Firstly, identify triggers in the relationship. Triggers can include: how to raise children, in-laws, differences in spirituality, or more commonly, money matters. If you know something is a trigger in your relationship (i.e., you have argued over this before), pick your timing to discuss it carefully. Generally speaking, at night when you’re both tired, is not a good time, nor is it good timing to be having a disagreement and then bring up a triggering subject. Also, when alcohol or other drugs are flowing, this bodes badly for venturing into a trigger area. Sometimes, discussing a trigger issue is more successful out in public — say, over coffee or a meal. The most important thing to remember is that when emotions are high, discussion success is low!
Secondly, should voices become raised and emotions begin to rise, the best way to avoid angry outbursts and possible physical reactions is to table the discussion for a later time. Sometimes a partner needs to leave the area, whether it be home, a car, or a public place. This, of course, must be done respectfully, calmly, and safely. Jumping up and leaving your partner, without a word, is not okay as they will likely feel disrespected, abandoned, and frustrated. It is best to let your partner know you are becoming upset, and although this discussion is very important to you, it is best you take a break and come back to it later. Let your partner know when you will discuss it again so they don’t feel you are just avoiding the topic.
If it is impossible for you to find some space — say you are on a long car trip and can’t stop — try some deep breathing exercises or visualization (if you aren’t the driver). Take your mind to somewhere you love (the beach, on a sailboat, a field of flowers, the mountains) and imagine the sounds, smells and touch of the breeze, sand, lapping waves. It is hard to be angry when you are in your calm place. Try to think of a time when you and your partner were very happy — when you first met or when your first child was born or a recent birthday party. It is important to get your mind off the trigger for awhile until calmer heads prevail and emotions have died down. Avoid alcohol, drugs, and caffeine while you are ramped up, and if possible, suggest a rest stop or scenic pull off so you can hike around to clear your head(s).
Some find music soothing or reading a good book, or walking/petting your dog/cat good ways to calm down. Talking to a good friend, exercising, watching a comedy, or doing something for another person are other ways to get yourself back to emotional balance. It is not recommended that you jump right back into the discussion, however, when you are calm. Some time and distance from the trigger subject is best and can be decided upon ahead of time or possibly, agreed upon by both partners after the discussion headed south.