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How To Handle Constant Fighting?

Dear Jen,

My partner and I have been getting into a lot of fights the last couple of months. It’s so unusual, we usually get along really well. But I am very frustrated and at my wits end! It’s gotten so bad that I am thinking about leaving her, but I want to make sure I try everything I can to make it work first. Do you have any advice?


Too Much Fighting

Dear Too Much Fighting,

If you are at your wits end, might I suggest the two of you try couples counseling. That being said, some things that I would recommend are to take time outs while fighting. People believe that once an argument is started you have to stay in and stick it out until it is resolved. However, this is not how our brains work. Our brains need the time out. The other myth is that we should never go to bed angry. This can end up fairly harmful because, once again, your brain needs the time out in order to think more clearly. Let me explain.

When we get upset, whether it is from fear, frustration, hurt, or most especially anger, our bodies heat up. You might have heard the phrase that when we are angry, we see red. And when our bodies heat up, our brain goes into temperature regulation mode and takes functioning away from the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex governs our decision making skills, problem solving skills, several of our communication skills and our emotion regulation skills. In short, when we are upset, we literally can’t think straight. Now then, we are in the throws of Summertime and it has been HOT outside! Which means our prefrontal cortex is already not functioning optimally due to the brain trying to keep you from overheating and dying. It’s because of this, that we see an increase in arguments, an increase in domestic violence, an increase in assaults and even robberies in the Summer.

So don’t make any rash decisions during the summer. Instead focus on keeping your core temperature cool. Ice chips are great, frozen yogurt, cold showers or baths, and I usually suggest people start putting wet washcloths in freezer safe bags and freezing them. When you start to feel upset, pull the washcloths out, wet them just enough to get the crunch out and place them on your forehead or back of neck; these are two of your primary temperature regulation zones.

When you do take your time outs, cooling your core temperature down is the first step. Once you’ve achieved that, you can work on thinking through more of what you are trying to convey to your partner and try to have the discussion again. You may have to take a few time outs throughout the process. Hope that helps and you and your partner are able to work it out!



*Disclaimer: this is not meant to act as or replace therapy in any way. Questions sent in may be edited for de-identification purposes, length, and/or grammatic coherency.

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