An argument with your partner can lead to fight/flight or freeze response. If you have been together for any length of time, you probably know what to expect and dread the hours of silence or the slamming of doors following a relationship blowout.
Perhaps the most difficult part of being in adult relationships is overcoming the aftermath of an argument. Arguments create emotional distance between partners and drive a wedge into the safety of the relationship. We often develop habitual patterns of withholding, prolonging anger, and waiting for apologies that never come.
What if putting a full stop at the end of an argument could happen much faster, allowing for reconnection and a sense of safe harbor to return?
Come to an Agreement Beforehand and Stick with It
Have an honest discussion when you are not arguing. Ask your partner if it is important to them that reconnection happens faster and resolution occurs. If you can agree on this, you can discuss ways that you can overcome the aftermath of tension.
What do you need to feel safe?
What does your partner need?
How can you support one another when you are feeling triggered?
What behaviors should you both avoid?
How can you come back to secure after conflict – together?
Create a verbal agreement about restoring the capacity for you both to connect and then remind one another of the agreement in the heat of the moment. Follow the plan you discuss and gently guide one another back into connection.
You can revisit the topic later when you are feeling less charged.
Someone Has to Make the First Move
Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy? Chances are that in the heat of the moment neither party will admit fault in a genuine way. How important is being right, anyway? Chances are that your argument is not due to one incident, but a culmination of pent-up emotions.
These emotionally charged times often trigger both of your Attachment styles in a dramatic way. One partner (preferably both) needs to be the voice of reason, reminding both of you of your agreement and your desire to move back to healthy Attachment and connection. You can let each other know that the concern is still on the table, but that you are still fundamentally ok in your relationship.
Reach Out with a Forgiving Gesture
If your partner values safe touch, ask if it is ok if you reach out and hold them for a moment. Safe contact can often remove the flame from the fire and provide a sense of safety and connection you both crave.
Arguments and conflict are unavoidable when sharing space – physical and emotional – with someone else over time. You don’t need to prolong conflict by holding on tightly to habitual behaviors that generate more negative feelings. Use your rational time to develop an argument blueprint to overcome conflict respectfully, efficiently, and eliminate threat and then reach out with n olive branch. You can revisit any issues when you are less triggered.
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