How To Self-Soothe Together

This little writeup is from John Gottman’s Marriage Minute email list. A great and concise piece on how to soothe your partner and yourself in the middle of an argument. Being able to stop and take the time to soothe oneself and your partner during a heated argument can make all the difference between having a productive discussion and one that quickly goes off the rails with somebody potentially storming out of the room or the relationship.

Knowing when to take a break and learning how to self-soothe will open the door to empathy, understanding, and positivity. It takes practice, but it’s totally worth it. 

When you are in conflict and you check out, check in with yourself. You may be feeling flooded. Flooding has a number of indicators, including increased heart rate, irregular breathing, and fight-or-flight response. 

If you’re feeling flooded, communicate this to your partner and take a break from the conflict. Practice doing an activity that calms you for at least twenty minutes. This could be something like reading a book, going for a walk, or listening to music.

Self-soothing is essential to conflict management. As you work to self-soothe, consider what can help your partner as well.

What calms them down? A long hug? Saying something kind and gentle such as, “I hear you”? Or do they just need you to listen for a while? If you’re not sure, ask them. “What can I do to soothe you?” Their answer may hold the key to successful repair attempts, better conflict management, and a stronger emotional bond.

You can course-correct an argument that gets too heated by regulating your own response and you can make repairs by soothing your partner as well.

Once you’ve self-soothed together or apart, you can both return to the conversation with a level head.

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About Ron Lafleur

I am a counsellor in private practice specializing in couples therapy.

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