NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, December 2, 2022

5 Tips For Reducing Emotional Reactivity and Arguments in Your Relationship - Part 1

Everyone has had the experience of getting triggered and overreacting to their partner at one time or another.  But when there's a pattern of emotional reactivity that leads to frequent arguments, these arguments can signal a serious problem that threatens the relationship. 

To save the relationship, each person needs to learn to be less emotionally reactive.  So, let's explore how you can reduce the emotional reactivity in your relationship (see my articles: The Challenge of Keeping Small Arguments From Becoming Big Conflicts in Your Relationship and Tips For Getting Along During the COVID-19 Crisis).

Reducing Emotional Reactivity in Your Relationship

What is Emotional Reactivity? 
Emotional reactivity is a tendency to have intense emotional reactions. Negative emotional reactions, like snapping at your partner, often occur because you feel triggered by something that was said or you're displacing your anger from another situation onto your partner. For instance, you have a problem with your boss and you come home and snap at your spouse.

What is Emotional Regulation?
Generally, emotional regulation refers to an ability to modulate your emotions to reduce reactivity.  

Reducing Emotional Reactivity in Your Relationship

For instance, instead of snapping at your spouse after you had a bad day at work, you take a moment to calm yourself first so that you don't displace your emotional reaction to the situation at work onto your spouse. One way to reduce reactivity so that you can regulate your emotions is through mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness? 
On the most basic level, mindfulness is a state of focusing your awareness on the present moment while accepting your feelings, thoughts and body sensations. It takes practice to achieve a state of mindfulness, especially if you tend to be emotionally reactive (see my articles: Being in the Present Moment and The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation).

5 Tips For Reducing Emotional Reactivity 
  1. Calm Yourself Before You React: Before you react, take a moment to breathe and calm your mind and your body. While you're calming yourself, use mindfulness techniques to become aware of what you're feeling, thinking and sensing in your body (see my articles: The Mind-Body Connection: Developing a Felt Sense For Your Internal Experience and Learning to Relax: Going on an Internal Retreat).
  2. Make an Agreement with Your Partner: The agreement is that neither of you will be emotionally reactive to the other, and if either of you feels like you're about to lose your temper, you'll take time to get calm. If this means that you take a break from the discussion to be alone for a short period of time, communicate this to your partner. If you're about to lose your temper, do something to calm yourself, like splashing cold water on your face.
  3. Tell Your Partner that You Want to Know What He or She Needs and Then Listen: Encourage your partner to tell you what s/he feels and what is needed from you. Listen carefully to what your partner is saying rather than focusing on your response (see my article: The Importance of Active Listening).
  4. Make an Effort to Understand What Your Partner is Trying to Communicate with You: Try to understand what's really being communicated beyond his or her angry tone and words.
  5. Don't Invalidate Your Partner's Experience When It's Your Turn to Respond: After you have listened to your partner's concerns and it's your turn to speak, don't invalidate or belittle your partner's concerns. Be respectful and, if you don't understand your partner's feelings, ask questions in a nonjudgmental way.
I'll provide a scenario in my next article to illustrate of what I've discussed in this article (see my article: Reducing Emotional Reactivity and Arguments in Your Relationship - Part 2.

Getting Help in Couple Therapy
Everyone needs help at some point.

If you've tried to change a reactive communication pattern in your relationship and you're been unable to do it, you and your partner could benefit from working with a couple therapist who can help you to understand and change the dynamics in your relationship (see my article: What is Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples?).

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.