Mental Health

10 Ways to Stop a Fight From Becoming Bigger

Are your fights inevitably spiralling out of control? Understanding why can help relationships grow. Discover how to break the cycle of fighting and foster healthier communication with your partner.

By URLife Team
12 Feb 2024

Why is it that conflicts often escalate most with those we hold dearest? Could it be the collision of two distinct minds spending extensive time together, inevitably leading to occasional clashes? Or does it run deeper, touching on previous baggage, insecurities and emotional trauma??


Unfortunately, it's typically those closest to us who stir the strongest emotional reactions. Our responses, sometimes exaggerated, are often rooted in our personal histories rather than the present moment's circumstances.


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Why Do Couples Fight?

When conflicts with one's partner escalate in frequency, it becomes imperative to probe into the underlying reasons. While occasional disagreements are inevitable in any relationship, establishing a pattern of daily contention should not become the norm. The inherent closeness and intensity of intimate relationships render them particularly susceptible to heightened emotional reactions. Sometimes money can also incite a fight between couples. According to a 2023 study issued in the Journal of  Social And Personal Relationships, finances were the primary reason for relationship conflict in 40 per cent of disagreements reported among people in long-term relationships. Behaviours that may be tolerated in interactions with friends or colleagues can evoke disproportionate responses when exhibited by one's partner.


Although challenges within relationships may manifest as conflicts, they need not inevitably escalate into full-fledged fights. Each of us brings a multitude of factors to our relationships, including early attachment patterns, psychological defences, and critical inner voices about ourselves and others. Thus, harmonising with our partners is seldom a straightforward task. Yet, the silver lining is that we possess significant agency in improving our relationships.


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10 Tips To Stop A Fight From Becoming Bigger

Stopping a fight isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavour, but there are numerous strategies for effectively de-escalating conflicts. It's essential to recognise that disagreements aren't inherently negative; in fact, some can be productive, nurturing a healthier relationship in the long run.


Here are some proactive steps we can take to alleviate tension and nurture closeness with our partners:


1. Change your perspective

There is a significant correlation between the duration of distress experienced by each member of a couple during conflicts and their long-term marital satisfaction. While this finding may not come as a surprise, many individuals fail to challenge their inclination to dwell on feelings of anger, resentment, or perceived injustice. Instead of seeking understanding, reconciliation, or accepting apologies, there's a tendency to cultivate grievances against one's partner. Despite being occasionally justified in our grievances, this inclination to linger in negativity often stems from an unconscious desire to perpetuate familiar, albeit unhealthy, feelings about ourselves and our relationships.


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2. Give yourself a break

During moments of intense emotion, maintaining stillness can be challenging. A seemingly harmless word or gesture from our partner can act as a catalyst to stimulate negative emotions such as anger, shame, or defensiveness within us. By exercising self-awareness and employing grounding techniques such as taking a walk or practising deep breathing, we can gain perspective and regain control over our emotional state. Rather than succumbing to internalised thoughts, respond with heightened awareness and sensitivity towards your partner.


3. Refrain from wanting to be right

Breaking this habitual pattern can indeed be challenging, but it's worth the effort to try. Sometimes, conflicts arise from a subconscious urge to demonstrate to our partner that they are mistaken, unjust, or unreasonable for not conforming to our desires. Rather than engaging in a confrontational dispute over these differences, why not consider a more constructive approach? You can express your needs directly and assertively, emphasising the importance of these desires to your partner. This shift towards clear and direct communication can foster understanding and mutual respect within the relationship.


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4. Transition from ‘defensive’ to ‘understanding’

Shifting from a defensive stance to a receptive one involves tuning into ourselves and finding inner calmness. This enables us to adopt a more curious and compassionate approach towards our partner. Rather than being solely focused on defending ourselves or retaliating, we can actively listen and strive to understand the other person's perspective. When our primary concern is self-preservation, we inadvertently hinder our ability to perceive our partner's words. Maintaining a receptive mindset allows us to remain present with our partner and empathise with their viewpoint, fostering a deeper connection and mutual understanding.


5. Monitor your critical inner voice

Our heightened reactivity in agitated moments is often influenced by our internal "critical inner voice." This internal narrative reflects a collection of negative thoughts and distorted perceptions that stem from past hurtful experiences in our past. As we mature, we may inadvertently project these beliefs onto our relationships, particularly those with our closest partners. By recognising and addressing these internalised patterns, we can cultivate healthier interactions, fostering genuine connection and empathy within our relationships.


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6. Avoid digging up the past

In relationships, there is a common temptation to approach disagreements. We may feel compelled to compile evidence from past experiences to create a point against our partner. However, this tendency often inflates the conflict unnecessarily, presenting our partner with only two options: admit fault or engage in a defensive battle. Instead of dwelling on past grievances, it is more productive to remain grounded in the present moment and address the specific issue at hand. By focusing on the current concern and articulating our needs in a constructive manner, you can foster effective communication without assigning blame or making your partner feel inferior


7. Remember the good times spent together

During moments of anger or frustration, it's easy to lose sight of the value our partner holds in our lives. It's essential to cultivate a reservoir of positive emotions within the relationship, reminding ourselves of why we love each other. This reservoir can be filled with various elements, such as cherished memories, instances of deep connection, and spontaneous acts of kindness exchanged between partners. By consciously nurturing this reservoir of goodwill, we can draw upon it during challenging times. Reflecting on the positive aspects of our relationship serves as a powerful antidote to negativity, helping to restore perspective and foster resilience in the face of adversity.


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8. Show your partner that you care

In every conflict, it's crucial to consider both perspectives involved. Taking the time to empathise with our partner's point of view can lead to greater understanding and resolution. One way to demonstrate this understanding is by actively incorporating our partner's needs and desires into our actions, anticipating what they might expect or appreciate from us. For instance, we may convey a desire to feel loved or truly seen for who we are. By expressing such deeper sentiments to our partner, we demonstrate a greater level of vulnerability and may stop the fight from becoming bigger.


9. Be an active listener

In several argument scenes, our attention tends to be divided between formulating our own thoughts and assessing the validity of what is being communicated. However, in order to truly understand our partner, it is imperative to engage in empathetic listening. This entails attentively acknowledging and validating our partner's experiences, irrespective of whether we perceive them as objectively true or valid. Instead of solely focusing on formulating our own responses, it is essential to adopt genuine curiosity and prioritise active listening during a fight or an argument.


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10. Attend therapy together

If persistent conflicts continue to disrupt your relationship despite attempts to resolve them independently, seeking professional assistance may be necessary. Couple therapists offer valuable expertise and guidance in navigating complex relational dynamics. Trained and experienced in addressing various aspects of relationships, they provide a neutral and supportive environment for both partners to explore underlying issues and develop effective communication strategies.


We all encounter moments where our emotional reactions hinder rather than facilitate our desires. Ultimately, what we yearn for is to feel truly loved and understood for who we are. While it may be daunting to lower our defences and expose our vulnerabilities during challenging times, practising mindfulness can profoundly transform our relational dynamics. By cultivating awareness of our emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, we gain the capacity to disrupt destructive patterns and foster closeness with our partner. Through self-reflection and introspection, we take ownership of our contributions to the relationship dynamic.


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