Your heart’s racing. And your jaws clench down tightly.
With the last hurtful words still lingering in the air, you try to take a deep breath. You’re not proud of the heated argument or the things you said to your partner, but it happened.
Now you’re feeling defeated and emotionally exhausted. An overwhelming wave of sadness washes over you. As if recovering from a bad dream, you ask yourself: ‘What just happened?’
Here’s how you can calm down after a fight with your spouse.
- Pause and pivot
- Write down your thoughts
- Make friends with your emotions
- Talk to someone you trust
It’s bad enough when you fight, but it’s even worse when you don’t know how to calm down. Your head keeps spinning and replaying the same scenario over and over again. Sometimes it even keeps you awake at night.
We know how frustrating it can be. Because we’ve been there too. It’s a difficult place to be because you can feel both disconnected, hurt and angry at the same time.
How can you recover from an argument with your partner in a healthy and productive way? Read on to find out how you can handle the aftermath of a fight better.
Relationships are the building blocks of our society. How we conduct ourselves in relationships has a direct impact on humanity as a whole.– Natasha Koo and Jachym Jerie
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Pause And Pivot
Do you know what happens when you fight with your spouse?
According to this article, your:
- Blood pressure goes up
- Heart beats faster
- Breathing quickens
- Chest tightens
- Brain releases a stress hormone called cortisol which induces more stress
- Fight and flight system gets activated
The problem with this kind of response is that you’re not able to think straight nor are you able to take in new information. The situation puts your body under a lot of stress. So how do you deal with it?
1. Take a break before it gets too much
If you pay attention to your body, you can notice when your body is starting to tense up or feelings of irritation are coming up. Instead of having to resolve the argument right then and there, take a break before you get completely overwhelmed.
John Gottmann suggests taking at least a 20 minutes break so your body can reset. If you’re not able to take a break or you’re wondering what to do in that break, here’s the next step…
When your body goes into fight or flight mode, you’ll have a bunch of hormones released to prepare you for the perceived threat. That’s why it’s useful to move. Go for a run or hit the gym to help your body process the energy.
Emotions are ‘energy in motion.’ If we try to suppress them, that can backfire badly because it gets stuck in our body. Moving your body allows the energy to flow through you, rather than get stuck in you. How does it work?
You know that feeling when you’re so stressed or angry that you want to explode? Well, this is the healthy way to do it. Emotions can store a lot of pent-up energy.
When we’re not consciously walking away from the situation (our suggested first step) or physically letting it go, this excess energy can be directed at your partner.
And we all know…. Another impulsive comeback isn’t going to improve your relationship. That’s why taking care of your body is important. Sounds simple right?
Now that we’re working with our body to process the fight in a healthy way, let’s take a look at your mind.
Write Down Your Thoughts
The fight is over but your head is spinning.
One way to process what’s happened is to write down your thoughts. Don’t censor yourself but just let the raw expression come through you. Here’s how you can do it.
- Take a blank piece of paper and a pen.
- Sit somewhere where you won’t get disturbed.
- Write down whatever comes into your mind.
- If nothing comes, just move the pen in circles until the next thought comes up.
- Rip the paper up into pieces and throw it away. Don’t keep it.
Why is this useful?
- Thoughts can go in endless circles, writing them down makes them visible.
- It allows you to express what you need to express in a safe way.
- You’re throwing it away because you’ve written it with your emotions from that point in time.
The purpose is to express, not to analyze. When you’re very agitated, you can write things that your spouse might not understand. You don’t want to keep the paper and have to explain it to your partner later on when they find it by accident. Do note that we’re not trying to hide anything.
Your experiences and emotions of that moment are valid. But they also shift from moment to moment. Writing it all out helps you to acknowledge and process what’s going on. Sometimes that acknowledgement, even if it’s from ourselves, is enough to let the matter go. As you let the experience go emotionally and mentally, you can also let the paper go.
Make Friends With Your Emotions
The long-term pain suffered by suppressing emotions is far greater than the short-term pain of confronting them.– Sam Owen
People are afraid to feel.
We’d rather busy ourselves than to feel our emotions. Here’s how you can find out whether you do that too:
- You’re always distracting yourself with your electronic devices and books.
- You’re too busy to sit for a moment without doing anything.
- You can’t handle silence in a conversation.
- You try to analyze and understand everything instead of feeling.
- You push emotions away when they arise by rationalizing or ignoring them.
If you do those things, chances are you’re not comfortable with feeling what’s happening within you. When you see your emotions as something to avoid, ignore or disregard, they will only build up inside. As long as your emotions are your enemy, you’ll be on the run.
We can’t outrun ourselves. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.– Jachym Jerie
Rather than trying to avoid your feelings, start investigating them. Take the following questions as the starting point:
- How does pain or sadness actually feel?
- What’s the sensations in my body when emotions surface?
- What are the thoughts about those emotions?
- When I don’t listen to my thoughts but feel deeply instead, how does that change my experience?
You won’t change your relationship with your feelings if you keep thinking about them. You’ll change the relationship by engaging with them differently.
This process can be uncomfortable at first, however, as you go on, you’ll find that you become more peaceful and at ease in your skin.
Moving through your fears strengthens the relationship. Transforming your insecurities into joy and love brings you closer together. Keeping your fears and insecurities? That’s a death sentence for any relationship.– Natasha & Jachym Jerie
When you really feel your emotions, you’ll be able to calm down after a fight much more quickly. Why? Because you’ll truly listen to yourself and what’s happening within you. It’s the missing information that used to keep you stuck and frustrated.
Take it from us: Jachym and I used to bicker a lot. It always left us feeling depressed, depleted and helpless.
When we actually acknowledged our feelings and processed it from the inside out, it completely dissolved our recurring arguments. Not only does it feel much better to actually understand your emotions, it also makes communication that much more effective.
Don’t be afraid to dive deep, because it can literally save your marriage.
Talk to Someone You Trust
It can be so healing to have someone listen to you without giving advice.
The liberation is in being able to express yourself and be heard by the other person without feeling judged. If you find yourself riled up after a fight with your spouse and you don’t know how to calm down, reach out to someone you trust and ask for a listening ear.
Here’s how you can phrase it.
I just had a fight with my partner and I’m really upset. Would you be willing to listen to me? I don’t want advice at the moment, I just want to be able to voice what’s going on in my head.
- You mention what’s happened.
- You ask if they’re willing to listen.
- You specify what you don’t want so that they don’t interrupt you.
- You tell them why you don’t want advice.
If your friend isn’t up for it, that’s totally okay. That’s why you’re asking them. We’ve given you many other strategies to process your feelings. It’s not necessary to talk to someone, but an additional tool to calm down after a fight.
A relationship can either be a place of deep wounding or deep healing. What do you choose to create?– Natasha & Jachym Jerie
How Can I Get Less Upset With My Spouse?
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to calm down after a fight with your spouse and have less drama in your relationship?
In this section we discuss just that. You might be wondering:
- Why am I getting upset in the first place?
Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them.– Byron Katie
When you believe your spouse is responsible for your happiness and unhappiness, you’ll get upset when they don’t behave how you want them to.
So ask yourself:
What if my spouse isn’t the cause for me feeling upset?
That one question can turn your world upside down. As long as you see your partner to be the cause for your feelings, you’ll blame them forever. Not only that, you’ll also get upset very easily. If you want to get less upset you have to investigate this idea that your spouse is responsible for your happiness and unhappiness.
How Do I Apologize to My Partner After a Fight?
The underlying principles are the following:
- Understand what happened.
- Forgive yourself and your partner.
- Apologize without making excuses.
- Take charge to ensure that it doesn’t happen the same way again.
The point of apologizing is to grow as a couple beyond the incident. That’s why there are a few steps you need to do before you actually approach your spouse. If you’re apologizing just so you can feel better about yourself, you missed the point of the apology in the first place.
If an apology is followed by an excuse or a reason, it means they are going to commit the same mistake again they just apologized for.– Amit Kalantri
If you skip one of the steps, your apology might turn out hollow and meaningless. If you’re serious about rekindling your connection and trust, then it’s best to take a good look at the two articles we linked above.
Regretting our past mistakes is one thing, but learning to avoid future mistakes is the key to a long-lasting relationship.
We all make mistakes. It’s about owning and growing through them.– Jachym Jerie
Now you have the foundational knowledge to calm down after a fight with your spouse. You might not have thought that your body was a tool to release pent up frustration, emotions and energy. But it is the healthiest way to process an emotional event.
Not only that, recognizing the physical signs in your body when an argument starts to spiral out of control can save you from having fights in the future. Mentally, you can also release all that’s on your mind through paper. Or maybe, you prefer to have a neutral, supportive ear who you can trust to pour your heart to.
Most importantly, knowing the expectations that might be the underlying cause of the conflict can stop this negative spiral altogether.
No matter what mistakes we have made, you can always heal, recover and grow from them. If love and your marriage is what’s most important, then we can let our guard down to apologize and really mean it.
Picking up the pieces after a fight might not be the most fun, but you now have some practical tools that can help you through it. Choose one that most resonates with you and know that you have something solid to turn to.
Trust yourself to face what’s happened.
Trust yourself to heal what’s needed.
Trust yourself to love what’s here.
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