How to Make Up with Your Partner After a Fight
By Triantafillia (Rose) Memisaki
When it comes to couple’s fighting, everyone’s advice is always the same: talk it over with your partner. What no one ever tells you is how to go about having this very delicate and demanding conversation. So here we go!
Well, for one thing, don’t go unprepared. You both need to do some thinking before you start discussing your problem. Here’s a check-list of things to do after a fight, if you want to make sure it works out. This works for any kind of fight, no matter what it was about. However, keep in mind that you will need to invest much more time and energy to work out a more significant fight, compared to one about him stealing the last potato chip off your plate.
Step 1: Depending on the situation and on how well you can each keep your cool, sometimes it’s best to let each other calm down before you talk. Some people are more comfortable talking about things that bother them the moment those things happen, so as to make a point (or not have to come up with an introduction when bringing it up later on). But some people become either offensive or defensive when tension is high, because they’ve taken the situation as a personal attack on their character. Even if one of you is very calm about it, as long as the other is too rattled, no rational conclusion can be reached.
Trust me, I understand what it’s like when you are bursting to say what you feel, and how hard it is to resist just blurting it out, especially if you’ve taken things to heart. But if your partner is not in a position to think over the things you say with a clear mind, they might misunderstand it to be an insult when it isn’t and that will just make things so much worse. The same goes for you, if you’re the one who’s too upset to say something without making it sound too aggressive. Just take a walk, turn off your phone, or just do whatever it is that calms you down for a while. Avoid talking to each other until you are both 100% calm. (Don’t confuse calm with content. You will most likely still be mad at each other, just not emotionally stirred up.)
Step 2: Make sure you both know what the fight (and thus this discussion) is about. It would be an awful waste of time and energy if he is angry over the fish bowl being knocked over because she didn’t say she was sorry, whereas she thinks he’s mad because she didn’t clean it up. So make sure you’re both on the same page before having the make-up conversation. You’d be surprised how often couples fight without even having the same argument in mind. That doesn’t help either one of their causes.
Step 3: Grade how serious you think this problem is on a scale from one to ten (Ten being friggin’ Armageddon! Don’t just say it’s a ten because you are upset). Be completely honest with yourself. Is the problem something frivolous that just happened one too many times and became annoying (like one of you always being late) or is it deeper rooted than that (one of you has deliberately lied about something really important)? The first category is something that probably won’t take more than an hour to resolve. But for the second one you might want to clear a little more time off your schedule.
I don’t think I need to mention that fights between a couple are normal. Especially if you have been together for more than just a month or two, they are something to be expected. It’s the degree of seriousness that you should be concerned with, not the mere fact that you’re fighting. Of course, some reasons for fighting are much more serious than others. If, for example, one of you is physically hurting the other, then it’s time to end it. There is no point in discussing these things, because there simply cannot be a compromise here.
Step 4: While you are still in the “assessment” stage, ponder about your fight. Is it an issue that’s been brewing for a while? Do you think it was something you started, something they started or was it merely an accident or some kind of misunderstanding? It’s important that you take into account their side of the story as well. If either one of you is quick to judge then you’re just creating more excuses – and indeed well-founded reasons – to fight. When you know what’s to blame, then it will make it easier to talk about how best to go about fixing it.
Step 5: Be honest about what you want from each other. If you want something, your partner is not going to be able to provide it unless they know what it is. In the same way, they can’t give you what you want, if you don’t give them the chance to do so. If there is something you don’t like, you have to express it before your partner starts to think that you’re ok with it. That is the biggest reason why people fight. They don’t make their wants, needs and expectations clear from the get go and somewhere along the way they lose their ability to pretend everything is fine and dandy. They don’t realize that it is not their partner’s fault for doing something annoying. They are most likely not doing it just to bother you, but instead are unaware of how it affects you.
Step 6: You should get used to the fact that you are both merely human. Neither of you is perfect. You are both going to mess up sometimes. There is no point in making a big deal over it every time one of you makes a mistake. Even if they knew better, making them feel guilty about it is not going to help. You must keep in mind that mistakes are a good thing, if you can learn from them to improve yourself. So give your partner a chance to learn from their mistakes. Don’t rub it in their face. Instead, tell them why and how it upset you and which alternative reactions would make you more comfortable. Don’t get mad at your partner if they fail to learn from their mistakes. It doesn’t always mean they are ignoring your request. Most people want to change, but need support to do so. And that’s what being in a relationship is all about. When you care about someone, you do everything you can to help them deal with the things they’re struggling with.
What I’m trying to get at here is that forgiveness is crucial in a relationship. Because you are both going to make mistakes – some more serious than others – you are both going to have to learn to forgive and forget. There is nothing more liberating than knowing your partner accepts you, respects you and loves you enough to simply let go of the negative sentiments. I know that’s easier said than done, especially if someone’s feelings or pride were seriously hurt. But if you care enough about each other to want to remain a couple, then harboring unpleasant emotions can be very destructive and will hinder the reconciliation process.
Step 7: Apologize and accept your partner’s apology. You’re not the only victim here, so don’t be arrogant or self-centered. Aside from that behavior being childish, it serves no one. When we are mad at someone and we don’t talk to each other for a bit, more often than not neither of us wants to be the one to break the silence. I’m guessing this is because we feel that being the first to speak conveys the message that it’s your fault. We’ve all experienced that touch of arrogance when we feel we are 100% right and simply want to force the other person to say they’re sorry, just for the sake of “justice being served”. But there is no shame in being the one to say “hi” or to send a friendly text after a fight. It merely means you miss them and want to get back in touch. It’s a normal reaction.
The important thing isn’t who is the first to speak, but that neither of you tests the other’s patience. If either of you is taking it too far and being unavailable for too long then the other has to take action. It takes two to fight and that means you are both equally responsible. You must both apologize, if you want things to get better. And aside from this, you must also make it clear that you accept the other’s apology, even if they didn’t sound like they meant it. It takes a lot of guts to tell someone you’re sorry, so respect the effort they are putting and don’t belittle them. Acknowledge the apology and show them you appreciate it. It may not sound like it, but this tiny step can work wonders towards reconciliation.
Just remember that – big or small – there is no problem without a solution. It only seems that way when one or both of you are being too stubborn to compromise. You both made a conscious decision to be with each other to begin with, so don’t try to make yourself out to be an innocent target. You are both equally at fault for whatever it is you fought about (one way or another), and thus should both equally make an effort to make things right.
Best of luck, people!