Couples researcher extraordinaire, Dr. John Gottman, has found that "one predictor of relationship quality and stability is a couple's physiology when discussing a conflict." When we feel emotionally threatened, which we often do when in conflict with our partner, our heart rate surges and our adrenaline and blood pressure rise. This brings our attention to what we perceive as signals of danger, making it virtually impossible to feel empathy or problem solve.
When this happens, the best course of action is to pause -- and calm ourselves down. Taking at least a twenty minute break to relax our nervous and cardiovascular systems so they have the time they need to physiologically come back into balance.
Focusing on deepening breathing, releasing muscle tension, and calming thoughts are keys ways to soothe ourselves. This can also be a good time to turn inward and be self reflective. As our mentors Marcia & Brian Gleason say, ask ourselves what is happening inside -- how this upset with our partners is touching one of our particular sensitivities. What it reminds us of in past relationships.
When we get away from blaming our partners, have compassion for ourselves, invoke our positive will and move toward self responsibility by owning our part in a conflict, we give our partner a reason to find their empathy.