1. Sit on a comfy couch if you want to negotiate.
A study published in 2010 by professors at MIT, Harvard, and Yale showed that when people sit on a “hard wooden chair,” they are more inflexible. But when they sit on a “soft cushioned chair,” they are more accommodating. This can lead to a faster and smoother resolution.
2. Start conversations with “I” instead of “you.”
“Saying ‘you’ starts the conversation off as an accusation,” New York-based individual and couples therapist Irina Firstein, LCSW, told BuzzFeed Life. “Always begin an important conversation with something like, ‘I have something that I wanted to share with you,’ to keep the other person from feeling defensive.”
3. Take an adult time-out, but with a set amount of time.
“The adult time-out is a crucial relationship skill that you should talk to your partner about beforehand,” psychotherapist, author, and host of VH1’s Couples Therapy Jenn Mann, Ph.D. (also known as Dr. Jenn), told BuzzFeed Life. “Make a commitment to each other that if things get too heated you’ll take a break.” To keep your partner from feeling like you’re storming out on them, give them an ETA on how much time you need. “I think it could be helpful to say something like, ‘I’m feeling really heated and would like to talk about this when I’m in a better place, so I’m going to take a five-minute walk.”
4. In an argument, put your hand on your heart.
“Sometimes I find that if you do that while looking at the other person, it can show that you’re coming from a loving place,” says Firstein. “It can really soften the mood.”
5. Work out or run together to release anger safely.
“Afterwards, ask them if they want to talk about what’s going on or how they’ve been feeling,” licensed therapist and relationship expert Rachel A. Sussman, LCSW, told BuzzFeed Life.
6. Hold hands before a big talk.
“Physical touch releases oxytocin — a pleasure hormone — in the brain,” couples therapist Lori Gottlieb told BuzzFeed Life. “You’d be amazed to see how hard it is to raise your voice at someone who’s holding your hand.”
7. Turn your feeling into a request.
“Instead of, ‘You always have your nose in your phone,’ try, ‘Why don’t we have a phone-free glass of wine together at 10 tonight?’” individual and couples therapist Jean Fitzpatrick, L.P., told BuzzFeed Life.
8. Don’t have a big discussion right before bed.
Because having a serious conversation that will keep you up all night thinking about it never helped anyone. “If you want to set aside time to talk with your partner, try something like: ‘Listen, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you. Can we spend a few minutes after dinner?’” says Fitzpatrick.
9. Wait a beat before responding to them.
“When you have strong feelings about something your partner has said or done, the first step is to have an inner dialogue with your feelings,” says Fitzpatrick. “That way, instead of just blowing up, you can consider how to express yourself calmly and constructively.”
10. Set ground rules for arguing.
Arguments will happen, but make a pact that you will fight fairly (and that might look different to each partner). “There should be no name-calling or threatening touching,” says Mann. And ask your partner if there are certain words or actions that they find especially triggering.
11. Ride out the negotiation phase of your relationship.
“The negotiation phase, which occurs right after the honeymoon phase, is a crucial time in the relationship during which you are determining how you define yourselves as a couple and how you handle conflict,” Mann says. Some couples might argue more during the negotiation phase, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is unhealthy. “Both people are trying to figure out how to meet their own needs while fulfilling the needs of the other person.”
12. Address them with a nickname.
“Using your partner’s full name can make you seem overly formal and cause more distance between you,” Gottlieb says. “Lower your voice and, if you’d like, use an affectionate nickname to show them that you care.”
13. Recognize the signs of when your fighting has become toxic…and don’t be afraid to get help.
If you’re arguing about the same issues with little growth or feeling shut down around your partner, consider couples therapy. “There are situations where one person wants to go to couples therapy and the other person will say, ‘But we’ve only been together for however many months!’” Mann says. “But most couples need to learn relationship skills and the earlier you can learn them, the better your relationship is likely to go.”
14. Use your feelings to make a change.
“Your feelings are important, but they are most useful when you recognize them as a signal,” says Fitzpatrick. “Everybody vents sometimes, but rather than just letting them out, let your feelings guide you to recognizing the relationship change you’d like to create.”
15. Don’t vent to friends about your partner until you have made some headway in the argument.
“Talking to your friends about an argument you’re having with your partner might just make you feel more rigid and angry,” says Gottlieb. “Vent to friends after the issue is somewhat resolved so you discuss it with some clarity.”
16. Try a few sessions of premarital therapy.
“I’ve had a lot of engaged couples in perfectly happy relationships come in to talk to me the way people used to go to priests and rabbis before getting married,” Gottlieb says. “We usually do 4 sessions that cover the topics of money, children, work, and conflict resolution.”
17. Encourage your partner to learn more about themselves.
“I think we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our partners to be the best that we can be in our relationships,” says Mann. “If we are struggling with an issue, we have to take responsibility for it and go to therapy.”