6 Steps to Help You Through Your Next Big Brawl With Your Significant Other (Or Anyone, Really)
Hey, you right there. Yes, you, with the beet-red face, hissing at your beloved and brandishing an avocado like a weapon: set the avocado down. I mean it; they're expensive, and you are (probably) not a Real Housewife. I've been where you are! Your partner (or, like, another human being), for whatever reason, has suddenly become El Ultimo Shitdick to you, and you want to see them emotionally vaporized.
OK, so, I know this is hard, but I'm going to need you to put that evisceration on hold for the duration of this article. As a particularly conflict-avoidant person, it takes a lot to make me mad — but when I get mad, christ, clear the room. I've done a lot of soul-searching and googling to arrive at these six steps (that's HALF a 12-step program!), and it's a quick read, I swear. Because babe, you're better than this, really and truly:
There are a few magic phrases in relationships. They include "Your cock is enormous," "Look at this cute kitten video," and "Hang on a minute." Add the last one to your spellbook for moments like these (and also maybe the kitten). If you're seeing red and you need a minute, take a damn minute .
In as succinct and calm a tone as you can manage, say, "I need a moment" or "I'm going to step into the hallway for a sec." (Even if your partner is talking over you, just speak your piece and back away calmly — what counts here is getting the silence and space you need.)
IknowIknowIknow, duh. But I feel like I'm not the only one who's reluctant to take a deeeeep breaaaath simply on the grounds that it sounds hokey. We should just give in to the hoke, you guys! As evinced on How I Met Your Mother (and AS TOTALLY NOT EVINCED ON THE MOTHERFUCKING GOOD WIFE , OH MY GOD), a deep breath can make a big difference, even and especially when you're so far past calm that you can't even see calm. If you won't listen to me, listen to him:
3. Ask yourself why it's important to yell right now.
You don't need to pinpoint why you're angry yet, but what you do need to do is figure out why yelling seems to be the next best thing to cheerfully decapitating the love of your life (RIP Ned Stark). Is it because your significant other isn't listening to you, because you need to correct them emphatically about something, or because you're just floored by the sheer assholery they're exhibiting? Whatever it is, you need to identify why yelling seems like the most preferable way to convey how you're feeling...
4. Consider what you want to get out of this.
...because yelling doesn't usually get you much, right? What is your end goal of this burgeoning argument? Is it to convince your partner that you're right about something, to have them sincerely apologize to you, or to have them understand how you're feeling? That's all fair.
But if your goal is to make your partner feel as shitty as it's possible for a human being to feel, go back to jail step one and do NOT pass go until you've figured out why that is. If you are generally happy together and you haven't been planning on ending the relationship prior to this, crushing your partner beyond repair isn't in anyone's best interest.
(But even if this is clearly the fight to end all fights — if you've been thinking about breaking up, or if your partner's done something thoroughly unforgivable — I would still advise trying to calm down enough to have a breakup talk instead of a breakup fight.)
My point is, very few people deserve to ever feel "I want — I wanna watch Little House on the Prairie, I want a vodka"-bad...
...and even if they do, making them feel awful probably won't make you feel better, in the end. It's an unsatisfying win. So keep cycling through this list until you land on a new goal for this fight — you're smart as hell, and you'll figure it out.
5. Figure out the best way to achieve what you need.
Great, you have an end goal in mind, and ideally, this is a goal you can achieve through communicating with your partner. No one says you have to have a friendly chat or anything; we've all been here:
But by now, you should at least be in a place where you can think about your "I statements" (they didn't really do them right in This Is 40) and your partner's triggers and your own triggers. You might even be able to remember ways you've diffused tensions between the two of you in the past — little things, like giving your partner half an hour to cool off, or prefacing your monologue with, "Before I say anything else, I love you." You know them, and you can try to meet their needs at least a little, for love and sanity's sake.
6. Finally, identify your anger. Or work toward that, anyway.
I think this is supposed to be the one of the first steps, according to various former therapists of mine, but whatever. Who can even identify their anger when they're so brain-meltingly angry?! You don't have to have it all figured out before you resume the conversation with your S.O. — just know that it probably goes beyond "I'm dating a total fuckwit," and be willing to consider the source of your feelings throughout your conversation.
Now that you've walked through these steps, and that avocado is basically guacamole (I know you didn't drop it when I told you to. I wouldn't have either), are you ready to fight smart?
Disclaimer: This list is intended to address romantic disputes that, though explosive in their way, do not verge on or constitute emotional or physical abuse. If your partner is harming you in any way — and that includes making you feel belittled, afraid, or powerless — here are some resources.