Are your fights causing you to feel disconnected or afraid in your relationship? Do you worry what will happen if things keep going this way?
You need to learn to stop your fights from escalating so that you can begin to rebuild trust and safety in your marriage. Chances are your fights have become a dysfunctional and harmful pattern.
I can’t help you change all those patterns immediately, but there is a way to stop fight quickly before it escalates. Once you do that, you can begin to change the underlying foundation of why you fight.
3 ways to stop a fight with your spouse fast
If you want to stop a fight with your partner, try one of these:
1. Focus on your relationship, not your partner
When most couples fight, each individual tends to focus on the other person, and direct attacks at each other. However, the reality is that you two are caught up in a destructive relationship dance together, and it is actually your relationship dynamic that is hurting you and causing this.
A spouse will say, “but Paul, that doesn’t make sense, he is the one saying those things.” Yes, he is, but he is saying those things because of the way you two relate and the dance you are caught in.
If you take a step back and look at your relationship, your interactions, you will see that the dance is actually beyond you and has taken on a life of its own. It’s as if regardless what you do or don’t do, conflict arises and escalates, and you feel powerless to do anything about it.
If you can’t stop fighting with your spouse, your relationship dynamic is running the show, not you two.
Your spouse says those hurtful words because you are both in a relationship where your needs aren’t being met. Your fights are actually attempts to get those needs met. Unfortunately, they come out as attacks instead of requests for intimacy.
You withdraw because you are in a relationship that doesn’t feel safe. You are terrified to put yourself out there, ask for what you need, or share how you feel. So, you shut down, and find security in isolation and not connection. But it is the latter you truly desire.
After all, you two love each other, you want to be together, and you desperately want your partner to meet your needs.
If you stop looking at your partner as the problem, and start looking at your relationship style as the issue, you’ll actually stop fighting and begin to come together to change it, because you two will realize that you are both victims of a dysfunctional dance. And you are both suffering from this unhealthy relationship dynamic.
2. Take responsibility for your own emotions, actions and behavior
We love to blame each other, and focus on what the other person is doing. Looking in the mirror and seeing our own stuff doesn’t feel nearly as good, and for some it feels like “losing.”
But so long as you focus on the other person, what they are doing right or wrong, and not yourself, you are going to be stuck in a destructive relationship dance and your fights will keep escalating.
The minute you focus on yourself, you have the power to change what you are doing and what you are saying, and keep your fights from getting worse.
As hard as this sounds, the next time you feel that the two of you are escalating, stop, pause, take a breath, and focus on what you are feeling and doing.
Identify the emotions that are present. Look at your behavior.
Ask yourself, “Am I getting defensive right now? If so, what am I trying to protect?”
These are the critical moments where you can avoid seeing your spouse as the enemy, and instead address your own experience.
And then take action.
3. Take action to stop fighting
It’s easy to talk about what you need to do; it is another matter to actually do it. Sure, you can develop awareness of what is going on and the steps you could take. But until you take action, the fights won’t change.
If you really want to stop a fight before it gets out of hand, take the following actions:
· Learn and pay attention to your triggers.
We all have soft spots, areas where we are more vulnerable to others. Start to identify what sets you off and keep those in your peripheral vision, so when you get into a conflict with your partner you can see if something has been triggered.
For example, tone of voice or eye rolling can be a trigger. So can certain topics of conversation. Don’t be surprised if you find out your triggers are small things or seemingly insignificant ones. The reality is they are significant to you and if every time your spouse brings up “budgeting” you start to escalate that is worth paying attention to.
If one of you have been triggered call it out. Let your spouse know that you just realized what is going on and deal with it before things get worse.
· Learn to pay attention to your body.
We tend to think that fights are all intellectual. By that, I mean we focus on what we are saying, and the content of our arguments. But we totally ignore what’s happening inside us.
Instead of talking more, or trying to logically approach the fight, take a second and check in with your body.
Do you feel warmer? Has your breathing shallowed? Do you feel your pulse increasing, or your heart beating faster?
Do you feel tense? Are your muscles tight?
Your body is telling you something; you feel threatened and your defenses are up. Translated, you are getting ready for battle.
Pay attention to your body, and then take a minute to physically calm down and relax.
Tell your spouse that you feel yourself getting agitated, and you know a fight is coming. Simply say, “I need a minute to calm down before things get bad and we go to that place we both hate.”
I’m sure your spouse will appreciate this path, rather than things escalating like they usually do.
· Call for a time out.
No, you are not a child. Yes, you can call a timeout during a fight. Why would you keep going if you know things will only get worse?
Just call it for what it is, you two are fighting, you won’t like the result, so call a timeout and pause before it gets worse.
This usually works best if you and your spouse have talked about this plan ahead of time, and come up with a “code word” of sorts that signifies you need to stop.
Couples often feel silly talking about or doing this, but trust me it works. Your spouse may decide not to listen, but you can’t control that. However, if you have prepared for this moment together, then your chances of success are much higher.
· Look for the check engine light.
Most of us own a car, and we all know about the check engine light.
It tells us that there is a problem; that something is wrong, and we are to pull over, stop, and figure it out.
The same rules apply for your fights, except that the check engine light doesn’t shine brightly in your face, it is your emotions.
Our feelings warn us that something is going on, and it is our job to diagnose what that is.
So take a minute and think back to the last fight you had, what do you remember feeling? Take note of those emotions, because chances are they come up in every fight with your spouse.
Remember those emotions, keep those words close, because the next time you start feeling those things it probably means a fight is brewing. And then you get to say, “wait a minute, I’m starting to get angry and feel defensive, this isn’t going to end well. Let’s stop and talk about what is going on between us.”
You have just taken a few steps towards stopping a fight with your spouse. Hopefully your partner has responded well, and things aren’t getting worse.
Now, in this deescalated place, you two can come together and talk about your relationship dynamic.You can talk about what is below all those emotions, what fuels the fights.
This step is critical to developing lasting connection.
And before you know it, you’ll be fighting again, wondering what happened.
What if it doesn’t work?
If you try these suggestions and it completely backfires on you, either they come out wrong, or your partner doesn’t respond well, don’t worry.
This is normal.
Learning new dance steps is hard. It takes practice and repetition to feel comfortable dancing differently together.
It will take a few tries to start seeing change happen. And it will take a commitment from both of you.
Inevitably someone will ask me, “Paul, what do I do if I am the only one trying?”
The reality of relationships is that it takes two, and you can’t control the words, actions and behaviors of your spouse.
If your spouse doesn’t want to do dance differently with you, or you two are really stuck, you will need a third party to help you two walk through them the first few times.
This is where a trained relationship coach is helpful. With a bit of outside perspective, and some direct instruction, you two can pick up these new steps a lot quicker.
We often learn best when someone else is walking with us, and taking the pressure off. It’s especially scary to start taking risks together as a couple, when your relationship has felt safe.
A professional can mitigate the conflict and your interactions, creating space for safety and trust to begin to develop again. Once you both experience a different way of relating it will be easier to keep developing this new dance together and not go back to the old one.
Ready to get out of your destructive relationship dance? I invite you to call me today (720-588-2005) and sit down with someone skilled in helping couples learn to dance differently. Or you can schedule an appointment online today.