When you’re upset with your partner, it’s easy to let your anger get the best of you. You might end up saying things you don’t mean—or things you’ll later regret. What you choose to say can also fuel an argument further. You might end up going completely off-topic and bringing up things that aren’t even relevant to the situation. Sound familiar? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Anger is a powerful emotion.
However, it doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat while trying to communicate with your partner. Even couples with extremely strong, healthy relationships argue. In fact, when you choose to argue the “right” way, you’ll end up feeling closer to your partner. Yes, there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to argue. As you might have guessed, the correct way doesn’t let anger take control.
So, what can you do to keep your conversation civil when you’re angry? How can you communicate effectively when you’re frustrated and upset? Let’s cover a few helpful tips.
Use “I” Statements
One of the biggest mistakes people make when arguing with a partner is playing the blame game. It’s easy to do when you’re angry, but it’s important to focus on how you feel rather than accusing your partner of everything. If they’ve done something to upset you, say something like “I feel hurt when…” or “I feel disrespected when…” According to The Gottman Method, it is helpful to use an I statement but then also end with what you need as a result. They call this approach their Gentle Start-Up.
By sticking to “I” statements, your partner won’t immediately have to get defensive. Chances are, whatever they’re doing isn’t meant to hurt or upset you. So, phrasing things this way will give them a different perspective. If you lead with these statements, you’re less likely to see a lot of contention in your conversation.
Stick to One Topic
When you’re angry, it’s tempting to bring up everything “bad” that has happened in your relationship over the last few weeks, months, or even years. Unfortunately, that will only make your conversation more difficult and irrelevant. By bringing up past hurts, you’re letting your partner know that you haven’t forgiven them for things that happened before. You’re holding resentment, even if you don’t fully realize it. But don’t let anger be the reason you bring those things up. Stick to one subject at a time and choose to stay in the present when you’re talking or arguing about something. If you want to bring up a past problem at a later time, tell them.
Keep an Even Tone
Because anger is such a strong emotion, it can cause you to act out in ways that aren’t helpful or productive for any conversation. Some people raise their voices and yell. Others make criticisms and act in contempt. Make an active choice to keep your tone calm and even as you communicate with your partner and keep your words kind. It won’t always be easy, but it will make a world of difference in how quickly you get through your conversation and how productive you’ll be.
If you’re too angry to keep an even tone, tell your partner that you need to cool off for a few minutes before you talk. That doesn’t mean you should avoid the conversation. But taking a few minutes away will allow you to calm down so you can focus on having a healthier conversation when your anger doesn’t feel so powerful.
Healthy communication is so important to a successful relationship. That includes knowing how to communicate while you’re angry. Keep these tips in mind to keep your conversations civil, no matter the situation. You might be surprised to see your relationship grow and become stronger as you work together through your differences and difficulties.
If you or your partner need support with communication, please reach out for a free 30-minute phone consultation. This is a common need for neurodivergent intimate partnerships that Dr. G specializes in. We look forward to hearing from you on how we can be of support.