Do say . . . “I want to talk to you, but when we have both calmed down and you have changed your tone towards me; right now I need time to cool down.”
3. Stop thinking you need your partner to do what you want them to right now
They cannot help you now as they are all tied up in dealing with their own negative emotions. Be wise and give both yourself and your partner some time and space.
4. Take care of your own hurt
If you need to get away from your partner to feel safe and get some quiet time, do so, but say clearly where you are going, when you will be back and that you just need some time to cool off because you are too upset to talk anymore and you need some space to take care of yourself. If they will give you time alone without disturbing you then stay where you are, but don’t be waiting for your partner to come and see you to ‘make up’ or make you feel better. They need time to calm down too.
If they walk out on you, forget about them for now and take care of yourself.
If you have kids reassure them that you are OK and that things are going to be all right. No matter how hurt you feel inside, be brave and strong for your kids; they love strength in a parent and will love you for it. If you can, ask a neighbour to watch the kids for an hour and then do what you need to do to feel better. This might be listening to ‘Lovable Me‘ or some calming music you like, taking a walk somewhere nice, having a bath or shower or listening to the rain (or a recording of rain sounds). If there is no one to watch the kids, take them out for a walk or to the park.
Learning to soothe yourself and get back to being happy regardless of how your partner is feeling or behaving, is one of the most important skills you can learn to be more emotionally intelligent and attractive.
5. Do not drink, use drugs or talk about the fight as these actions will only fuel your bad feelings
Likewise, DO NOT work yourself up further by swinging your arms around, using a punching bag or chopping wood, etc. It was once believed that this helped but it has been shown in many research studies that it doesn’t, doing something calming is much better.
You will change how you feel by changing your focus.
Focus on something calm and beautiful and your feelings will eventually go in that direction.
Start by sitting or lying down or going for a walk. Give it a bit of time and the bad feelings will pass.
6. Decide that you are not going to think about the problem while you are upset
It can take nearly two days to calm down completely once you have really lost your cool.
Make a note on a piece of paper about what first upset you. Then make a firm decision to leave it until you are completely calm before you think about it again or decide what you will do about what triggered your anger.
The voice in our head that talks to us when we are angry, tells us to do things that we will usually regret later. Smart, successful people do not listen to that voice and do not take it personally, what others say when they are angry or upset.
7. No matter how much you might feel like hurting your partner by saying or doing mean things, try and be honest about your own hurt instead
Say “I feel very hurt about what you are saying and I need some time to calm down. I hope that we can get past this”.
You can also reassure your partner that you will stand by them and that, even though you are angry, you will not leave them (if you can do this honestly).
Having the courage to admit your hurt, vulnerability and also your love for them, is much more courageous and powerful than trying to control your partner with aggression and intimidation.
Don’t say . . . “I have always hated you. You are a fat slob ….” Do say . . . “I feel very hurt by what you are saying and I am very angry at you but I also really love you. So right now I need some time to calm down before I say anything that I don’t really mean.”
8. If your partner is not answering you, understand it may be because they are emotionally overwhelmed
This generally happens to men faster than women. When we are faced with criticism or conflict, it is very human to reach a point where we just freeze up. Understand this and don’t assume that they are ignoring you or trying to hurt you further.
Silence in a fight equals emotional overwhelm and you need to give them time to recover their emotional balance before they can talk to you. This may even take a day or two.
Don’t say . . . “Stop ignoring me!” . . . Do say . . . “I need some time to cool off and you probably do too. I am going to take some time out. I am not attacking you. I hope we can discuss this in a more friendly way, when you are ready”.
9. Don’t ignore what the fight was about
Refer to the notes you made about what triggered the fight a few days later when you are calm and decide what action needs to be taken.
Anger is a clear sign a boundary of yours has been crossed and you need to work on how you are going to defend it. Complaining to your partner about it will probably not help. Our books will help you with this.
Note: A boundary is just like it sounds. It is the line of what behaviour you find comfortable accepting from others. If someone is rude to you, for instance, this line has been ‘trespassed’. Make a note of what upset you, to consider later when you are calm and can figure out how you can stop that happening again. This is just as important as calming yourself down in the heat of the moment.
10. Don’t bring up the conversation again until you have decided how you are going to defend this boundary so it is not crossed again
You should leave this for at least two or three days.
11. When you see your partner again be ready to offer an olive branch
When you first see your partner again, say that you need a few days to think about what you were fighting about and that you don’t want to talk about it right now.
Try to be light. Remember that admitting you are sorry or embarrassed might be hard but is actually very attractive.
You will have a chance to work on the boundary that was crossed and what you can do to defend it better later. It is easy for fights to flare again in the two days after an upset, so give it time for you to both completely calm down before you tackle the issue again.
For now, just remember what you value about your relationship and what you have in common.
12. Don’t tell yourself that the conflict must be resolved now
The more pressing the matter, the more important it is that you take the time to calm down.
If your partner is uncooperative and you feel you need them, change your plans and organise things differently without expecting them to help. Practising this will help you become more flexible and in time you will become better at shifting your plans to not include a person who does not want to help. This does not mean you should take responsibility for things that are not yours to manage. If a person won’t cooperate to help themselves they may need to experience the consequences of this without you jumping in and rescuing them.
You will probably never change your initial reaction to anger or upset, but you can change the way you respond. Just like exercising a muscle, you will get better at learning to control your response with practice. When you feel your emotions flare, think . . . “Now I have a great chance to exercise self-control”.
This is not about bottling up your emotions. It is healthy and a good sign that you get angry when you are treated rudely but it is important you train yourself to let the anger go and wait until you are completely calm to deal with the problem. Say that you are angry if this is appropriate, but also learn to regulate and control your response, taking note about what angered you and making sure you take the time to deal with the problem later—once you are calm. Our anger is a clear sign that something is amiss in our life but there will be no benefit from you acting out in the heat of the moment.
Practice these skills and you will see every aspect of your life improve . . .