Every relationship involves conflict. Relationships with family, friends, children (if we have any), coworkers, colleagues, and especially in romantic relationships. Specific events take place, tensions run high, emotions are elusive, and we can often end up saying and/or doing things we don’t necessarily mean. This will happen in relationships. Frequently.
It is important to remember that we cannot be our best selves one hundred percent of the time. It is important not to be too hard on yourself. You need to remember to give yourself some room to learn and grow. After an argument happens with your partner and the heated emotions fade, there can often be a lingering sense of anxiety. In situations like this people can often feel a mix of different emotions such as: guilt, unease, nervousness, injustice, hurt, betrayal. All of these feelings can begin to turn into an overwhelming sense of anxiety that can be all consuming.
During my work as a therapist, I came to the conclusion that anxiety is actually a misguided attempt at self care. We become anxious about things we feel are outside of our control, so our mind creates all of these wonderfully stressful thoughts. We end up putting our minds and bodies through the wringer as we explore these anxious thoughts. Some thoughts can often repeat over and over. Our mind creates these anxious thoughts because at the end of the day we need to be able to survive the worst, so our mind attempts to prepare us for the worst by creating these anxious thoughts. The issue with this is that (yes our minds are prepared for the worst), but the terrible ideas we imagine in our heads don’t actually end up happening. We have put ourselves through a mental gymnastic routine all for a situation that ended up working out just fine or never happening. This can prove to be especially true for the anxiety that is hanging in the air following a fight with your partner.
After an argument with your partner, we may have any number of anxious thoughts such as:
“I need to talk to him/her about this issue right now.”
“You need to come to a solution about this before the day is over.”
“I can’t go to bed angry, so we have to discuss this immediately.”
“How long will he/she/they be mad at me over this?”
“Will my partner leave me over what just happened?”
“Have I ruined things in our relationship?”
“I need to make things better right away!”
“We need to get over/through this and make up now.”
Some of these thoughts might be ringing a bell for you as you read this blog.
The following is a blue print for possible ways to handle this situation and key things you need to keep in mind if you are feeling anxious following a fight with your partner.
1. Check in with yourself. Identify that you are feeling anxious about what just happened. Become aware that you might be feeling pressured to resolve this issue right away. Say out loud to yourself (or loudly in your head if you are unable to talk to yourself in public) “I am feeling anxious about what just happened, and this anxiety is making me want to resolve things quickly in order to make things better.”
2. Ask yourself, “Is right now REALLY the best time to have a conversation with your partner about the argument that JUST happened?” Chances are – it’s not. You may be feeling anxious and feeling like you want to smooth things over. If you try to talk about an issue too soon after it has happened, you run the risk of making is much worse.
3. Before you rush to your partner to try to talk about things or make things right again, TAKE A TIME OUT. As childish as this may sound, it is one of the smartest things you can do in this situation. Your emotions are high, and the chances of having a deep conversation that turns out well are pretty slim at the moment. Physically remove yourself from being near your partner for the moment. Take walk outside, go play with the dog/cat, take a bath, or go check your email. These are just a few ideas of what to do during your “time out” before you try to resolve the conflict with your partner. Taking a breather is never a bad thing.
4. Realize that YOU are feeling anxious, and YOU are responsible for dealing with YOUR anxiety right now. Your motivation behind discussing/resolving this issue right now has directly to do with the anxiety you are feeling in this given moment. It is your responsibility to handle this anxiety. You need to get a handle on it BEFORE you discuss this issue with your partner.
What if your partner is pressing you to talk about this issue right now and you aren’t ready? Simply say, “I would really like to be able to talk to you about this, but I just can’t right now. I want our conversation to be able to go well, and I need to take some time to relax first. How about we talk about it after ………..?” If you are the partner that is feeling pressured to talk about it right now and your partner is not, consider saying “I am feeling anxious about this, and I am feeling pressured to try to resolve this right away. I get the impression now is not a good time to talk about what just happened. Please let me know when you’d like to talk about it”. Then either remove yourself from close prolixity of your partner, or leave your partner alone so they can take a time out.
5. Time to use your coping skills! Regulate your anxiety by doing any number of calming actives, take deep breaths, and remind yourself it is okay to wait to talk about what just happened.
6. Approach your partner AFTER you have fully calmed down and gathered your thoughts. Try asking them, “Is now a good time to talk about what just happened?” If they agree it is a good time to talk, sit down and begin talking calming about your point of view of the argument. If they do not say it is a good time to talk about it yet, respect their wishes. REMEMBER: It isn’t that they don’t want to talk to you about it. It is just that this isn’t the right time to talk about it and have it turn out in a positive way.
You may consider saying, “While I want to talk about it, respecting your space right now is more important. I trust that you will come to me when you are ready to talk.” Keep in mind that this may be tomorrow morning, not until the next evening, or even longer. If you go days and day without discussing the issue, then you may want to consult a professional.
7. Never forget: Couples therapy is here to help. Every relationship goes through hard times, and even the most intelligent people need help sometimes. Certain conversations can be difficult to discuss, and a therapist can help in facilitating continue positive relationship growth.
Hi, I'm Samuel Donath, therapist for couples and individuals at Love Heal Grow Counseling.
I help individuals and couples from all walks of life learn the skills to experience increased fulfillment in daily life, their relationships, and with their sexuality.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Samuel