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Still my Valentine?: How to Diffuse Conflict with your Partner

 Article by Total Therapy. Full article can be found at

It’s that time of year again. Love is in the air… But shouldn’t everyday be Valentines day? Steve Baik (MCC, RCC) – Clinical Counselling / Stress & Lifestyle Management, gives us two tips this week on how to diffuse conflict with your partner.

Steve is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (R.C.C.) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. He has a B.A. in Psychology from Simon Fraser University and a Master of Counselling Psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology, Vancouver.

“I enjoy getting out and experiencing the natural beauty of BC. I stay healthy with running, swimming, snowboarding and going to the gym.” – Steve

“Be my Valentine…”

Yes, love begins with emotion that is sweeter than chocolate and fuzzier than rose petals. Similarities prove how you and your partner are a perfect match, and differences create excitement in your romantic relationship. Unfortunately, the same similarities often turn your repeated daily routine into boredom, and the differences become triggers for arguments over time for many couples. When anger steps in, it is difficult for us to think clearly, and we end up saying things we regret. Here are two tips that will help you diffuse conflict with your partner.

  1.   Take a Time-Out.

A Time-Out is used when one person is too upset to continue the conversation or when the conversation turns into a screaming match. It can be very effective if it is used correctly. Both partners need to plan procedures and rules for a Time-Out ahead of time. The purpose of using a Time-Out is to stop the escalation of emotion and allow both partners to calm themselves down to regain their sense of control. Therefore, it is important for both partners to agree on the goal of using a Time-Out and to talk about what they will do during the cool-down period. A Time-Out starts with a statement (not a question or threat) like, “I understand that we need to talk about this issue, but I am too upset right now. I need a Time-Out.” Your partner must agree with the length of the Time-Out and the place to reconvene. Usually 20 to 40 minutes are enough for us to physiologically calm down, but the duration can be adjusted according to the couple’s preference. The length of a Time Out should be less than 24 hours. The rules you decide upon for your Time Out must be strictly followed, and both partners need to come back and finish discussing the issue to find a solution.

  1.    Say goodbye to assumptions.

Humans are created to be very efficient. Our brain uses selective attention to filter out unnecessary information, and uses grouping to store and retrieve useful information efficiently. Assumptions are another tool we use to reduce the amount of information we need to exchange with others to carry out tasks. However, it does not guarantee 100% accuracy as it is created on our very personalized understanding of self, others and issues. Making incorrect assumptions on what other people would think, feel and/or do can yield disappointment for both partners. A simple way of preventing this disappointment is minimizing assumptions. Express your feelings and thoughts. Ask and check your partner’s opinion. Try to learn each other’s history and understand the differences between you and your partner. You will be surprised to find out how incorrect your assumptions were.

Two tips above may seem simple, but putting them into an action may not be so easy. Love (romantic relationship) is an extremely complicated relationship where two lives with differences created over decades meet. It is a life-long process of learning and adjusting, and qualified professionals such as counsellors can help you understand this process a bit easier. Stop living a life in a battlefield. Start living a life where every tomorrow is another Valentine’s Day.