Relationship hack: remind each other you're still in love even during fights

November 9 | meganfinley
Aaron and me, demonstrating mad faces and tongue sticking outs.
When that guy I married and I get into fights we decided long ago to not forget that we love each other, even when we feel like killing each other. So we made a deal and came up with a little sign we could give each other that says "I'm mad at you, but don't forget I still love you." Here's what we do…

At some point during a fight, one of us will inevitably stick our tongue out at the other one, and then the other responds in kind. If it's a small fight, sometimes that's all we need to break it up, pull some levity into the situation, and (ironically) remind us to act like adults. If it's a big fight, it may not end it, but it definitely works to defuse heated arguing.

Because, it's seriously hard to continue feeling rage-y at your partner, or your roommate, or your sibling, when they use your secret symbol for "I love you" even when they're mad at you.

Anyone else with me on this? What's YOUR super secret "I love you even if I'm mad" sign?

  1. No secret symbol, but my husband and I both make a point of stopping to say "I love you" during any argument, or even when one of us is storming mad about something else. Part of our discussion on this was that when we're upset or mad at each other that's the most important time to express the sentiment and that saying "I love you" has the tendency to calm us down and start to work on resolving whatever's bothering us.

    Plus somehow hearing someone tell you they love you when they're telling you how mad they are at you? It just makes us feel that much more confident and secure in our relationship.

    8 agree
  2. I love this! This is awesome, Megan!! [sticks tongue out]

    3 agree
  3. My husband I tried this once at his request. He wanted me to hug in the middle of a fight. It didn't work out so well, because I've been abused in the past. So when we're fighting I just want to get away from him, not hug him…and if he tries to hug me I just want to punch him in the face. Too much close in an argument does not work for me. I think the tongue out is brilliant though!

    8 agree
    • Possibly touching/holding hands would be an another option, if you are comfortable with that.

      If it is the physical contact that your husbands is looking for, that might satisfy that without being as threatening feeling as a hug. It could range anywhere from holding hands while you're talking to just a brushing of hands when the tension needs defusing.

      3 agree
    • Miranda, I have that too. Not for the same reasons but I can't stand being touched when I'm angry. My husband always goes to hug me and I hate it, and then I get mad at him for being unable to talk to me without touching me, and he gets mad at me because he feels rejected and it turns into an awful vicious cycle thing. We might have to think of something like tongue sticking out.

      10 agree
    • My husband always wants to hold me when I'm upset, but when I'm upset with him it makes me angrier because he's so much bigger than me that it's really hard for me to continue to talk or to look him in the eye. Maybe I need to find other ways to give him the physical contact he needs without making be feel tiny.

      5 agree
      • I get that too. He always pulls my head into his chest and then I can't see him so I can't talk to him. Drives me mental.

        3 agree
        • I swear they do it so they won't have to look at us!

          5 agree
    • Yeah, if I'm pissed off and someone tries to touch me, I'm more likely to swing at them than anything else….Nice to know I'm not alone in that.
      This isn't something we use "during" a full on argument, but it's something we use to prevent them. We call it "The Huddle"
      If we're bickering and we feel like i's leading to a full on argument, or that the other person isn't paying attention…or anything really…either one can request a huddle. The rule of the huddle are simple:
      1. You must be touching (in a loving way) at all times until the huddle is broken. Typically I have my arms around my husband neck, and he has his around my waist…kind of like dancing in middle school
      2. The huddle is not broken until some sort of conclusion has been reached (yes this has led to some epically long huddles)
      3. To break the huddle you must say "Break", kiss and then let go.

      I realize this won't work for everyone, but it's damn effective for us. The key is to employ the huddle in the lead up to an argument when you're just super annoyed and not actually mad. It kind of heads the fight off at the pass. Plus, for reasons I am hard pressed to explain, it is much easier to actually listen to other person when you're touching…it makes everything clearer somehow.

      …Though we do stick our tongues out at each other quite a bit too. It's our way of saying "love you" silently. :)

      6 agree
  4. I love relationship hacks! We take a preventative approach to small fights because if I'm honest, my patience has a bit of a cliff-edge. We have a secret codeword that means 'I love you and I'm not mad at you *yet* — but if you don't knock [whatever] off quickly I will be'.

    Also, it has been agreed that all petty household disputes can be resolved with a light slap on the wrist of the offending party. It's hard to get wound up about who forgot to pay which bill afterwards.
    Those two things alone have massively reduced the disagreements we have. (The wristslap thing was actually invented by me and the lil sis as kids and it stopped us fighting completely)

    1 agrees
      • It really is about that random and arbitrary! Another advantage is that any public arguments are very short and incredibly confusing to onlookers.

        1 agrees
  5. We got a small cast iron bell and rang it during our wedding ceremony. Now it's the "truce bell" – to be wrung by either party during a dispute, to break the fight and be reminded of our wedding day. It's from a Celtic tradition, and it works! The louder the bell, the more jarring and comical!

    28 agree
    • i like this – we have a little bell that hangs on the lowest branch of the christmas tree (we stole the tradition from my Finnish sister-in-law – the idea is that Santa will 'accidentally' ring the bell when he leaves the presents – so the kids upstairs hear that he arrived).

      Anyway – this year i may keep it out on our bookshelves for this purpose!

      :)

      1 agrees
    • I like this idea a lot!! Do you have any links to this tradition? A quick google search didn't yield me anything, and I think I am not searching right. (My brain isn't working because I have been up about 20 hours lol). What an awesome idea though.

      0 agree
  6. In our household, we've learned that if both of us are grumpy+tired, mornings can be super destructive. It has led to more than one destructive argument because my hubby will start nit picking, and as I'm not a morning person, I just shrug him off. My brain doesn't process well that early in the morning. So when he started getting in one of his moods, and I felt the need to lash out, I put my foot down and told him we need to stop, because it is the morning and it never ends well. It worked out well :)

    1 agrees
    • Husband and I don't even talk in the mornings. When we get up on Saturday or Sunday, we might wave or wink at each other, but that's it. Until coffee is brewing and there's been an hour of out of bed time, we're not allowed to speak. It works beautifully.

      9 agree
      • It's a rule that I should not speak in the mornings until I've either had coffee or a shower. I am a completely irrational evil monster person when I first wake up and can not be trusted to not say evil things.

        My husband takes advantage of this opportunity to rise to the challenge of making me laugh. He smothers me in kisses and snuggles, manipulates stuffed animals, shrieks "zombie!" and runs from the room shooting his imaginary gun at me… until something eventually works.

        Sometimes just knowing when your partner is at their weakest/worst can help you to avoid tackling subjects that you know will lead to fights. My partner is awfully testy right after getting home for work… so I just listen to him until he gets it out of his system. Then I can bring up XYZ that I know might be a trigger.

        11 agree
      • I usually wake up about thirty or forty minutes before my husband on Saturdays (when we're both home). I stay in bed but read trashy celebrity gossip on my phone or browse pinterest. By the time he's awake one of us can make coffee and I feel mostly human enough to actually talk.

        0 agree
    • I feel like one of those "Hee-haw" clown horns would work as well….

      1 agrees
  7. Yes!
    In our bedroom there is a wall full of pictures of the two of us from the early days of our relationship when everything was sunshine and rainbows. There's a post card of our road trip to NY and a family picture with a sign next to it that says, "What's worth fighting for". So whenever things get bad, one of us will pull the other into the room to look at it. It always works! It's like look. We are happy together! Whatever we're fighting about doesn't matter. Let's just figure it out and move on, because we want to be like those kids in our pictures. We want to be in love and carefree, not upset because our house is dirty!!! <3
    Sometimes I get mad at my husband when he does this, I call it his dirty trick! But it always makes me laugh! Sometimes you just need a reminder that you actually love the person you're fighting with!

    6 agree
  8. So, I'm going to try to post without turning this into a tome. One of the things I do at work is teach people how to communicate when they are under stress. ("The airplane is going to crash" stress, not "he never does the dishes" stress.)

    When people are under stress (mental, physical, or emotional) their ability to do high-level thinking drops. This includes being able to see things from the other side, impulse control, and cogently articulate a complex idea. That's why it's so easy to say something hurtful you regret after you've calmed down.

    So this "fight hack" is a great idea. Not just as a reminder that you love each other, but it hits a pause button that allows the emotional stress to drop to safer levels. It lets everyone get a clearer head.

    I could keep going, but this is a comments section and I don't want to hijack it with a re-enactment of my last powerpoint. XD

    19 agree
  9. I love this. My friend's marriage counselor recommended that she and her husband make a rule that they hold hands while arguing to remember they are on the same team. I think this is so smart, but I haven't implemented it in my life because it isn't easy with my pride.
    The tongue out drawing attention to the immaturity would help me, I think.

    2 agree
  10. It's all about the nonverbals. When I'm upset, anything I say comes out sounding either mad as hell or REALLY sarcastic. And I hate it when "I love you" sounds like sarcasm.

    12 agree
    • Yes, I don't like my husband to say "I love you" when we are fighting because something about the tone is wrong…and there is this implied "but." Kind of like when somebody who isn't sorry says "I'm sorry." Nonverbals work better for me.

      7 agree
  11. My husband and I have a cue. We say "Muaaa".
    When we were dating we chatted a lot, so we would send each other kisses :* and write Muaaa, which is the Spanish onomatopoeia for kissing. That evolved into actually saying Muaaa in person to each other. We say it a lot to each other throughout the day as a reminder that we love each other. When we are stressed at work, or having a rough day or not very patient or working out an issue, we will also use it. It works.

    4 agree
    • Hah. We say "Roo." Because when our dog says I love you it comes out "arooroo."

      4 agree
    • My boyfriend and I have a code that we use when one or both of us is upset, angry, or needing reassurance. We say "moo moo." It came about after he misheard me say "love you" once years ago. Now it's our secret code and it's so damn cute it always works.

      1 agrees
    • The lady and I say 'Dried pepper' to cool off and admit we have realized the fight has reached silly. It started after a fight at work where she tossed a dry chile pepper onto my register to apologize. This works really well for the little nit-picky fights that start for no reason.

      0 agree
  12. A few months ago my boyfriend and I got into a HUGE fight. A screaming, yelling, swearing, crying fight. After about an hour, I just couldn't stand it any more and I started screaming "I love that you make me laugh! I love the way you smell! I love that I can tell you anything! I love it when you kiss me in my sleep" and before I knew it we were ripping our clothes off and having sex on the kitchen floor. So. I can vouch for this method.

    22 agree
    • So, I guess I've never heard you speak before this. That was weird.

      And i love the song.

      1 agrees
      • I don't know that I'd say that video is representative. This one from an early 2010 book reading may be more so: http://fora.tv/2010/04/16/Ariel_Meadow_Stallings_Offbeat_Bride

        (Side note: Jeez, I hadn't watched that video since it published, and omg I was SO POSTPARTUM, complete with my extremely classy nursing tank. It's like you can see the breastmilk oozing out of my pores.)

        1 agrees
    • My husband and I sing your appreciation song (with a bit of our own twist) to each other all the time. Thanks so much for posting it!

      2 agree
  13. Oh my goodness this article is awesome. My fiancé and I have a few gestures we do just to signify love: blinking with two eyes (bc I used to blink like that until someone actually taught me how) and making a little heart shape with my hands and looking at him through it (bc its adorable).

    0 agree
  14. I think all this stuff is brilliant & really good for people in a healthy relationship, but I also study & spend time with people navigating abusive relationships and domestic violence. Sometimes an abusive partner will "pull the love card" as a power move over the abused partner, which can be a dangerous thing, not like, a happy silly good way to break tension in a fight.

    The cycle of violence (google it for more info) includes a honeymoon period after an "explosion" (which can be a verbal or physical fight, or something like taking away a partner's keys or phone, etc). The honeymoon phase often gives way to more rising/escalating behaviors until the next explosion, which is often worse that the one before it.

    I'm not bringing this up to be a buzzkill- I just think it's important to note that saying (or hearing) "I love you" in the middle of a fight isn't always a good tool that couples use to build a more positive relationship, but can be a measure by which one partner exercises control on the other partner.

    10 agree
  15. We have a code word, and speaking the word means we have to kiss each other (even if it's a little one) – the agreement is that NOT kissing when that word is spoken means "I want a divorce" (i.e. there is no saying no to it, regardless of scale of fight or if the fighting continues afterwards).

    We also use it day-to-day in a cutesy way so it's not just for fighting. It's worked perfectly for us and our relationship. (as the word is "kiss" in a different language, and also reminds us of a lovely trip to another country)

    Simple, effective, and fun all the time! It also works for us because sometimes you're too mad, and it's a non-verbal "I love you" that is sometimes easier. If I'm super mad I might give a sideways tiny kiss, and he always responds with "Once more, like you mean it!" and it's almost always enough to break the tension. :)

    3 agree
  16. My husband and I touch feet. Even if we are still a little angry and sore after a fight (especially in the middle of the night), we will touch feet under the covers, or across the couch, or what have you.

    10 agree
  17. We decided early on that we would do our best to only argue using Phil Collins lyrics. While we haven't been able to really put that into practice during fights, every time we think about it we remember that we've acknowledged the fact that fights will happen but we still love each other.

    4 agree
  18. Sometimes when we are having a smaller argument, my husband will say, "RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!" or "FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!" and it is silly enough to make me step back for a second and realize that we are probably arguing more because we are tired or somesuch than because we are truly upset.

    We also established early on in the relationship that we might not always like each other, but we will always love each other.

    3 agree
  19. How important it is for couples to understand that there will be times that they don't like each other and that it doesn't need to impact on their love. Sometimes I don't like my kids either – and they don't like me but I will always love them. That's how it is in relationships.

    0 agree
    • I believe it was the great sage, Billy Joel, who said, "You can love somebody, and love them forever, but you won't like them every day."

      5 agree
  20. My husband and I always use "time outs" in fights – either of us can call a time out at anytime, and we just drop the subject and come back to it later, whether that's in 10 minutes or in a couple days. It's really helped us to diffuse tension, and its easier to recognize that we were fighting because we were tired or hungry or whatever if we've had a break from the conflict. And if its a real issue, it'll keep, and we come back to it later with much clearer heads :)

    0 agree
    • We use the time-out policy as well. Vast majority of the time it only takes a couple of minutes for me to have the irresistible urge to walk back into the room and begin the new convo with "I don't want to fight with you"
      It snaps both of us back into the present and stops the fight instantly

      0 agree
  21. We call each other "poo" or "poohead" as in "You're a poohead!" "No, YOU'RE a poohead!"

    We're adults.

    4 agree
  22. When my girlfriend and I fight, we have a habit of holding pinkies–we may be angry with each other, but the little, loving physical contact seems to make us make up super quick.

    1 agrees
  23. We have our wedding contract hanging on our living room wall as a reminder of our love for each other and our commitment to not be asshats. Darn difficult to argue about little stuff in front of our own vows.

    Husband and I also have the silly tradition of holding our noses when we are particularly cranky or realize that we're in a crappy/irritable mood. We have found that it is impossible not to smile when you've made a fist over your own schnoz. If neither one of us is feeling particularly self-aware, the spouse may initiate the nose holding for the other person. It is stupid, but initiates some levity and physical contact into our squabbles.

    1 agrees
    • Ass hats? Definitely don't want to be one of those :)

      0 agree
  24. My boyfriend and I say the word, 'Bubbles,' because it's rather difficult, if not impossible, to say 'bubbles' in an angry tone. It brings us back to reality and helps us cool off.

    2 agree

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