Can Knowing Your (And Your Partner’s) Cool Down Style Make A Difference When You Fight?
Most couples get angry sometimes. How do you cool down? And what are your needs around cooling down? Does it really matter?
Find out with Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com and Reid Mihalko from http://www.ReidAboutSex.com.
Cathy: How do you cool down when you fight? There’s actually something called cool down styles and …
Reid: Fuck this.
Cathy: That’s Reid Mihalco from http://www.ReidAboutSex.com and he actually has an article on this on his website. I’m Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com
Reid: Thank you for letting me just take a walk around the block and just clear my head. I’m sorry I got upset and I just needed to leave and get some space and some distance and thank you for that. I’m much better now.
Cathy: Well I cool down by connecting, so is it okay if I put my arm on you right now?
Cathy: If you know your partner’s cool down style, he’s pretending, we’re actually not mad. He’s a good actor. If you know your partner’s cool down style and your own cool down styles ahead of time that can make a huge difference. I’ve had partners that want to get up and have space. Since I have like fear of abandonment, if I’m mad then I feel like they’ve left. It’s like oh, I like to stay connected to cool down. If you know how your partner cools down, that can make a huge difference.
Reid: Your cool down styles may differ, like with your family you might need to like go not for a walk around the block but for a drive.
Cathy: Or move to China or something.
Reid: Or move to China. Then for your intimate relationships your cool down styles or the other person’s cool down styles may shift too, so it’s not that your cool down styles are the same for every relationship but understanding that if you have a partner who needs to go for a walk and get some space, or have some alone time as a means of cooling down so that they can come back and you can have a rational conversation, knowing that about them can be really helpful because as they leave you when they’re angry, you’re like, you have a different context. You’re like oh, thank you so much for taking care of yourself. I’ll see you when you get back and they’re like, yes, you know, but they say yes like that because they’re freaking pissed off.
Cathy: Right, or if the person can say, or if both people are upset, the person that needs to take the walk says, I need to go cool down, I’ll be back, that can really reassure someone who might be triggered by someone leaving.
Reid: The same thing for the people who’s cool down style is to remain connected. If you both have similar cool down styles, everything’s fine. You’re having a fight, you both stayed there and you’d be angry together in a way that hopefully calms you both down and then you’re fine. It’s when I need you to not leave because what I’m trying to show you is that I’m not going to bail even when I’m angry, for somebody who needs their space feels really clingy and claustrophobic.
Just being able to name your cool down styles in the moment when you’re triggered can be really helpful and you might want to be silly or something and make a little laminated card on the fridge that says your cool down style and their cool down style so when you’re having a fight somebody just gets the card and just holds it so that you’re reminded of what your cool down styles are in the moment. It’s when you’re triggered that it’s the hardest and you’re going to have good days where you’re like super ninja communicator and you have the card or you speak it and then you’re going to have days when you’re not and then the situation just escalates and the way that I like to teach people is whenever the shit hits the fan, whoever remembers to unplug the fan first is helping the situation. It doesn’t matter who does it, because you’re going to have good days and bad days, but who can help remember what the cool down styles are and unplug the fan rather than being like oh, that’s your bucket of shit you’re going to put on the fan huh, well hang on. I’ve been saving this bucket for years.
Cathy: People start bringing in things from like five years ago.
Reid: Yeah, and that doesn’t help.
Cathy: Right. One of the things, I love that, you taught me this, you said that you have Alison when you’re having an intense discussion and we even do it for business stuff, is you just keeping in contact a little bit. So like if we’re like no, we don’t want to do that, like it’s just so we care about each other.
Reid: Something that works really well for when I coach people who are really mad at each other is I have them sit on opposite sides of the coach, but they have a foot touching. Like they just kind of put their legs out, which can be interesting because I’m pushing you away with my leg which is usually a very strong muscle and we’re still connected. Then the being present to being connected can work really well as a means but if somebody, their true cool down style is they need a moment to cool down, give them that moment or whatever their style is because what you want is you want their blood chemistry to return to normal, which is usually a 15 to 20 minute process. The British built it into their culture. People get surprised, freak me out, we’ll make tea. The time, if you actually time it, the time it takes to boil a pot of water, make tea and drink most of it is about 20 minutes. I don’t know if British culture knew that, but I just think that that’s clever.
Cathy: Well and also drinking something warm or that like warm liquid or some food can help your survival brain feel like it’s not under direct attack.
Reid: Yeah, and there’s something I learned from Cathy, is when you’re super triggered, start sipping water.
Cathy: Either something cold or something warm usually helps your brain get it.
Reid: Yeah, because if you’re sipping water, you’re telling your brain it’s not being chased by a wild animal because most people are not, when they’re being chased by a saber tooth tiger, they’re not sipping a cool refreshing beverage while they’re running.
Reid: These are little hacks, but the context and being able to communicate those contexts and self-awareness, that’s the key. What are your cool down styles?
Cathy: We hope this helped.
More articles on improving your communication and relationship skills: