For couples, quarantine can be anything but relaxing. The image of snuggling by a warm fire and completing crossword puzzles may be a reality for a small minority of couples, but for many of us it can be a pressure cooker.

The risk of COVID-19, fears or realities of economic distress, lack of normal coping patterns (such as other friendships, gym memberships, etc.), and increased time together can all place more strain on your closest relationships.

Getting through an argument together is fundamental to your sense of safety in crisis

Here’s why that’s so important: your closest relationship – your attachment relationship – is the largest resource you have for feeling safe in a chaotic world. When that relationship is off, so is your whole internal world. It’s hard to feel safe, to calm down, to plan, when we feel chaotic or disconnected from our closest and most trusted relationship.

So maybe you’re feeling that strain in your relationship right now, and it’s coming out as more frequent or more difficult arguments. You’re fighting more, things feel more on edge. You find each other unloading more emotion, then distancing and feeling cold.

Let’s walk through an argument in a good way that brings you closer together

Every argument is an opportunity to connect.

Why? Because anger, fear, sadness, these are attachment emotions. Beneath the argument is a hidden question:

  • “Do I matter?”
  • “Do you care about me?”
  • “Can you help me feel safe?”

At the end of a good argument, you’ll feel closer to answering these questions in a good way for each other. You’ll see your partner more clearly and find comfort in each other.

Now how to get there:

1. Follow along with this video

2. Sketch the healthy argument on a piece of paper

3. Talk together about where your argument derailed

4. Rehearse your argument using the healthy argument as a template

Here’s my notes from the video, outlining a healthy argument.

This way of co-regulating emotion together is adapted from Sue Johnson’s work with couples. Learn more about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

Connor McClenahan, PsyD
Connor McClenahan, PsyD

I help lawyers and other professionals overcome difficult emotional patterns