What to do when it feels like you’ll never get over this.
We’ve all been there. Maybe you were tired, or hungry, or stressed out about work – or maybe all three. Whatever it was, you took it out on your partner, or they took it out on you, and it exploded into a bad fight – not just bad, but the worst. Now you’re fuming, unsure of how to recover.
The truth is, all couples fight. Believe it or not, fighting is actually a sign of a healthy relationship. The key is knowing how to recover from the fight. If there are bad feelings at the end of the argument, they can’t be left to stew, or pushed under the rug to come out later – when they will likely take a worse form.
Relationship expert John Gottman, PhD, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, says that for every negative interaction a couple has, they need to have five position interactions. That’s because our brains are wired to give more weight to negative events than to positive ones (blame it on our ancestors, the cavemen, who needed to remember the threat of a sabre-toothed tiger more than they needed to remember how nice it felt to relax in front of the fire).
If you’re afraid this was the one, the fight you won’t be able to get over, try one of these expert-endorsed techniques for smoothing things over and getting the love flowing between the two of you again…
1. Do something else
Sometimes you just have to put your attention elsewhere after a blowup. Try going for a long walk together, even if you have to agree first that you’re not going to necessarily speak to each other. Both of your bodies moving forward together in the fresh air can be a very healing thing. Play a board game if that’s your thing, or do a jigsaw puzzle. Anything that keeps you together, but puts both your concentration on something outside of the fight is good. One caveat: watching a movie isn’t the best choice, because you’ll just be sitting still. Choose an activity that forces you to be engaged and keep moving.
2. Have makeup sex
It’s a tried-and-true way of making up after an argument, and yeah, it can be hot AF, but be a little careful with this one. Be sure you’ve really finished the fight and aren’t simply continuing it in the bedroom. If your makeup sex is on the violent side and it feels like you’re taking things out on each other, it’s probably not the healthiest thing. Instead, use sexual intimacy as a way of repairing things after the fight is resolved. You want it to feel reassuring and loving, not tinged with resentment and anger.
3. Remind yourselves of what’s good
Gratitude is the cure for all sorts of ills. “If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful,” says Benedictine monk David Steind-Rast. And you can’t really be angry when you’re grateful, either. So take turns telling each other what you appreciate about the other person. Does he never raise his voice, no matter how mad he gets? Do you appreciate the way he tries to make your laugh when you’re in a bad mood? Is he a great listener? Together, make a list of all the good things about your relationship that you can think of. You’ll be feeling better about things at the end of it – and if you’re not, maybe it’s time to think about whether it’s time to part ways.
4. Go to sleep
Writer Lydia Netzer, author of the viral blog post, 15 Ways to Stay Married for 15 Years, is a big advocate of sleeping it off. “The old maxim that you shouldn’t go to bed mad is stupid. Sometimes you need to just go to freakin’ bed. In the morning, eat some pancakes. Everything will seem better, I swear.” If you’re both exhausted, the chances of you working anything out peacefully and productively are slim. So give yourselves a break, and just go to sleep. It’ll be okay. Tomorrow is another day, after all.
5. Keep working on it
Relationships are hard work. Once you’re past the infatuation phase and reality hits, there are bound to be conflicts. But working through them is worth it. As relationship blogger James Michael Sama writes in the Huffington Post, “Relationships are messy…love is not all you need. You need mutual respect, compromise, sacrifice, understanding, the willingness to work at it and stand by him or her when times get rough. You need to be willing to be by their side not only during the bright days but also during the dark ones.”
6. Say you’re sorry – and mean it
Have you ever had someone give you non-apology apology? It sounds like this: I‘m sorry you feel that way. Or, I’m sorry you’re angry. What they’re not doing is really saying they’re sorry for hurting you, or doing something that made you angry. They’re ducking responsibility for the fight and making it all your fault, in a passive-aggressive way that borders on gaslighting. It feels terrible. So don’t be that person. Own your part of the bad fight, say you’re sorry, and really mean it. You’ll feel better.
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