Grounding: The Antidote to Fights and Arguments

Woman facepalming at the end of her bed while her husband is sleeping.

Have you ever wondered how to keep your communication with your partner on track, even during heated arguments? The answer lies in a powerful technique called grounding. Let’s delve into what grounding is and how it can transform your relationship.

When you or your partner fights, you are most likely flooded. This is where your stress response is activated, and the only way out of this uncomfortable state is through grounding. If you are grounded, you are less likely to argue and fight. What is the antidote to flooding? Grounding. What is Grounding? Grounding is a set of simple strategies for calming down and regulating your nervous system. When faced with a perceived or real threat, emotional pain, or being overwhelmed, that can lead to flooding. It is the only way to get your body out of a fight or flight and stay present enough to talk and listen to your partner.

Why should you practice grounding? When you feel overwhelmed, you need a way to regain control over your emotions.  Grounding acts as an ‘anchor ‘, tethering you to the reality of the present moment. It empowers you to emotionally regulate your feelings, preventing them from becoming too overwhelming or numbing.  

How do we ground ourselves? So, how do you ground yourselves? There are three main types of grounding strategies: mental, physical, and emotional soothing.  ‘Mental’ grounding involves focusing your mind; ‘physical’ grounding is about engaging your senses (e.g. touch, hearing); and ’emotional soothing’ grounding is all about coaching yourself in a kind and compassionate way.  You might find that one type works better for you, or a combination of all three could be beneficial.

What are some examples of grounding strategies?


  • Box breath
  • Making kind statements to yourself
  • Petting your animal
  • Reading inspiring words or quotes
  • Finding a safe place
  • Running water over your hands
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Jumping jacks
  • Walking
  • Going to the gym
  • Eating something
  • Scanning the room for what you hear, see and feel, reading
  • Rating your mood
  • Using a journal

After you have developed your favorite grounding strategies, you and your partner can begin thinking about the following questions:

  1. What makes you feel flooded? 
  2. What can you do that soothes ground yourself? 
  3. What do I need to do to avoid becoming flooded? For example, get more sleep, unwind on the way home from work, drink less alcohol
  4. Can your partner do anything that soothes/grounds you when flooding occurs? Example:
    Partner (1) When I ask to take a break, please leave me alone; partner (2) when I need to talk, please return. Don’t yell at me, don’t tell me I look like my mother, don’t say we are over.

Now, practice your flooding dance steps with your partner. Think of this as a dance and steps you must learn. It will take practice, and you may step on each other’s feet a few times until you understand the dance.

I like to think of these as dance steps you and your partner can learn. At first, you may step on each other’s toes, so give yourself time to practice. In time, you will find much less conflict and fights.

The Dance Steps of Couples Flooding:


Step 1. Agree to take a break and stop interacting with each other when one or both of you are flooded. Remember, your brain cannot process information when you are flooded. I call this an adult time-out.

Can we take breaks? Make this an agreement with yourself and your partner that you can leave one another’s presence. This agreement must be kept with the understanding that if you keep interacting with each other while flooded, it leads to the four horsemen: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, which ultimately end relationships. You will only see these behaviours from someone when they are flooded. This is supported by research.

Step 2. Decide what you will say to each other to indicate that we must stop the conversation and take a break.

What signals/language can we develop to let the other know when one person feels flooded and needs a break? For example, I am flooded/ We need to take a break/ This is not going well/ I am flooded/Bananas, / If we keep talking, this will hurt us. I love you. We need space.

Step 3. Agree that you will come back after taking a break, that the issue will be addressed, and that you are not avoiding the issue.

How will we come back to deal with the issue? If you are the partner fleeing our shutdown, let your partner know you will be back in 30 -60 minutes. If you are the partner in the fight stance, you must let your partner take that break. For example, I am flooded and must stop before saying mean things. I will walk the dog and come back at 5:30 pm. We can try to talk about the bills again then. I love you, but I need to take a break. I will be in the bedroom and will come back in 1 hour. I will leave you alone. Can we come back at 6:00 pm and try again? I will get the groceries.

Step 4.  Go and ground yourself, bringing your body out of the fight/flight /freeze response

Develop a ritual to take at least a 20–30-minute break. Also, this must be a real break that calms you down and prevents you from thinking about things that maintain the distress. Do not keep the argument in your head with your partner not present. You must relax and calm down during the break. This required you to get your body out of fighting or flight. Ask yourself what your dream in this conflict is. What do you need? Examples: safety, belonging, love, peace, repairing old hurts, security, freedom, etc.

Step 5. Come back and check in to see if you and your partner are no longer flooded and can talk. If so, proceed to the repair. If one or both of you are still flooded. (Rinse and repeat, going back to step 1 and doing it all over again until you are relaxed) 

Also, we decided how we can meet daily, weekly, and monthly to discuss issues. Do I store things up?

These steps can help you control your biology and train your brain and body to be in a nervous state of arousal that allows you and your partner to communicate and manage conflict.