It sounds like a cliché. Plenty of people will tell you to take a break when you are fighting. But when you do take a break, you don’t feel like these breaks really helped you at all. You just end up stewing on things, and then you come back to the fight angrier than ever. So it might sound like silly advice, but that’s because most of us were never taught how to take a break. Stopping the fight is not enough, you have to do something with the time apart. So here are three tips on taking a break the right way:
Take a Break: Hit the Physical Reset Button
It will not shock anyone that when you are fighting with a significant other, you have a physical response. You might feel your face turning red with heat or feel your stomach getting nauseous. What most people don’t know is that emotional fights can trigger survival instincts in us. You might be having a fight/flight/freeze response when you are in the heat of the moment. So when you do take a break, it is important to hit a physical reset button. Maybe going for a run or working out. Maybe splashing some cold water on your face. This exercise could be helpful. It is important to pay attention to the physical feedback your body is giving you.
Take a Break: Focus on Your Piece of the Puzzle
A lot of us have had that experience where we get more angry the more we think about something. When you take a break, you want to make sure that you avoid blaming your partner. The more you focus on what they did to upset you, the more you will get upset. Blame will keep you deadlocked in a conflict because it keeps both of your energy focused on things outside your control. Instead, ask yourself “What was my part of the fight?” Regardless of what started the fight, ask yourself what you might have said or done that helped things spiral. Taking ownership of your own actions will go a long way from making things worse in the future. Which brings us to my last point…
Take a Break but Come Back to the Fight Later
Taking a break will only be helpful if you come back to the conflict at a later point. It might feel tempting to just let things slide once everything has calmed down. However, if there is no resolution those feelings are bound to come up during your next fight. Resentments start to build when more and more feelings are suppressed. Not to mention, coming back to the fight gives you a chance to reconnect. It gives you a chance to share what was going on inside us during the fight. It gives you a chance to share what is hurting and comfort each other. Vulnerability is key when you come back together. You want to share about your inner world, not blame each other for the hurt.
If you are looking to break you pattern of fighting or reconnect with your partner, we at The Marriage & Family Clinic are here to help.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.