Have you ever gotten in an argument with your spouse (or significant other)? Well, of course, you have,  as human beings, having an argument from time to time is bound to happen.  Some people argue more than they would like to, while others will do anything and everything to avoid conflict completely by shutting off.   So where is the fine median? How do you know the difference between a normal/healthy disagreement/argument versus one that gets out of control and spirals into something way deeper than it should have gone?  And more importantly, how can you recover and stop an argument from going too far?

I know those are a lot of questions and I’m sure your mind is thinking about all of those different scenarios at once and are now wondering what the answers to those questions may be.   While I won’t be able to get through all of those questions in one single blog, I will dial in on one of the most important question of them all . . . How to recover and keep an argument with your spouse from going too far.

So, here’s some food for thought as I get started.  In a book titled “The Power of the Other,” by Dr. Henry Cloud, he notes that it takes 5 positive things to say to someone to make up one single negative thing!  This should technically be a rule we live by if we want to have healthy happy relationships in our lives. Ask yourself, when someone gives you a compliment do you internalize it as much as a criticism? Thought so! That is why this rule is so important because the negative message goes deeper and cause a greater impact on us. Keeping that fact in mind, here are 3 ways to prevent your argument from going too far.

  1. Use words with caution:  The rule of thumb “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all” is powerful!  While a spouse may be throwing jabs at you, you can stop the fight by either A. Saying nothing at all (until things cool off), or B. Simply stating… “I’m sorry you feel that way, let’s talk about this when we are both in a better place.”  I know this is hard for a lot of people.  It’s in our nature to stand up for ourselves, but the power of timing is crucial here!  In the heat of an argument, it’s too easy to let things spiral out of control as we tend to get into a battle and the need to have the last word.
  2. Count to 3 and ask yourself: “Will this “issue, matter in a year? Next week? Or even tomorrow?  Is it life changing?”  If the answer is “no,” which typically it is, then you might want to consider how much energy you really want to put into such an argument.  Sometimes taking a step back to look at the bigger picture can do more wonders than you realize.
  3. Create a Safe-word:  You and your spouse should come up with a “safe word.” A safe word is a word that is basically saying “enough is enough.”  It’s equivalent to a need for a “time-out.”  Sometimes couples even use words that relate to their first date or another special moment in their life.  This serves 2 purposes.  It can not only communicate to your spouse that you all need to stop arguing, but also can bring up a good memory that is meaningful to the both of you, allowing the “recovery” from the conflict to work that much sooner! One of my clients chose the word “sandbox” as a safe word since it’s a word I use in sessions sometimes and it reminds them to step out of the sandbox and automatically calms them both down.

Understand that everyone will experience arguments with their spouse or significant other, and in actuality, they are healthy and normal. My grandmother used to joke that if two people live together and never disagree it is a waste for them to pay rent.  You don’t want your argument to get out of control though or result in even more issues than what started a conflict. These arguments are tests on your relationship and getting through them will prove to make the two of you that much closer, creating a marriage that will continue to thrive and conquer.


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