Many couples revel in their shared intimacy. Sometimes, they even do a fair amount of “boo-bragging” to others on how wonderfully synchronous their relationship is. But, the wise await the inevitable: the big fights.
Fights happen and are as right as rain. When couples fight, they tend to be more honestly forthcoming when expressing their feelings about certain things. In fact, fights can be when couples learn the most about each other at points of a relationship. Therefore, therapists seemingly laud couple arguments more often than not.
If arguments are so great for us, then why do they feel so bad? There’s already an established process for conflict navigation, but what about navigating high, post-conflict tensions? We’re so glad you asked.
1. Give each other space
You’ve just finished a heated, particularly nasty argument. Is this the time to ask about that new cordless drill you want for yourself? Is this the time to ask for a back rub? Probably not.
The best thing to do right post-argument is give each other enough time to yourselves to decompress and reflect. This is the time we need to ourselves to calm down and look at things through a less perturbed perspective.
Usually, individuals will realize their faults or mistakes made during the argument with just a little bit of alone time. From a less angry outlook, we’re able to be more impartial and fair towards those who initially angered us. Refusing to give time and space post-argument could lead to unhealthy emotional detachments.
2. Acknowledge, apologize (sincerely)
So, the argument is done. We’ve realized where we went wrong, what we said and did wrong. Now comes the hardest part of arguments for most individuals.
But, before you apologize, you first want your partner to understand what it is you’re apologizing for. Acknowledging your mistakes shows your partner you value how they feel above your own pride. This isn’t something that’s expressed in relationships as often as you’d think. Acknowledging your mistakes helps articulate for your partner your view of what went wrong. Valuable for individuals to know about each other when in an intimate relationship. Articulating your acknowledgement also helps your partner know that you understand why and how what you did upset them. Your partner will feel your apology’s impact far deeper if you clearly acknowledge your issues beforehand.
Apologies that contain “but, what about, if you would just”, etc. are not genuine apologies. If you find that any of these phrases, or similar ones, slip out of your mouth during your apology then just take a deep breathe, pause… and start over.
3. Console/make up
If acknowledging your mess-ups is the hardest part after an argument, making up may be the best part. This is usually the time our body’s hormones have counteracted all the bad feelings we just overcame with a delicious cocktail of dopamine and serotonin. You’re physiologically ready to console and make-up, the rest is up to you both.
Are you the adventurous types who like to get out and get their heart rate up for a good time? Go for a jog, bike ride, or even rock climbing. Are you more the cozy, homebody types? Snuggle up with your favorite reading or TV shows and snacks, preferably something light and comedic to reflect an increasingly cheery vibe. Maybe you can’t decide? Try going for a bike ride while reading (just kidding, don’t do that). Whatever you both decide, make it something that will bring you closer together after a big fight. As a result, you’re more closely bonded and your intimacy continues to grow.
Remember, post-fight is not the time to continue fighting. It’s a time for reflection, remorse, and remedial healing. Once the fight has ended and healing has begun, do your solid best to refrain from bringing up any of the issues again. But, if you absolutely must, try to ensure it’ll be in such a way that won’t stir up previous tensions again. Try to navigate your conflict in a way that will be conducive to healing, not counterproductive to it.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Call the HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re in crisis or for any reason you are unable to talk safely, text NAMI to 741741.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 800-273-TALK (8255)
Self-Injury Outreach and Support. Learn and/or share personal stories while learning coping skills for the urge to self-harm.
If you enjoyed reading about what to do after a big fight, you may also enjoy Dr. Randi Gunther’s perspective on making up the right way from Psychology Today.