A couple walks into my office. They are both tense and unhappy. They’ve managed their feelings by staying away from each other for the past few days. Understandably, they are not looking forward to talking about their struggles and re-opening their pain. They are afraid of what it will be like if they get upset and cannot calm down.
Getting upset is part of every relationship. It is important to learn how to get through these upset times, especially until we develop the skills that allow us to resolve our conflict quickly and easily.
Know that conflict management is learnable. It does involve getting deeper into our feelings and understanding the following: why we are reacting, what is hurting us, how we’ve been wounded in the past. How we are reacting/behaving (are we making the situation worse with our reactions?) It includes knowing what we need and learning both to ask for what we need and provide it to our partner (to the best of our ability.)
Until then, here are a few tools you can use by yourself when you are struggling and need help calming down.
Perspective – Tell yourself that it is important to have this conflict so that issues can be brought up, and each person can learn more about the needs of his or her partner and find a resolution. Relationships are journeys with ups and downs and they often ask us to grow and expand.
Breathing – Breathing is a great way to get into our bodies and simply feel. Generally, it is good to be by yourself. Sit or lie down. Close your eyes. Begin to breathe in and out slowly, deep breaths. Let yourself notice how you are feeling. Allow yourself to feel your pain, grief or whatever feeling you are experiencing. Often as you stay with your experience, your feeling will change. If you still feel stuck, as you breathe, you can tell yourself that you are okay. Talk to yourself as you would to a small child who needs your support. This will help calm you down.
Writing – Writing often helps us get clearer on our feelings. Write down what your feelings are and give your feelings a place to be on the page. Write until you feel you’ve gotten to the bottom of them and that you will be okay. Often our feelings subside once we allow them to express themselves through writing. Go to your journal to write down your thoughts.
Self-soothing statements – Feelings are intense. There are a number of thoughts that can help us calm down our feelings and give us more perspective. You can say statements to yourself like:
- I don’t have to be perfect
- Everything will be okay
- It is okay to ask for what I need
- This is not my fault
- This moment will not last forever
Taking care of ourselves when we are upset is an important part of being an adult and being in a relationship. Without these skills, our emotional health is at the whim of whatever is currently happening.
WeConcile.com is an educational program to help couples improve their relationship. It is coming out as an app in 2021.
Learn more about what to do if you are Arguing Your Relationship.