A36W5JHave you ever found yourself in a fight with your spouse or significant other that was spinning out of control, and  you had no idea how to come back from it? Did you listen aghast as you each held on to your points so doggedly that you didn’t even sound rational anymore?  Perhaps the fight didn’t involve anything that truly mattered to you, but you had taken a stand and you’d be damned if you would “lose” the fight? All to often in these situations, we find ourselves unable to back down even when we want to. And now you must be wondering how to stop insane cycles like this, and just find a way to go back to being the loving, connected couple that you really are?

Well, here is a simple five step process Chris and I developed when we found ourselves getting caught in these crazy patterns that seem to have no purpose but to destroy the intimacy we work so hard to build.

1. Breathe. Seriously, stop and take a deep breath, or three. When people are upset they tend to hold their breath or breathe very shallowly. The lack of oxygen makes it harder to think straight and to get out of the fight or flight mode. You need to be able to think clearly in this moment.

2. Remind yourself that you love this person and that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Say this first in your own mind and then repeat it out loud if possible. Don’t worry if your voice sounds tense or angry, or if you don’t feel emotionally connected to the statement. That doesn’t make it false. By reaffirming this intention to yourself and to your significant other you begin to shift from being adversaries to being partners again.

3. Ask yourself how you would feel if this were the last conversation you ever had with this person. If the action in step two wasn’t enough to bring you back to reality, this step usually is. For most people when they take this step any hardness or anger that is encasing their heart just crumbles and falls away and all they want is to make things right again. This opening gives you the chance to change the direction that you were heading in that moment.

4. Change your physical position. If you are sitting down stand up and move around. If you are already standing and moving go into a different room and sit down close enough to touch. This is a really important part of the process because we find that when people are arguing they may literally become “entrenched” in their positions. This is a form of state anchoring that we teach more about in our workshops but for now just try it out and see for yourself. Whenever you radically change your position, you change the way you are feeling. Once you have changed positions, and have found a place where you can be comfortable and close to each other move on to the last step.

5. Take turns telling each other what you are grateful for in the other person. Do this step one at a time alternating with a single statement each. Don’t stop until the internal feeling has completely changed for both parties involved into one of intense love. If you are having trouble with this step revisit steps 2 & 3. Remember you can name small things if that is all you can think of at first. One person we work with sometimes just starts with how grateful she is for her husband’s big shoulders and dark hair. Whether it’s something deep and emotional, a simple physical attribute, or a habit we find cute, be sincere and you are bound to learn something new in this step. Experiencing gratitude for each other in both big and small ways will always be a source of authentic, lasting connection.

In most cases disagreements don’t need to be settled in the very moment that the couple finds themselves fighting. Now that you have regained your balance and reaffirmed your connection and commitment to each other, you can take a break from the topic that was causing the controversy. Only revisit it when you are both able to be in a more resourceful state and when you do keep the feeling of gratitude for the other person foremost in your awareness.

Invest in your relationship by learning different techniques for handling disagreements that allow you to stay connected as a couple. And remember this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, treat them that way!