Well, that just happened. Again.
You were yelling. Your partner shut down. Mean words, even insults, were thrown between you two. Blame. Frustration. Irritation. Exhaustion. Overwhelm. Anger. It all popped up at some point. Or maybe it was just a heated discussion with some uncomfortable feelings. Either way, it wasn’t your favorite moment of the day.
So now, here you are. The fight is over.
When it comes to fighting in our relationships, we do need to remember that we have got to change our mentality in order to change the outcome. We need to go from a “me versus you” mentality to a “me and you versus the problem” mentality; you can read more about how and why to do that in this blog post.
Once we get that down, how can we come back together after a fight?
Here are three steps you can take after a fight to grow closer together. And these aren’t just some random things I thought up! These are solutions based in decades of study by world-renowned marriage researchers Drs. John and Julie Gottman (in case you thought I was just some crazy person making things up).
3 Steps to Take After a Fight
- Resolve and Restore.
Step 1: Regulate.
When we get into an argument or fight with someone we love, we can become “flooded”; this just means that our emotions and chemistry in the body become so overwhelming that our brains don’t think very clearly.
After we get into a fight with our partner, we need to get regulated so we can be in control of our minds and our interactions. That way we don’t say anything we will regret, and we can actually be helpful and hopeful in the next conversation.
Sometimes this can be taking a break, taking a walk, sitting alone for a few minutes. During this time, you need to focus on regulating your body and your mind. Don’t sit and stew in your anger and frustration (spoiler alert: it doesn’t help ANYONE when you do this). Focus on your breathing or grounding techniques, distract yourself from your not-so-nice thoughts, grab a bite or a drink. Whatever it is you need to do to get back in control of yourself.
Not quite sure what that would be for you? Check out this blog about relaxation techniques for first responders.
Step 2: Repair.
No matter what you fight about, you both need to repair the relationship after an argument.
Maybe you were hangry. Maybe he was tired. It doesn’t matter.
You both need to take ownership of the part you played in the fight. Apologizing, genuinely showing remorse for the way you hurt your partner, and acknowledging that you love them, this will bring you both back together so you can be a team when facing problems in the future.
A little hint: if you struggle with how to say things in a helpful way when trying to repair your relationship after a fight, check out this blog for some tips on phrasing your statements.
Step 3: Resolve and Restore.
Now this is where you both have to work together to figure out how to fight better in the future.
You can talk about where the miscommunication happened, when the discussion turned into an argument, and figure out how to not do that again.
Once you identify what things were not helpful, talk about how you would want it to look differently in the future. Give specific examples of what would be helpful, how to phrase things in a way you would be more receptive to. If we don’t find out the specifics of what to do in the future, then a positive change will be much more challenging.
Now, this step may be one of the most difficult to do, but it can produce fruits in your marriage you never thought possible. It can bring you two closer together than you never thought possible!
If you both really struggle with this step, it does NOT mean that you are doomed for failure.
In fact, this can be a great opportunity to start marriage counseling before things get too out of control in your conflict. Couples counseling for first responders is not only for couples in crisis, it can help couples who just need someone with training and education to give them a few extra tools in their toolbox. I love helping couples who just need a little boost in their restoration skills!
Fights don’t have to be swept under the rug. In fact, they shouldn’t be. You can create connection and closeness even after you fight. You just gotta do a little work to make it happen.
Take care, friends!
*This does NOT apply to people in domestic violence relationships. If you or your spouse are being put in physical/emotional danger, you need to seek crisis support services, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If you find that this exercise or these conversations brought up some stuff you are struggling with, either individually or in your relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help. We are here to support you, and we understand that this can be a challenging issue to face.
Remember, it may be your battle, but you don’t have to fight it alone.