How To Stop An Argument By Discovering The Emotional Triggers That Ignite Your Feelings

You are supposed to be having a quiet, enjoyable evening, when all of a sudden it gets side tracked by a fight. It came out of nowhere, and now you are going around in circles, not sure what you’re even talking about anymore. You want to put the breaks on the conversation, but nothing you’re saying or doing seems to be working. In this situation, you may wonder how you are supposed to stop an argument that makes no sense.

When the calm is shattered so quickly, you may feel lost and confused. If your partner can go from 1 to 100 in a matter of seconds, this situation may lead you to feel powerless, like you don’t know how to stop an argument.

What Are Emotional Triggers?

Emotional triggers are sensitive places inside of you that need healing and repair. You may want to consider an emotional trigger to be like having a large bruise. When you bump it against anything, it hurts terribly. Emotional triggers are like bruises that don’t disappear, and at any time, they can be banged and reinjured.

How Do I Stop Reacting To Emotional Triggers?

Awareness-Becoming aware of the trigger, sensitive spot, will help you learn how to be less reactive. You can start to pay attention to when the emotional trigger is sprung and notice any patterns. You can notice how you feel in your body when you start feeling triggered or upset. For example, some people notice a tightness in their chest, jaw or forehead or pressure or pain in their stomach or heart area.

When you are unaware of your triggers, you may misattribute the source of the pain and experience negative feelings towards your partner, which will decrease the trust you have in the relationship. Dr. Gottman, renowned international couples researcher, found that failure to these issues decreases marital satisfaction and increases the likelihood of divorce.

Curiosity-Learn to be curious about the patterns, feelings and thoughts you or your partner have. For example, if your partner becomes angry every time you discuss money, then take the opportunity, when things are calm, to express curiosity about your partner’s thoughts and feelings about money. You could consider how money was handled and discussed in your partner’s family of origin how or if something happened recently that may have influenced this sensitivity (such as job loss or a bill that was a major expense).

Action-Now that you are becoming more aware and understanding what is creating the emotional trigger, you need to make a decision about how to handle it. You can continue to be reactive and get upset, but you have seen the consequences and impact that has on your life. You can make a new decision about how you want to handle the situation, such as the choice to take a break from the conversation and restart it after you calm down or the choice to go for a walk, write down your feelings, and see if that can help you process the situation in a different, more productive manner.

5 Ways Not To React To Your Emotional Triggers

Although the following actions are ineffective and will only escalate situations, you may find yourself resorting to them anyway when triggered:

  1. Yell Louder
  2. Interrupt Your Partner
  3. Bring Up Things From The Past And Remind Them Of All Their Mistake
  4. Leave The House, Disappear For A Day and Not Answer Your Phone
  5. Follow Your Partner Around From Room To Room or Text Them 100 times/hour

How To Stop An Argument In 1 Minute Or Less

  1. Apologize – When you say “I’m sorry,” usually that will stop the argument. Your apology should be sincere, but that’s usually possible since it takes two people to have an argument.
  2. Clarification – Ask your partner to help you understand his feelings/what’s being said. Usually when you ask for clarification and understanding, your partner will feel heard and cared about, creating an atmosphere for discussion.
  3. Validate – Find some point that your partner made that you can validate. At times, this may be difficult to do, but when your partner feels validated he will be more likely to hear your perspective.
  4. Listen and Summarize – You should stop talking and just listen to your partner. Then you can summarize what you heard them say and make sure you are understanding their opinion.
  5. Stay Calm – When you are calm you will be able to address your partner’s concerns. You might wonder when your partner will apologize, clarify, validate and listen to you. In a loving relationship, your perspective may need to wait until your partner is calmer and able to hear your side. This should happen within approximately a day; if that does not occur, you may want to seek therapy to work on your communication issues.

When you are in a relationship, you are bound to fight, but knowing how to stop an argument is vital to helping you get back on track. Discover your emotional triggers and learn how to more effectively cope with them.

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

How To Communicate With A Man That Won’t Communicate

Stuck In A One-Sided Relationship? Here’s How To Talk About It So Resentment Doesn’t Take Over

How To Discuss Relationship Problems Without Fighting

Why Do We Keep Having The Same Arguments?

How Often Do Couples Fight And Should You Be Concerned?


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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