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How can I keep an argument with my partner from getting out of control?

Dr. Mike Dow, PsyD
Addiction Medicine

If you and partner get caught in an argument, keep it under control with a tried-and-true technique for calming toddler tantrums. Get the how-to from addiction specialist Dr. Mike Dow by watching the video.


Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

If you find yourself in the midst of an argument, try to maintain control, and follow some rules for healthy fighting. Yes, fighting can be healthy. In fact, it can be an even bigger problem to never discuss the things you're unhappy with. So here's how you can keep an argument from getting out of control:

    • Don't let your anger simmer and boil over. Approach your partner about an issue before it becomes a major problem.
    • Don't use language that will make your partner feel attacked. This will automatically put them on the defensive. Instead, say, "I feel blank when blank," and confirm that your partner hears and understands you.
    • Take a moment to consider the root of your anger. Losing your temper over something small -- like the dirty dishes in the sink or your partner's workaholic tendencies -- may actually be indicative of a deeper issue.
    • Don't go off-topic. In the heat of the moment, you may feel tempted to throw out a laundry list of your partner's past offenses. This will only cause the fight to escalate, and it will soon become impossible to resolve the original issue.
    • Remember that you love each other. Remind yourself why you love each other. This will make the issues you're arguing about seem comparably smaller. 
    If you find yourself in the midst of an argument, try to maintain control, and follow some rules for healthy fighting. Yes, fighting can be healthy. In fact, it can be an even bigger problem to never discuss the things you're unhappy with. So here's how you can keep an argument from getting out of control:
    • Don't let your anger simmer and boil over. Approach your partner about an issue before it becomes a major problem.
    • Don't use language that will make your partner feel attacked. This will automatically put them on the defensive. Instead, say, "I feel blank when blank," and confirm that your partner hears and understands you.
    • Take a moment to consider the root of your anger. Losing your temper over something small -- like the dirty dishes in the sink or your partner's workaholic tendencies -- may actually be indicative of a deeper issue.
    • Don't go off-topic. In the heat of the moment, you may feel tempted to throw out a laundry list of your partner's past offenses. This will only cause the fight to escalate, and it will soon become impossible to resolve the original issue.
    • Remember that you love each other. Remind yourself why you love each other. This will make the issues you're arguing about seem comparably smaller.
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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.