All couples experience conflict in their relationship. These conflicts may be minor disagreements or major fights which have left one or both of you feeling angry, disconnected and isolated in your relationship. After a major fight, many people feel so defeated and exhausted the idea of trying to apologize or reconnect seems unrealistic. You may also fear the fight starting all over again, if you try to talk about it. It may be easier to let time pass, let feelings cool off, and sort of pretend it never happened. The unfortunate reality is not repairing after fights, may leave wounds in your relationship only to be reopened again and again with each future conflict.
In the first years of my own marriage, at times, I was the impulsive yeller and found it easy to apologize once I had calmed down. However, it was difficult to be patient when my husband was not ready to talk or forgive so quickly. Gaining a better understanding of my role in the conflict and being empathetic of how the conflict affected my husband has helped me be patient with the repairing process after a fight.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Attempting to Repair with Your Partner After a Fight
- What made this fight so intense for you and for your partner? Identify a few feelings you experienced during the fight: unheard, like you can never do anything right, overwhelmed, sad, disappointed, lonely, etc. What happened that made you feel this way? Did your significant other make comments that triggered you? Our past experiences often creep into the present moment, sometimes without our knowledge. Was an old wound in your relationship brought up? If you have experienced some or all of these feelings in past fights, in past relationships, or in your family of origin those old memories may have been triggered intensifying your current reaction and feelings during this fight. Ask yourself the same questions for what your partner may have experienced. What can you understand about how your partner may have felt during the fight? What triggers may he or she have experienced? Even if you guess incorrectly, your attempt to try to understand how your partner may have felt is an effort towards being empathetic and goes a long way to showing you care.
- What were possible contributing factors to your fight? On a scale of 1-10 (1 being calm peaceful/no stress & 10 being near anxiety attack/not sleeping or eating well due to stress). What was your stress level & what was your partner’s stress level before the conflict even began? What happened that day? Trouble with the car? Kids forget something for school? Unexpected meeting at work? Or you may have an ongoing stressor which is contributing to your stress level: health concerns, pregnancy, recent loss, financial strain. Most of us carry around more stress than we realize, which in turn affects us and our relationships more than we realize. If you, your partner, or both of you were already at a 4 or higher on the stress scale you may not have had a chance for the discussion to go well. If this is the case, consider forgiving yourself and your partner for actions which may have come from being over stressed instead of what you thought was a personal attack.
- What can you take responsibility for during the fight? Raising your voice, discounting your partner’s feelings, becoming defensive, attacking back, etc.? After a fight we are often so upset with what our partner said to us, we forget to hold ourselves accountable for what we said or did during the fight. Acknowledge how you may have hurt your partner and how it may have made them feel. Let them know that this was not your intension and how you do want to treat him or her in the future. Do not do this with the expectation of receiving an apology in return. Do this in an effort to clean up your side of the street. I do hope you receive something similar in return at some point, but your partner may not be ready when you are.
Fights can be incredibly painful and make us question ourselves, our partner, and our relationship. These doubts, fears, and hurt feeling are the reason it is so important to make an effort to repair and reconnect after a fight. The intense feelings may subside but they do not go away on their own and over time they can begin to come between you and your partner. Use the above questions as a place to start in attempting to repair. Let your partner know reconnecting is important to you and something you plan to try. Show your partner the article so they know what to expect and if any of this seems helpful to them maybe they will use these tools as well.
Michelle Puster M.Ed. | Licensed Professional Counselor Katy, TX
Helping disconnected couples grow closer