Why Taking Space Isn’t the Only Option For Cooling Off During a Fight

Many couples think that the best way to get through a conflict is to take space from each other to cool off. Unfortunately, taking space isn’t always an option. There are times when you need to make a quick decision, you’re stuck in the car together, or you are at an event where you can’t take space and staying connected is preferable. The couples in my practice don’t often realize that the words they use with each other are magical. Just as words can aggravate and disconnect you from your partner, they can also calm an angry partner and help them feel connected to you again. Do you know the magic words you can say to your partner that will calm them down and help them feel connected to you? Many people don’t know the words that they can say that will help their partner feel connected to them again, but those magic words are definitely worth figuring out with each other. The words that can help us connect again don’t have to be complicated or long. Something simple like, “I don’t want to feel this way with you, I want to feel connected,” will often work or, “I want you to know how much I love you and care about you. Simply stating, “I want us to feel connected while we talk about this,” can go a long way in moving you back to love. Speaking to what you want and how you want to be with your partner can often help you feel like you’re on the same team again. Try this exercise to help you translate your disconnection into what you want: love, connection, and Exercise: Take a moment and think about the way you want to feel with your partner. Is it joyful? Or maybe sweet and loving? Ask yourself: how do you want to act toward your partner? Imagine getting into an argument with your partner. Then imagine that you turn toward your partner and say, “I don’t want to be this way with you, I want to be _______. What would it take for us to get back on track again?” Alternatively: Find a time to sit down with your partner and talk. Ask your partner what they would like to hear that would help them defuse an argument. See if you can come up with a code word that means you are waiving a white flag of truce. From there discuss what you might be able to say that would help you connect with each other again. Read more »

It’s Not About the Content

Content versus connection Oftentimes when I’m working with clients, their central concern is a desire to discuss issues about work, money, children, or their sex life: aka content What couples often don’t understand is that it is very difficult to talk about any kind of content if you are not connected to each other. Trying to talk about important issues while you’re feeling defended or angry leads to fighting, and the content gets lost. The trick to getting through content together is managing the connection you have with your partner. As soon as you realize that you are disconnecting, try to pause and re-establish how you want to be feeling with each other. I’ve found that this is best done by naming how you want to feel and have your partner feel, not how you don’t want to feel. Securely attached partners know how to get themselves and their partner back to connection when they are feeling disconnected. Sometimes simply holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes without talking for one minute can actually reset your connection. Research has shown that looking into your loved one’s eyes can help release oxytocin (the “love hormone”) which can help you feel more connected, calm, and in love.   Exercise: Self-Inquiry If you find yourself often fighting with your partner around certain content, try this mindfulness exercise: Sit quietly and check in with yourself: How connected are you feeling with your partner right now on a scale of one to ten, with one feeling not connected at all and ten feeling totally connected? What is the content that you were trying to discuss with each other? What creates connection with you and your partner? Is physical touch something that brings you together? Do you like snuggling with each other on the couch or in bed? Does talking about your day hope you feel connected? Do you laugh together about certain topics, and does that laughter help you connect? What about sharing an extracurricular activity? What words could your partner say to you that would help you relax and feel more open? Exercise: With Your Partner  Find a time to chat with your partner about re-establishing connection when you are talking about touchy subjects and feel out of synch. Don’t try to talk to your partner about this while you’re already disconnected and angry, or in the middle of a fight! Find a time when you’re both calm, connected, and on the same team. Once you are sitting together, discuss how to create connection instead of talking about the content. Here are some questions to answer: What can you say that helps your partner feel connected to you? What words or phrases help you want to open up to each other? Does physical touch help when you’re talking about charged topics? When was the last time you felt really connected to each other? What was happening in that situation that helped you to feel connected? Are there activities that you engage in together that help you feel connected? How do you want to feel when you’re talking about these topics together?   Read more »