Part Two: Retreat and Think Things Over.

Take the High Road.

In my previous post, we learned what happens to our bodies in times of stress, how our brain releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and how this quickly begins to course through our bodies, increasing our heart rate and blood pressure.

In this post, I explain how to take the high road to de-escalate arguments and restore harmony in your marriage.

The technique I teach is straightforward in theory, but it takes work, time, and practice. Having some basic rules to fall back on in times of stress helps.

Rule #1

You, and only you, can apply this tool. You can not demand your partner follow suit and tell them it is time for them to retreat. This will only further stoke the coals and may result in a rip-snorting, roof-raising argument you are trying to avoid.

Rule #2

It is time to practice your agreed-upon ‘Rules of Governance’, covered in our mini-course. Whether you have just started dating or are 40 years into your marriage, this is a must for any couple.

The Rules of Governance are an agreed-upon set of rules you rely on in good and bad times. This is the perfect time to set an agreed-upon rule: if one person feels that the conversation is getting heated and they think they need to retreat, then the discussion is shelved; you take time to gather your thoughts, no questions asked.

Rule #3

Research shows that it takes 20 minutes to one hour before our bodies return to equilibrium after a stressful encounter. Give yourself time to calm down when you step away from the argument, but reassure your partner by giving them an approximate time frame when you will resume the conversation. This way, they do not feel abandoned; you are reassuring them that you know this is important to them, and you and they don’t feel abandoned.

Ensure you resume the conversation later and within an agreed-upon timeframe as opposed to the problem becoming permanently shelved.

There are a few ways you can approach this. Something as simple as:

 “Hon, I need to take some time to myself; I am not thinking straight and don’t want to say something I don’t mean.”


“Let’s shelve this conversation just for now. I want to discuss this; it is important, but give me a little time. I love you; we will work this out together.”

Offering reassurance that you care about their feelings and want to solve the issue helps your partner understand that you are not simply running away from the problem but doing the responsible thing and addressing it when you are in a better frame of mind.

Rule #4

Refrain from drinking or using illicit substances during your time out. This will only impair your ability to think effectively and will work against you because your partner may rightly think you are not taking the problem seriously if you are drunk or high.

Rule #5

Be mindful of who you speak with during your retreat time. Our instinct is to turn to those who will side with us during a heated argument. We all like to have our feelings validated, but this can work against us as it may impair our clarity of thought and push us firmly in a direction where we refuse to compromise.

We turn again to our Rules of Governance. Here, you may agree not to discuss problems within the relationship with others. Doing so may permanently change their view and color their opinion of the other person.

Here is one example:

Sam and Jeremy had been married for almost 15 years. Both couples got along famously with their in-laws. Sam and Jeremy both weathered the ups and downs of their relationship, but they never spoke ill of each other to family and friends.

One day, Jeremy was using Sam’s laptop as his computer was in the shop being repaired. He was sending an email when a message came in from a name he did not recognize. Without thinking, he clicked on the email only to find another man sending suggestive emails to his wife. He scrolled through the email chain and was devastated to discover his wife had sent the same to him.

Jeremy’s first instinct was to pick up the phone and call his parents. Understandably, he reached out to them, but unfortunately, this permanently changed how his parents viewed their daughter-in-law.

Ultimately, the couple reconciled, but Sam’s relationship with Jeremy’s parents was forever broken. Holidays became a point of contention, and no matter what Sam did and despite her now unwavering loyalty to her husband, Jeremy’s parents refused to trust her.  

Use Your Time Wisely.

When we disengage from an argument, we sometimes do not know what to do with ourselves. It is hard to think straight when you are fuming, angry, and emotionally upset.

So, what should you do? I suggest taking time for yourself and not involving others. Do something that helps calm you and distract you so that you can begin to gather your thoughts.

Some of my patients like to play a game on their iPads. Others prefer to spend time with a beloved pet who helps soothe them. I know one person who, when they need to step away, takes their dog for a walk. 

Once you can calm your nerves, think clearly, and your emotions have returned to normal, it is time to begin thinking about the issue.

Try using a technique called Self-Talk. This helps you change the internal conversations you have in your head from negative to positive, and you can put the problem into perspective without your emotions taking hold.

Try writing down topics you would like to discuss when you come back together. This way, you can think clearly and don’t have to worry about forgetting something important.

Arguments occur within every relationship; how we learn as a couple to overcome differences and make the necessary changes creates a harmonious relationship. 

Your relationship and bond with your partner will strengthen each time you use this technique as issues are aired and solved. Always remember, if in doubt, step away, gather your thoughts, and let cooler heads prevail.

To learn more about taking the high road and self talk, download our mini-course “Discover Harmony In Your Relationship: A Psychologist’s Guide To Conflict Resolution.” 

This mini course introduces you to the concept and principals of Verbal Aikido and its application in marital communication. Verbal Aikido empowers you to resolve marital conflict in a harmonious manner that fosters unity in your relationship. We then explore the importance of emotional connection and how modern day technology has entirely changed our communication methods. Finally, we learn about conflict igniters, what this is, how this behaviour leads to contention and disharmony and we teach you how to address these behaviours effectively and harmoniously to achieve resolution.

This course features the following:

  • Online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to anger and relationships
  • 4 professionally created videos that explain the concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • Downloadable PDFs containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure so that you can record and evaluate your progress through the program

If you would like to schedule and appointment with me, please click here