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How to Break the Ice When Arguing With Your Spouse

by Alizah Scherr, studioD

Unfortunately, it can be easy to find yourself involved in a nasty argument with your spouse. If it seems to you that fights are just an unavoidable part of the relationship process, then you would be right. Numerous psychologists and conflict theorists agree. However, what led up to the argument is far less important than how you end it. There are ways to break the ice with your partner during an argument that will not only help to stop the fight itself but may ultimately lead to future positive changes within the relationship.

Make a lighthearted joke to ease the tension and break the ice during an argument. Do not use sarcasm that may be misconstrued as a further attack, but rather comment on the argument itself and aim the joke at your own reactions to it. A phrase such as "Yikes, we kind of sound like animals here; I'm worried our neighbors will call the ASPCA!" will help bring humor to the situation and show your spouse that the two of you possibly need time to cool down.

Remove yourself from the argument itself and give both parties some time to cool down. Escalation within conflicts reduces the ability of both parties involved to clearly understand and grasp what the actual argument is even about, as was found in a study published in 2006 in the "Journal of Family Violence." Removing yourself from the conflict will allow you and your spouse to ultimately be able to communicate better.

Apologize to your spouse for the way you acted during the argument, including any demeanor, temper or words said that you regret. Let your partner know that anything said during the argument might have simply been due to anger. It is important to show that you recognize your own behavior as being wrong. This will help break the ice and give your spouse the opportunity to apologize for his or her behavior as well.

Validate your spouse's feelings. Explain that you realize that your spouse was angry, sad or defensive, and that you also felt that way. This kind of validation is important because it will help facilitate forgiveness from your spouse. In fact, a study published in 2008 in the "Journal of Research in Personality" found that greater perspective-taking among couples after a disagreement or argument led to higher levels of forgiveness.

Apologize for your spouse's hurt feelings due to the argument. Point out the irony that the person who is supposed to provide your spouse with the most positive feelings in the world has actually caused the opposite to happen. Not only will this show that you still care, but it will bring some lighthearted humor and wit to the situation and help in breaking the ice.

Explain to your spouse that whatever issue actually caused the argument, it must be problematic enough to have caused such a big to-do. Let your spouse know that you want to discuss this issue, but not at the moment. Come up with a future time when the two of you will discuss it further. This will give you both time to think things through so that you are more prepared when speaking about the initial issue.

Tell your spouse how much you love him or her. Ending the conversation on this positive note will help your spouse feel slightly better about the situation. This ice-breaking technique will help your partner feel less defensive and have better overall feelings about you.


  • If at any time any physical violence happens within the fight, do not attempt to make amends. Get the necessary help needed. Domestic violence is a serious issue and should not be tolerated.

About the Author

Alizah Scherr has worked as a professional school counselor in a public school system for more than five years. She has a master's degree in education and is certified as a counselor.

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