How To Control Your Emotions In A Relationship, Even During Conflict
Learning how to control your emotions in a conflict is important to keeping your relationship healthy.
I regularly hear from clients that when they’re in conflict with their partner, instead of talking about things, they let their emotions take over, people get hurt, and nothing is ever resolved.
As a result, issues are pushed down, only to resurface over and over. This continued cycle of pain will ultimately destroy any relationship, no matter how much love is involved.
So, how do you keep your emotional state stable during conflicts with your partner so it doesn’t break up your relationship?
How to Control Your Emotions in a Relationship
1. Step away but don’t storm off.
You’re taught by T.V. and movies that, to make your point, you need to make a declaration and then walk away.
In movies, the character then has an epiphany they were wrong and their partner was right and everyone lives happily ever after. Or, when they storm away, their partner chases them because they love them so much and want to make things right.
In reality, storming away gets no one anywhere. It cuts the conversation short and only serves to put off any opportunity for resolution.
All of that being said, it’s very important to step away if you find your emotions are getting the best of you. If you notice yourself losing control, tell your person you need five minutes to step away and take some deep breaths. Go for a walk, sit with your puppy, or take a shower.
The key is to step away and not to storm away. This will give you both a chance to calm down a little bit so you can return to the conversation in a calmer, more productive way, put the issue to bed, and move on.
2. Take deep breaths.
It sounds trite but breathing is one of the best ways to keep control of your emotions.
Think about the last time you got into a fight with your partner. Did you find you were having a hard time expressing yourself? Did you get overwhelmed with tears, perhaps becoming so upset you were hyperventilating? Did you find your heart racing more than usual?
All of those symptoms can be the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Without sufficient oxygen, it’s hard to think. Without sufficient oxygen, your nervous system gets activated and emotional regulation can be very difficult. Without sufficient oxygen, your body can go into fight or flight mode, which only makes things worse.
When you find yourself in conflict with your partner, pause for a second and take a deep breath, breathing right down into your tummy.
Taking a deep breath helps your brain receive the oxygen supply it needs so you can think clearly and, hopefully, keep control of your emotions.
3. Stay in tune with your feelings.
When arguments used to escalate in my marriage, I was often not aware of it. The adrenaline caused by the conflict took over and propelled me toward chaos. By the time that happened, there was no going back.
What I’ve been working on recently is recognizing my emotions as they evolve and identifying when they’re getting out of control. When I realize they’re becoming chaotic, I do the first two steps above. I either ask for a time out or I take a deep breath, pause, and try to get my emotions back in check, and then proceed.
This is easier said than done. It can take a lot of work to regulate your emotions, but being aware of them is a very important step to doing so.
4. Don’t focus on one word or sentence.
When you are in an argument, do you find you tend to focus on one ugly word or one disrespectful sentence someone said? If your partner makes an offhand comment you find unkind or condescending, do you have trouble letting it go? Does the fight pivot back to that one detail instead of what originally caused the conflict? Does the focus on one word or detail derail any hope of a solution?
One key part of keeping control of your emotions during conflict is not to focus on the small details.
Yes, everyone says things in the heat of the moment — things they regret and once they’re said, there’s no unsaying them. If you can keep in mind you’re only human and all people say things we don’t mean, it helps you let the harmful words go.
5. Avoid picking fights.
When many people face something upsetting, they tend to dwell on it and get all worked up emotionally. Once you’re worked up, you have two choices — bring it up calmly with your partner or pick a fight. Most people pick a fight.
Instead of approaching something from a calm place, the fight is derailed even before it begins. Your emotions are already elevated and your partner is immediately on the defensive.
The fight will escalate and have no chance of being resolved, which only makes the disagreement worse.
If you’re struggling with something, tell your person you need to talk about it. Don’t be passive-aggressive or snide, be a grown-up and talk.
Learning how to keep control of your emotions is not an easy thing to do.
Humans are very emotional creatures, and when we care deeply about something, it’s hard not to feel strongly.
If you learn how to step away and take a deep breath in the middle of a conflict, to stay focused on how you’re feeling, and not vilify one detail said in the heat of the moment, you will definitely be able to control your emotions easier.
You’ll find if you can keep control of your emotions during a conflict with your partner, your relationship will be healthier and, if it has been struggling, it might even be saved.