How to take control of your emotions and save your relationship
“If you don’t manage your emotional abilities, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you don’t have the ability to manage your distressing feelings, if you don’t have empathy and if you don’t have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you become you are, not getting very far.” – Daniel Goleman
Learning how to take control of your emotions is one of the best ways you can keep your relationship healthy.
Something I regularly hear from clients is that when they are in conflict with their partner, instead of being able to talk about things, emotions take over, people get hurt and nothing gets resolved. The result is that problems are pushed down, only to keep surfacing. This ongoing pain will ultimately destroy any relationship, no matter how much love is involved.
To that end, I want to share with you why knowing how to control your emotions is an important part of keeping your relationship healthy .
1. Walk away, but don’t rush away.
We’re taught on TV and movies that in order to get our point across, we have to make a statement and then walk away. In the movies, after this explanation, the character has an epiphany that she was wrong and her person was right, and they all live happily ever after.
OR, in the movies, when we rush off, our partner runs after us because they love us so much and want to make things right.
But in reality, rushing away gets no one anywhere. It cuts off every conversation and only serves to postpone any opportunity to resolve the issue until later.
That being said, when you realize your feelings are getting the best of you, it’s very important that you back off.
I would encourage you, when you find your emotions are getting out of hand, to tell yourself that you need five minutes to step back and take some deep breaths. To go for a walk or to sit or shower with your pup.
So walk away, but don’t rush away. This will give you both a chance to calm down a bit, so maybe you can return to the conversation in a calmer, more productive way to drop the issue and move on.
2. Take deep breaths.
I know it sounds very corny, but breathing is one of the best ways you should still be in control of your emotions.
Think about the last time you got into an argument with your partner. Have you found it difficult to express yourself? Have you been overwhelmed with tears and perhaps gotten so upset that you hyperventilated? Have you noticed that your heart is beating faster than usual?
All of these things can be the result of a lack of oxygen in the brain. Without enough oxygen , it’s hard to think. Without enough oxygen, our nervous system becomes activated and emotional regulation can be very difficult. Without adequate oxygen, our bodies can go into fight or flight mode, which only makes things worse.
If you find yourself in a conflict with your partner, I would encourage you to stop for a second and take a deep breath, breathing directly into your belly. Taking a deep breath will help your brain get the oxygen it needs to think clearly and hopefully still be in control of your emotions .
3. You should still be attuned to your feelings.
I know for myself, if I’ve escalated earlier in my marriage, I wasn’t aware of it . The adrenaline induced by the conflict took control and propelled me forward toward chaos. Before that happened, there was no going back.
What I’ve been working on lately is recognizing my feelings as they develop, recognizing when they’re out of control.
When I realize they might get out of control I do #1 and #2 above. I either ask for a break, or I take a deep breath, pause and try to get my feelings under control, and then move on.
I know that’s easier said than done. It can be a lot of work trying to regulate your emotions . But being aware of them is a very important step in doing this.
4. Don’t focus on one word or phrase.
When you’re arguing, do you find that you tend to focus on an ugly word or disrespectful phrase that’s been said?
Do you find that you can’t let it go when your partner makes a casual remark that you find rude or condescending? Is the argument then about that one thing instead of what caused it in the first place? And then the whole thing derails?
An important part of staying in control of your emotions during a conflict is not focusing on the small things. Yes, we all say things in the heat of the moment, things we regret, but once said they cannot be undone. If you can hold onto the thought that we’re all only human and we say things that we don’t mean, it can help you let them go.
5. Don’t accept an argument.
Many of us spend all day in our heads. If something has happened that upsets us, we can think about it and get upset about it. When we get upset, we have two choices – talk it up calmly with our partner or embrace an argument. Most of us accept an argument .
If we accept a fight instead of taking it calmly, the fight will derail before it even begins. Our feelings are already running high and our partner is immediately on the defensive. The dispute will escalate and has no chance of being resolved – which can only make matters worse.
I encourage you, when you are struggling with something, to tell yourself that you need to talk about it. Don’t be passive-aggressive or derogatory. Just be an adult and talk.
Learning how to stay in control of your emotions is not an easy thing to learn.
We are very emotional beings, especially women, and when something is close to our hearts, it is difficult for us not to feel our feelings.
But, if you can learn how not to take an argument, how to step back and take a deep breath in the middle of a conflict, focus on how you’re feeling, and not demonize that ONE thing that was said, you will definitely go a long way in controlling your emotions.
And, I think you’ll find that if you can still control your emotions during a conflict with your partner, your relationship will be healthier and, if it was in trouble, maybe salvage.
You can do it! I know you can!