What is self soothing and why it is so important for myself and my relationship 

The ability to self soothe is one of the most important skills one can learn. I had such a hard time learning to self soothe; in fact in periods of high stress I still struggle with soothing my own emotions and I know I am not alone. Emotional regulation is one of biggest challenges I see in clients in couples therapy. The thing is self soothing is such an important skill for healthy relationships that it is imperative we learn it. For man of us this is a hard skill learn. Some of us have been fortunate enough, we were taught this skill in childhood; others struggle relentlessly to maintain a state of emotional stability.  

The thing about emotional stability is that we taught to believe an emotionally stable person experiences and expresses little to no emotion (especially the “negative” emotions such as sadness, anger, fear). The reality is an emotionally stable person is able to feel different emotions, sit in them, soothe themselves and allow these emotions to pass.  You can imagine why this is an extremely important skill to have in a relationship. Let’s face it, we love our partners but they can do and say things that allow for us to experience big emotions and vice versa. Have you ever yelled at your partner? stormed away? called them a name? Swore at them? If you have, it means you’re human. We have all had our feelings hurt by something our partner has said or done at one time or another. 

Self soothing is the ability to calm yourself down and move through difficult emotions. For example when we are experiencing rage or anxiety, self soothing is the ability to acknowledge what we are feeling, allow space for that feeling through empathy and compassion and fine a way to move through that feeling. This may be by going for a walk, doing exercise, reading, taking a bath or a shower. You get to find what works for you.  

Part of self soothing is being able to walk away from a conversation when you know either yourself or your partner is emotionally elevated. It is the height of maturity to be able to take a break in a heated conversation and come back to the conversation when you are both in a calm space.  

These breaks have been a game changer for many of my couples and allowed for more civilized, loving conflicts. When we are emotionally flooded or overwhelmed this is when conflicts get heated, we say things we don’t mean to say, we criticize, we get defensive, we show contempt and often we walk away without resolve. Every time we allow for hurtful, critical conflicts we put tiny walls in our relationship and connection.

It is your responsibility to take a break for yourself when you are feeling an overwhelming emotion. Because it is in those moments we tend to say and do things that we would otherwise not say or do if we were not emotionally flooded or overwhelmed.

Ways to practice self soothing. 

There are multiple ways to practice self soothing, some will work well for us and others not so much. It is your job as an adult to find the tools that work best for you. Don’t be alarmed if over time you need to develop new ways of self soothing dependent on the situation and your life experience. One of the best self soothing techniques is breathing or mindfulness. Here is a link to a mindfulness meditation that may be helpful if you are looking to practice this skill.


A good couples therapist can help you and your partner learn new tools and skills to have a healthier, happier, more loving relationship.