In most relationships, emotions can get real hot real quick. We say something hurtful. Our partner hurls a hurtful attack back. And on it goes. Not only feelings get hurt, but relationships are hurt and foundational trust is ruptured.
A quick, basic strategy to stop hemorrhaging, buy time, and not make things worse, is to establish a safe word. This is a word you say to signifying that you are hitting pause, taking space, and interrupting the hurt spiral. The word can be anything. I had one couple who said "muskrat." It’s hilarious, and because it’s hilarious, it helped diffuse hot conflicts. Hard to yell and laugh at the same time.But lately, I have been a fan of using "ouch" as the diffusing word. It’s a little more accurate, a little more vulnerable and true (often anger is a secondary emotion to hurt), and it can soften the interaction.
From that point, take an hour and reassess. If you're still too heated to talk, say so. "Hey, im not ready. This is important, but I’m still to heated to communicate effectively. Lets check back in in an hour." That second part is important because often one person can feel anxious or abandoned by the space. Or couples can hit pause and not return to the conflict which only leads to festering, undealt-with, emotions. This strategy should be agreed upon ahead of time so that both parties can agree upon the words and the terms and what the intention is behind hitting pause. This may need some experimentation and tweaking as you go, but is worth a try to start to help you get unstuck from ineffective and hurtful communication patterns.
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