6 phrases for de-escalating conflict in your relationship, explained by psychologists (and #2 will stop you from losing your cool)

Use these expert tips to repair with your partner

A happy couple with their arms round each other as the man kisses the woman on the cheek
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Psychologists say six types of phrases are heard in the most successful relationships, and they can help avoid conflict when discussions become heated.

The movies might make it look easy, but relationships are hard to maintain and, if you've got children, you might find you don't have as much time to spend on connecting with your partner as you'd like. It's natural for your relationship to change after having a baby - you might feel like you've gone off sex, while others may start to feel more easily irritated by your partner. However this change manifests, it's likely that you're looking for ways to spice up your relationship.

And you don't have to be spending time between the sheets to do that. Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman are psychologists and relationship experts, and they've been married for 35 years - so they know a thing or two about staying together. In a recent article for CNBC, they outlined six categories of phrases that happy couples use when conflict arises - and added that it's something "anyone can learn to do".

We've outlined the Gottmans' tried-and-true phrases below - all of which have come from years of observation of over 30,000 couples...

6 phrases for de-escalating conflict

1. I feel

Use 'I feel' phrases when you need help expressing your emotions in the moment.


  • “I feel blamed. Can you rephrase that?”
  • “I feel like you don’t understand me right now.”
  • “That hurt my feelings.”

2. I need to calm down

Use 'I need to calm down' phrases when you start feeling flooded and/or need a moment of repair.


  • “Can I take that back?”
  • “Can I have a hug?”
  • “I need your support right now.”

3. I'm sorry

Use the words 'I'm sorry' when you need help phrasing an apology.


  • “How can I make things better?”
  • “I want to be gentler to you right now and I don’t know how.”
  • “My reactions were too extreme. I’m sorry.”

A couple looking stressed talking to each other while sat on a sofa

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Stop action

Use 'stop action' phrase when you are flooded and need a break.


  • “Give me a moment. I’ll be back.”
  • “Let’s agree to disagree here.”
  • “I’m feeling flooded. Can we take a break and talk about something else for a bit?”

5. Getting to yes

Use 'getting to yes' phrases when you want to validate your partner or meet them halfway.


  • “I agree with part of what you’re saying.”
  • “Let’s compromise here.”
  • “I never thought of things that way.”

6. I appreciate

Use 'I appreciate' phrases when you want to make a repair and add positivity.


  • “I love you.”
  • “One thing I admire about you is...”
  • “I understand.”

Just like it's important to have a list of questions to ask your partner for a relationship check in, having a list of ways to de-escalate conflict can help you to build a healthier relationship and tackle the early signs of divorce.

By using these six types of phrases, you and your partner can repair with each other when it all gets a bit much, and get your relationship back on track.

For more relationship news, we've looked into the signs your boyfriend might be cheating and 12 reasons why relationships break down. And does your relationship pass the 'Beckham Test'? The viral trend is taking TikTok by storm, so how does your partner compare to the world-famous footballer?

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.